Anna’s Army: Natchitoches friend group becomes the light that shines on Lady Demons program
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Every sports team has super fans, and the Northwestern State Lady Demons have three of their own, but it is the impact each one makes on the players on and off the court that has drawn attention from many.
“The moment I arrived at NSU, we have had three ladies that have absolutely been the heart, the strength and consistent support,” said Lady Demons Head Coach Anna Nimz. “Win, lose or draw, they are three people we could count on being at games.”
After retiring, Nan and Camille Hawthorne moved back to their hometown, Natchitoches, and when Coach Nimz was hired, they and their long-time friend, Darlene Elliot, decided they were going to support the Lady Demons. After sitting in the purple seats with the other fans last season, they upgraded to courtside seats this season.
“To know Anna is to love Anna. She just has that infectious personality,” said Nan. “These kids are a great group of women, and just like everyone else, they like people to cheer for them.”
After attending every home game and most away games for two seasons, the three ladies now refer to themselves as Anna’s Army.
“We have it on our calendar, this is where we are going to be, and we have the away games,” said Camille. “This is what we are going to do.”
“We have about a six-hour radius, but if it is over, we have been fortunate enough that the two games have fallen in the same week, and we can stay over and do a little sightseeing,” said Elliot.
Home and away, Anna’s Army never steps into the arena without their Northwestern State flag, which has become a staple for ESPN broadcasts and the Lady Demons’ huddle.
“The reason I thought about the flag is because we had one last year, and I want the girls to know that when we walk in the gym, and they see the flag, they know we are there,” said Nan. “That is sort of our stamp of, okay, we are here now.”
“They don’t travel on the bus with us, but they are every bit a part of the program,” said Nimz. “Plenty of times the girls are like are they here yet, they aren’t here yet, and I say, ‘Don’t worry, I have messaged them.”
To many, they are fans, or Anna’s Army, but to the players, they are much more, as most of the NSU roster is not from Louisiana.
“I don’t know what to call it, but you know how grandmas have that loving and nurturing aspect?” said Lady Demons guard Jiselle Woodson. “They have that aspect to them. They care for you. It is like glue, sometimes they are not there, and it is like where are the grandmas at, so just them being there. When one isn’t there, it is like where is the other because it is not the same.”
“This is my first year, and I saw them for the first time when we were at practice in the summer,” said Lady Demons guard Bengisu Alper. “I was like who are they, and they were like oh they are the grandmas. Being away from your family is hard, but they make it easy for me because they are like my family.”
No matter the outcome of the game, Coach Nimz and the Lady Demons say the grandmas’ presence courtside or in the stands is what makes playing basketball even sweeter.
“They always have that big smile on their face, like you win or lose, it just gives you a lot of power, like you got it next game, or you’re good,” said Alper. “I love them.”
“At the end of the day, the foundation of those three women will forever be the foundation of my tenure here,” said Nimz.
Anna’s Army said for seasons to come, they will continue to be the light that shines on the Lady Demons basketball program.
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