Nakia Cheatham, a 2020 Coahoma County High School graduate, was one of the top athletes on her basketball team for four years.
However, after one year of playing for the Coahoma Community College women’s basketball team, she was able to make her game stronger than ever.
Cheatham played the power forward position as the Lady Tigers finished the 2020-21 season as the Region 23 Tournament runner-up. She had as many as 17 rebounds in one game and finished with back-to-back double-doubles at one point during the season.
As Cheatham heads into her second season in 2021-22, she will be moving to the shooting guard positions. She will be one of four sophomores on the roster.
Cheatham has been on three runner-up teams – once at CCC and twice with the Lady Red Panthers. CCHS was the Class 2A Mississippi High School Activities Association state tournament runner-up in Cheatham's freshman and senior years.
“It just makes me more hungry and energized,” Cheatham said. “Hopefully, it will come this year. Hopefully, I can be a champion this year. I just hope it comes true this time. I’m not going to stop fighting. I’m going to do what I have to do this year to get it done.”
Cheatham’s biggest adjustment in college was learning to play with a 30-second shot clock on offense. There was no shot clock in high school.
“I was adjusting to some new things, learning some new things about basketball in a higher way,” Cheatham said. “I came in and I had to get adjusted to the shot clock that I wasn’t so used to, but that comes with playing at another level. I knew that in high school I would be capable of doing some bigger things when it got to playing at a different level so it was a lot of things I had to learn and get used to. My teammates, they made that easier for me by encouraging, uplifting me and making me a better player. It was a good team. It was mostly sophomores. We had a successful team last year. This year, we have a kind of new team.”
Lady Tigers head coach Stephanie Murphy and assistant Isaiah Butler have helped Cheatham with her game.
“Sometimes when we would be scrimmaging, I would still forget that I would have to be under a shot clock,” Cheatham said. “I call it a freshman mistake. Freshmen make mistakes, but as the season got older, the better we played, the easier it gets. I was getting used to the shot clock. My coach was always telling me college is not high school. We were talking about some in game situations.”
Cheatham said she prefers having a shot clock so she can play defense instead of hold the ball on offense the whole time.
“That’s no fun,” Cheatham said. “I like to run up and down the court, play both offense and defense.”
Cheatham said she also had to adjust to when she would shoot a one-and-one from the free-throw line and two free throws.
Now, as a sophomore, Cheatham will be in a leadership role.
“I’m just trying to do what my teammates from last year taught me to lead this team this year so we can turn CCC around some more,” Cheatham said.
Cheatham is feeling good about her progress.
“I’m getting good at this. I’m getting in the groove,” she said. “I feel good about where I’m at. It’s getting good for this team and myself.”
Cheatham said as the Lady Tigers have a target on their backs in 2021-22, they will keep the same energy on the floor.
Cheatham will be reuniting with her high school teammate power forward Tyana McClenton, who will be a freshman at CCC in the fall.
“It means a lot,” Cheatham said. “It’s going to be real fun. I can teach her things my teammates from last year taught me and I can just encourage her, build her up, get her better and help her stay focused. It’s going to be real fun.”
Cheatham will have an extra year of eligibility at CCC since 2020-21 was during the COVID pandemic. She has not decided if she will remain a Lady Tiger for a third year. Her goal when she leaves CCC will be to continue her education at Alcorn State University.
“I’ve been around Alcorn my whole life,” Cheatham said. “I just felt like it’s meant for me to be there and that’s my future school. I love Alcorn. I could choose another school over Alcorn, but I just feel something is going to lead me right to Alcorn. My heart is stuck at Alcorn. Wherever I do go, I’m forever going to be a fan of Alcorn.”
Cheatham is focusing on general studies at CCC and plans to major in agribusiness at a four-year school and do something dealing with USDA for a living. She plans to do something similar to what her mother, Nitosha Berry, does for a living. She maintains a 3.1 GPA and does her best to balance sports and education.
“I never keep my head down,” Cheatham said. “I try to stay focused. My family helped me stay focused. I just know what I need to do in basketball and my education.”