Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:01 pm
Heather Griffin, one of a trio of Gibson County teammates who signed with UTM after playing for head coach Kevin McMillan while he was the Lady Pioneers’ skipper for two seasons, could rejoin the program next season after she quit the team before this year started.
Griffin, a 6-footer and an all-state post player during her prep playing days at Gibson County High School, sat on the Skyhawk bench during the latter part of the season and received a medal with the rest of the team in postgame ceremonies Saturday after the Skyhawks won the OVC Tournament championship.
McMillan acknowledged that she could be allowed back in good graces for the 2011-12 campaign, rejoining former GCHS prep teammates Heather Butler and Aubrey Reedy, along with another Gibson County native — Milan’s Perica Glenn.
“She came to me and apologized and she wants to (come back) and walk-on,” McMillan confirmed after his team beat Morehead in Friday afternoon’s Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinals. “We’ve thought about it (as a staff) and talked about it, and we’ll sit down again after the season’s over and talk about it again.”
McMillan says he believes Griffin, who lost her scholarship when she elected to leave the team, is truly regretful of her decision to give up the sport.
“It was probably the most mature thing I’d ever heard her say when she apologized, and she said ‘Coach, I never really gave you everything I had in high school,’” the coach claimed.
If she is indeed allowed to rejoin the program, Griffin would have four years of eligibility remaining.
NEWSOME’S BITTERSWEET DAY — Tournament Most Valuable Player Jasmine Newsome experienced the gamut of emotions Saturday when she was told an uncle in Ohio — who had talked to her mother about coming to see her play — had died on Friday of a heart attack.
Newsome, who scored 45 points in two games to become the first-ever freshman to win “best player in the tourney hardware,” was visibly upset when told of the news after Saturday’s postgame press conference in which she shyly answered questions while flashing a wide grin.
She was comforted by the UTM coaching staff and family members.
McMillan said Newsome’s family had wanted to wait until after the title tilt to inform Jasmine of the death in order that she might focus on the game.
The coach said Newsome returned to Millington with her family Saturday, but was expected back on campus on Monday.
FRIENDLY FOE — Friday’s 10-point semifinal victory over Morehead State came against an old buddy for McMillan.
Lady Eagle first-year head coach Tom Hodges and McMillan were both on the Middle Tennessee State staff of Rick Insell as assistants from 2005-07 — the former as director of basketball operations, the latter in charge of recruiting and head aide to Insell.
“We were roommates for two years when we were on the road at MTSU,” McMillan said of his relationship with Hodges. “He’s a good young coach who has a bright future. I’m proud of what he’s done in his first season at Morehead.”
A 28-year-old Shelbyville native, Hodges was youngest head coach in Division I when he was hired at Morehead last spring.
He set a school record for first-year coaches when his team won 21 games this season before losing to UT Martin.
THIS AND THAT — Alicia Weatherly, one of just two players with Division I collegiate experience for the Skyhawks coming into the season, celebrated her 23rd birthday in Saturday’s championship game with an 11-point performance that included a 5-for-5 effort at the free-throw line. Weatherly, who accepted a much less vital role on this year’s club after making the OVC All-Newcomer Team last season, drew extensive praise from McMillan for her willingness to adjust and “take a backseat to Newsome and Butler.” … Not only does UT Martin have one of the youngest rosters in the league, the entire upper echelon of the Ohio Valley Conference is dominated by underclassmen. Only two senior starters dotted the lineups of the four teams to make the semifinals, meaning the same quartet could battle for league supremacy again next season and possibly beyond. …Tennessee Tech will also represent the OVC in postseason play on the next level as the league’s regular season champion is guaranteed a spot in the Women’s NIT if it doesn’t make the NCAA tourney.
• Editor’s Note: Mike Hutchens, the sports editor at The Union City Daily Messenger, may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.