Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


June 19, 2014

Green Machine: Kerens’ Betts, Baxter prove to be extraordinary

Community National Bank & Trust Athletes of the Year

Corsicana — KERENS — They share so much — desire and drive and the love of sports, green and white jerseys, a passion to succeed, pride in their school, their town and the teams they play for — even their numbers, 23 and 24, run in sequence for Kerens' Nate Betts and Breanna Baxter, who have known each other their entire lives.

And now they share this: Betts and Baxter are the Community National Bank and Trust All-Golden Circle Athletes of the Year.

Believe it or not, they are both juniors.

Betts, an electric football player who lights up the field on Friday nights and then burns down the nets all winter long as the best basketball player in the Golden Circle, was a slam dunk choice to win the Male Athlete of the Year award.

“The thing about Nate is he is just so competitive. He competes in everything he does,'' said Kerens Athletic Director Russell Anderson, who is also the Kerens football coach. “If you were playing Nate in checkers he would fight to beat you.''

Baxter is just as competitive.  

“Breanna is incredible, amazing, extraordinary.  … I don't even have words for her,'' said Kerens volleyball Coach Kristen Lynch, who has watched Baxter emerge as multi-sport superstar.

Baxter was named to three all-state teams. That's not a misprint. High school athletes dream of making an all-state team, and Baxter was selected by the Texas Girls Coaches Association as a first-team all-state volleyball player, a first-team all-state basketball player and a first-team track star.

She also batted .400 for Kerens softball team and was a cheerleader. She is also an honor student.

“She just wants to do everything,'' Lynch said. “And she does everything so well. She was the MVP in everything. She's the MVP of our athletic program.''

Betts has that same drive to be the best in everything he does.

“He has a great desire to succeed,'' Anderson said. “He's good in the weight room, good in the classroom, good on the football field and good on the court. He wants to be the best in everything.''

Betts was a first—team All-Golden Circle quarterback, who was on every Kerens' opponent's chalkboard. If you were playing Kerens the goal was simple: Stop Betts.

His quickness, arm strength and lightning sense of how to break free and dazzle teams with highlight film breakaway runs, or burn them as a passer made Betts the most dangerous player on the field no matter who Kerens was playing.

He is so talented that Anderson is moving him from quarterback to a receiver/running back position next fall.

“He's going to be in that hybrid position,'' Anderson said. “We can do so many things with him. He can run the ball, catch the ball and we can use him in the Wildcat.

“He's got all the tools in the tool chest,'' he said. “The one thing that is different about Nate is he is so coachable and he takes constructive criticism. He never makes excuses no matter what happens and he's hard on himself. He always wants to get better.''

As exciting as he is on the football field, Betts' first love is basketball. He was the Golden Circle MVP this season, the District 18-1A MVP and he also won the Kiwanis Basketball Tournament MVP award.

“It was a natural for me,'' said Betts, who started playing basketball when he was 4 and football at 7. “Most of my family members played  basketball. I was just raised with it.''

The kids at Kerens call him “Nate the Great.''

“I got that nickname in kindergarten,'' Betts said. “There was a book called 'Nate the Great,' and my  teacher started calling me that. Now everybody at school calls me Nate the Great.''

His nickname has nothing to do with the children's book now. It's all about the way the 6-3 guard plays basketball and the lightning-quick football player takes your breath away.

Betts wants his future to be in basketball, and is determined to have a big season and earn a scholarship on the court.

“I have a real good feeling about his future,'' said Kerens boys basketball Coach Don Enis, who watched Betts come into his own as a sophomore. “He wants to play college basketball, and he doesn't care where he goes. He will go wherever and do whatever it takes.''

Betts can take over a game, and at times he has a look about him that says he will do anything to win, and often puts the team on his back on the court.

“The thing about Nate is he is so competitive,'' Enis said. “I had Nate and his sister in a writing class last year and they were so competitive in that class.''

Betts said he needs to be a better leader on the court.

“We had a lot of young guys on the team last year and we weren't always focused in practice, and that's on me,'' he said. “I need to be a better leader and help those young players this year. It's my last year and I want to go to state.''

Betts was the sixth man on Kerens' state tournament team as a freshman, and then soared last year.

“We got into the playoffs last year and we got to the regionals,'' Enis said. “Nate had become our leading scorer in the regular season but he just took off in the playoffs. He scored 34, 35 points in all three of those games. That's when he came into his own. He's a special player. He's phenomenal.''

Baxter started as a freshman and helped Kerens' basketball team reach the state tournament and — along with every kid on the team — came back this season with a vengeance to help lead the LadyBobcats to their first  Class 1A state final this year. She was a leader and a monster at the net for the volleyball team that had it's best season in the six-year program's history, marching to the regional quarterfinals in the playoffs. Then she went to state in track & field, running on all three of Kerens' relay teams and taking home fourth in the triple jump and fifth in high jump.

Baxter was the Golden Circle Player of the Year in volleyball, the Golden Circle Offensive Player of the Year in basketball, the Kiwanis Basketball Tournament MVP and the District MVP in volleyball and basketball.

When asked about her unbelievable year in sports, all Baxter wanted to talk about was all of her teams'  accomplishments.

“When I look back on the year I will always remember making history,'' she said. “The volleyball team having its best season and the basketball team getting to the state title game, and Hannah Hall winning state in powerlifting,'' Baxter said.

Baxter's first love was basketball, and she started playing when she was 10, and the man her showed her he way was her grandfather, John Faulk. The Kerens athletic program can thank Mr. Faulk.

“It was my grandfather who got me started in basketball,'' Baxter said. “He always inspired me to be the best and told me never get a big head.

“I wasn't very good at first,'' she said with a laugh. “By the time I was 12, I was pretty good. When I was young basketball was everything, but when I got to high school I learned to love all the sports equally.''

That may be the most amazing thing about Baxter, who admits she was surprised to make the all-state volleyball team. She is a two-time all-state basketball player, and reached the state track meet as a sophomore and junior. She was seventh in the high jump as a sophomore.

“I feel accomplished,'' Baxter said of making all three all-state teams. “In junior high I knew I was an athlete and I knew I could play every sport. In high school it was just a matter if I wanted to do it, and I just happened to be good at it.''

Somehow while doing a million things at once, Baxter has a 3.98 GPA and is involved several clubs at school, including the student council, FCA and the honor society.

“Breanna never has a normal lunch,'' said Kerens girls basketball Coach Denise Lincoln. “She's always in a meeting.''

Baxter said she juggles everything and never feels overwhelmed.

“I do most of my homework at school, and I have my social life on weekends,'' she said. “If you want to date someone you have to date another athlete because they understand your situation.''

She hasn't slowed down. In the month of June, Baxter attended the Baylor basketball camp for a week and then left for a cheerleading camp in Stephenville for a week.

“I just want to do everything,'' Baxter said. “I was at the Baylor camp I was talking to the girls there and telling them all the things I do, and they didn't believe me. They all said, 'No way!'”

Baxter has a fire that just burns all the time.

“The thing about Breanna is her attitude and her work ethic,'' Lynch said. “She's very serious. She doesn't joke around. She works hard every day and for her it's serious business all the time.''

Baxter knows the most difficult thing about her athletic life is still on the horizon.

“She is going to have to make some decisions about college, about what sport she wants to play,'' Lynch said. “She loves everything she does.''

Baxter, who was surrounded by talent in basketball this season and shared the leadership role with senior Marqueshia Kelley in volleyball, will be be the focus of attention in both sports next season.

“She might just score 40 points in a game next year,'' said Lincoln, who loses four starters to graduation. But Breanna is such a great player, she will do whatever she has to do. She wants to get back to state.''

Lynch lost a lot, too.

“A coach was talking to me the other day and I was saying we lost so many players,'' Lynch said. “And the coach said, 'Yeah, but you've got your big girls back. You're going to be fine with her coming back.'”

Then Lynch smiled.

Baxter and Betts share so much — including one more year at Kerens.


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