It’s been more than four years since Tianna Tarter and Shy Copney played together on a basketball court, and the former high school teammates are together again.
Copney has joined the East Tennessee State women’s team after transferring from Tennessee-Martin. She’ll be reunited with Tarter, her former teammate at Science Hill High School.
“I’m really excited because it’s been four years,” Copney said Saturday morning at Brooks Gym as the team prepared for practice. “We still have our little connection here and there. It’s going to be fun.”
On Friday night, Copney received her clearance from the NCAA to be eligible to play this season as a graduate transfer.
Copney and Tarter played in three consecutive state tournaments together for Science Hill, making the finals twice.
Copney, a 5-foot-10 forward, began her college career at Middle Tennessee State before transferring to UT-Martin after one year. She played two years there and graduated.
An injury to the same knee she hurt in the state semifinals as a high school junior limited Copney to 13 games last season. She says she’s ready to go full tilt with her third college team in five years.
“It’s hard — I’m not going to lie — starting over with a new team, learning their ways, their plays,” Copney said. “But they’ve welcomed me and are allowing me to learn at my own pace. They understand what I’ve been through.”
ETSU coach Brittney Ezell has been impressed with what she’s seen out of Copney, who has taken part of all 15 of the team’s preseason practices.
“Right now, what she’ been doing is scoring a whole lot,” Ezell said. “She’s scoring in a multitude of ways. She missed preseason conditioning, so she’s a little bit behind on that.”
Ezell said Copney will contribute a lot and has a chance to be in the starting lineup when the season opens Nov. 10 with a home game against Cincinnati.
“I didn’t know what to expect because she hasn’t played a lot throughout her career,” Ezell said. “She’s been a pleasant surprise and she’s a really nice kid.”
Tarter echoed the sentiment about Copney being able to score.
“I think she can shoot way better than when she was in high school,” Tarter said. “If somebody’s on her, she’s still gonna shoot it in your face. It’s nice to have somebody like that.”
Tarter spent her first three years at ETSU with Shamauria Bridges as her running mate in the backcourt. When the Bucs needed a big shot, Tarter often looked for Bridges.
With Bridges gone to graduation, Copney could become Tarter’s go-to teammate.
“We still have some chemistry,” said Tarter, a point guard who will be considered among the favorites to be the Southern Conference’s player of the year this season. “It will be fun. We’ve been in the gym together. We’re trying to get our chemistry back up.
“We were just talking about high school last night. We’re here in college and we’re still doing what we love to do. It’s fun. We want to see how far we can get.”
When we last saw Tarter on the court, she was scoring 39 points — 31 in the second half — in a season-ending loss to Samford in the Southern Conference tournament. When asked if she’s kept up with Tarter’s all-conference career, Copney smiled.
“Of course,” she said. “Everybody has. When you see your best friend scoring 40 points, that’s just exciting. It makes you happy for her. I’m really proud of everything she’s done.”
Copney says her goals for her final year of college basketball are simple.
“I’m just trying to have fun,” she said. “I want to play my last year and win.”