This past summer, the Monticello Ballers girls AAU team boasted arguably the top two young post players in Southeast Arkansas.
The low-post duo of Shamiqua Pickett and Shakyla Begnaud hadn’t even entered their sophomore year, but the pair anchored a team that, according to Pickett, won all but one tournament it entered.
“She’s a good teammate,” Begnaud said of Pickett. “She works together with everyone and she’s a good shooter.
“She’s good at what she does.”
“She’s funny,” Pickett said of Begnaud. “… She’s good at rebounding and putbacks.”
Fast forward a few months, Pickett and Begnaud are still dominating games in the post. They just happen to be doing it from opposite sides of Monticello instead of opposite sides of the lane.
Pickett, who’s averaging 25 points per game, holds down the fort in Warren, while Begnaud, who’s averaging 20 ppg, makes her presence felt in McGehee.
The similarities between the soft-spoken 10th-graders makes it seem as though they could have been separated at birth.
Warren head coach Sandra Hatley and McGehee head coach Karen Broughton said their respective player has plenty of room for improvement, but one area stuck out to both coaches.
“She’s a very talented kid,” Hatley said of Pickett. “… The only thing I fuss at her about is that because her talent level is so high, she doesn’t want to overshadow her teammates.”
Speaking about Begnaud, Broughton echoed those sentiments.
“She’s a great teammate,” she said. “She’s vocal in practice, and it’s always positive. She’s always pushing others to be better.
“She’s not selfish at all. In fact, I’d like her to be more selfish. Not in a bad way, but there are times she’ll give the ball up when she has a chance to shoot.”
As with most post players, improved conditioning has been a key for both players.
“It’s real important,” Begnaud said. “We only have six players, so we have to be conditioned enough to play four quarters.”
“I’d like to improve my conditioning,” Pickett said. “I mean, it’s pretty good, but it can be better.”
Broughton said she has seen plenty of development out of Begnaud in the three years she’s coached at McGehee (5-6).
“She definitely became more vocal,” Broughton said. “And she can do that in a positive way.”
Begnaud, whose mother Brenda Jones played at Arkansas-Monticello, and Pickett both said playing basketball in college is a long-term goal.
According to their respective coaches, the key to making those dreams a reality is keeping up their work ethic.
“Our team success has a lot to do with what she wants to do,” Hatley, who’s in her 14th year with Warren (5-5), said. “And what she wants to do is play basketball after high school.
“And I’ve said, hard work is what’s going to get her there.”
“She’s going to become a great player,” Broughton said. “She’s humble and willing to work hard.
“She’s coachable and only going to get better.”
Pickett and Begnaud both mentioned that playing for the Ballers during the summer gave them a glimpse at how much they still need to improve to get noticed by college coaches.
“It showed me that I had to work hard to do something to get seen,” said Pickett, who estimated she scored about 15 ppg for the Ballers.
“It was a different level,” Begnaud said. “It helped us get better.”