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Lady 'Toppers might be one of nation’s best

Trey Williams • Nov 10, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Science Hill’s Lady Hilltoppers basketball team is still awaiting the return of senior wing Shy Copney, who tore an ACL in fourth quarter of a state semifinal victory against Bashaara Graves-led Clarksville last March in Murfreesboro.

Not that anyone’s feeling sorry for coach Darrell Barnwell, who didn’t graduate any players from a 38-1 team that didn’t lose until playing Riverdale without Copney in the state championship game.

Copney is on schedule in her rehab, and will have another evaluation this week. Barnwell anticipates that she’ll be playing perhaps shortly after Thanksgiving, and will gradually regain her midseason form during December.

Science Hill’s preseason form has been impressive without her. Scrimmage victories have come against nationally renowned programs such as Potter’s House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Providence Day (Charlotte), which has 6-foot-4 junior Jatarie White. ESPN rates her as the top junior post.

Barnwell has a quality junior post in Gabby Lyon, a touted junior point guard in Tianna Tarter and proven commodities in players such as Enjelica Reid, Keisha Gregory and Morgan Knack. His deep bench includes Shae Smith, Emanda Reid, Caprisha Webster and Baylee Head.

“One of the best teams in the country,” first-year Daniel Boone coach Travis Mains said when asked about beginning his career in a conference with a team as talented as Science Hill. “It’s an opportunity is what it is. It’s a chance to get better and see where we’re at.

“It gives these girls a chance to get some exposure. People come watch these girls and if we can compete, hey, you never know, you may get a scholarship just by showing up one night and playing.”

Copney is being recruited heavily by Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee State, where her father, Damon Johnson, was recently hired as an assistant coach. She could sign early this coming week.

“She’s had two official visits – MTSU and ETSU,” Barnwell said. “She’s not really made up her mind yet, but I would think that she’s gonna do that pretty soon. But I don’t know if it’ll be next week or not. …

“The whole situation changed when Damon got that job over there as an assistant. But I don’t know if that’s gonna be a factor – a big factor – or not.”

Lyon and Tarter are being heavily recruited in the junior class.

One area player who causes Science Hill problems is Tennessee High’s Ashlee Mitchell. She plans to sign with VCU this week.


Science Hill baseball player Will Craig is scheduled to sign with Wake Forest this week. Ryan Edwards’ Hilltoppers could have another early Division I signee, although Reed Hayes’ verbal commitment to Tennessee for baseball appears to be on hold.

Hayes, also a starter on the Hilltoppers basketball team and last season’s district tournament MVP, wants to play two high school All-Star football games – the Tennessee-Kentucky Border Bowl and the East-West game.

A number of college and high school players and coaches have said Hayes excites them more as a college football player, and that’s not a knock on his baseball tools. It’s just that the strong-armed 6-foot-2, 185-pounder was so impressive in his only season playing varsity quarterback.

Since last summer, Science Hill football coach Stacy Carter has been comparing Hayes, in general terms, to former Sullivan South quarterback Curt Phillips, who engineered Wisconsin’s 62-14 victory at Indiana in his first career start on Saturday.

Carson-Newman would love to get Hayes to run Ken Sparks’ and Mike Turner’s offense, but should he play football, Hayes seems like a good bet to play at the FCS level of Division I, if not higher.

“He is a ballplayer,” said Carson-Newman safety Issac Kinley, a former Hilltoppers quarterback who watched Hayes play at Dobyns-Bennett two weeks ago. “He’s a good athlete. He has a very strong arm on him. He’s fast enough.”


Former Science Hill pitcher Will Carter, who played last season at ETSU before transferring to Walters State, is being recruited by programs such as Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, West Virginia, Memphis and Tennessee Tech. MTSU is also high on another Walters State sophomore, former Unaka standout Josh Peterson.

Another former ETSU pitcher, Jake Long, who was a weekend starter for the Bucs last season, transferred to Clemson.


Dobyns-Bennett basketball coach Charlie Morgan said Malik Foreman, a Vanderbilt commitment for football, and Devaun Swafford aren’t playing this season. He certainly could’ve used the football players’ point production.

Graham Clark’s D-B football team scored 70 points against Tennessee High this season, a fact Morgan alluded to while previewing his 2012-13 team.

“I did go to Graham a few weeks ago and asked him would he mind to save a few of those points for me, especially the game when he scored 70,” Morgan said. “If we score 70 points this year I’ll be tickled to death.”

Part of the problem, Morgan and D-B girls coach Roger France agree, is stringent TSSAA offseason rules hamper the quality of play and development of players.

“Our biggest weakness is the TSSAA only gives us three or four days of practice and then you’ve got to play (scrimmage) games, because they’re all about football and they’re all about money,” France said. “You can’t do anything with your kids from July until the last of October. … I just don’t think they’re being fair to our kids, because I think you’ve got to have 18 to 20 days of good practice before you start your first game. …

“When I first started coaching when I’s at Cleveland they would have two weeks of dead period, but you could come back the whole month of July and into August and go to camps and work with your kids. Now, if they’re playing AAU, I can’t even go watch them play. You can’t even be around them. … It’s ridiculous.”

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