Gaspard provides crucial defense, rebounding on guard-heavy team

During their impressive start to the season, the Lady Bulldogs have largely relied on the offensive production from their many talented guards. The girl that often gets overlooked is the defensive presence in the middle, Cozette Gaspard. “She’s a great captain,” sophomore Tyler Carter said. “And she’s been a key to most of our wins this season, defensively and offensively.” The four-out, one-in offense of the Lady Bulldogs (14-2, 8-0 District 4) often leaves Gaspard as the lone post player. Because of the lack of size and abundance of scorers, she has turned the focus of her game to the less glamorous aspects of basketball: defense and rebounding. “This year, I’m more of a defensive player, and I need to get rebounds,” Gaspard said. “Scoring’s not my strongest aspect, but we have our guards for that.” Those aspects have been critical to leading the Lady Bulldogs to the top of the district standings, a lead they extended on Friday after surviving a 40-36 overtime scare against Catholic. Bearden will try to remain unbeaten in district play Tuesday at 6 p.m. at William Blount (9-9, 5-3). Although Gaspard may be undersized compared to other post players, her technique and skill enable her to keep taller players in check. “Because she plays her position, she usually has to guard the bigger players,” Bearden coach Justin Underwood said. “But she does an excellent job of keeping her defensive position.” And even though scoring isn’t her primary skill, she is occasionally able to pull taller players out of the paint with her jump shot. “Offensively, because it’s usually a mismatch on defense, she’s able to step out and hit the occasional outside shot,” Coach Underwood said. “And she’s also able to finish moves in the paint.” Along with her interior presence, Gaspard’s leadership is crucial to the team. As one of only two seniors in the starting lineup, she looks to help lead the younger girls on the team to success. “She knows how to keep our heads up,” Carter said. “And she’s great at motivating people when they’re down.” Gaspard understands the importance of leadership, and takes her responsibility seriously. “Being a leader is important, and for me, I try to lead by example,” Gaspard said. “Because they are so young, if they see you leading, it’s easier for them to look up to.” She also brings a positive attitude, allowing the other players to remain calm in more stressful situations. “She has such a positive outlook,” Coach Underwood said. “And any time some plays don’t go our way, she’s always the one picking people up, pushing them through it.” Gaspard displays the same leadership in activities outside of basketball. As president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and an active member in her church, she finds it difficult to manage her different commitments. “It’s definitely hard to balance, but I love the sport, so I’m willing to make it work,” Gaspard said. She admits that playing basketball in college has been a dream for her, but Gaspard, a five-year French student, may sacrifice that dream in favor of studying abroad in France and further studies. But for what may be her final months of competitive basketball, Gaspard will continue to help the Lady Bulldogs’ pursuit of a record-breaking season. Aidan Sears is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.