Basketball is a game of adjustments. So is life.
Shawnte’ Goff has become a master at adapting to both. Her latest series of maneuvers guided Copperas Cove into the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“It feels pretty good to let other teams know (we are for real), just to prove a point,” Goff said. “Everybody thought they were going to run us over and beat up on us, but we proved them wrong.”
But getting there required Goff to endure an obstacle course of personal challenges.
Raised on the East Coast in the town of Edgewood, MD, located approximately 20 miles outside of Baltimore, Goff was introduced to the sport of basketball at the age of 9 by a family friend and immediately thrived, spending hours honing her skills.
Then, her mother relocated the family across the country, landing in Copperas Cove, where Goff — an eighth-grader — was forced to reluctantly start over.
“I was homesick,” Goff recalled. “I was really homesick, and I thought I was going to hate it here. It didn’t turn out that bad, but if I could have gone back, I definitely would have.”
Following an adjustment period, Goff found her niche.
She worked her way onto the Lady Bulldawgs varsity roster by the time she was a sophomore and had high hopes of contributing for a team on the verge of making a splash.
Season-ending injuries to team captains Angelique Campbell and Shareeka McFarland forced her into an unfamiliar role, though, and Copperas Cove finished with a 6-8 district record.
“There were a lot of issues on that team,” Goff said, “lots of distractions.”
One year later, Goff was forced to watch the game she loved from afar as she unexpectedly missed the entire season, but the time away allowed her to focus on her individual game. She joined an adult league in Killeen to improve her skills and dedicated herself to staying in shape for the upcoming season.
It paid off.
Averaging team-highs in points (14.2), assists (3.7) and steals (3.1), the versatile guard has the Lady Bulldawgs (22-9, 9-3) situated in third place of the District 8-5A standings, immediately behind a pair of state-ranked rivals in No. 13 Temple and No. 15 Ellison.
With Goff leading the way, the Lady Bulldawgs cruised through their nondistrict schedule before winning their first four district games on the road amidst adverse conditions as bomb threats directed at Copperas Cove campuses disrupted practices and game schedules.
Following a brief hiccup, the team achieved its preseason goal of reaching the playoffs, clinching a berth with a lopsided victory against Waco Midway as Goff posted her ninth double-digit scoring outing in 10 district games.
Copperas Cove head coach Teresa Durham believes Goff’s time away from the game transformed her into both a better player and a dedicated leader.
“She’s had some personal struggles, but she has grown up,” Durham said. “I think she understands how important basketball is (to her), and she is willing to put that at the top of her priority list. That is the big difference between her this year and last year.”
Now, instead of following the team from afar, the team follows her. It is a role Goff has learned to love.
“Me and my Mom, we talk about this all the time,” she said. “She always tells me I am just a natural born leader and people want to follow me, so I just accepted it.”
“The other kids just kind of feed off her,” she said. “There is just a confidence they have when she is around and she’s on the floor. ... They respect her as a player and try to play hard and do some of the things she is doing.”
The Lady Bulldawgs play their final home game tonight against Temple before traveling to Harker Heights for the regular season finale Tuesday.
Then, Goff will finally participate in her first playoff game.
She hopes it won’t be her last, but she is prepared to deal with whatever happens. Just like she has done so many times before.
“I would like to get to the state championship, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m proud of however far we go,” Goff said, “whether it is first round, second round, no matter where, we got there, that is all that matters.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com