Madison Stookey signs with West Virginia Tech

Nicole Stookey, along with Lilly, Christian and Callie Stookey, were among those on hand to watch LFO senior Madison Stookey sign on to play basketball at NAIA West Virginia Tech last week. Also present for the ceremony were LFO assistant coach Jasmain Watkins, LFO assistant coach Krista Davis, LFO assistant coach Matt Culbreth and LFO head coach Dewayne Watkins.

At 6-foot-2, Madison Stookey is the tallest female athlete at LFO High School.

An All-Area selection in two different sports, Stookey felt that if college sports were to be in her future, it would be volleyball where that future would lie.

That was until this past October, when she suddenly had a change of heart.

"I just loved the game (of basketball) more," she explained.

That epiphany led to a renewed hunger to work on and improve all areas of her game and this past Monday, that hard work paid off as the Lady Warriors' senior signed a letter of intent to continue to hoop it up at West Virginia Tech.

Stookey gave credit to new LFO assistant coach Jasmain Watkins for helping her with the mental side of the game, as well as the on-the-court work.

"Before, I never thought I would play college basketball," Stookey said. "But once she got there, she kind of pushed me toward playing more and wanting me to play, and then I felt like I was getting good enough to play."

LFO head coach Dewayne Watkins, who has seen many of his players go on to play at the college level, said they began working with Stookey to help her become more than just a rebounder and a shot blocker once she decided what she wanted to do after high school.

"We immediately started to work on her offensive side of the game," Watkins said. "Coach Jasmain really helped a lot with that and with that, (Madison) had a couple of double-figure scoring games and a couple of double-doubles."

She ended the year with averages of 5.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a night.

"When I sent colleges the film of her from her senior year, we had 58 different colleges show interest in some capacity, all the way up to the Division II level," Watkins added. "The Division II (coaches) felt that she needed a little bit more strength and they were kind of wanting her to go to junior college (first), but she found a place that she liked in West Virginia Tech.

"She felt welcomed there and felt she'd have an opportunity to play there, as well as develop both as a person and academically as well."

"I really like the coach and it felt like home the minute I stepped on campus," Stookey said of her visit to the Montgomery, W Va. NAIA school, adding that she felt her length and ability to run the floor would be assets to her future team.

Stookey also served as a team captain for a very young LFO team that dealt with several key injuries during the 2020-2021 season.

"It was sort of (a difficult transition), but not really," she added about being a team leader. "Everyone I was kind of looking up to me, so I just decided I needed to do my best."

Watkins said he saw a noticeable change in Stookey's mindset once he named her team captain.

"Last spring, I started calling her 'captain', because I recognized some leadership potential that she had and after I did that, she kind of perked up," he said. "I don't think she was really expecting me to name her the leader, so it was a surprise to her when I told her she was my captain.

"Since then, though, she became that true leader that I saw in her years ago. It was exciting and we needed that, especially with the year we had. We needed someone to kind of keep us all together. Even though we didn't win a lot, she was always a stable person that kept a fire under us and got us to keep pushing. She understood that we were building for the future and she was wanting to be a part of that."

Stookey said she planned to study biology with plans to possibly become an orthopedic therapist.

West Virginia Tech, a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference, went 12-9 in the 2020-2021 season and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament, where they lost to No. 2-ranked Shawnee State (Ohio) University in the first round.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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