BUFORD - Buford junior Andraya Carter has worn plenty of different uniforms in her young career, but none compare with that of the Lady Wolves.
That says a lot.
Carter represented the nation last year in the U.S. Youth Olympic Games. She also plays at a high level of AAU basketball with the Georgia Ice.
But nothing, for Carter, compares to wearing that uniform with Buford sewn across the front where she has already earned three Class AA state championships. This season alone, Carter averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game, as well as shooting 50 percent from the field.
"Wearing this uniform gives me such a sense of pride," Carter said. "It means so much more to me.
"When I put it on, I just think about what a tight family our team is and all the hard work we put into being the best team we can be."
For her efforts, Carter is The Times' 2011 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Early in her career, Buford coach Gene Durden was able to recognize Carter was a special talent. Each year since, he's adjusted the Class AA Player of the Year's role on the team.
This year, Carter, a University of Tennessee commit, was constantly in charge of defending the other team's best player, which in the state title game meant going up against Greater Atlanta Christian's 6-foot-3 junior center Kristina Nelson. In the state semifinals, it was just as tall of a task as Carter helped hold Laney's offense to under 40 points.
"This year, Andraya did just an outstanding job for us in scoring, rebounding and always defending the other team's best player," Durden said. "And Andraya still has room to improve, which is a good thing.
"Some players reach their full potential in high school and are maxed out."
Teammates and coaches really can't single out one area that Carter excels over any other. Maybe that is why she is the total package and able to almost single-handedly take over a game.
Against GAC in the state semifinals, Buford's Kaela Davis, also a Tennessee commit, recalls watching Carter launch from the floor and out jump Nelson for a defensive rebound. Even though Nelson had the better position to grab the board, the 5-foot-8 Carter used her natural athleticism to power her way around the much taller Nelson for the ball.
Then's there's also the fact that Carter isn't afraid to take bruises for the team diving and battling for any loose ball. When Carter has the ball in her hand, there's rarely a wasted shot. She shot 79 percent from the free throw line this season and almost 40 percent behind the 3-point line.
"Andraya comes up with the big plays when we need them," Davis said. "She wows me all the time with what she does."
Carter's favorite play she made this season came against Laney in Macon. With a pass from a teammate that was well high of the intended line, Carter made a "football play", came down with the ball and proceeded to drain the shot.
With all the individual success that Carter has earned, she hasn't let success get to her head. She's personable, well-spoken and polite with every question posed. Carter also makes it clear she couldn't do it on her own.
"I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything without the teammates I have," Carter said.
So the question naturally becomes what will Carter be able to do next season? Carter already has three state titles and still has one more year of high school remaining.
"I don't see any problem with winning a fourth state title," she said.