By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily

Andrea Watkins-Orr
Andrea Watkins-Orr became a starter for the Austin Black Bears in her freshman season.

In 1990, Billy Miles was in his first year as Austin’s girls basketball coach.

After the first day of off-season workouts, two ninth graders had something to tell their new coach.

“They pointed at the pictures of the All-State players on the wall of the gym,” Miles said. “They said they wanted their pictures up their someday.”

The players were Andrea “Bam” Watkins and Leigh Anna McDaniel.

“I said it will take a lot of hard work and, if things go your way, it can happen,” Miles said. “Sure enough, both of them got their pictures up there.”

“Andrea is quite a person. She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” Miles said.

Watkins said she picked up the nickname “Bam” when she was 1 or 2 because she loved to watch “The Flintstones.” One of the characters in the cartoon is called “Bam Bam.”

Bam was a good word to describe her play on the basketball court. The four-year starter brought to Austin a powerful determination to succeed. Some would say she played bigger than her 5-foot-7 size would suggest.

The Black Bears won just eight games her freshman season and played for the Class 6A state championship in her senior season.  She was a first-team All-State selection.

“Our backyard was where the neighborhood basketball games were played,” Watkins-Orr said. “You had to be tough to survive. I played rec ball in the third grade and it just stuck with me. I really enjoyed it.”

She played on undefeated teams at Brookhaven in the seventh and eighth grades. Then it was on to Austin.

“I wasn’t interested in playing on the ninth-grade team,” Watkins-Orr said. “I felt like I was ready to play on the varsity.”

It was a perfect time for a young player at Austin. The girls program at Decatur was in the midst of a three-year state championship run. A rebuilding program at Austin needed some young players who were willing to take their lumps while they built for success.

Andrea Watkins-Orr
In 1994, Austin beat rival Decatur four times that season, including the Northwest Regional championship game at Wallace State.

“I learned a lot playing against those great Decatur teams,” Watkins-Orr said. “They had some great players who definitely challenged me.”

For Austin to be successful the Black Bears needed an inside presence. That’s where Watkins-Orr shined.

“Bam was short for a post player, but she could rebound against anybody,” Miles said. “She just had a knack for knowing where the ball was going to come off the rim. She was always at the right place at the right time.”

Watkins-Orr said rebounding skills came from one desire – to get her hands on the ball.

“Who else’s hands did the ball need to be in?” Watkins-Orr said. “I wanted it in my hands as much as possible because I knew I could score.”

The 1993-1994 season saw the balance of power swing the other way in girls basketball in Decatur. Austin won four of five games against Decatur that season. The regular season ended with Austin ranked No. 2 in Class 6A and Decatur at No. 3. The wins over Decatur included one for the area championship, 57-47, and one for the Northwest Regional championship, 40-39.

Austin beat defending state champion Carver-Montgomery in the state tournament semifinals. That set up a championship game between undefeated LeFlore and Austin, a team on 10-game winning streak.

Watkins-Orr got Austin off to a good start. She scored 11 points in the first quarter to put the Black Bears up by one. LeFlore held a 31-30 halftime lead. The second half was not kind to Austin. The Black Bears scored just nine points in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth and lost 72-49. Austin finished with a 25-5 record.

“We just couldn’t handle their pressure in the second half,” Watkins-Orr said.

After her playing days at Austin ended, Watkins-Orr went to Wallace State at Hanceville to play for Larry Slater.

“We were tickled to death to get her,” Slater said. “She was a great athlete and had the prettiest jump shot. You could count on her in the clutch. She was a fierce competitor who would battle you to the end.”

Watkins-Orr played one year at North Alabama and then one year at UAH, where she got an engineering degree. She uses her determination to be the best she can be as a member of the defense and space industry in the Huntsville area.

Her personalized car tag tells everyone who they are following. It says “Ms. Bam.”

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