The game of MSU freshman Kendra Grant is similar to former Lady Bulldog Mary Kathryn Govero, now Whittle. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Mary Kathryn Govero developed a reputation as being a shooter and scorer during her career with the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs.
Following MSU's 57-41 loss to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers Thursday night, senior point guard Diamber Johnson said there's a new Govero on the horizon for the Lady Bulldogs in the person of Kendra Grant.
Grant is showing some of the same characteristics that made Govero successful at MSU.
"When K.G. came in, we said OK this can be our M. Kat," Johnson said. "She's doing that and filling those shoes. She's got to be more consistent with it, but she's going to be the M. Kat for this team the next couple of years and taking that role. She's going to be a pure shooter and scorer for this team the next couple of years."
Govero, now known as Mary Kathryn Whittle after getting married late last year, is the girls basketball coach at Starkville Christian School.
She has watched Grant play and does see the similarity in their games.
"She is a really good fundamental player," Whittle said. "In the times I've gotten to see her and just seeing how much she's grown from the beginning of the year until now, I've really enjoyed it. She's really solid, has a lot of confidence and has a nice shot.
"She's on her way to becoming a great basketball player. Once the seniors leave, she'll be the one with the most experience so she's going to be the leader."
Sharon Fanning-Otis, the coach of the Lady Bulldogs, has already witnessed Grant's leadership qualities as a young player.
During practice, Fanning-Otis said Grant showed the toughness a veteran in the program should have.
Grant takes the lead in a 30-second line drill where the MSU players are expected to stay together and touch the line at the same time.
"She's the one who sets the pace whether you are going to finish on time and not behind," Fanning-Otis said. "We've got to continue to get her to run the lane hard and being able to shoot in transition.
"She's very respectful and quick to respond, 'yes coach' and that's a winner."
Grant led the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers made, against the Lady Vols and didn't seem to be intimidated in the least by a traditionally-rich power in the Southeastern Conference.
Even though she grew up watching Tennessee in Richland, Grant didn't want to just stand by and watch the Lady Vols dominate her team.
Grant said Fanning-Otis delivered the message that Tennessee's players "put their pants on the same way as we do" so she tried to think in those terms.
"I felt like I had to do something and didn't want nerves or anxiety to get to me so I wanted to turn it into a positive," Grant said. "Tennessee is a top team, but we didn't want to be star-struck and tried to put that out of our minds."
Fanning-Otis believes that Grant can build on the good things she did against the Lady Vols and improve.
"Getting that confidence will really make her hard to guard as she continues to come off screens where she is really without the basketball, catching it and shooting it," Fanning-Otis said. "She is continuing to progress defensively, offensively and in toughness. A couple of balls she hung on to from a rebounding standpoint, she didn't hang on to in her last ballgame.
"It's great to see these young ones learning the game and getting better each and every time."
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