An old-school vibe will be holding court in Science Hill’s new gym this week.
The Lady Hilltoppers and touted point guard Tianna Tarter will take on teams with talented lead guards who evoke images of the 1970s and ’80s.
Tennessee High, led by VCU signee and reigning Big Eight Conference player of the year Ashlee Mitchell, will play Science Hill on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Mitchell’s cousin Sidney was a two-time All-Arby’s Classic selection (1984-85) back when former East Tennessee State pitcher Atlee Hammaker was one of the top left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Hammaker’s daughter Anna plays for Christian Academy of Knoxville, which will take on Science Hill on Friday at 7 p.m. during the opening day of Roundball at Science Hill.
Although ETSU baseball coach Charlie Lodes benefitted most, Atlee Hammaker initially became a Buccaneer to play basketball for Sonny Smith. The genetics are evident in Anna, a 5-foot-9 sophomore.
Also a southpaw, she can penetrate, pass and shoot from the perimeter. Hammaker and fellow CAK sophomore Cheyenne Hooper, a 6-foot-5 post, transferred to Greenbrier East last season in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where they won a Class AAA state title after playing at CAK as eighth graders.
Hammaker scored 32 points as an eighth grader to help CAK end Elizabethton’s 28-game win streak, including 17 points in the fourth quarter. She averaged 19.7 points, 6.5 steals and 3.9 assists playing varsity as an eighth grader.
Hammaker started at point guard last season at Greenbrier East, where she was the second-leading scorer (16.2 ppg.) and averaged 4.7 assists.
Hooper averaged 10.4 rebounds, 7.2 points and 5.4 blocks last season. She should provide a good test for Science Hill junior Gabby Lyon and senior Shae Smith.
The Lady ’Toppers will play Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against Knox Webb, the reigning Division II state champion.
Tennessee High coach Barry Wade said Webb is strong again this season.
“It’ll be a good weekend for us to kind of see where we’re at,” said Science Hill coach Darrell Barnwell, whose team began the season at No. 3 in the CBS Max Preps national poll. “CAK is one of the top AAs in state possibly … and they feel like they’ve got a chance to have a pretty good run. They have two to three other potential D-Is (besides Hammaker).”
Hammaker will also get to go against Mitchell. CAK plays Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Wade’s Lady Vikings, who open the showcase event Friday at 4 p.m. against Knox Webb.
Former Science Hill players Charlie Bailey and Tony Street are organizing an informal gathering to recognize former Science Hill coach Elvin Little in conjunction with Roundball.
Little, who coached at Science Hill from 1960-79, will visit with former players from 3-6 p.m. Saturday at the Science Hill cafeteria. He will also be recognized prior to the Science Hill boys’ 7 p.m. game with Knox Webb that night.
Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner wanted Little and former Hilltoppers coach George Pitts to also receive recognition via naming of the new gym and court, but said a formal presentation to the school board bore no fruit.
Turner said city money was used to fund the football stadium, thus allowing it to be named after Kermit Tipton, but the school board doesn’t name facilities funded solely with school money.
City money, school money. Tomato, tuh-mott-o.
Looking at a sign that reads Science Hill Gymnasium suggests common sense hasn’t prevailed. Buck Van Huss, Charlie Bayless, John Treadway and Sonny Smith are among those with gyms named after them, and Pitts-Little Gym would be a worthy addition when considering what the two men did for Science Hill basketball.
Little coached at Science Hill 20 years beginning in 1960, and hired Pitts to succeed Dennis Greenwell in 1984.
Coincidentally, in what will be a week of reflection, former Hilltoppers Graham Spurrier, Gary Scheuerman and Ferrell Bowman plan to visit with former Science Hill basketball coach Bill Wilkins on Thursday.
Spurrier and Scheuerman played for Wilkins’ 1959-60 district championship team. Bowman played on Science Hill’s 26-1 state tournament team in 1953-54 that was coached by Sidney Smallwood, who later hired Wilkins.
Scheuerman and Bowman played at ETSU, and Scheuerman coached the Lady ’Toppers to unprecedented success when they had the late Melissa McCray, whose banner hangs in the lobby of the Science Hill gym alongside Little, Pitts, Steve Spurrier and Aubrayo Franklin.