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Girls basketball: Years of work pay off for Africentric's Ferguson


Wednesday, November 24, 2010  02:56 AM


Raven Ferguson of Africentric signed with Ohio State.
Raven Ferguson of Africentric signed with Ohio State.
Raven Ferguson, right, wants to lead Africentric to a state title. The Nubians won it when she was a sophomore.
Raven Ferguson, right, wants to lead Africentric to a state title. The Nubians won it when she was a sophomore.


Big boys aren't the only ones who think that crying in public is a sign of weakness.

Africentric do-it-all guard/forward Raven Ferguson spent the past three years getting beaten up and knocked down on City League and AAU basketball courts because she's the player that always has to be stopped.

Through the bumps, bruises and cuts, no one has even seen Ferguson's eyes get so much as moist.

When it came time to sign a national letter of intent with Ohio State, however, the big girl broke down like a tot sitting on Santa's lap for the first time. Ferguson realized how far she had come as a person and basketball player and remembered all the people who helped get her there.

The signing took place at Krumm Park Recreation Center on Alton Avenue near N. Cassady and E. 5th avenues.

It's a tough neighborhood, but it has been a safe haven for Ferguson since she was in single digits. It's where former director Mark Stansbery and others kept her busy and happy playing ice hockey, street hockey, football, golf and wrestling in addition to basketball.

"I grew up at that place," Ferguson said. "I wanted to sign there because I wanted to show the little kids that they could make it no matter where they come from. You can become a solid person. I think crying is a weakness. I couldn't help it, though."

Ferguson and her family moved to Columbus from Huntington, W.Va., when she was 6 years old.

Mother Juanita Redman said the recreation center was a blessing because she knew where her kids were while she worked.

"I'd call Mark Stansbery and say, 'Where are my kids?'" Redman said. "He'd say, 'They are right here with me, Mrs. Redman.' I'm so proud of Raven. There were so many directions she could have gone. She could have taken the easy way out and just hung out. She chose to work hard."

Redman didn't know how good Raven was in basketball until she got an expert opinion. Nephew O.J. Mayo, who won two state championships with North College Hill High School near Cincinnati and plays for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, watched a game and took notes.

"O.J. just said, 'She has it,'" Redman said. "I said, 'She has what?' He said, 'She has it.' He said that Raven had that drive to get better. Raven is a gym rat. She took it so seriously. She falls asleep watching ESPN every night."

Redman started to laugh thinking about her original plan.

"Raven was going to be my little cheerleader, right?" she said.

Ferguson, a 5-foot-11 senior, is the player that people have been cheering for. She has scored 1,298 points in her high school career, including a team-record 44 in a game last season.

More importantly, she led the Nubians to a Division IV state championship as a sophomore and to a runner-up finish as a freshman. Last season, the team fell to eventual state runner-up Middletown Madison in a Division III regional semifinal.

The No.1 goal for Africentric is winning a third championship. Being voted Ms. Basketball would be Ferguson's top individual goal.

"It's never easy getting back to the state tournament," Ferguson said. "You have to play 28 games every year. It gets so hard at the end. We want this to be a special year. The seniors want to leave their legacy. I love my teammates."

Africentric coach Will McKinney said Ferguson has the same traits that got former players Tyeasha Moss to Xavier, Chynna Bozeman and Ashar Harris to Morehead State and Alesia Howard to Ohio University.

"Raven has put in a lot of work, starting at Krumm Park," he said. "The one thing that separates Raven from a lot of players is that she can take the criticism - and I can really get on her - and use it to get better. She almost wants me to get on her. That drives her even more."