By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — You can see all the emotions McAlester senior forward Lacey McLain brings to a basketball game with just one glance. There’s intensity and competitiveness and focus, of course, but also some frustration, and perhaps even a touch of desperation.
That’s exactly the combination of emotions you want in a leader on the team. McLain not only leads McAlester’s offense, but her expression of “no regrets” has become the Lady Buffs’ rallying call this season.
“We had a Thanksgiving dinner at (coach April Burns’) house, and she asked each and every one of us what’s one goal we have for this year,” McLain said Thursday. “Mine was, number one, to have no regrets this year.”
Born in Las Vegas, McLain said she briefly lived in Nevada, Oregon and California before her family moved to McAlester when she was 5. She almost immediately started playing basketball, first at the Boys and Girls Club, then for Krebs Elementary School in the third grade.
McLain went to Krebs through the eighth grade, then attended McAlester High School. She said the much larger MHS was difficult to navigate at first — “I got a couple tardies with that,” she said — but MHS gave her the opportunity to start working with Burns.
McLain credited much of her development as a forward to Burns. McLain said Burns taught her “to never give up, never have any regrets, and to just be very aggressive.”
Always a forward, McLain said she first made the varsity as a freshman. Her playing time has increased dramatically this season, with McLain alternating between starting and being one of the first off the bench.
McLain has led the Lady Buffs this season with 12.8 points per game, a 43-percent field goal percentage and a 70-percent free throw percentage. She also ranks second on the team with 4.3 rebounds.
Knowing she’d have to do more than in previous seasons, McLain said she went into the 2013-14 season feeling both nervous and excited.
“I was nervous because I felt like I’m not the one jumping on the seniors’ backs,” McLain said. “Now it’s everybody else, ‘come jump on my back, and let’s go.’ And I was excited because I was going to get more playing time. I was going to be able to just lay it all out this year.”
The Lady Buffs have struggled at times in the first half of the season, going 2-8. But, McLain said, “we have more to bring, and we’re going to bring it,” and she added the team continues to improve, even if that hasn’t translated to many wins.
As the Lady Buffs continue to develop, so does McLain.
“There are games that I do struggle with going hard to the goal, but it all comes down to the mental and emotional side of it,” McLain said. She added that her favorite part of being a forward is “the fight between me and one other person who is as tall or taller than me.”
Though she came to MHS a year after the Lady Buffs won a state title, McLain said she definitely benefited from playing with state champions like LaShanda Green and Kaleisha Johnson. Once this final season ends, she said she’ll most miss her teammates and the great competitive atmosphere at practices.
“I’m not a very social person, so I’d say they’re my best friends,” McLain said of her fellow Lady Buffs.
When not playing basketball, McLain is a member of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group at MHS. She said she’s played softball and volleyball in previous seasons, but she’s committed to offseason basketball training the last two years.
McLain also takes college-level classes at Eastern Oklahoma State College’s McAlester campus, which will make life easier when she attends Southwestern Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., next year.
“It was just something about that school that was much more different than anywhere around here,” McLain said of SBU. “They’re very welcoming, and they have everything that I want.”
Already accepted at SBU, McLain said she plans to major in psychology and sociology. She said she may want to work as a drug rehabilitation or teen councilor, as she’s known several young people who’ve committed suicide.
“It’s more of how the mind works, and the choices people make,” McLain said. “Why do they make those choices? It just fascinates me.”
McLain said the aggression and physicality necessary to be a forward haven’t come naturally. But if developing those qualities means she can look back on her last season with “no regrets,” McLain will happily develop them.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.