Mikayla Seivers has announced her plans to attend Salem College, the fourth member of the Lady Bears basketball team to sign with a school.
The quick point guard said she is getting academic scholarships that will cover about two-thirds the cost of attending the Division III school where she plans to earn a teaching degree.
Small forward Jasmine Varney picked Ferrum College for basketball. Four-year varsity player Kathryn Beasley has chosen to play volleyball at Brevard College. Shooting guard Davi Barbour will play tennis at Methodist University.
Three-point marksman Alex Atkins has received offers, but hasn’t announced a decision on where she’ll play ball.
These five seniors were instrumental in Mount Airy winning 85 games over the past four years.
“All five seniors started at Reeves (Community Center) together and started AAU together,” noted dad Keith Seivers. “They’ve played a lot of years together.”
The bonding that made these girls a formidable high school team started long before they stepped onto the Bear campus.
Mikayla said she loved basketball as early as age three and was playing in a rec league at RCC by five or six. Over the past four years, she hasn’t had time for any other sport as high school and AAU basketball teams have been a full-time job.
Her early coaches were her father, Keith, and Davi Barbour’s father, David.
“We did a lot of traveling, played in D.C., Georgia, Pennsylvania,” said Keith. “We spent a lot of money on it, and looking back, I would spend twice as much if we could do it again. It definitely was a thrill.
“In 2008, they went to Connecticut; they were the Division 2 runnerup in the nation. That was probably the best trip of my life, just to go with them. We rented a van. All the players rode in the van with me and David (Barbour). The parents followed in their own vans. That was an amazing time.”
“I was 12,” Mikayla recalled. “We were good.”
That team consisted of future teammates Atkins and Barbour and classmates Kirsten Parries (long-distance standout) and Haley Thomas (tennis standout). The team also included Courtney Hegler (Surry Central), Paris Trivette (Forbush) and Lauren Thompson (East Surry).
David promised the girls that if they could qualify in the top eight and advance to the national tournament, he would bleach his hair blonde. The team did, so David kept his end of the bargain.
When they got to New Haven, Connecticut, Keith promised the team that if it made the top five, he would shave his head. The girls came through again.
“That team beat Boo Williams’ Red Tide, which is a well-known national team,” Keith said of the semifinal match.
Yes, the girls lost in the finals, but they didn’t lose to a team from their own division, Keith noted. The team that won the Division II title that season was coming off three straight titles at the higher Division I level and only moved down to prove a point, he said.
Keith and Mikayla said that in their eyes, the local team was the best Division II team in the country.
The team really gelled, said Keith. He recalled a close game against the Winston-Salem Stealers where the girls were down 14 at the half. Becky Parries, Kirsten’s mom, read the team the riot act, and the girls turned it around in the second half.
Now Mikayla will be joining one of those long-ago opponents at Salem. Winston-Salem Prep’s Barbara Robinson, who played for the Stealers team for a decade, has committed.
Robinson averaged four points and two boards this season, down from her junior year averages of 5.4 and 3.8. Her playing time decreased due to some younger, developing players like her sister Kayla Robinson.
Of Salem, Keith said, “The basketball team’s won its conference the last couple of years.” However, with the coach is leaving, there will be some shakeup there.
“Salem is a great school,” the dad said. “She wants to be a teacher, and they have excellent credentials for that.”
Mikayla said she’d like to teach middle-school math.
“The teachers I’ve had have really impacted me, and I want to do that,” she said. “I’ve always loved being around kids, babysitting and stuff like that.” And she might get into coaching, too.
The senior said she’s had plenty of great coaches from whom she could learn. It started with her dad and David Seivers, then came working with Abby Gallimore at Mount Airy Middle School.
Eventually, the girls started to tune out Keith and David because they’d been around them so long, said mom Tonya. Kids can develop selective hearing when it comes to their parents.
That’s when Keith and David brought in some help.
James Hayes is known these days for his work with local tennis players, but he also had some successful years as a basketball coach.
From 1997-99 Hayes was the Bears’ boys JV coach, twice winning the conference championship. From 2000-2003, he was the head coach for the girls basketball team and amassed a record of 89-21. He won three coach of the year honors after three straight conference championships.
Keith said he felt like he and David had taken the team as far as they could go. James brought in a new voice that the girls would listen to, and he knew more advanced techniques and drills that would help the maturing young women.
Once she reached high school, Mikayla learned from head coach Howard Mayo and assistants Wade Hill and Angela Mayfield.
Then for the past two years, she has worked with Alan Hiatt, Surry Storm.
“I can’t say enough about Gerald Culler and Alan Hiatt,” said Keith. “If it’s volleyball, softball or basketball, girl sports in Surry County are better because of the program they created.”
Keith added of Hiatt, “The only reward for him is the times like this when he gets to see one of the girls he’s helped get to play ball at the next level.”
With the Storm, Mikayla played with North Surry’s Malaya Johnson, Surry Central’s Cassidy Joyner and Brooke Lewis, and East Surry’s Gabi Jessup. All five starters will be playing college ball somewhere next year.
Mikayla thanked Hiatt for staying on her in practices.
“I was just a weak person,” she said. “He pushes you more than you think you can be.”
She learned to hold in her emotions and not show fatigue, being a good leader by example for the younger teammates.
Her determination to work harder in practice wasn’t lost on her high school coach.
“We have been fortunate the past few years to have some dedicated, hard-working players, and Mikayla is a good example of that,” said Mayo.
This group of seniors put in a lot of time in their craft, and they’ve enjoyed spending time with each other, he said.
Mikayla said she felt like she learned a lot of Mayo and also from Hiatt.
“It was hard transitioning from AAU with him (Hiatt) to Coach Mayo because they coach so differently,” she said.
Part of that is how games are called. AAU lets more physical contact go, while that style of play could result in foul trouble in high school.
Between their influences, Mikayla saw her assist average go up each year from 1.3 as a sophomore to 3.5 as a junior to 5.9 this past season.
That average ranks her eighth among all female players in North Carolina, according to statistics reported on MaxPreps.
While not all teams report individual stats, Mikayla is listed as number one for all of 1A.
East Surry’s Sydney Mosley is 15th on that list, and teammate Davi Barbour is 17th. At 13th is North Stokes guard Hannah McBride, who will be Mikayla’s roommate at Salem, and, with Prep’s Robinson, gives the college three players from the Northwest Conference.
Mikayla was 10th in all of 1A in assist-to-TO ratio, while Davi was second.
“She was in the top percentage of steals,” her dad said, then jokingly added, “and she was in top percentage of missed layups.”
Her ballhandling, passing and defense helped earn Mikayla a spot on the honorable mention list despite scoring just six points a game.
“It’s not all about me; it’s about us,” she added. “Not worrying about if I don’t get 12 points a game I’m a bad player.”
If Alex Atkins scored 33 points in a game, and Mikayla was getting an assist on every basket, then that was good enough for her.
Asked where she thinks she improved the most, Mikayla said, “Being a point guard. … Seeing the floor and understanding more about what my job was.”
Coach Mayo used to tell her which offense to run based off the defense he would see, but as her understanding grew she knew what play to call without being told.
Mikayla said her basketball IQ has gotten better, but “I still don’t understand the whole game. I think you can learning as long as you live.”
“She did a very good job of helping dictate the tempo for us,” said Mayo. She was unselfish and did a very good job of getting everybody involved.
Getting 159 assists in a year shows that not only was she willing to share the ball, but that she was getting it to her teammates in spots where they liked to shoot, he explained. That’s a very important component.
“Her outside shooting got better over the years,” Mayo noted.
“Her defense got a lot better,” said Keith. “To be as quick as she was, people went around her too easily.”
“By the time you’re a sophomore, if you don’t know how to play defense, you learn how to sit on the bench,” said Hiatt.
“A lot of it’s not individual — the whole team moves together,” Hiatt said. “If you’ve got everyone moving together, you can play anyone, anywhere.”
Mikayla can continue to get better at moving her feet, Mayo said. She has good quickness, and as she matures and gets stronger, she will be even better on defense.
While she felt like AAU helped her grow, Mikayla wouldn’t give anything for her time with Coach Mayo and the Lady Bears.
Coach Mayo really knows how to bring a team together, she said. “He cares a lot, a whole lot, and he tries hard.”
“We hope Mikayla does well and represents Mount Airy well at Salem,” said Mayo. “I think it will be a good opportunity for her.”