By JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — TERRE HAUTE — When Raven Black first learned the news that she’d have to move from Taylor schools to Western early in her junior year of school, she remembered feeling dejected.
She wasn’t even sure if she was going to continue to play basketball.
Luckily for Black, and the Panthers, she decided to give it a try. What transpired over the next two years, on an off the court with her teammates, left Black a changed person.
Saturday, she capped a state championship season by earning the IHSAA’s Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award for her accomplishments in the classroom and community.
“Obviously I love basketball so much, but it didn’t feel right to come here and play,” Black said. “Once I got here and met the girls, they were so loving. I feel like they’re my sisters and I’ve only known them for two years, but it feels like I’ve known them a lifetime. They picked me up anytime I was feeling down.”
The atmosphere created around Black at Western helped her continue to excel academically. She currently holds a 4.471 grade-point average while also participating in softball, National Honor Society, Western’s W Club and her church’s youth group. She also credited her faith for keeping her trudging forward as she started what felt like a new life at Western.
”The most important thing that doesn’t get shown a lot because we’re all going crazy is that a lot of my success just comes from having faith,” Black said. “When I have no one else to turn to, I know I can turn to God. I’m so proud to say I’m a christian.”
She plans to enter Indiana University’s Pre-Med program in the fall, and credited her parents, Richard Johnson and Vickie Dunker, for “ingraining” a strong work etchic into her as a child. It’s something she feels has carried her through her studies and success in basketball.
“They’ve always told me ‘If you have a B or C — no basketball. School comes first,’” Black said. “I think that’s why I thrive in the classroom.”
Her ability to battle through any obstacle put before her was further challenged as back trouble plagued her late in the season, she went through therapy and trips to the chiropractor on a daily basis to stay loose enough to play, providing steady play on both ends in the Panthers tournament run. It was just another hurdle she cleared with ease, another strong testament to her character in the eyes of coach Chris Keisling.
“[Raven] is a great young lady with a great mental attitude on and off the floor,” Keisling said. “She’s a great kid academically, but she just perseveres and works hard. She’s that kind of kid. On and off the floor she’s just a leader who works through he own adversities. Like any kid, she had an adjustment period. She worked her way right into the heart of the team, and it culminated with what we saw [Saturday] night.”
It’s a journey Black never thought was possible late in 2012. Just like winning a state championship was a dream come true for her team, Black never imagined she’d cap her prep basketball career in this way. It’s a career that, for a short time, appeared to possibly be ending after her sophomore season at Taylor.
”Our theme this whole time has been survive and advance,” she said, holding her Mental Attitude plaque. “I’m so happy we could come out and win in our last time on the floor together. I was wondering when coach was talking to us at school about this award, and I remembered seeing it awarded on TV, so it became one of my goals. I wanted to work hard in the classroom and the court so I could maybe be someone to win this award. I feel so honored, and I bet my family is so proud.”
The award is given in the name of Roy, who oversaw the IHSAA girls basketball tournament as an assistant commissioner from its inaugural year in 1976 until her retirement in 1999.