By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
What was expected to be a veteran roster next season for the UT Martin women’s basketball team has suddenly become less-proven.
Three players who helped the Skyhawks to back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championships and NCAA tourney appearances won’t return for the 2012-13 campaign, including starters Jaclissa Haislip and Aubrey Reedy.
Beth Hawn, a third sophomore member of head coach Kevin McMillan’s first heralded recruiting class and a reserve for most of her two seasons, also won’t be back next year, according to the UTM skipper.
UT Martin had just one senior (Taylor Hall) on its roster this season.
Both Haislip and Reedy have chosen to not continue their playing careers, while Hawn will enroll in dental hygienist school, the coach said. Haislip told The Messenger Thursday night she will “most likely” return to her native Murfreesboro and continue her education, while Reedy will stay in school at UT Martin and could even remain with the Skyhawk program in some capacity, McMillan said.
The coach claimed he’d met with all three players several days ago and urged them to discuss their particular situations and feelings with their families before making their decisions final.
“I don’t think there will be any changing of their minds,” McMillan said.
Haislip started all 64 games the Skyhawks played during her two years with the program and was quietly one of UTM’s best players despite playing in the shadows of heralded and decorated teammates Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler.
She was the No. 3 scorer on the team both years, hitting at a 9.0 ppg clip as a freshman and had a 10.3 average this past season. She also led UT Martin in rebounding as a freshman (8.1) and finished with a 6.2 average as a sophomore.
Haislip was firm in her feeling of being “tired of playing” right now and said she had no intention of continuing her career elsewhere.
“If I’m not playing at Martin, I’m not playing anywhere,” she insisted. “I couldn’t do that to the girls and the coaches. I have way too much respect for both of them to do that.
“I just didn’t think it was fair for me to stay here if my heart wasn’t in it.”
McMillan said Reedy — who also played for him at Gibson County High School during an unbeaten Class 2A state championship season — echoed those same thoughts during a meeting between the two earlier.
“She just said ‘If I’m wishy-washy, that’s not doing anybody any good,’” he said.
Reedy, who overcame some heart-related health issues prior to her freshman campaign, averaged 3.6 ppg while playing in 58 games during her collegiate career.
And the coach had glowing words of praise about not only their contributions on the court, but more importantly the character of Haislip and Reedy as well.
“Jaclissa was in the Top 10 in the nation in 3-point shooting (39.4 percent) and was, essentially, a six-foot guard,” McMillan said of Haislip. “She was a wonderful complement to Jasmine (Newsome) and Heather (Butler), and very quietly was our best player after those two.
“She didn’t care who got the credit. She just wanted to be a good teammate. The best thing was she was a great ambassador for our program and a great kid to be around.”
Of Reedy, the coach said: “She always drew the assignment of guarding the other team’s best post player. She knew our system as well as I did and has a tremendous basketball IQ. She’s been a great competitor and team player.
“Those kind of kids don’t come along much anymore. Kids are more about themselves and their stats nowadays. She always said she just wanted to do what was best for the team. If it was play, she played, if it was sit, she’d be OK with sitting. We were tremendously fortunate to have that.”
Hawk, a 6-2 post player from Chapel Hill, averaged 4.2 ppg for her career.
She played more extensively as a freshman (5.6 points in 31 games, 19 starts).
McMillan, who said he was caught “maybe a little off-guard” concerning the departures, but said he and his staff would likely now try to sign “one or two” more players for next season after inking six during the early period.
“We’ll shift gears a little bit and hopefully add a couple,” he claimed.
“We felt like we had a good class signed going into next year. We had hoped to give them time to grow up some, but some of them obviously will have to step up and play immediately. I feel like, overall, it’s a stronger class than we had a couple of years ago. There are no Newsomes or Butlers, but it’s probably a stronger overall class.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 4.6.12