By Maurice Patton
Seven in-state signees highlight the first full-fledged recruiting class for Columbia State under second-year women’s basketball coach Gwen Burton.
“The objective was to get kids in-state, and try to get a good mixture of kids from out of state as well – have some diversity on the team,” Burton said.
Appointed last May to revive the Lady Charger program after a one-year layoff following the departure of Bridget Goodnight, whose contract expired at the end of the 2017-18 season, Burton pieced together a roster for the ’19-20 campaign that went 2-23 and often played with just one reserve.
The top four players from last year’s squad – guard Aalyiah Davis, a product of Clarksville’s West Creek, guards Diamond Cannon and Denaj’za Jackson and forward Treshondra Williams – are all set to return.
Joining that nucleus will be a group of local products that includes forward Bri’anna Brown and guard Carrie Johnson from Giles County, forwards Hannah Davis and Kelsey Keeler from Marshall County, guard Asia Matthews from Blackman and guard Brittany Lawless-Sherrill from Nashville Christian.
Other incoming freshmen include Tyreesha Sanders, a forward from Chattanooga Brainerd; Mya Byrd, a guard from Ashburn (Ga.) Turner County; forward De’Anna Williams, a center from Sylvester (Ga.) Worthy County; and Chedai Rouser, a forward from Flint (Mich.) Hamady.
Rouser is one of four Michiganders on the roster, along with Cannon and fellow Hamady graduates Jackson and Treshondra Williams.
Prior to taking the Lady Chargers helm, Burton had spent a season at Henry Ford College, a two-year school in Michigan.
“Last year was a great experience for me,” Burton said. “It gives me more hope for this season, and raises my expectations and standards, especially with these kids coming in from winning programs.
“The size, the commitment, and the academics are going to be there. With Diamond and Tre coming back – they played 12 or 13 games (joining the team after the Christmas break) and were named second-team all-conference. With that dynamic coming back, and with getting Mya, she’ll be the strong point guard we need to control the tempo of our offense and defense.”
Byrd drew recruiting interest at the NCAA Division I, including from Georgia Tech and Arkansas-Little Rock.
With eyes still on a few prospects, Burton likes the pieces she already has in place for her second campaign with the Lady Chargers.
“You can’t coach height,” she said. “We’ll be able to mix it up in the post area. We’re going to be faster and stronger, (able to) rebound more, push tempo, press and understand basketball.”