Big things come in small packages and local sixth-grade hooper Sophie Moore is a living example of this theory. She has overcome plenty of obstacles and has developed nicely over the years but believes the best is yet to come.
A young girl with big dreams
“The main goal I want to achieve from playing basketball is to become a better player,” Sophie said. “I want to improve in a lot of things and I know I will if I keep working with Coach T.”
Sophie receives private lessons from her favorite coach Tsavonti Daniels, who she affectionately refers to as Coach T, of the Titus Basketball Academy regularly each week.
Finding her perfect coach as she chases greatness
As she continues to chase her dreams of making it big on the basketball court, Sophie knows that she has a positive encourager who pushes her to be great on the court physically and mentally.
“The biggest thing I have learned from Coach T is that you have to stay positive,” Sophie said. “If I miss a shot he says, ‘You’ve got this,’ or ‘Keep working.’ He always encourages me to keep going.”
Coach T said he has been grateful to have worked for more than three years now with Sophie on her basketball game and has counted it all as a blessing. Furthermore, he said he asked Sophie — as he does with every individual he works with — who her favorite basketball player was. Without hesitating, Sophie gleefully replied to Coach T letting him know it was Sarah Hunt, a former standout player from Chisum High School.
Coach T said he recalled Sophie’s enthusiasm in wanting to “be as good” as Hunt back in the summer of 2018, the offseason following a missed opportunity for Hunt and her Chisum Lady Mustangs squad. In that game, Hunt dropped more than 30 points, but she and her team lost to New Boston by one point at the Rivercrest High School gymnasium in the Bi-District round after Hunts’ shot rimmed out.
With that, Coach T remembered giving Hunt a pep talk about how much they need to continue to work hard during her senior year and leading up to college ball. Consequently, he gave Sophie the same speech emphasizing hard work and dedication to see how she would respond. Sophie’s determination and eagerness to work hard were undeniable for Coach T but also not a surprise since he sees the support she receives from her family and other loved ones. Her improvement was quick and drastic over the next couple of years.
With that, Coach T remembered asking Sophie if she had a desire to play college basketball. Sophie told him that she wanted to make that happen because of a certain guard who now plays college basketball at Neosho College in Kansas.
“This particular day I asked Sophie if college basketball was something she was interested in and she said, ‘Yes.’ Then, I asked her, “I know it’s early as a sixth-grader to be thinking about playing in college, but have you thought about a college you want to play at?’ She replied telling me she wanted to go where Sarah Hunt was playing. It was at the moment I’d found out that Sarah’s biggest fan outside of her family was Sophie Moore,” Coach T said. “I knew I was going to work Sarah out the following week, so I had it in my mind that I was going to get Sarah to write her a bit of encouragement. In moments like these, we really try not only to take care of our athletes from a skill perspective but also from an emotional and mental standpoint as well. Sarah came in the following Monday and, after our workout, I told her about Sophie, and Sarah remembered her. I asked Sarah to write her a note and she did not hesitate. However, Sarah actually took some time to put actual thought into the note which was awesome. I gave the note to Sophie, she read it, and I saw the same excitement on her face as the first she told me who her favorite player was. At that moment, I was grateful for what we get to do at Titus Basketball Academy.”
The tandem of Coach T and Hunt worked together to make a young girl both happy and eager to chase her dreams. Hunt was ecstatic to write the letter seeing how driven the junior high hooper was and how much she showed support at Chisum Lady Mustang basketball games.
“I know Sophie a bit because I remember she used to always come to my games, and she would always bring signs and bring her friends with her,” said Sarah Hunt, former local standout guard. “It was always so special to me to look up in the stands and know I was a role model. I remember when I was her age, and I’d go to the varsity games and look up to the older players. It’s impressive that she’s already working with Coach T, especially at her age. Coach T is a great trainer and anyone who is working with him is working hard. It’s not easy to stay motivated and keep training when things are hard, so the way she is continuing to push herself is impressive.”
Feeling the love and turning it into fuel
The delight from Sophie was palpable with her family as well as was the amount of dedication and praise from Sophie’s role models.
“Sophie was so excited to receive the letter,” said Happy Moore, Sophie’s mother. “As soon as she saw me, she had to read it to me. She was shocked that Coach T cared so much to get Sarah to do that and just as shocked that Sarah would take the time to write it.”
Not only was the letter a big lift and touching memory for Sophie, but also a reminder. Sophie overcame hip surgery and, despite a lengthy hiatus from the hardwood, Sophie remembered that she was never alone in any obstacle.
“A little over a year ago, Sophie had surgery to repair a snapped bone in her hip,” Moore said. “She had dealt with pain for a good while before finally getting a diagnosis. Between the injury that led to the surgery and the recovery after surgery, she missed about a year of basketball. Working with Coach T and also having Sarah to look to as inspiration, she has made a full recovery and is continuing to make great strides in her basketball development.”
Another way the letter impacted Sophie was in her work ethic and level of dedication. After reading the letter, Sophie felt confident that she could accomplish anything she puts her mind too, just like Sarah.
“The biggest thing I learned from Sarah is that hard work pays off,” Sophie said. “I would see Sarah in the gym, and look where she is at now. She has taught me that hard work pays off.”
The importance of both positive leadership and listening to a higher calling
Even though Sophie’s hero does not wear a cape, Hunt sees and believes in the importance of being a role model for kids. Hunt remembers how she felt when she was Sophie’s age, and she feels like Sophie has a great chance to chase her dreams as she did herself.
“It’s so important to me to be a role model for younger players. Having someone that looks up to me is a great feeling because I used to be the same way. A kid with a dream,” Hunt said. “From the time I was in seventh grade, I knew I wanted to play college basketball, but I knew it would be hard. College basketball is hard — there were times I didn’t know if I would make it to this level or be up to the challenge mentally or physically because it is a challenge every day. I want girls like Sophie to know that they can do it just like I did. It does take a lot of hard work and determination and there will be times quitting crosses every single player’s mind. However, it’s so worth it when you set a goal and accomplish it.”
Earthly role models and sources of inspiration are great, but Coach T was more pleased with how much God worked in this moment and in each of their lives.
“Moments like this are God’s Moments! At my core, I am a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The reason moments like this happen is that my prayer when I walk in every day is that Jesus would show up and the culture of the gym would be pleasing in His sight,” Coach T said. “More importantly than that, Jesus will show me ways to bring more love and kindness into our world through Titus Basketball Academy along with the actions of those who step in and out of the culture of Jesus’ gym. Our slogan is ‘More Than Just Basketball’ because of all the things Jesus is to our life at Titus Basketball Academy. May God get all of the glory as we continue to put Him first in all things we do at Titus Basketball Academy.”