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Tarter commits to ETSU

April 19th, 2014 8:04 pm by Trey Williams

Tarter commits to ETSU

Tianna Tarter’s ready to transition to college — and she’ll continue driving in Johnson City.

In a text message, Science Hill’s talented senior point guard said she’s committed to East Tennessee State. She was impressed with what she saw at a program that was in its first year under coach Brittney Ezell this past season.

Tarter likes the fact that the Lady Bucs want to play fast, and she was impressed with the returning talent. She also likes the thought of making a sudden impact — “Hopefully when I get there I could make a difference,” she said in a text Saturday — and wasn’t keen on moving too far from home.

Schools such as Ole Miss, Tennessee Tech and Wright State showed interest in Tarter. She also considered Chipola College (Fla.), which reached the NJCCA Final Four this season, and Trinity Valley Community College (Athens, Texas), which has produced at least nine pro players since 1994, including former Tennessee Lady Vols point guard Shannon Bobbitt.

Numerous area high school coaches — boys’ and girls’ coaches — have said Tarter was the most impressive lead guard they remember seeing in Northeast Tennessee.

Sullivan East’s Angie Fickes, who played at ETSU, had similar athleticism and skill. No less than North Carolina’s Marion Jones was impressed with Fickes. But Tarter goes left or right equally fast via the dribble, and is even more impressive at the same stage of her career.

The 5-foot-6 Tarter averaged 19.0 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 steals in 2013-14. She made 75 percent of her free throws.

Tarter helped the Lady Hilltoppers win 137 games and reach the state semifinals once and finish state runner-up two other times. She scored in excess of 1,500 points and probably combined for at least 2,000 steals, assists and rebounds.

Her most impressive performance might’ve been when she played the entire game and nearly dug Science Hill out of a mammoth hole against Riverdale in the state championship game her sophomore season the day after the Lady ’Toppers lost Shy Copney to a knee injury in a win against Bashaara Graves-led Clarksville.

After beating Science Hill in the championship, then-Riverdale coach John Wild said Tarter was an ACC- or SEC-caliber player.

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Impressive Tennessee freshman receiver Josh Malone has Johnson City roots. Malone, who caught three touchdowns in the Volunteers’ spring game last week, is the grandson of the late Columbus Williams, who played for the Langston Golden Tigers in the late 1950s.

Columbus played receiver for Langston when his brother, Billy Gene, was the star quarterback. Billy Gene scored four TDs in the first half of Langston’s 134-0 win against Elizabethton-Douglas at Memorial Stadium in 1957.

They signed with Dillard College in New Orleans, along with Golden Tigers teammates Norman Scott and Charles Banner. Billy Gene began starting at quarterback as a freshman, but was drafted into the Army after two years. Columbus, who died in 2002, spent 21 years in the military.

Columbus was a year younger than Billy Gene, and was about as fast as his older brother.

“Columbus was more of a basketball player,” Billy Gene said Saturday.

Malone’s mother, Becky, went to David Crockett. Billy Gene said Becky, his niece, was fleet afoot too, and that she attended UT-Chattanooga and became a teacher.

The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Malone was the top prospect in the state according to Rivals, and chose Tennessee over Clemson and Ohio State. He delighted a Neyland Stadium crowd of some 73,000 by catching six passes for 181 yards in the Orange-White game.

Billy Gene wasn’t in attendance. He works for Birchette Mortuary, and said he was at a funeral the day of the spring game. But he’ll likely spend some autumn Saturdays in Knoxville the next few years.

“I have somewhere to go now,” he said with a chuckle.

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Science Hill senior first baseman Kyle Ouellette is surely flying on to some college recruiters’ radar screens. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Ouellette had his moments as a junior, but was a complementary cog on a team with the likes of Will Craig and Reed Hayes.

Now, Ouellette, who has lost some 15-20 pounds, is the big man on campus. Ouellette hit his third home run of the season Friday against Sevier County, a blast beyond center field at Cardinal Park that Hilltoppers coach Ryan Edwards estimated at 450 feet. Visions of Craig, Paul Hoilman and Jackie Cook probably danced through some Hilltopper fans’ heads.

Ouellette entered Saturday’s game against Bearden leading the team in RBIs (34), doubles (19) and batting (.529). His OPS (on-base plus slugging) was 1.454.

How locked in is Ouellette? He lined a single to left field in his first at-bat against undefeated right-hander Logan Gentry in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Dobyns-Bennett, and was subsequently walked on four pitches when he led off the fourth in his next at-bat.

“He hit it pretty hard against us the first game too (this season against Gentry),” D-B coach Ryan Wagner said. “We were just being careful. We weren’t intentionally gonna walk him or anything, but he did a good job laying off some pretty good pitches, too. Logan’s pretty much around the plate all the time.”

Most impressive, in terms of Ouellette’s passion for the game, he parlayed the walk in to a run thanks to heady base-running. He scored on a ground-out after advancing to second on a ball that got away and then stealing third base.

“He read the pitcher and was able to steal third,” Edwards said. “He’s been definitely a sparkplug for us the whole year in the middle of our order. … Kyle’s worked hard and he’s having a great season.”

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