After Tony Brown established himself as the biggest football star to ever come out of East Central High School, his sister is building her own impressive legacy on the basketball court.
Sania Wells, a junior guard for the Lady Hornets, is drawing attention from many of the top college women's programs in the region and beyond. She currently holds scholarship offers from LSU, Auburn, Boston University, Southern Miss, South Alabama and Louisiana Tech.
The 5-foot-7 Wells has been a starter for the East Central varsity since her eighth-grade year and all that time on the court has turned her into a savvy player well beyond her years.
“My sister has been a superstar in my eyes,” Brown said. “She's always been like this, always balled out. She's so good at basketball, extremely good.”
Wells is at her most natural at shooting guard, but she can play multiple positions and score with ease.
Against a Biloxi team that made the Class 6A semifinals last year, Wells scored 42 points to lead the Lady Hornets to a 55-48 victory on the road on Nov. 21.
“I think Devin Hill at Biloxi is one of the premier coaches in the state and he threw her a lot of different looks,” East Central coach Wes Brewer said. “She was able to overcome that and play well. That was the game where you look back and say, 'Wow, she really got it done.' To me, that was her statement game as far as a scorer.”
Coaches from Auburn and Boston University were on hand to watch Wells compete the last time East Central played on Dec. 15 in a 50-24 win over Vancleave.
Stepping it up
Wells has been one of the top scorers on the Coast over the last three seasons, but she has become a much more polished player as a junior. She can hit the outside shot just as easily as she can make a quick cut to the basket.
“Daddy and I would come up to the gym late at night and spend hours on the shooting machine working on my pull-up jump shots and my 3-pointers,” Wells said.
As a member of the Alabama-based Southern Starz AAU basketball team, Wells has sharpened her skills by facing other players well on their way to their own college careers.
Early during her playing days, Wells made progress by facing her brother in one-on-one battles.
“I admit it, she beat me sometimes,” said Brown, who is a member of the East Central boys squad. “I didn't like it but she did.”
Their father decided the reward for the winner of each one-on-one battle.
“If I won, I got to stay the night with my friends. If he won, he got to spend the night with his friends,” Wells said. “It was a big competition both of us wanted to win.”
Both Brown and Wells credit their father, Carvis Wells, for helping develop them into extremely competitive athletes.
“My dad always pushed us to be our best, to do right and not do wrong. Be humble,” Brown said.
East Central on the rise
Brewer, who coaches the boys and girls teams at East Central, knew at an early age that Wells was the future of his program.
“The first year I was here I went to middle school practice and saw Sania (as an eighth grader),” Brewer said. “I immediately knew she'd be an impact player. East Central, we were down a little bit and trying to start building a program. We went ahead, moved her up and started playing a bunch of younger kids.”
As for which position Sania plays on the next level, that's still to be determined.
“I'll probably play the two as a shooter, but some colleges tell me I'll play (point guard),” she said. “It depends on who they are recruiting and depending on who they are recruiting and who is already there. I think I'll play the two when I get to college.”
While shooting guard is her natural position, Sania would fit in well as a point guard. She has a reputation for unselfish play and is not afraid to defer to teammates when opponents are focused on her.
“I love getting assists,” she said. “I love seeing them shine. It makes us a better team with everybody scoring.”
Sania is part of a team that's full of juniors and many of them have been playing for the varsity squad since their freshman year. Point guard Alexis Laughlin, who is averaging 6.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 steals, and forward Madison Pearson (9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds) are among those juniors.
East Central is 10-4 overall and 1-0 in region play headed into Friday night's home game against Moss Point.
“We're not the most talented team on the floor every night, but the girls compete and play hard for one another,” Brewer said.