Nashville, Tenn. - Women's Basketball head coach Larry Joe Inman announced his first signing class at Tennessee State. The 2013-14 incoming class consists of Imani Davis (Tulsa, Okla.), Alexis Haddock (Collinwood, Tenn.), Jayda Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.), Jemilah Leonard (Nashville, Tenn.), and Julie McCarthy (Honefoss, Norway).
"You just do not replace six or seven seniors," Inman said. "It is a very inopportune situation for us to have to sign six or seven players. But I am very excited about our early commitments and I just hope we can continue what we are doing."
Davis, a 6-0 wing, is listed as the No. 21-ranked athlete at her position according to ESPN Hoopgurlz. The Union High School product is a three-year starter for Jim Stacy and averaged 12.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game. She is a three-time All-Conference and two-time All-State team member and was named to the VYPE Oklahoma Sports Magazine Top 100. Davis has had success in track and field as she claimed the 2012 Oklahoma 6A state championship in the high jump. At the same meet, she placed sixth in the 400 meters and ninth in the long jump.
"The fact Imani is the Oklahoma state high jump champion shows her athleticism. She has a poise most freshmen do not have and we look to her to contribute right away. She still needs to learn how to make the transition from high school to college, but has the right mental attitude and work ethic to make that adjustment. We are very excited for her to be a part of our program."
Haddock, a 5-8 guard from Collinwood High School averaged 13.2 points a game, while playing in all 28 games as a junior. The four-year starter plays AAU ball for Beth and Zac Stark on the TN Team Pride.
"Lexi is an extremely aggressive young lady who plays hard. She is a very gifted shooter who plays for an AAU team with a much respected coaching staff. We are very excited with what she brings in work ethic and versatility. We also like how aggressive she is when guarding her opponent."
Johnson, a 6-0 forward, is projected as the No. 91-ranked forward by ESPN Hoopgurlz. She averaged 16.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game as she led Coach John Fisher's Fulton High School team to a 26-3 record. FHS claimed a District 3-AA Championship and a spot in the Region 2-AA semifinals. Johnson earned a spot on the All-State team after her freshman and junior seasons and was named to the Prep Xtra 1st team during the same two campaigns. In July, 2012, her TN Flight Silver summer team won the Nike National Championship.
"Jayda was the first one to commit to us here at TSU. She is a strong young lady and is the kind of young athlete who does not take a back seat to anybody. She is very physical, very aggressive, very dominating, and is a great finisher around the basket. She is also the type of kid who can step outside and shoot the three. Most of the kids we are signing early are very versatile with their skills and abilities."
Leonard, a 5-7 guard, is regarded as the No. 37-ranked point guard according to ESPN Hoopgurlz. A four-year starter for Cherish Stringfield at Hillsboro High School averaged 11 points, four rebounds, five steals, and four assists per game as a junior. As a sophomore, she assisted the Burros to a District championship, while earning All-City and All-Region recognition. Leonard continued her success as a junior by being named to the All-District and All-City teams.
"A very similar player as Haddock has nice ‘quicks', a nice jump shot from all spots on the court, and is really good off the bounce. She will also get in your face and guard you tough. We need help playing defense for 40 solid minutes and it takes very dedicated kids who are sold out to play defense and we feel she will do this for us. "
McCarthy, is a 6-2 forward/center who comes to TSU from Norway where she is a member of the U18 national team. At the European Championships, McCarthy registered three double-doubles while averaging 12.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Her top game came against Israel as she scored 24 points and pulled down 24 boards. McCarthy transitioned to basketball after spending time on the world renowned Norwegian junior national team handball squad.
"Julie has a little more maturity than the average freshman due to her international experience. She will have to transition in styles as she is more use to a finesse style and we play more of a physical game. Her time playing on the team handball national team shows the type of talented athlete she is and she will be asked to play early."
With the departure of a large class, Inman's first class will be asked to make the transition quickly.
"Everyone who comes in has to contribute," Inman stated. "We don't like to look at freshmen and say they are freshmen. We look at them as basketball players. They all have experience internationally or through AAU. There are adjustments that need to be made, but they come in game ready. They all bring in a strong work ethic and a winning attitude. And that is what we need to change things here."