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Photo courtesy of UAB Athletics.
“Kara’s one of those players that has a unique ability to make winning plays,” Norton said.
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Photos courtesy of UAB Athletics.
Hoover native Kara Rawls encompasses all that UAB coach Randy Norton looks for in a player to fit his program.
Basketball coaches harp all the time about “intangibles” — the aspects of an athlete that go beyond natural athleticism. Coaches need players who are willing to sacrifice the aspects of the game that bring glory and do some things that do not show up in the box score.
Many coaches use several examples from an array of players: One player is willing to take a charge; one player brings energy off the bench; and another player is loved by all her teammates.
For UAB women’s basketball coach Randy Norton, he has one player who encompasses all of those things in Hoover native Kara Rawls, now a junior for the Blazers.
“Kara has had great, great minutes for us,” Norton said. “When she comes into the game, she’s always ready to go. She’s going to play as hard as she can.”
Look no further than an early-season win over Troy to see Rawls’ impact on a game.
Norton said the team did not play its best game but made “winning plays” down the stretch to walk away with a four-point victory. Two of the key plays in that game were courtesy of Rawls, as she took a key charge and knocked down a pair of key free throws to ice the game.
“At whatever level or whatever sport, there comes a time in the game where it’s winning time, and Kara’s one of those players that has a unique ability to make winning plays, whether it’s take a charge, get the big rebound or make the big free throws,” Norton said.
Rawls arrived at UAB after collegiate stops at the University of Alabama and Lawson State Community College.
She tore her Achilles tendon and sat out her freshman year before transferring to junior college. She led Lawson to a strong season and averaged a double-double. UAB took notice.
“We found out about her at Lawson, and we watched some tape on her,” Norton said. “We got out and watched her play and brought her in for a visit. We fell in love with her personality.”
Rawls made her way to the Southside and has not regretted it for an instant.
“I’m glad that I ended up at UAB because this coaching staff is great; the people around me are great; it’s a family environment, and my teammates are great,” Rawls said.
Her surroundings are particularly important to Rawls, considering her situation. She suffers from asthma and a vocal cord dysfunction that severely hinders her ability to breathe, especially when she is active.
Rawls said the asthma was not as big of a deal in high school, because the pace of the high school game allowed opportunities to catch her breath. But the college game is played at a speed that does not lend itself to resting on the court, making things difficult.
“I’m thankful to be here with a coaching staff that’s willing to work with me with that,” she said.
Rawls cannot stay in the game for long spurts, but uses that to her advantage.
“My biggest thing is I try to push as hard as I can as soon as I get in,” she said.
The coaching staff has been extremely attentive and understanding when Rawls needs a breather in games and practices.
“Paying attention to me when we have conditioning — it’s the little things like that that are very important to me,” she said.
Adapting to her situation is nothing new for Rawls.
She transferred from Ellwood Christian School in Selma after her sophomore year of high school, moving to Hoover. At Ellwood, she was a top scorer. At Hoover, her role was much different.
“She had to make a lot of adjustments, because she went from being the best player on the team to being on a team with a lot of talent,” said Krystle Johnson, an assistant coach at Hoover during Rawls’ first season at Hoover and now in her first year as head coach of the Lady Bucs.
As the season progressed, however, she became more comfortable with the environment, and the Lady Bucs went on to win a pair of state championships in the years Rawls was there.
“When you transfer, which she did in high school and in college, you do kind of learn to work with what you’ve got,” Johnson said. “You have to learn to adjust quickly because you don’t have a choice.”
Her role at UAB now is to “bring the energy,” a role she has certainly embraced.
“I’m a spark off the bench,” she said. “I’m kind of like that annoying person that’s always going, going, going.”
That role is important for every team, but a balanced UAB team with multiple weapons needs Rawls to play her part.
“Anybody on any given night can be that 25[-point] person, and it’s not always going to be me, but what’s important is that when I get out there, I do what I have to do for as long as I can for my team. That’s bringing the energy,” she said.
Rawls was elevated to captain status early in the season, and she shares that role with two other teammates.
“She’s an outstanding person, and we love coaching her,” Norton said.