Rees Gymnasium at Presbyterian Christian was deserted, and Trista Magee didn’t have to be there.
After all, it had been more than a month since her last game, and at least seven months until her next one. But Magee was working out as if she had a game the very next day.
In fact, Trista Magee might be the perfect blend of superstar talent and an underdog’s work ethic.
“First of all, she’s a great leader and a great competitor,” said Missy Bilderback, who coached Magee the past six seasons at PCS.
“She wants to win so badly, and be successful, and she’s willing to do the things it takes to get to a high level.”
That drive has produced an uncommon level of success, and it’s why Magee has been named as the Hattiesburg American All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the third consecutive season.
Simply on talent alone, Magee is head and shoulders above the crowd in girls basketball, not only in the Pine Belt, but in the state.
She’s 6-foot-1, but she can – and frequently does – play all five positions on the floor. Often, she will play the point on one possession, then turn into a power forward on the next.
“Trista has all the skills of a post player and a guard,” said Matthew Lofton, the longtime PCS assistant coach who was promoted to the head coaching position last week when Bilderback left the program to take a position at Jones County Junior College.
“That’s what makes her so hard to guard. But to me, she’s so competitive. She hates to lose. And the other thing that’s so impressive is that she can make her teammates better at any given time. In girls basketball, it’s sometimes hard to score, so for her to create shots for her teammates and to finish shots for herself is what makes her so special.”
Bilderback said she knew when Magee was still in grade school that she was going to be special, and promoted her to the varsity team when Magee was in the seventh grade.
“I knew when she was a third-grader,” Bilderback said. “She would come to our elementary camp, and I knew if she continued to work at it and keep her love of the game, she had a chance to be really successful.”
Over the course of her career, Magee finished with 3,130 points and will continue her career at the University of Alabama.
Along the way, she helped the Lady Bobcats reach the finals of the MAIS Overall State Torunament three straight seasons, winning it all in 2014. She finished this season averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds for PCS.
For all of her success, though, Magee said the year that was most special to her was the first year she played on the Lady Bobcat varsity.
“Being able to play with my sister, when she was a senior and I was in seventh grade, was so special,” Magee said.
“To be able to be on the court with her and make eye contact with her after I’d made a good pass to her and she’d made a big shot, those are the moments I’ll cherish.”
In a Cinderella world, Magee would have won her last game and sent her and her coach off into the sunset victorious.
But that wasn’t to be. The Lady Bobcats were defeated in the championship game of the Overall tournament by Madison-Ridgeland 41-38, but Magee was philosophical about the disappointment of losing her last game.
“It was for sure a bittersweet moment, but there are worse ways to go out,” Magee said. “It was so exciting, maybe one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in, with the crowd and the atmosphere, and two really great teams enjoying basketball. You can’t get much better than that.”
Magee won’t let any moss grow under her feet. Not long after she graduates from PCS, she’ll move to Tuscaloosa to spend the summer and get a head start on her college career. Both she and Bilderback think she can play, and maybe even start, as a true freshman next season.
“She’s got to have a great summer, and she’s going in early to get an edge,” said Bilderback. “But I think she can play this year. I don’t doubt Trista ever. There is nothing she’s not capable of doing, and she’s always willing to work to reach her goals.
“She’s a once in a lifetime kind of player for a coach to have. She has been a tremendous role model for the other girls and set the standard for what a Lady Bobcat should be. She has had an incredible impact on our program.”