Shon Thomaston knew big things were on the horizon for his promising young point guard.
But even the veteran Carrollton High School girls' head basketball coach found himself in awe over the course of the campaign watching it all unfold. Freshmen simply aren't supposed to do some of the things that De'Mauri Flournoy delivered, especially at the Class AAAAA level playing against premier talent.
But the 2017-18 Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year not only won over a senior-laden Lady Trojan roster as the primary ball-handler, she was unfazed by any form of full-court pressure or older, stronger and bigger athletic opponents that came her way.
Flournoy had already proven herself to her teammates through the first stretch of the season, but when senior guard and University of Arkansas-Fort Smith signee Taylor Brown went down with a foot injury during the Christmas holidays, the young talent had to shoulder a load that most coaches wouldn't feel comfortable placing on a freshman.
But there were stretches through the season, especially during that time, where Flournoy threw the team on her back and helped lead a run to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.
"I never had one problem with it. I'm that kind of guy that I don't care where it comes from. But to see her do it, that was encouraging to me because I know I've got her for a little while longer," Thomaston said. "The thing about her this year, she did carry some of the scoring load and to handle the pressure and all the things that she did — especially late in the season once everybody knew how good she was — it was exciting to see."
Averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, Flournoy finished as a GACA All-State performer, something she didn't envision entering the season.
"As the year progressed, I did much better than what I thought I would," Flournoy said. "Now I just want to continue to get better."
Thomaston said what makes his freshman point guard so amazing is how dynamic she is on and off the court. As intense and fiery as she is as a competitor when she steps between the lines, her infectious smile and charming personality makes her a favorite among CHS faculty, as well.
"All the teachers and adults walking the hallways, I guess she's just adorable to them," Thomaston said. "But then she gets along with everybody, her teammates like her. Nobody ever had an issue with her having the ball and leading our team as a freshman."
Of course, when you dish out 127 assists as a freshman — ranking third in school history for a single season — your teammates aren't going to complain too much.
"That's pretty dang solid. To score like she did and distribute the ball the way she did, now I know why everybody likes playing with her. Just an unselfish kid," Thomaston said. "Sometimes I thought she was too unselfish. I think she can score a whole lot more than what she did."
For her part, Flournoy was extremely appreciative of the seniors on the team treating her with such respect and showing her the Lady Trojan way of doing things.
As the year went on, however, Flournoy became more comfortable in her role with the team and serving as a leader, even as a freshman.
"I felt like taking on that role, it wasn't too much of a challenge. As long as we all were playing hard, we can accomplish anything together," Flournoy said.
After making a run to the state quarterfinals as a freshman, Flournoy has big hopes for the future. Losing seven seniors who all played key roles, it will truly fall on her shoulders as the team leader on and off the court next season.
"The first thing I told her when we had our exit meetings was, 'Now you've got to be a leader. You had an opportunity to hang around seven seniors, so you got a chance to see what's expected, from a maturity standpoint,'" Thomaston said. "First thing she said to me, she said it with that smile. She said, 'I got it, coach.'"
After getting her first taste of big-time state playoff basketball this year, as well as top-level competition on the holiday circuit, Flournoy understands what the road has in store.
"It was just much more intense. The vibe is just right there, nonstop. You can't feel like, 'Oh, we got this.' You've got to come in every night the right way and it don't stop because nobody lays down or quits. They keep coming at you," Flournoy said.