Just like the saying, “You can’t always judge a book by its cover,” you also can’t always judge a player by her stats alone.
Reeltown’s Taniya Haynes didn’t average a double-double. She didn’t have games where she poured in 40 points in a single night. She didn’t grab rebound after rebound after rebound.
But what Haynes did was so much more than all that. She is the 2019-20 All-Outlook Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“I think the first thing that sticks out is her competitive nature,” Reeltown coach Will Solomon said. “It didn’t matter whether she was playing a pickup game or playing one of our shooting games during practice or playing in the area championship, whatever moment she was in, she wanted to compete. I think that she demanded from everybody else around her to play at a different level too.”
And Haynes still did have some pretty incredible stats. Haynes averaged 12.9 points per game and tacked on 4.5 rebounds per game. She also led the team with the 3.8 assists per game during her fifth straight year as the starting point guard. Haynes also totaled 41 steals and 12 blocks, so she did a little bit of everything.
As a five-year starter, one of the things that impressed Solomon most about Haynes was her ability to get better and better every year.
“We were playing LaFayette her eighth-grade year and they figured out she couldn’t use her left hand, and that really hurt us because they took advantage of that,” Solomon said. “So what did she do? She immediately started working on being better with her left hand. Her ball skills improved tremendously and she just built and built on them.
“Later on, she had to develop an outside shot. It wasn’t really until last year she could hit a 3. Once she added that to her game, she could just step up and hit one when we needed it. She’s intelligent. She knew what she had to work on and then she did it.”
With her playing basketball so much, Haynes quickly started to see the floor better and better, which is why she became such a flawless point guard. Haynes was quick to drive to the basket and shoot if she needed to, but if the better option was to kick it out to a shooter, she would do just that.
Because the Rebels’ senior class had played together for so long, Haynes understood her teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. She used that to her advantage, which helped Reeltown have its best season in recent memory.
A multi-sport athlete, Haynes also worked on her strength quite a bit which made her more aggressive and that really showed in the paint this year.
“She really worked hard in the weight room the last few years,” Solomon said. “Her running track also really helped her because she is really fast on the court. She also worked on free throws, and all that helped. What a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of free throws she hits when she’s tired; it’s the fourth quarter. But she was definitely more aggressive this year.”
And possibly more than anything that stood out was her sheer leadership ability. A natural athlete, Haynes developed an uncanny leadership ability this season and in several games, she took the team on her shoulders when the Rebels needed it most.
“I remember the Abbeville game (in the sub-regionals), there was about a minute left and I called timeout when we had about a four- or five-point lead,” Solomon said. “Before I could even get a word in, Taniya just looked at everybody and said, ‘Finish it. We’ve got to finish it.’
“During that game, she had several key plays in that second half that really swung the moment for us. She just had another gear and when it was time to turn it on, she knew when to strike.”