The holidays are often a time to be thankful for what you have. Liz Cadle knows this as well as anybody.
The Woodrow Wilson senior is enjoying as good of a month as anybody.
If accomplishing a dream of signing with a D-1 program wasn’t enough, she’s getting ready to enter a senior season in which her team is expected to be one of the best, if not the best in the state with her leading the way.
“I know that I’m blessed, I really do,” Cadle said.
Though those blessings come from hard work and dedication.
“Talent and potential,” Woodrow head coach Brian Nabors says when asked what his first impressions of the senior point guard were. “That was my first thought when I saw her when she was in middle school and when she came in as a freshman. “
Though getting to the point where she could capitalize was a challenge in its own.
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Growing up, life wasn’t easy for Cadle or her younger brother Mikey.
“They lost their father in 2013,” their sister Kayla Radford said. “It wasn’t easy for them at all.”
The result of that loss was instability.
Cadle and her brother were forced to move from place to place, struggling to find somewhere to call home.
“I’ve always loved basketball,” Cadle said. “I always had it. When I was younger we moved around a lot. That hurt because I couldn’t play basketball competitively. I didn’t even get to play it my 7th grade year. I wasn’t able to because I got held back in 6th grade. I always loved basketball and felt like I could come to it when things were tough. I’d spend hours just shooting and working on my dribbling when I had a chance.
“When I went to 8th grade at Beckley-Stratton me and Victoria (Staunton) met and I started to focus working on my skills, and stayed in the gym working in my game. We moved around a lot. We were in Wyoming County, the Nicholas County and the we came here. I always loved basketball and felt like I could come to it when things were tough.”
Eventually Cadle found stability when her sister Kayla stepped in.
“I got them when they were in 7th and 8th grade,” Radford said. “I was only 24 at the time, but I knew it was the right thing to do and I have guardianship of them now. Growing up, I was raised by my grandmother and had a great life, and I wanted to give them the life I had growing up, so for me it was a no-brainer.”
Radford was granted guardianship of the two and retains it to this day.
For Cadle and her brother, it allowed them stability and Liz could finally start consistently working towards the goal of playing at the next level.
But on the court there were still bumps in the road.
As a freshman Nabors realized the team needed a point guard, and out of necessity Cadle became the primary ball handler for the Lady Flying Eagles. The growing pains were present then as Woodrow stumbled to a four-win season and struggled in the early going of the following season.
“It’s been a process to teach her to be a coach on the floor,” Nabors said. “She has to be the extension of the coach. She’s got to be the quarterback and its been a process getting her to that point. We’ve seen flashes of it the past few years, it just wasn’t consistent, but she’s worked on it and has been a student of the game. She has a really strong work ethic and wants to get better. We’re seeing her develop a high IQ and understanding of the game.”
But she was receptive to Nabors’ tough love coaching style. The former Woodrow point guard, who won two championships under Dave Barksdale in the early ‘90s before turning in a successful collegiate career at Charleston, has been in Cadle’s shoes and has been the perfect mentor for her, preparing her for the future.
“When I first met her she talked about her goals,” Nabors said. “She wanted to win championships and wanted to play Division l basketball. I told her I didn’t play basketball at that level, but I played under a D1 coach and I played for the best high school coach in the history of West Virginia high school basketball.
“Those coaches were tough on me as a point guard to have thick skin and take constructive criticism. I’m not necessarily mimicking the coaches I had, but challenging her. To play at that level, it’s different and you have to be able to handle adversity. If she can handle the pressure I put on her, she’ll be prepared for those moments.”
Following a January home loss to Huntington Cadle’s sophomore season, the fortunes of the team went up. A close loss to Morgantown in the Big Atlantic Classic led to optimism and Nabors confidently proclaimed his team would make the state tournament.
Cadle was a large part of backing up that claim as they defeated Greenbrier East on the road in the sectional championship and Cadle made the game winning shot against Saint Albans in the regional championship, sending the program to the state tournament for the first time since 2009.
For her part in the program’s turnaround, Cadle was named second-team all-state with hefty expectations of a title run. Those expectations fell short as the Lady Flying Eagles lost their last two games and missed the state tournament.
“Last year we all fell short, every one of us,” Cadle said. “We’re trying to look past that. This year we want to go back to Charleston. That’s the goal.”
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On Nov. 13, Cadle turned her dream into reality when she signed her National Letter of Intent to play D1 basketball at Longwood University. It was all smiles as she was surrounded by her sister Kayla, brother Mikey and coaches including Nabors and assistant coach Gene Nabors.
“During the summer I played with the West Virginia Rising Stars out of Charleston,” Cadle said. “In July they started texting me. I was looking at going to Wesleyan because I didn’t have any consistent interest outside of Wesleyan. Coach Tiffany (Sardin) was texting me and being consistent and communicating with me well. They came and watched me in Indianapolis as much as they could.
“I always loved it there. I went to a camp (at Longwood) and it was all about family. I liked that, the Division l and the competition there was awesome. I want to be the basketball player I can be and I feel like Longwood gives me the best opportunity to do that.”
Cadle’s tenure at Longwood comes with a full scholarship. That along with the opportunity to sign early and avoid the distraction also helped play a role in bringing her to the next step of her journey.
“I think being able to sign and not have to worry about that throughout the season helps a lot,” Cadle said. “I get to just focus on my senior year now and going out and helping my team win a championship.”
Though her journey isn’t over, it’s hard to not be impressed with the progress she’s made and the circumstances she’s overcome.
“I was just so proud of her and her brother both,” Radford said. “They worked so hard to where they could be in that position and they’ve overcome so much.”
“I think it’s a testament of her resiliency,” Nabors said. “To have something like basketball that can be your safe haven, that’s huge. As a coach I always try to be supportive in any type of situation regardless of what it is. Whether it’s on the court or off the court, I want to be the best coach and mentor I can be to her and all of our players.
“I’m proud of what she’s been able to do and I hope she’s been able to learn something from me during the time of our relationship and she can have a great career and a great life.”
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