Tierra Ruffin-Pratt leads the pack downcourt.
HAMPTON, Va. - Tierra Ruffin-Pratt’s left shoulder is encased in a thick, padded brace, the result of a Candace Parker-like dislocation that occurred in her high school team’s district championship game.
She’s still going through rehab, but she refuses to concede that the injury affects her game - though she does admit it was frustrating watch her previously unbeaten team lose its first game without her. “It was hard not being able to go out there and play,” she says (which qualifies as a major speech for her), but she’s got another year at T.C. Williams High School in Virginia, and another year to try to lead her team to a state title.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is shooting better than
ever, according to club coach Boo Williams.
Ruffin-Pratt will acknowledge that she’s a little rusty, and though she played well for the Boo Williams Elite at the Battle of the Best in Hampton, Va., in April, she wasn’t completely happy. “I’ve just got to get back in the rhythm,” she says.
Her rhythm seemed good enough to be a Dancing with the Stars finalist to the unpracticed eye, however, as she played her usual sterling defense, and converted big baskets when required. Her head-to-head battle with Tierra Rogers of the DFW TJack Elite in the championship game produced few hiccups, and her big shots late kept BWSL in the game, though it eventually lost to the Texas team.
The rest of Ruffin-Pratt’s game didn’t miss a beat, either. She has a feel for the ball - she’s always there on defense, anticipating, using her strength and quickness to counter whatever the offense has in mind. And though she’s not a slender speedster, she gets where she needs to be, and she’s quicker than her body type suggests she should be. When she needs it, it’s there.
The 5-9 guard, wounded shoulder or not, still has all the pieces in place. She has the strength to fend off pressure, the quickness to penetrate, the basketball IQ to recognize what needs to be done, and the skill to do it.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is tight-lipped about
Boo Williams also notices that Ruffin-Pratt is improving as a leader. "She’s making the players around her better,” he says. “Great players make everyone better.”
It doesn’t hurt that she’s also shooting better than in the past, according to Williams, and her ability to make long threes was on display in the championship game in Hampton.
Still, though, Ruffin-Pratt won’t reveal anything about her college choices. She’s quiet to begin with, but on this particular topic, her reticence is practiced, and impenetrable. Does she have a list? No. Does she want to stay close to home? She’s not saying. Any directional hints? Not forthcoming.
So all the assembled college coaches can do is sit and watch - and wonder just how much better she might be if she wasn’t wearing that shoulder brace. After all, she’s one of the best in her class with it on, and with it off? No one can really say, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, not surprisingly, isn’t talking.