This story appeared in the South Florida edition of the Jan./Feb. ESPN RISE Magazine.
Dawnn Maye doesn't need to hear she's one of the top high school basketball players in the nation. She already knows.
The 5-foot-8 senior has been shouldering that burden as the starting point guard for one of the top teams in Broward County for the past four years, leading Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) to a 71-16 record during her first three seasons. Maye is rated the nation's No. 32 recruit in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 and earned first team all-county honors last year while leading Dillard to the Class 5A regional semifinals. In September, she accepted a full athletic scholarship offer from Georgia Tech.
It's apparent living up to high expectations is nothing new for Maye.
"I've always had confidence in my ability," Maye says. "I had to learn to take control of basketball games starting my freshman year. I had no choice but to mature and develop that confidence. It's always been my job to tell older people what to do."
Despite the fact that she led the county in assists as a freshman, Maye's game has been a work in progress. When she first made varsity, Maye was admittedly more flash than dash, mixing behind-the-back passes and high-risk shot attempts with her natural ability to distribute the ball to her teammates. Dillard coach Marcia Pinder, who has led the team since 1976, knew her point guard would have to grow as a leader.
"She had to clean up her game to get to where she is today," Pinder says. "She thought she had to do everything by herself. She wanted to take all the responsibility every time we lost. She learned it doesn't always have to be her fault when we lose."
Maye, a lefty, developed into a player who can finish at the basket with either hand. She also learned to limit her turnovers by relying more on her teammates, many of whom have benefited from her added maturity. Two of Maye's teammates, Candace Parson (Tennessee Tech) and Kianna Conner (Delaware State), plan to play Division I college hoops next fall. Another teammate, Lauren McGraw, who started playing alongside Maye in elementary school, is an ESPN RISE All-Area selection and one of the state's top players in the Class of 2011.
"Dawnn has an ability to spread her energy and work ethic to everyone else," McGraw says. "Her leadership skills are the best I've ever seen. If someone on the team is down, she gets everyone else to lift her up."
Perhaps more impressive than Maye's development on the court has been her growth off of it. The budding musician has taken advantage of Dillard's satellite program for music technology by learning a variety of musical disciplines (piano, drums, vocals) at The Performing Arts Center.
She produces jazz, blues, R&B, reggae and hip-hop music and also serves as the vice president of the youth choir at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. She chose Georgia Tech's scholarship offer over many others in large part due to the school's reputation for having a strong music technology program.
"Basketball isn't all of me," Maye says. "I wish I could split my time evenly between music and basketball. Going to Georgia Tech, I know I'll develop as a person first and then as a player."
Maye's split interests may be the best evidence of her complex personality. She can be the class clown at times, like when she serves as the mascot for the Dillard football team or when she lightens the mood before practices and games by cracking an endless stream of jokes.
But Maye also has a serious side. Pinder remembers a time this fall when one of Maye's teammates earned two C's on her report card. Before Pinder could intervene, Maye deemed the grades unacceptable and visited the two teachers who gave her teammate C's. With the teachers' help, Maye mapped out an action plan for her teammate to achieve higher grades.
"Dawnn attacked the situation like she attacks everything else," Pinder says. "She's outspoken, and she wants everyone around her to be the best. She wanted to find out from those teachers if the student was giving her best effort. She found out that wasn't the case, and I promise that student will not be receiving two C's the next time around."
Many players in Maye's shoes would be content with what they'd achieved. Not Maye. Her free-throw shooting remains her Achilles' heel, as she has yet to shoot better than 60 percent from the line over the course of an entire season. She still had 3.9 turnovers per game as a junior (but more than made up for it by averaging six steals per contest). In what she describes as her most embarrassing moment, Maye worked herself to such exhaustion during a game against Pompano Beach last winter that she threw up in the middle of the floor in the final minutes of a close win.
Perhaps it's only fitting that, even in Maye's most humbling moment, she comes off as a winner. As she prepared for her senior season, Maye set a goal to lift the program to its first state title since 2005. Long term, she'd like to start her own production company after a lengthy career playing pro basketball. She doesn't hope for those accomplishments -- she plans to achieve them through hard work. Given her history, it's difficult to argue.
"I have no use for superstition; I believe in God," Maye says. "I think I can be whatever I want to be. If I want to be the best, I have to work to be the best. It's all in God's hands, and I know He wants me to be the best."