Former Connersville Lady Spartans star Tierra Huntsman suffered a knee injury during her freshman year at Gardner-Webb University which limited her to playing in just six games.
Hard work and successful rehab helped Huntsman bounce back to play in 27 games last season, and if things go well, the redshirt sophomore won’t miss a beat as the Runnin’ Bulldogs set sail for success in the Big South Conference — and beyond.
“I am actually 110-percent since my knee surgery,” Huntsman said in an email interview. “The support, rehab and treatment I’ve gotten from the women’s basketball strength coaches and athletic trainers has been phenomenal. They got me back on the court stronger than I’ve ever been.”
The 5-8 Huntsman played nearly 13 1/2 minutes a game last season, averaging 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists a contest as a shooting guard. This year, Coach Rick Reeves has given her the responsibility of playing point guard and running the team, which finished 15-17 last season.
“Coach Reeves excepts me to verbally lead this team and take care of the ball. He refers to me a lot as the floor general,” Huntsman said. “The role I have been given isn’t new to me and I’m excited to play out my role and exceed expectations.”
With six freshmen on the roster, much of the Bulldogs’ practice time has centered on “teaching” the college game. The team is adjusting well, with practices going more smoothly.
“We have two great seniors who know the game inside out, along with all the returning veterans,” said Huntsman, who calls the G-W coaching staff “outstanding.”
The seniors are 6-0 forward Olivia Parker (12.3 points, 8.4 rebounds per game, and 5-9 F/G Candace Brown (9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists).
A new addition to the coaching staff, former University of North Carolina point guard Cetera Degraffenreid, will help ensure that Huntsman plays the PG position as well as possible.
A 2011 graduate of UNC, DeGraffenreid scored 1,562 points in her career and ranks third in Tar Heel history in assists (589) and steals (371). After playing professionally in Israel for two seasons, she completed her Masters Degree at Western Carolina University in May 2015, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA.
The goal for Huntsman and her teammates, she said, is to win the Big South tournament and play in the NCAA tournament. “We’re a young team so it’s been a learning process, but by conference time I know we are going to be a dangerous team and we have great seniors to lead us.”
Along with staying injury free, Huntsman has some personal goals. “No turnovers and to always keep my team organized on the court,” she said. “I would also like to increase my free throw percentage from last year to at least 80-percent.”
Huntsman says she loves college life — and North Carolina. “It’s my home away from home. My teammates and coaches are like my second family and I am blessed to be here experiencing all that I am as a Bulldog with my teammates,” she said.
And like other former Spartans, she’ll always have fond memories of Spartan Bowl and the loyal fans of CHS athletics.
“I’ll always wish I could have just one more game to play in the Bowl. The atmosphere was amazing … I’m blessed to have grown up a Lady Spartan.”
Gardner-Webb opens the season on Friday, Nov. 13, against North Carolina in a game at Chapel Hill. The Bulldogs also will play three games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 19, 20 and 21. The opponents include Western Michigan, Southern Methodist and Arizona. (Photos: Tim Cowie/GWU Photos)
Gardner-Webb bio: Huntsman lettered at Connersville High School under head coach Michael Thompson … Second leading scorer in Connersville High School’s history with over 1,000 career points … Three-time Team MVP selection … Two-time All-State Honorable Mention recipient … Named to the Rumble on the River All-Tournament Team twice … Earned a spot on the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Top-100 list … Named to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine Top-100 players her senior year … Tabbed the Athlete of Year her senior season … Was a Hoosier Basketball Magazine All-State pick her junior season … Also named to the Junior All-Star Team as a junior …
Named the Whitewater Valley Player of the Year her junior season … Averaged 21.1 points and 3.6 assists per game as a senior … Holds the CHS school record with most free throws made in a single game with 15 … Also holds the school record with the most free throws made in one season with 109 overall … A member of the Indiana Flight AAU Team under head coach Greg Mason … Tabbed a Spartan Scholar-Athlete. Personal: Born on September 15, 1994 in Oxford, Ohio … Daughter of Kenny and Ericka Huntsman … Has two younger siblings in Harlee and Lilly Anne … Intends to major in Exercise Science.
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