By Jonathan Deal
The name “Lou Lou” has sent shivers down the spines of girls basketball coaches in North Alabama since 2007. That would be Clements senior, DaNeshia Malone, otherwise known by her two-syllable nickname that has become so synonymous with the towering center.
Girls coaches around the area can now breath a sigh of relief as the record-setting senior finally departs Clements. Malone concludes her career with the Colts with another Limestone County MVP honor, not to mention a spot on the 3A All-State team for the second consecutive season.
“We could always depend on her to give us double figures in points and rebounds,” said Clements head coach Sonya Marks. “We counted on her to score or get a rebound for us when we needed her. And with the way she blocks shots, she allows your guards to take some other risks.”
Malone won’t be forgotten at Clements or anywhere else in Alabama where they play girls basketball. After a six-year career that includes a 2A state championship and five consecutive Limestone County championships, she has also left her name in the AHSAA history books.
Malone finished her career in the top 10 in AHSAA girls basketball history in no less than six categories including No. 1 in career blocks and No. 2 in career rebounds.
“Those are a couple of things we stressed,” said Marks about blocking shots and rebounds. “She was able to take care of those things. It’s a great accomplishment for her. She’s worked hard.”
What makes the 6-foot, 1-inch center so good is more than a number, however. While those records are impressive, what separates Lou Lou is something less tangible.
“She wasn’t the biggest or fastest player we faced. What was so difficult was she was so instinctive and so unbelievably strong,” said West Limestone head coach Ben Campbell. “She just finished. Girls don’t always finish and she finished. Everything you would typically teach someone to do, backfired against us because of her instincts and finishing ability.”
Campbell should know. His West Limestone team played Clements six times over the past two seasons. After being shut out in eight previous meetings against a Lou Lou-led team, Campbell finally beat Clements this year.
“I probably tried 20 different game plans,” said Campbell. “I was the most stubborn coach of all of them. Most coaches would just play a 2-3 every time and when we tried that we got beat. The last time we played them, I put someone in front of her and behind her.”
Throughout her career, Malone has seen every kind of defense possible to stop her in the paint. Despite constant double-teams, Malone was still able to average a double-double for her career. While being the tallest player on the floor helped, Campbell said Lou Lou entered every game with an advantage before she ever stepped on the court.
“She was in the head of every one of our girls,” Campbell said. “If we didn’t know who she was, I think we might have done better. But the girls were always looking over their shoulder. There was definitely an intimidation factor there.”
For at least five years, opponents have known about Malone entering a game. For the first time since entering high school, Lou Lou will finally just be a number on the roster wherever she chooses to play college ball next year. At least in the beginning.