Brittany Dinkins doesn’t need to hear any speeches or watch any inspirational videos this week.
Like all of her Norland girls’ basketball teammates, there’s very little needed to motivate her before a rematch with Orlando Edgewater, the team that has denied the Vikings a state championship twice in the past seven seasons.
“I wish we were playing them right now,” Dinkins said. “Losing to them bothered us the whole summer. I’m very motivated and hyped about this game.”
Norland (29-3) takes on Edgewater (25-6) Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at The Lakeland Center in a Class 6A state semifinal in a rematch of last year’s championship game.
Dinkins, a three-year starter for the Vikings, missed most of last season with a torn ACL and admitted she was not 100 percent healthy in that game.
But this weekend’s bid to help Norland win a potential third state championship means more to her than just revenge.
Dinkins, who transferred to Norland before her sophomore season, said her three years at Norland changed her life.
“She told me the other day that being here the past three years is everything she could have ever hoped for,” Norland coach Carla Harris-Curry said. “She wanted to be with players and coaches that care about basketball and love it as much as she does.”
Dinkins is averaging 14.6 points, 3.7 steals, 3.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, and has made 53 three-pointers. When she left Miramar after her freshman season, Dinkins was already a skilled player.
But Dinkins said there was still a lot she needed to learn both on and off the court.
“From the time I got here, coach was always giving me responsibilities and make sure I knew how to be a leader,” Dinkins said. “I wasn’t used to that before. I was used to being the star player and being able to get away from a lot of stuff. Here she was always like, ‘Brittney I need you to take care of this or that, and make sure you get all of your school work done or you’re not playing.”
Dinkins raised her GPA from around a 2.0 to a 3.3 over the past three years and has earned a scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi. Harris-Curry paired her up with senior guard Kishondra Lovett, an honors student at the school, not long after she joined the team. For years, Harris-Curry has paired up her players to help each other succeed academically.
The Vikings are doing well in the classroom with others like Danneal Ford maintaining a 4.0 GPA and senior Britnee McCoy earning honors.
Dinkins said she needed the push to balance her love of basketball with school.
Growing up in Little Haiti with her godparents taking care of her for most of her youth, Dinkins found her passion playing basketball sometimes against neighborhood boys, and her god brother, William.
“We always used to challenge each other on the playground and he used to beat me all the time,” Dinkins said. “But I learned a lot from him.”
Dinkins said her mother dealt with many personal issues during that time, and has only recently reconnected with her. She was raised by her godparents until her older sister, Ebony, took guardianship of her in recent years. Ebony was an accomplished basketball player at Hialeah-Miami Lakes, who later went on to play at Miami-Dade College and Savannah State.
“I’ve always loved to play basketball and I wanted to follow in my sister’s footsteps,” Dinkins said. “But I had to learn that to not have this game taken from me I had to get it done in class.”
Dinkins said she wasn’t 100 percent last year at state, but said she didn’t want it to be an excuse. Since this past summer, she has been back to her old self.
“I got my speed back, my shot was going down better by mid-season,” Dinkins said. “My whole skill set was back and I was feeling good again.”
Dinkins figures to play a key role against an Edgewater team that like Norland is still very similar to the one that played in last year’s final.
Edgewater lost McDonald’s All-American Alexis Prince. They still bring back senior guard Trimaine McCullough, a McDonald’s All-America nominee this season, and guard Markeema Crawford, who played a key role in defeating the Vikings this season.
No matter what happens Thursday, Dinkins said she is going to do her best to help the teammates and coaches that helped put her on a path to success.
“I’m so grateful that I experienced something like this here at Norland and I would tell anyone that can come here that this is a great school,” Dinkins said. “I’m proud to define myself now as a student-athlete.”