Who knew that the girl who has signed to play college basketball at Alabama most likes to sit at home and analyze televised basketball games with her mom?
And that same girl, the one with the physical prowess to play quarterback for her youth-league football team and block boys’ shots in rec-league ball?
Yes, Anniston High’s Quanetria “NeNe” Bolton is 4.0 student who has been known to spring for McDonald’s for friends who were short on cash.
“She’s a very nice person,” said former Anniston standout TaCouya Allen, Bolton’s confidant and peer mentor. “She likes to make people around her happy.”
That’s great in nearly all areas in life, but Bolton also is growing into her potential on the basketball court. That means continuing to grow another side.
“She’s kind of low key, reserved, and that’s something that I’m trying to get her away from on the court,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “A lot of times you have to have that killer instinct to put people away.
“She’s done improved a lot on that, as far as getting out there and taking over games.”
Bolton took over in leading Anniston to the Calhoun County Tournament title a week ago. The tournament most valuable player, she scored 30 points in the championship game against Jacksonville, including 20 in the second half.
Statistics say Bolton is dominant and every bit the major college prospect her size and obvious skills would predict. As a junior, she averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks a game as she made Class 4A first-team all-state. This year as a senior, she accounts for 19 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three assists a game, as her team is ranked fourth in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association's 4A girls poll.
Then again, Bullock will show Bolton a film of a game in which she scored 36 points, and he’ll point out how she could have scored 46.
The muscular 50-year-old Bullock also will get a football pad and bump Bolton around practice. One time, he accidentally elbowed her in the nose, bloodying it badly enough that he worried it was broken.
Allen, star of Anniston’s 2009 state-runner-up team and one of the toughest-minded players to wear Bulldogs’ garnet and black, cuts Bolton no slack. She is a senior guard at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., and when she comes home, her one-on-one games with Bolton get physical.
“She’ll beat me up when we get on the floor,” Bolton said.
It all sounds like Bolton could use nicer basketball mentors, but they know nice is not what she needs on the hardwood. They know what’s coming next in the SEC -- the competition and a major college coach’s shorter window of patience.
“You get in college, and those coaches are coaching for their jobs,” Bullock said. “I’m a school teacher, first of all.”
Bolton’s mentors also know her potential, and it’s not hard to see. Anyone who has seen her back down an opponent and score in the post can see it. Anyone who has seen her hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer during shooting drills in practice gets it.
And fouling her does no good. She hit all 14 of her free throws in the county final.
Bolton is a post player with inside-out game and free-throw touch. She also has the grades and qualifying ACT score to meet NCAA requirements. She’s catnip for major college coaches, and that’s why she had offers from nearly every major program in the Southeast.
But she has always stood out. Her mom, Tameka Bolton, loves to tell the story her daughter’s days in 9- and 10-year-old ball when she blocked boys’ shots.
One of Bolton’s victims was Qua Frazier, who stars for the Anniston boys team. She got him more than once in a rec-league game.
“She constantly blocked his shot, and I have a picture of them,” Tameka Bolton said. “I pulled the picture out four or five months ago, and he was like, ‘I don’t want to see that picture.’
“She was taller than him then, and his friends would say, ‘That’s a girl. You can’t let a girl do that to you.’ That was, like, too funny for me.”
Frazier grins and talks about it matter of factly. He said he also remembers Bolton as an opposing quarterback in 12-and-under football.
“She’s always been good,” Frazier said. “We respected her like we respect everybody else. She played just like a boy back then.
“She’s just an athlete. She can do it all.”
But wrapped inside all of that physical potential is a low-key, gentle soul that her mom calls a “home body” and “big baby.” Bolton cops to it.
“I like to laugh and make jokes, and that’s about it,” she said. “I really like to stay at home. I really don’t like to get out or anything, unless I’m with my cousins. We’ll go outside and shoot basketball or something.”
At home, she and her mom will watch basketball on TV and break down the games. It’s in-depth analysis, mother-daughter analysis from two people who love and know the game.
Their bonding can wear thin, however. NeNe Bolton will move to her room when what happens on TV becomes what she could do better. Rebounding seems to be mom’s pet point.
“I think that’s her favorite word,” NeNe Bolton says with a grin.
There were other times when Bolton wanted to hide in her room.
Before transferring to Anniston after her freshman year, she started her high school basketball career at Wellborn, and she started a semester late. She wasn’t ready to play in front of high school crowds and initially didn’t want to play her seventh-grade year.
“I was scared from the transition of me coming from elementary school to the high school,” she said. “Then they saw me in the gym one day, because I never got away from it.
“But, like, I was always shy. I don’t like, really, going out in front of people.”
Between then and now -- with bumps and bluntness from Bullock, Allen, mom and others -- Bolton became the player we see in area gyms today.
She is as dominant as she wants to be and rarely gets stopped by high school competition. Bullock said when she is stopped, it’s usually because she stops herself.
While he continues to help her refine her playing edge, she continues to aim toward the Bulldogs’ goal of winning a state championship for him.
“I feel like I could give coach his first ring,” she said. “I know we have that mental mindset as a team. I feel like, this is our year.”
After her high school career, it’s on to Alabama, where first-year coach Kristy Curry and her staff have made it clear they want her. Bolton’s campus visit included a sitdown in Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s office.
Talk about someone with a killer instinct. The 5-foot-6 coach joked and even talked smack to NeNe Bolton, and she answered with a taste of the edge she has developed.
“He was talking about basketball, and he said he could beat me,” she said. “He said they play a lot, and I didn’t know he played basketball, really, but he was like, ‘I can take you one on one.’
“I was like, ‘I don’t know about that one.’”
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at email@example.com. Twitter: @jmedley_star.