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All-Metro girls basketball player of the year: Potts makes big step to lead Incarnate Word's unbeaten run to 11th state championship

All-Metro girls basketball player of the year: Potts makes big step to lead Incarnate Word's unbeaten run to 11th state championship

From the 2021 All-Metro girls basketball series
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BEL-NOR — Like a typical first grader, Natalie Potts wasn't sure how to tell her parents.

Now a sophomore at Incarnate Word Academy, Potts dreaded facing Sharon and Eric.

But the truth had to be told.

"I was scared," Potts recalled.

Potts finally spit out the words. The 6-year-old simply hated her competitive dance classes.

Even back then, it was all basketball for Potts, who was taller than most kids her age.

"I wasn't really a girly girl," she said. "I hated putting on makeup, all that stuff. Plus, I couldn't dance — not at all."

So Potts told her parents of her wishes — and waited for a response.

"I was surprised, but they weren't mad," she said. "I thought they'd be unhappy or call me a quitter. They just said, 'You can drop dance — but you better stick with basketball.' "

She did.

And the results have been amazing.

Potts, who now stands 6-foot-2, has developed into one of the top underclassmen in the Midwest. Thanks in part to a recently completed stellar campaign, she is drawing attention from NCAA Division I coaches across the country.

There will be more national interest to follow as Potts continues to refine her already strong game.

"She's got a great upside," Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said. "I'm not sure we know how good she could end up being."

Natalie Potts, All-Metro girls basketball POY

Incarnate Word sophomore Natalie Potts is the 2021 Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls basketball player of the year. She averaged 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds to help lead the Red Knights to their Missouri record 11th state championship. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

The Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls basketball player of the year, Potts spent the last four months dancing all over the opposition.

She averaged 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in helping the Red Knights to a 29-0 season and their record 11th state championship.

IWA beat Webster Groves 58-37 on March 20 in the Class 6 title game at JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield.

Potts played a key role in a dominating season that saw IWA win its 29 games by an average of 30 points per contest. Only five teams — Kickapoo, Westminster, Vashon, Cardinal Ritter and Rock Bridge — came within single digits.

Counting back to the 2020 season, which was not completed due to COVID-19 complications the Red Knights have won 39 successive games.

And Potts is one of the main reasons for the streak.

"No losses, a state title, we feel like we accomplished a lot," Potts said. "You never want to sound like you expect to win. But we really thought there was a good chance we could go unbeaten."

Potts turned in one highlight-reel performance after another. She tallied 40 points on 19-of-21 shooting in an 83-31 win over Ladue on Feb. 3. She recorded 16 double-doubles for the season.

She saved her best for last with a 24-point effort in a 77-40 semifinal win over Staley. A week earlier, the Red Knights crushed Francis Howell Central 81-34 in a long-anticipated matchup. They roared out to a 17-2 lead in the first five minutes and never looked back.

Natalie Potts, All-Metro girls basketball POY

Natalie Potts (left) and twin sister Sarah. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

Potts can smile while looking back on her early dancing days. She and twin sister, Sarah, took up both dancing and basketball in kindergarten. About the same time, they headed in different directions.

Now, Sarah Potts is a strong competitive dancer. She recently helped IWA to a sixth-place finish in the virtual state tournament.

Natalie has done all right, too.

"I think she made the right choice," joked Sharon, who stands 6-foot-3.

Sharon can look back and laugh at Natalie's former competitive dancing career. Mom had a feeling Natalie wasn't going to be doing it for long.

"At her first recital, she looked like a fish out of water," Sharon said. "She was a bean pole."

Potts kicked-up her performance big-time this year on the basketball court. The turnaround began during the summer. With extra time during the pandemic, she took up long-distance running, galloping as many as five miles a day. She also dove head-first into a series of instructional videos.

"She was pretty good before," said IWA sophomore teammate Brooke Coffey, who has played alongside Potts since first grade. "But this season, she was amazing. Totally different in a lot of parts of her game."

Natalie Potts, All-Metro girls basketball POY

Incarnate Word sophomore Natalie Potts is the 2021 Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls basketball player of the year. She averaged 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds to help lead the Red Knights to their Missouri record 11th state championship. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

Rolfes said Potts’ metamorphosis was fun to observe.

"As freshman, we kind of threw her to the wolves," Rolfes said. "Just because of her size, she was going to play regardless. When I saw her play some (in club games), she was a completely different player with a ton of confidence."

Potts, who lives in O'Fallon, got stronger and became faster. Her ability to glide up and down the court with relative ease made her a legitimate threat at both ends. She also developed a 3-point game. She made of 15 of 49 triples in the recently completed season after hitting just four of 10 as a freshman.

"Last summer was a big summer for me," Potts said. “The quarantine made me do things on my own. Then it all started coming together."

A straight-A student, Potts got her last B in the eighth grade. She has continued to sizzle in both the classroom and on the court.

"A lot of my life is basketball," Potts said. "But I've still got to keep my grades up."

Potts has already received a half dozen scholarship offers, including one from St. Louis University.

For now, she plans on trying to improve her already strong game on the upcoming AAU and club circuit.

Then next winter, the Red Knights will set their sights on an eighth state title in the last nine years the event has been played. All of 11 players from the school's second state title team to go unbeaten will return, with Potts leading the way.

"This year was a great feeling," Potts said. "It makes us want to do it all over again."

ALL-METRO GIRLS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM

ALL-METRO GIRLS BASKETBALL SECOND TEAM

ALL-METRO GIRLS BASKETBALL THIRD TEAM

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