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Alabama fits Jenkins to a T
Nov 11, 2006 12:00 am
A sign in the hallway of Wilson Central High School says go with the SEC.
The hand-written sign was a promotion for S.T.A.R.S. and has nothing to do with the Southeastern Conference, or even sports. But senior Tierney (T) Jenkins took it to heart Wednesday when she signed to play basketball for the University of Alabama.
"It's a big deal for me and for our program," the 6-foot-2 Jenkins said during a celebration in the WCHS cafeteria following practice Wednesday night. "Going to the SEC is a big deal."
Also being celebrated was teammate Sara Williams signing a softball scholarship with Western Kentucky.
Earlier in the day, Mt. Juliet High saw five of its seniors sign college scholarships – baseball players Taylor Hill and Caleb Hill (no relation) with Vanderbilt and Cumberland, respectively; softball players Karli Rush and Kenzie Roark with Trevecca and Virginia Tech, respectively; and golfer Parker Dane with Lee University – on the first day of the NCAA fall signing period.
Georgia, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State were also interested in Jenkins, named the Most Valuable Player of last year's Girls State Tournament when Wilson Central won the school's first state championship in any sport.
"It was between Georgia and Alabama and MTSU," said Jenkins, who averaged 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds on Central's 32-7 team last year. "I didn't get an offer from Georgia. They were waiting too long. After that, I just picked Alabama because I knew I wanted to play in the SEC."
Her coach with the Crimson Tide will be former MTSU coach Stephany Smith, who she compared with Lady Wildcat coach Bud Brandon and his staff.
"She's a really nice lady," Jenkins said of Smith. "She made me feel right at home.
"She reminded me of my coaches, even though she's a woman."
Jenkins started her Central career as a low-post performer. But when freshman sensation Jasmine Hassell came in last season to give the Lady Wildcats three six-footers (Williams is also 6-0), Brandon asked her to move to a wing and handle the ball more. Developing an outside shot is next on her to-do list.
"This season, Coach told me that I need to learn how to shoot outside to help our program to win, hopefully another state championship," said Jenkins, one of three starters returning to a team favored by many to repeat. "There's a little pressure. But we go to God for everything. And I have confidence in my team.
"I know the bullseye is going to be on our back at all times, but we're not worried."
The three big girls will be joined by Mt. Juliet-transfers Chelsea Burroughs and Jessy Christopher in the backcourt this winter. Out of last year's starting backcourt, Jenny Hall and Breonna Brown (who shared most of the starting duties at the two-gaurd) graduated and point guard Cameryn Calhoun moved to Oregon.
Brandon quipped Jenkins may be guarding Tennessee superstar Candace Parker next season.
"It's going to be a challenge for Tierney, and Tierney's always up for challenges," Brandon said. "Tierney's gotten better as a player every month that she's been here.
"She's a great competitor. She loves to compete. Losing basketball games is not in her vocabulary."
Williams averaged 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds last winter. But she didn't pursue basketball in college, instead going with softball, a sport in which she batted .402 with 23 runs batted in last spring. Behind the plate, she allowed only 2 of 13 stolen bases by opponents. The 6-foot Williams will join former Central teammate Lindsay Antone with the Hilltoppers next year, which factored in her decision.
"I really didn't want to go that far away from home and it's only 45 minutes down the road," said Williams, who picked Western over UT-Martin. "I played travel ball in Kentucky and Bowling Green is a nice area."
Brandon was asked what Jenkins and Williams have meant to the program, which has gone to the State Tournament all three years of their careers.
"Last year's season speaks for itself," Brandon said. "You could coach two or three lifetimes and not ever coach two post players like that, and we can throw in Jasmine too and have those three. I'm awful blessed to have three post players like that.
"But those two have been the foundation of what we've done here for several years. They both are great leaders. They're great people on the floor and off the floor."
At Mt. Juliet, Taylor Hill will join former Golden Bear teammates Caleb Cotham and Ryan Hill with the Commodores. The All-State right-hander went 11-2 with a 1.37 earned-run average last spring, including five shutouts. He struck out 121 and walked 24 in 82 innings.
His softball counterpart, Roark, went 16-2 with both losses coming in the state finals against Soddy-Daisy. She struck out 99, including 15 in one of the games against S-D, and walked just 10, posting an ERA of 0.59.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.