Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

If there is one thing Chaney Means understands as well as basketball, it is how to deal with change.

The latter has certainly come in handy during her high school career at Greater Atlanta Christian and has helped make the former a great success as Means begins the home stretch of her senior season.

"It's hard to believe it's almost over, just from my always being here and growing up at this school and with all these people," Means said. "It's going to be hard to leave, but I've grown a lot from the people at this school and the experiences I've had here."

Though GAC is the only school she has known since first grade, Means has experience quite a bit of change throughout her four years of high school.

From being a key reserve on the Spartans' 2006-07 Class AA state championship team to experiencing three different head coaches to seeing her best friend from childhood, Norcross' Briana Jordan, leave the program to almost leaving the program herself, Means has pretty much seen it all.

But the one thing that has remained constant through it all is her success both on and off the court.

The 5-foot-8 guard enters Friday night's Region 6-AA game with Avondale at the Long Forum just seven games short of Janna Stringer's record for most career games played at 117.

That mark wouldn't have been possible had her father, Chan Means, not accepted the Spartans' head coaching job in the spring of 2007, which prevented the family from moving to Nashville, Tenn., where the elder Means was about to accept a new job.

And she's made the most of her time of the court, compiling 1,249 points (11.4 per game), 616 rebounds (5.6), 378 assists (3.4) and 452 steals (4.1), which has helped earn her a scholarship to play college basketball at Western Kentucky beginning in the fall.

She also holds school records for most single game steals (15) and 3-point goals (6) and career 3-pointers (111).

She currently shares the team led in scoring (11.3) with freshman Kristina Nelson and holds the outright team lead in rebounding (6.8), assists (3.4) and steals (3.9).

"She does a lot of big things for us, and a lot of little things the average fan might not see," first-year GAC girls head coach Cal Boyd said. "She's not scoring as much this season as in the past, but I'd say she's playing as well as she ever has.

"Chaney realizes that to be on a good team, you've got to get others involved."

Getting herself and others involved has also never been an issue for Means off the court.

In addition to being an outstanding student with a 3.97 grade-point average and National Honor Society membership, she has also given of her time by being part of a mission team that has traveled to Haiti each of the past two spring breaks.

Given the recent devastation from the earthquake in Haiti, the many friends she has made in those trips has weighed on her mind lately.

Those friends have, thankfully, been spared from the worst of the damage, and Means is eagerly looking forward to returning to the Caribbean island nation to see them this spring.

"It's been hard just because we know a lot of people down there," Means said. "We get e-mail updates from the people down there. ... It's something that close to our hearts."

That kind of reality has helped Means develop a strong sense of perspective, which made dealing with having the third coach in her four-year career at GAC -- which happened when her father stepped down last spring and was replaced by Boyd -- seem like a relative piece of cake.

"It's been an adjustment," Means said. "But I respect Coach Boyd so much. I know he knows what he's talking about. I know he knows the game.

"It was probably a bigger adjustment when my dad came in. There's just so much you take for granted just being out there -- being a player. It's different when you have that whole other aspect to it."

For his part, Boyd says having someone with the perspective and leadership skills as Means -- along with four other seniors -- has made his adjustment from boys assistant coach to head girls coach go as smoothly as he could've expected.

"It's a nice blessing having her and the seniors around," Boyd said. "Chaney's one of our captains and has a lot of leadership ability. That's helped make my transition easier.

"The good thing is that I actually taught her in class last year. So, we had a good rapport with each other and the foundation for (this season) was established last year.

"Chaney has embraced the 'C' in GAC -- Christian. That's a testament to her as a person."