Having shown she has what it takes to be an NCAA Division I player, the former Hampton High star recently closed the book on her freshman basketball season for Campbell University.
Averaging 9.1 points and three rebounds per game, Tuelle canned 61 three-pointers, shot 37 percent from beyond the arc, sank 77 percent of her foul shots and registered 16 double-digit scoring outputs to help craft a 23-13 campaign by the school located in Buies Creek, North Carolina.
“She had a tremendous freshman season,” Campbell head coach Ronny Fisher said last week. “We had a very young team and she was thrown right into the fire — and she responded great. She was one of our most consistent performers.”
The 5-foot-10 shooting guard finished as the scoring co-leader for the offensively balanced Camels, who matched the program’s record for most single-season wins.
“She shot the ball really well,” Fisher said. “She also, which is tough for a freshman, had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio — so she passed the ball well, she shot it well. The biggest thing is she really improved through her freshman season. She was playing her best basketball at the end of the year, so I’m really, really proud of her and so glad to have her on my team.”
Tuelle made all 14 of her starts in the second half of the season, snagged back-to-back Big South Conference freshman-of-the-week awards in February and wound up with a spot on the league’s all-freshman team.
“One thing that she did as a freshman that you usually don’t have many freshmen do is not only did she score, but she made big shots,” Fisher said. “She made a couple of huge shots for us to either win the game or take it to overtime. Very rarely in my career have I called on a freshman to take that shot. But she wanted to and she thrives in that situation. As a coach, you want to recruit players that have that in them — and she’s got it.”
Tuelle’s first year on the collegiate level almost came with quite a bonus. Had the Camels beaten top-seeded Radford, a team that included Volunteer alum Savannah Felgemacher, in the Big South tournament final, they would have been bound for the NCAA tournament.
Instead, Radford prevailed 57-45 to stop short a surprise run by Campbell — which won three times as the No. 6 seed to reach a conference tournament final for the first time since 2001. The quarterfinal round doled out a season-high 21 points by Tuelle, who provided an added touch by scoring them against Hampton University.
The Camels did earn a consolation prize, receiving an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational. Taking advantage of the opportunity, they bested Coastal Carolina and Tennessee Tech for the first national-level postseason victories in team history before dropping a semifinal contest with Appalachian State.
Tuelle poured in 36 points over the course of those three games, a fitting end to her feel-good campaign. The fact she established herself as a true freshman failed to astonish Fisher, a successful coaching veteran who’s been atop Campbell’s program for three seasons.
“I knew Shy was going to be a really good player,” he said. “I had a chance to see her play in high school and play AAU — and she’s just a phenomenal athlete. And she has that innate desire to win that you can’t teach.
“So I had no doubt that she was going to come in and contribute early. To what extent, I wasn’t sure — but it didn’t surprise me. She’s a great player … she’s a great kid.”
One freshman who did get a taste of NCAA tournament action last month was Belmont University reserve guard Macie Culbertson. The Daniel Boone product logged eight minutes in the Lady Bruins’ 74-52 first-round loss to South Carolina, recording a steal and blocking a shot.
Culbertson notched 17 appearances this season, averaging 2.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 10.4 minutes a game. Claiming its third consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title and advancing to the NCAAs for the fourth year in a row, Belmont finished 26-7.
NCAA DIVISION II
The Division II Conference Commissioners Association made Carson-Newman University’s Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton High) an All-Southeast Region second-team honoree.
A junior guard, Marosites cranked out per-game averages of 14.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals. Moreover, the two-time South Atlantic Conference player of the week accumulated 21 double-doubles, shot 40 percent from 3-point territory, converted 47 treys and knocked down 82 percent of her free throws.
Duplicating her point total (423) from her sophomore campaign, Marosites has amassed 846 points, 702 rebounds and 144 steals during her two-year stay at Carson-Newman. A second-team All-SAC choice in 2017-18, she ascended to the league’s first-team honor roll this time around.
The Lady Eagles enjoyed a 22-8 year.
It was definitely a season of growth for UVa-Wise sophomore Kalee Johnson (Happy Valley). The 5-10 guard’s per-game playing time (17.6 minutes) took a slight dip from the previous year, but she raised her scoring average from 4.9 to 8.4.
After an ankle injury cost her five games to open the team’s schedule, Johnson played in all 24 remaining contests — starting 10. She stamped her name on nine double-digit scoring efforts, netting a career-high 22 points at Fairmont State in mid-February.
With Johnson also averaging 3.1 rebounds and shooting 77 percent from the free-throw line, the Lady Cavaliers made a significant one-year improvement — rising from a 6-21 record to 13-16.
Mackenzie Blankenship (Happy Valley) wrapped up her time in a Lees-McRae College uniform this year, notching one start and a 3.7 scoring average in 25 games as a senior.
The 5-7 guard pieced together an above-average career for the Lady Bobcats, starting 56 of her 108 games, netting 816 points and sinking 130 treys.
Blankenship’s sophomore season was her best, yielding a 10.8 scoring clip.
NAIA DIVISION II
Alice Lloyd’s Courtney Vasquez (Daniel Boone) exits the college game following back-to-back 20-win seasons that carried the program to its first two national tournament appearances.
Functioning as a starter or key reserve, Vasquez averaged 7.1 points per tilt as a senior — reaching double figures on seven occasions. A member of the Lady Eagles’ backcourt, she came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points in a home game with Indiana University Kokomo.
Vasquez was an 82-percent foul shooter during her two-year career at Alice Lloyd, converting 37% of her 3-point attempts.
NCCAA DIVISION II
With freshman guard Kinzey Hill (Hampton) in a starting role, Johnson University had an 11-17 season that saved the best for last. The Lady Royals, in both cases, did something they had not accomplished since 1996: win a regional championship and reach the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament (D-II).
Hill averaged 7.6 points a game and ranked second on the team in 3-point baskets with 44.
JU overcame a 20-point deficit to upend Grace Christian University 67-64 in the Mid-East Regional final, which required overtime. Hill contributed 13 points to the victory.