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There’s a story Buford girls’ basketball coach Gene Durden likes to tell.
It’s about a 6-foot-3 girl from Andalusia, Ala., who walked into his gym in the summer of 2007 and brought along with her a missing ingredient.
“Blanche (Alverson) brought a confidence level that we didn’t have before,” Durden said. “She was very confident in her skills and brought with her the ability to make those around her better.
“And that ability is the difference between being a good player and a truly great player.”
Alverson wasn’t yet a heralded high school star the summer before her junior year, but she was known. It was clear early on that, because of her skills, she would take the starting spot of someone who’d been in the program longer than she had. However it was also clear that, because of her team-first mentality, the idea would be embraced and the pack of Lady Wolves would simply move forward.
“Blanche is goofy,” Buford senior Chanee Carson said with a laugh prior to this year’s Class AA semifinals matchup with Laney. “Seriously though, we knew when we saw her that she could help us do the things we wanted to do and we could help her do the same.”
And so began a cohesive journey that would end with the program winning its first state title. Along the way Alverson led the team in scoring, averaging 15 points in both her junior and senior seasons, and rebounding, averaging seven per game her junior year and besting that with nine per game this year.
“Blanche is the most versatile player I’ve come across,” Durden said. “She has so many skills and does them all well.”
For her efforts, Alverson is The Times 2009 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“This year has shown me that all the hard work, and with all the hardships you face, there are positives if you keep striving to succeed,” Alverson said. “Good things do happen to good people and hard work pays off.
“It’s amazing that we won our last game in high school. It’s still so surreal.”
Alverson and her family made the move to Buford for convenience. Alverson has been a member of the Peach State Hoops AAU team out of Atlanta since she was in the eighth grade.
“Moving provided a better situation for the whole family,” Alverson said. “I wanted to be in a place where I could develop my full basketball potential and my family wanted to not have to travel as much.”
The decision to go to Buford was sealed when, in their first meeting, Alverson and Durden talked in his office for the better part of four hours.
“Coach (Durden) develops great people, not just great basketball players and that was a huge draw for me,” Alverson said. “But it wasn’t just basketball. Buford is a great academic school.”
Alverson isn’t just being cliché when she says that academics are important, because they are yet another aspect of life in which she excels. Alverson is ranked fourth in her class with a GPA above 4.0. Her favorite subjects are AP Calculus and AP Chemistry, which should serve her well considering she wants to become an orthopedic surgeon.
“(Buford teammate) Sarah Dempsey is No. 3 in our class,” Alverson said. “So, she’s actually the scholar athlete on the team.”
Alverson’s jaunt to medical school will begin at Auburn University, where she signed to play basketball for Nell Fortner and the Lady Tigers.
“I always knew Auburn was where I wanted to go,” Alverson said. “I had a lot of options, but everything went back to Auburn. In my heart nothing compared.”
Her reasoning for choosing Auburn over Penn State, Arkansas, Louisville and Miami was the same reason she chose Buford: the coach.
“(Fortner) is an unbelievable person, as well as coach,” Alverson said. “Off the court everything is good and fine, but on the court she’s business. It’s quite similar to the deal here at Buford and playing for coach Durden, they’re a lot alike.”
Between now and her June departure for Auburn, Alverson will be working to ensure continued success. She lifts weights daily and will start regimented conditioning workouts on the track Monday.
Mainly though, she’ll continue to play the game she loves at the school she’s come to love until it’s time for her return to Alabama.
“All my friends and teammates are like my sisters,” Alverson said. “I’m going to miss our amazing coaching staff. Everything we did here was rewarding in some way, even practice. At the end of a bad practice or a good practice I could walk away able to say that I did something today and that is a great feeling.
“The stop to all this is so bittersweet,” Alverson added. “We ended exactly how we pictured it, with a win; but it still ended.”