It started with a favorite uncle dying of cancer. Then a cousin, in what some believe was a case of mistaken identity, being killed under a hail of gunfire by the police.
As if Boyd Anderson senior guard Natora Landers hadn’t endured enough heartache in recent months, she sustained a concussion while being robbed of her cellphone on a walk through her neighborhood.
“I have questioned why all this has happened to me,” Landers said. “There are other kids my age that just live their lives, everything is good for them. I just put it like everything happens for a reason. Eventually I will have my time to shine.”
The 2013-14 basketball season couldn’t have arrived soon enough for Landers, who expects to channel the strength drawn from overcoming adversity into Boyd Anderson’s bid for a state title.
It won’t be easy. Northeast, Broward’s biggest surprise last season, is the hands-down favorite to win District 14-7A, while Blanche Ely and Fort Lauderdale also loom as potential roadblocks.
Landers, Kenya Lindo, Naomi Ariss and Krystal Goldsby are four returning starters for Boyd Anderson.
That familiarity, the hard-nosed defense Boyd Anderson plays under coach Lawrence Hanna, along with the added size of 6-0 freshmen Aaliyah Nelson and Ronisha Lewis, gives Boyd Anderson a shot.
“I think we can push Northeast,” Hanna said. “They have a lot of talent, but we just have to play tough the whole game. We have to trust each other. If we do that for four quarters, we will be all right.”
After suffering double-digit losses to Northeast last season, the Cobras will find out how much they have closed the gap on Dec. 6 when they host the Hurricanes, and Jan. 7 when they visit Northeast.
Boyd Anderson will go as far as Landers, who has staked out a reputation as a hard-nosed point guard, will take them.
Last season, Landers averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds to earn All-Broward third-team honors.
Landers gives the Cobras the rare talent of outrebounding bigger players despite standing only 5-7, and one of the best at absorbing contact and finishing around the basket.
“My rebounding comes as a surprise when people hear I’m 5-7,” Landers said. “A lot of players don’t like contact with big people. Well I do. If the ball is there, I’m going to get it. If they get it, I’m going to take it.”
Hanna said Landers’ improved perimeter game and emphasis as a playmaker will be key to the Cobras this season.
“Natora has been working on her three-point shot, it will be very important to us,” Hanna said. “Last year, opponents started closing in and taking charges. Her three-point shot will definitely open up a lot of stuff for the whole team. We need her to do it all every night.”
Already helping to support a one-parent household with a part-time job, Landers said dealing with the loss of two family members and then getting beat up during the robbery left her in an emotional funk.
Ultimately, Landers found refuge from her misfortunes and a renewed desire to excel in basketball by playing pickup games.
“I feel like basketball is my life,’’ Landers said. “When I am going through stuff, I am able to go out there and play the game. All the obstacles I go through is a test to see how strong I am. Even sometimes when I go through it and break down I end up being stronger. I got to make it.”