Harnett Central Middle School basketball player Paris Autry is attracting national attention for her ability to play above her age group.
Her nickname is “Baby G.O.A.T.”
Though the acronym, which stands for Greatest of All Time, is an oxymoron of sorts in this instance– Paris Autry doesn’t mind it.
She just wrapped up her first middle school basketball season, leading Harnett Central in scoring as a sixth-grader.
Autry is also the lone 11 year old playing for Lady United Basketball, an elite eighth-grade girls travel team based in Sanford.
“I don’t feel like I’m younger. I don’t really pay attention to that– I don’t notice it,” she said cooly during a recent phone interview with The Daily Record.
“I’m ‘the baby’ on the team and I work just as hard as the others. … I think it’s cool. I think it fits me.”
The Lillington native is used to working just as hard as her teammates, even if they’re of the opposite sex.
Autry started her Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) career at the age of 7, practicing and competing in games alongside boys for the Harnett Hornets.
“Playing with the boys is what mainly got me to where I am. It was more intense playing with them. It was a faster pace than playing with the girls,” she said.
A three-year stint with the Hornets was ample preparation for her most recent challenge.
Autry doesn’t look or play younger than her older Lady United teammates, and has helped the group win big games on the national level. Most recently, the team took home a championship trophy following its 43-36 win as part of the Select Events Winter Series III tournament in Manalapan Township, New Jersey on Feb. 6.
Select Events hosts multiple premiere girls basketball tournaments each year, showcasing elite talent from the east to west coasts.
“It’s been fun. It’s a good experience … it’s helping develop my game and getting me more,” Autry said, having also claimed a title with Lady United during a national tourney in November.
Autry’s mother, Brittany Blue, has been there for every fastbreak, ankle-breaker and chase-down block since the budding star began her journey as a 4-year-old baller in the Western Harnett Youth Recreation co-ed league.
“She’s just all about basketball,” Blue said. “When she’s not sleeping, she has a ball in her hands. …It’s literally her passion.
I see a lot of people play, but I can really tell that she loves basketball.”
That love has led to a healthy obsession as Autry credits her personal workouts outside of the weekly AAU practices for shooting past her peers.
Though she led HCMS to a 6-3 overall record, and even posted 37 points in a 44-24 win at Dunn on Feb. 3, the team fell short of a league title.
Much like the G.O.A.Ts she looks up to, Autry is taking the offseason to improve her game and has plans to take home more hardwood next winter.
“We won more games than we lost, but we didn’t win it all– hopefully we do it next year,” she said.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or (910) 230-2040.