CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Jemiah Harrison sat in the Rossview basketball locker room Wednesday and cried.
Outside of that locker room, in the school, a small crowd had gathered that included her Lady Hawks’ teammates, head coach Justin Woods, the assistant coaches, Harrison’s AAU coach and former Austin Peay great Trenton Hassell, family and friends. A table with a cake was positioned in front of the crowd and all it needed was its honoree.
Freshman Madison Ballance had to pull her teammate out from the locker room, and as Harrison sat down at the table she signed her name on her letter of intent to play college basketball. Harrison will move on to the next chapter of her athletic career with Volunteer State Community College, wrapping a process that has had some emotional baggage for the Lady Hawks center.
“Not a lot of people gave me a chance to get to this point,” Harrison said. “I had a lot of people who doubted me. There were some folks who told me I wouldn’t make it here but I did. It doesn’t matter if it’s Division I, community college or NAIA. I’m here. I’m going to play college basketball. It doesn’t matter what people thought of me. It matters what I think of me.”
Harrison has been one of the district’s most dominant post players the past two years and will get a chance to showcase that talent quickly next fall. She chose Vol State over schools including Walters State, Motlow State, Cleveland State, East Tennessee State, Tennessee State, Austin Peay, Carson-Newman and Martin Methodist.
It was Walter State that initially impressed the Lady Hawks senior but it was Vol State that had her heart.
“I really loved Walters State, where it was at, the campus, the scenery and everything,” Harrison said about the community college in Morristown. “It was a bigger school and had a great team and great coaches. But Vol State had great coaches and I really loved their graduation rate and it’s close to home. In the end Vol State just felt like home to me.”
Harrison said her original goal was to play Division I basketball but realized that her skill level needed to be refined before she made that jump. Vol State presents an opportunity for her to work on that ultimate goal while also providing an opportunity for her to play immediately.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I could get in and work right away,” she said. “Vol State will give me that chance. I’ll have the chance to play a lot of minutes quickly if I come in ready to work. I don’t want to sit the bench. I want to come in and contribute as fast as possible.”
Houston County star heading to Marvyville
ERIN, Tenn. – Houston County’s Chase Clark signed a letter of intent to attend Maryville College in the fall and be a member of its basketball team.
“I felt like it was the best education I could get and have an opportunity to play basketball,” Clark said about his decision to attend Maryville College. “It’s a dream I’ve had all my life.”
Academics is a key to his future. Clark is entering a pre-med program at the East Tennessee college in the Great Smoky Mountains foothills. He plans to then attend medical school to specialize in anesthesiology.
His mother April Clark said because Maryville is a Division III school, it doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, but rather Chase was offered an academic scholarship and various merit scholarships to attend the school.
“It’s a very home environment,” she said of the campus, recounting one professor who told Chase on a visit he expected to see him at the dinner table with his family from time to time.
She added that her son’s signing on Wednesday was “the end of this era and the beginning of a new era with a few more unknowns.”
His father Kirk Clark agreed, adding “it’s been a long, long road to this point.”
April Clark noted that for the past couple of years, Chase declined to play on travel teams so he could focus on helping the Fighting Irish improve.
During the 2014-2015 season, Chase Clark and his teammate won the District 10A regular-season championship. Though the team stumbled in the district tournament, he admitted it was the first time they had been in a high school tournament.
He averaged 15.2 points, 3.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this season as the Irish finished the season 16-15 and 10-2 in District 10-A play. It was the first time in more than 20 years the Fighting Irish captured the regular season district title.
“When I came in as a freshman, we knew we wanted to get better,” he said. “We had a good group and we stuck together. Then coach (Charles) Clark came in and brought a new life to it. He helped us turn it around.”
Clarksville golfer signs with Berry College
Clarksville High’s Ally Smith will be making a move south — to Georgia. The Lady Wildcats senior has signed to play golf at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga.
The Vikings have two seniors on this year’s team and began play in the Southern Athletic Conference Championships Friday.
Smith was the lone senior on the Lady Wildcats team and played with former Clarksville High stars Samantha Gotcher, Meagan Beane and Whitney Robertson. The trio went on to win back-to-back Class AAA state titles at Clarksville High in 2011 and 2012.
George Robinson. Prep writer. 245-0747. Twitter: @Cville_Sports.