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Basketball: Never at rest – Bullard relishes time on court

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, January 20, 2018
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Putting in Work

PUTTING IN WORK – Boyd guard Paytin Bullard practices six, sometimes seven days a week for three hours at a time. Bullard is averaging a team-high 15.4 points per game this season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Paytin Bullard has never been one to rest on her laurels.

Despite dropping a game-high 33 points last week against Holliday, it didn’t take Bullard long to get a ball back in her hands. Bullard estimates she spends at least three hours a day perfecting her craft, and often practices six, sometimes seven days a week.

“[Practicing] is just fun to me,” Bullard said. “When I have an off game, it makes me mad and just drives me to go back to the gym.”

In addition to being Boyd’s starting point guard, Bullard is also a member of the DFW Lady Hawks 2020, a select Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. Bullard suits up for the Lady Hawks during the summer to play alongside Bridgeport’s Emily Vidal, Decatur’s Kylee Fitzgerald and Jacksboro’s Baylee Thompson.

Bullard said playing with some of the top talent in Wise County has challenged her and helped her development

“Paytin is a special talent,” said DFW Lady Hawks 2020 coach Derelle King. “She’s very determined and driven. You don’t have to motivate her to work hard. Paytin is a true gym rat.”

In her second year for the Lady Jackets, Bullard is averaging a team-high 15.4 points and seven rebounds per night – and has shown she can take over a game at any moment.

“She’s always been a kid who’s put in the extra work,” said Boyd coach Erica Warner. “And obviously it shows. You don’t just become a ballplayer like her when you just practice during the season.”

No stranger to putting in extra work, Warner is a former point guard as well, and was a key cog in the Lady Jackets’ run to the 2A state title game in 2001. Now in her third year coaching her alma mater, Warner said she sees some of herself in Bullard.

Both tall guards attacked the rim and could shoot from the outside. Warner conceded while the two aren’t exactly one in the same, having a sophomore floor general like Bullard has been a luxury.

“It’s nice because you know the person who has the ball in their hands the most, you don’t have to worry about,” Warner said. “You know that part of the game is taken care of. It’s not like I’m [wondering] who’s going to be my point guard next year. It’s no worries. It’s Paytin.”

At 5’9, Bullard’s size in the backcourt has created several mismatches for Boyd’s opponents. These advantages usually present themselves inside, where Bullard is almost always taller than the person guarding her.

As a result, Bullard has crashed the boards and created second and third opportunities for the Lady Jackets.

Occasionally, teams will key on Bullard. Against Holliday, Boyd faced a box-and-one defense – a scheme designed to take away a team’s star player. Essentially, Bullard had a defender guarding her one-on-one while the rest of the team played zone. To break the defense, Bullard had to command several double teams and pass out of them, finding open teammates on the perimeter.

Bullard acknowledged it is nerve-racking being the focal point and running the offense at times.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but I have to put it in my head that not only the team, but my coaches are relying on me,” Bullard said. “That’s a lot of stuff on my shoulders, but then again, I have to just put that away and play the game.”

Although Bullard has been tasked with shouldering much of the load this year, her teammates have complete faith in her ability.

“I trust her as my point guard,” said Abby Hays. “I trust her if she thinks it’s a good time to take a shot or drive. I feel like she reads everyone well.”

Even though Boyd has struggled at points this season and lost a few close games, Bullard has refused to get down on herself or the team. In fact, Hays noted Bullard is usually focusing on the positive aspects of a game, even in losses.

As the Lady Jackets enter the final three weeks of their season, the slim prospect of sneaking into the playoffs remains intact. Boyd is 6-17 and 2-6 in District 8-3A play with six games left, and going into Friday’s game against Nocona was three games out of the fourth and final playoff spot.

There is only one thing on Bullard’s mind – aside from practice.

“[These remaining games] are very important,” said Bullard about Boyd’s playoff hopes. “I’m just going to try and encourage the girls to even after this practice, go practice with me as much as we can. Just go as hard as we can.”

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