Georgia Highlands College continues to evolve into a larger, more diverse institution with the start of competitive sports. Academic year 2012/2013 ushers in the inaugural year of basketball, with a men’s and women’s team headquartered on the Floyd campus. Both teams are part of the National Junior College Athletic Association and the Georgia College Athletic Association. They arrived on campus just before the beginning of the fall semester to complete their COMPASS testing, get settled in their new apartments and get their physicals.
Now that they have begun practice, they are beginning to coalesce as teams. They are getting to know their teammates’ personalities, strengths and weaknesses. They are learning how to play together. All players believe that they will win games during this initial season. The ladies laughingly declared that they plan to win all of theirs.
The coaches are a bit more measured. Brendan Harrell, the women’s coach, said his team needs to focus on self-discipline, but that he feels sure that they will all pull together and achieve their goals. Three players are out with injuries, but he is working with the team on weight training to increase strength and help prevent the most common ones, and he is hopeful that everyone will be fit in time for the first game of the season.
When asked why they came to Georgia Highlands, the women agreed that they are excited to be part of an inaugural team. Shay (short for Shanique) Holston and Manon Cherubini were part of the team at South Georgia Technical College, where Harrell coached a winning team before coming the GHC. Both said they came because of Coach Harrell and his ability to build winning teams.
Despite their unified awareness of the historical significance of being on the first competitive team at this college, each had slightly different personal reasons for signing on as well. Rachael Turrentine, who transferred to GHC from Asbury University in Kentucky, is a native of Rome and played for Darlington School during her high-school career. She said she missed her family and felt she wanted to be closer to home. She is the only member of the team who will live at home, not in team apartments.
Shandre Lee, who most recently studied at East Georgia College, stayed out of school last year to start a family. She was ready to return to action this year, however. One of her friends knows Demetrius Colson, Harrell’s assistant coach, and talked to him about her. She tried out and made the team.
Lashanta Clardy felt differently from Turrentine, because she thought she was too close to home at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee. She wanted to add a little distance. She had also lost her coach, but before he left he called other coaches to find a team for her that would be a good fit. Georgia Highlands matched that requirement perfectly.
These four women are all sophomores, and they each want something different for her future. Cherubini wants to travel to Canada and work next year. Her goal is to see the world.
Lee summed up the feelings of this group when she said, “We’re really excited about being here and leaving our mark. We believe the women’s basketball program will begin strong and grow stronger every year. And we will have been a part of that.”
On the men’s team, players also expressed their enthusiasm for joining a team of firsts. Matt Catanzano, who holds the record for 3-point baskets (210) in his career at Armuchee High School, said he came to GHC because “this is a new program headed by a great coach with a winning record.” Catanzano also wanted to stay close to home for the first couple of years. He also said, “The team is coming together quite well. We have strong players with specific roles that coordinate and mesh well together. We have a lot of work to do, but we are strong enough to win some games this season.”
Rashon Dumas, who hails from Chattahoochee High School, was named best defensive player for that team. He said, “Floyd is a great campus, and Coach Gaffney has a strong record of getting people where he wants them to be. That kind of coaching benefits the team.”
Cartersville Will Host Baseball/Softball
Cartersville is baseball-central in Georgia, so it’s only fitting that GHC’s new baseball and softball programs begin at the Cartersville campus. In keeping with the sense of occasion that such news brings, Athletic Director Phil Gaffney introduced baseball and softball coaches Mike Marra and Melissa Wood on Sept. 13 to the college community and the media in the new student center on the Cartersville campus.
In separate remarks, both Marra and Wood declared that the teams they will assemble over the year will be ready for competition next year. In fact, they each said their teams will play to win from the first game on. The coaches will spend this academic year recruiting players, and will launch their competitive programs in spring 2014.
Marra comes to GHC from New York State, where he taught physical education for 22 years and coached for 12 in a high-school environment. Most recently, he coached baseball at Sullivan County Community College in New York, where he resurrected the college’s baseball program, which had not fielded a team since 1986.
In creating that program he outlined a three-year plan for success. In the program’s second year the college’s team reached the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XV Final Four, then won the NJCAA Region XV championship the following year. Marra also served as assistant director of athletics and as an adjunct instructor in the physical education department at Sullivan County Community College.
While coaching high-school teams, Marra was named the 2004 American Baseball Coaches Association Region I High-School Baseball Coach of the Year. He was named coach of the year three times by the Kingston Daily Freeman and once by the Times Herald Middletown Record. He was also recognized by his peers as the as the American Baseball Coaches Association NJCAA Region XV Baseball Coach of the Year in 2008.
Marra holds a Master of Education from the State University of New York at Cortland and a Bachelor of Science in physical education from SUNY Brockport.
Wood is a native of Georgia. She comes to GHC from North Idaho College, where she served as assistant softball coach and physical education instructor. While there, she helped the team break the home run record with 79 in one season. She also coached four National Junior College Athletic Association all-conference team members and a NJCAA all-region team member.
Before going to Idaho, she coached as a graduate assistant softball coach and assisted with intramural experiences at Berry College while she was earning her Master of Education degree. Despite her challenging schedule, she graduated with honors from Berry. She also helped build the Viking team from the ground up for its inaugural season in 2009. By its second year, Berry’s team had its first winning season, improving in a number of statistical categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, fielding percentage, walks and stolen bases.
She began her college career in 2004 playing for the Florida State University team, where she was a two-year starting catcher for the Top 25-ranked Seminoles. She was ranked in the top seven in the Atlantic Coast Conference in seven different offensive categories during league games. She tallied five game-winning hits and threw out 11 attempted base stealers in route to a Super Regional runner-up finish against Arizona State and a Number 15 final ranking in NCAA Division One.
After her sophomore year, Wood transferred to the University of Georgia, where she played for two seasons with the Bulldogs as a catcher and first baseman. She led the team in RBIs in 2007 (46) and home runs in 2008 (11). She was awarded the UGA Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. That same year she earned her Bachelor of Science in sociology from the institution.
After graduation in 2008, she played professional softball in Austria for the Dornbirn Sharx when that team won the Gold Medal in the Austrian League and the Silver Medal at the European Championships in Prague. She was named Most Valuable Player at the European Cup after starting in all 10 games. The next year she returned to defend the Gold Medal in Austria and take the Gold Medal at the European Cup in Legnano, Italy.
Wood will also coordinate the institution’s intramural sports.
Men’s Team Members
Matt Catanzano, 6’4”, Armuchee HS- Named 1st team Rome Tribune, Region 7-AA All-Region 1st team, AVG 22 ppg, 8.5 rpg. Owns school record for 3-pt. baskets in career (210) and season (85).
Vantrail Commings, 6’3”, Douglas County HS- Named 2nd team All-State AAAA, Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year, Douglas County Co-Player of the Year. AVG 17.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg. Led his team to a 25-5 record.
Seth Curlee 6’1”, Excel Christian Academy- Named 2nd Team Cartersville Daily Tribune News All-County, AVG 15.6 ppg, 2.3 spg.
JR Davis, 5’10”, Cartersville HS- Named the Cartersville Daily Tribune Co-Player of the Year Region 7-AAA 1st team All-Region. AVG 20 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 spg.
Rashon Dumas, 6’5”, Chattahoochee HS- Led his team to a Region 7-AAAA championship. Named best defensive player, and won the most improved player award for his team.
Damon Mitchell, 5’10”, Marietta HS- AVG 15 ppg, 5 apg, 2 stg, shot 48 percent, led team to Region 5AAAAA # 1 seed and a 20-5 record.
Femi Ojuolape, 6’3”, Lithia Springs HS- Named 1st team All Region 5-AAAA, 1st team All Douglas County. AVG 14 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg. Led his team to a Region 5-AAAA Championship.
Dimychael Ross, 6’4”, Allatoona HS – Named Region 7-AAA Player of the Year, GACA ALL-State Team, AVG 13.4 ppg, 5.46 rpg, 2 apg. Led his team to a Region 7-AAA championship and a Class AAA state quarterfinal birth.
Neil Shah, 6’8”, North Cobb HS – Led his team to the “elite eight” and a Region 4-AAAAA championship. Co-captain was a two-year varsity letter winner named his team’s most improved. Known for his stellar defensive play.
Cody Washington, 6’5”, Allatoona HS – Athletic forward helped lead his team to a Region 7-AAA championship and a Class AAA state quarterfinal appearance.
Matt Welch, 6’10”, New York Mills HS (NY) – Named 1st team All-State, led his team to a state title his junior season, AVG 17.6 ppg, 9 rpg., and 1.9 bpg.
Women’s Team Members
Manon Cherubini: Sophomore from South Georgia Technical College (transfer) and Claude Lebois High School, France. 2011-12 GCAA; 3 FG percentage – first, 37 percent (51 of 137).
Lashanta Clardy: Sophomore from Columbia State Community College (transfer) and Rossview High School in Clarksville, Tenn.
Amber Curtis: Freshman from Beach High School in Savannah, Ga. 2009-10 Region 3-AAAAA All Tournament Team; 2010-11 Greater Savannah Athletics Hall of Fame Player of the Year; 2010-11 Atlanta Journal Constitution All State Team; 2010-11 Region 3-AAAAA All Tournament Team; 2011-12 All State Team; 2011-12 Region 3-AAAAA All Tournament Team.
Shanique Holston: Sophomore from South Georgia Technical College (transfer) and Taylor County High School, Reynolds, Ga. 2011-12 GCAA Second Team All Conference; 2011-12 GCAA Player of the Week; 2011-12 GCAA rankings – scoring, eighth, 14.8 ppg; FG percentage, fourth, 52 percent; rebounding, 14th, 7.4.
Kayla Jackson: Sophomore from Hill College, Hillsboro, Texas.
Gabrielle Kendall: Freshman from Canton-McKinley High School, Canton, Ohio. Four-year varsity letterman; 2011-12 First Team All Federal League; 2011-12 First Team All Stark County; 2011-12 Third Team All Northeast Ohio; 2011-12 Stark County vs. Summit County All Star Game, Malone University; 2011-12 YMCA All Star Classic, Walsh University.
Shan’Taja Latimore: Freshman from Central Gwinnett High School, Lawrenceville, Ga. Four-year Varsity Letterman; 2011-12 Team Captain; 2010-11 All Region Team; 2011-12 All Region Team; 2010-11 All County Team; holds CGHS school record for blocked shots (211).
Seandre Lee: Sophomore from East Georgia College (transfer) and Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga. 2009-10 Region Player of the Year.
Shakierya McClendon: Freshman from South Georgia Technical College (transfer) and Peach County High School in Fort Valley, GA. 2010-11 Peach County HS MVP.
Jessica Michaels: Freshman from Woodland High School in Acworth, Ga.
Angela Onyema: Freshman from World of Life Traditional School, Wichita, Kan.
Rachael Turrentine: Sophomore from Asbury University (transfer) and Darlington School in Rome, GA.
Holly Williams: Freshman from Bremen High School in Bremen, GA.