North Forsyth girls basketball coach Eric Herrick listed off the accolades of senior Caroline Bowns’ career to a crowded lunch room filled with coaches, friends and family – the points, the wins, the program’s first ever region championship.
But Herrick spent more time talking about who Bowns is off the court – the hugs she gives him every morning, the negotiating she does with him for younger players, the leadership in the locker room.
"I wouldn’t want to have had any other coach than him these last four years," Bowns said afterward.
Indeed, Bowns said she needed Herrick to reach that moment Wednesday when she signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Campbell University.
It was Herrick who pushed the 5-foot-11 guard/forward when she returned from breaking her leg her freshman year.
The injury was bad enough that Bowns needed surgery to insert a medal rod into her leg, throwing her aspirations to play college basketball into doubt.
"Honestly, I thought that was it," Bowns said. "I thought that I would never play sports again."
Gradually, that outlook changed. She started going to physical therapy. She started swimming.
Even more crucially, perhaps, she started attending 2-on-1 workouts with Herrick in the offseason going into her sophomore year.
"Herrick stood by me and believed in me," Bowns said. "I’m actually really, really glad that when that happened he was my coach to push me through it."
Bowns quickly developed into starter and standout for the Lady Raiders. She’s become a regular on all-county and all-region teams.
Last season, she averaged 15.1 points, five rebounds, 2.4 assists and two steals a game to help North go 28-3, win the Region 6-AAAAAA championship and advance to the Elite Eight in the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
And, Bowns said, she and North are not done yet.
"We are not lowering our standards at all," she said. "We expect to be just as good as we were the last three years, and hopefully we can just improve every day and keep getting better as a team and individuals and leave a legacy for the next few years."