Sand Rock’s Handy headed for Gadsden State

Sand Rock senior basketball player Zoey Handy signed a basketball scholarship with Gadsden State Community College on Wednesday. Sitting with Handy are her parents Brant and Cathy Handy. Standing from left is Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates and Gadsden State coach Marty Dixon. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SAND ROCK – There was a time when Sand Rock senior forward Zoey Handy didn’t know for sure if basketball was in her future. She didn’t start playing it until her eighth-grade year.

But as the years went along, the more Handy fell in love with the game. Now she’s getting an opportunity to continue playing it in college.

Handy signed a basketball scholarship with Gadsden State Community College on Wednesday. She was an instrumental part of Sand Rock’s 25-7 season this past year, which included a return to the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State for the first time since 2020. She averaged points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.3 steals last season.

“I didn’t know for sure I wanted to play college basketball until last year,” Handy said. “I honestly didn’t always like basketball, but I fell in love with it last year and the year before last because my team was just so fun. They made it fun for me. Last year I really got to step up and be a big player. This year I was making it my main goal to get to JSU and further. We didn’t get further than JSU, but I’m glad we got to get there.”

What makes Handy so hard to defend is her jump shot and rebounding ability. Handy said both just come naturally to her.

“I’ve just always had it (jump shot),” Handy said. “As I’ve gotten more athletic and could jump higher, it just got better and better, and then I learned how to release at the highest point so I could be taller than anyone who’s guarding me.

“I think my height and my length has a lot to do with (rebounding). I like to be aggressive. If I can’t score a lot of points in a game then I like to make it my goal to get a lot of rebounds.”

She’s had plenty of points and rebounds throughout her career at Sand Rock.

“She’s been a part of 70 wins, and that’s a lot,” Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. “She helped us win two area championships and get back to JSU this year. She’s been a big part of that.
“She’s a hard matchup for people. She can play like a guard but she can jump, rebound and defend the post. She has speed. When she wants to turn it on she has incredible speed. We’re really going to miss her athletic abilities.”

While she will miss Handy’s abilities, Bates is proud she’s getting the opportunity to continue developing her game at Gadsden State.

“I feel like she’s one who’s going to continue to grow as a basketball player. She’s not peaked out,” Bates said. “She’s going to get better and better. (Gadsden State) Coach (Marty) Dixon saw that when he come and watched her. I feel like he’s really going to push her and really try to squeeze as much as he can out of her and make her the best basketball player she can be.”

Handy first came on Dixon’s radar thanks to Bates’ father and Lady Wildcat assistant coach Tommy Baswell. Dixon said Baswell sent him an email and some information on Handy, and he decided to check her out.

“I watched her play five or six games (last season), and I think she got better as the year went along,” Dixon said. “At the first of the year I was kind of up in the air, but each game she seemed to progress. I think she’s going to be better in college than she was in high school.

“She shoots a legit jump shot. It’s not a one-step set. It’s a legit jump shot. She reminds me of a player I already have and that’s one reason she was of interest. I have a kid from Pell City (Kyla Torok), who from 15-feet in, she shot right at 60-percent for the year. She plays the same game. That’s a shot you can get in our league a lot. They tend to guard the three and guard the paint, but the 10 and 12-footers are almost a dinosaur in college basketball. I think eventually she can extend on out to the three.”

Dixon said he plans on playing Handy as “a three-type wing and maybe some power forward” with the Lady Cardinals. He said eventually he envisions Handy more of a three small forward.

“The big difference will be the speed of the game she’ll have to adjust to, but that’s always the big thing for freshmen,” Dixon said. “I think she’ll do well with us. I think she’s got the potential to be a real good basketball player. Her ceiling is way up.”

And that’s music to Handy’s ears.

“I’m excited,” Handy said. “I really love my coach. I think he’s really going to get my ball handling down, and I need to get my 3-point shot better. I think he’s really going to help me with that and help me get more athletic too.”

“I don’t think she realizes how much natural ability that is there,” Bates said. “We don’t all have the abilities Zoey has been given. She’s really worked on her shot. She’s really worked on her jumpers. She can get down the floor so fast. I don’t feel like she knows how good she could be, but maybe Coach Dixon will get to see that. I’m glad she’s getting a chance to go play at the next level. We’re excited for her to be playing there.”

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