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South Carolina Girls Basketball Mount Rushmore plus one during the HSSR Era

Goose Creek – We all know that Mount Rushmore is a national ICON that has the heads of four US Presidents  (Washington, Lincoln, Teddy and FDR) carved out of the mostly granite rock in the Black Hills of South Dakota so during the time we have had the past six weeks I have come up with a Mount Rushmore plus one for Girls high school Basketball during the High School Sports Report 35 years of being the only “State Wide” publication in the country solely dedicated to covering the “Achievements” of high school student/ athletes.

            One thing when you sit down to do a list like this is you realize just how many young ladies have made an impact in girls’ basketball in the state of South Carolina. In addition, when you start looking at numbers that these young ladies have put from Ivory Latta’s (York High School) state record career point total of 4319 points to Micah Wessinger’s (Chester) 96.55 free throw percentage for a season.

            Also, when you do something like this you inevitably have to leave off some great players but that speaks to the quality of talent and coaching that we have in our state. Of course, it also leaves off some of the young talent that is still playing and writing their own chapters in the annuals of South Carolina girls Hoops history.

            One player that will not be on the Mountain, who is arguably the states most decorated basketball player male or female is 2012 Naismith Hall of Famer, three-times Olympian and Georgia All American Katrina McClain-Johnson. McClain led St. Andrews to a 30-0 record and a AAA state championship in 1983. She was voted into the Women’s basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and in 2017 the Naismith Hall of Fame announced the best power forward in Division I would receive the Katrina McClain award. Her list of accomplishments would take up the rest of the article, but she is pre-HSSR.

            Let us get started with the first selection for the Mount Rushmore of South Carolina Girls basketball with Chester’s Allison Feaster- Strong (1988-94). She led the Lady Cyclones to the 1993 AAAA state championship.

            Allison graduated as the state’s All-Time (Public Schools) leading scorer with 3427 career points and still ranks second on that list. Not only was she the HSSR’s Ms. Basketball, she was named to the Parade All American team in 1994. She was also named the state Player of the Year twice, 93 & 94 and was named All-State as an eighth grader for the first of 5 straight selections.

            I remember one game I attended where Allison was coming off a severe ankle injury and could barely walk before the game. The game was for the region championship and all she did was go out and score 30 points on one ankle. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen.

            The thing that made Feaster special is that she was recruited by the late/ great Pat Summit of Tennessee, Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, recently retired Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame among every other elite programs in the country and she choose to attend Harvard University. Whereas a senior in 1998 she led the 16th seeded Lady Crimson to the first upset of a number one seed in NCAA tournament history as Harvard beat Stanford 71-67 on the Lady Cardinals home floor. She scored 37 points and pulled down 21 rebounds in the win.

            She led the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game (1998) was the first ever three-time all-Ivy league performer and only the second player in Ivy league history with over 2000 pts and 1000 rebounds. She was the fifth overall pick in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.

            Hartsville’s Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson (87-92) joins Feaster as the second face on Mount Rushmore. She led the Lady Red Foxes to four consecutive appearances in the AAAA state finals winning the title twice in 1990 and 1992.

            Johnson was a player for the ages in high school and maybe the best player male or female that has ever played at Hartsville High. She was also named the HSSR Ms. Basketball and to the Parade All-American team.

            I remember sitting in the Hartsville High school gym talking with football coach Louis Lineberger and talking about Shannon, when he told me she should be starting for the boys team which at the time was ranked in the top 10 in AAAA basketball.

            She went on to Columbia where she rewrote most of the Lady Gamecock’s scoring records. She left as the schools second All-Time leading scorer with 2230 points but is the only Lady Gamecock to average over 20 points a game for her career. She is the single season scoring record holder when she averaged 24.7 points per game in the 1995-96 season and is the only player in program history to average over 20 points a game for three-consecutive years. She was a two-time All-American and four-time all SEC selection.  

            In 2004 she became just the second player from South Carolina to play for team USA in the Olympics and win the gold medal joining Katrina McClain- Johnson. She enjoyed a 10-year career in the WNBA and was a 5-time All Star and 3-time All WNBA second team selection.

            Johnson is now the head coach at Coker College in her hometown of Hartsville.

            Up next is the state’s All-time leading scorer York’s Ivory Latta (1997-03). She obliterated every state scoring record during her career and graduated having scored 4319 career points. She was the HSSR Ms. Basketball in 2003, The Morgan Wooten National girls’ player of the year and was named the game’s MVP, McDonald’s All- Star, Parade All American and two-time Ms. Basketball by the South Carolina Basketball coaches association.       

            Latta led the York Lady Cougars to the 2003 AAA state championship with a mind-boggling year. She scored a state record 1248 pts (44.6 ppg) shooting 45% from the field and 42% from behind the arc. She scored over 40 points 21 times with a state record 70 points in one game that included a state record 14 threes. Her 165 career threes are also a state record.

            She capped of the season with a state records of 47 pts, 8 threes and 15 made free throws in the AAA state championship win over Dreher.

            Next stop was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she was four-time All- ACC selections as well as the conferences Rookie of the year award. In 2006 she was named the National Girls player of the year, the ACC POY, All American and winner of the Nancy Lieberman award for the nation’s best point guard. She averaged 18.4 pts and 5.4 assists per game during the season.

            Ivory finished her Tar Heel career with 2285 points. She was the 11th pick in the WNBA draft by the Detroit Shock and spent six seasons in the league with a career high 17 ppg in 2014. Injuries shorten her career in the league.

            Watching Latta during her career was special but what made her so special was her tireless effort to improve her game. Each year of her high school career she improved on at least one aspect of her game and like all the great ones she is never satisfied.

            Lower Richland’s Morgan Stroman steps up next to join group. She started on the Lady Diamond Hornets in the seventh grade and by the time the she reached high school she was ready to win state championship as she led her team to first four-peat in girls basketball in 29 years in 2009. The Lady Diamond Hornets won three AAAA state titles from 2005 to 2008. They dropped down to AAA due to realignment and captured the fourth consecutive title in 2009.

            Stroman scored 1459 points in her career and grabbed over 1000 rebounds in leading Lower Richland to 51 game winning streak during their title run. She was named the HSSR Ms. Basketball in 2009 as well as Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonalds All American, Parade All American, South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year among her many awards and honors.

            Morgan took her talents to South Beach and was a four-year starter for the University of Miami Lady Hurricanes. She made the All ACC rookie team and twice was named All ACC. One of the best defensive players in the conference she finished with 272 steals for her career. She helped lead Miami to four consecutive 20- win seasons, three NCAA tournaments and finished her career averaging 11.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg. She is back in Coral Gables as an assistant coach for the Lady Hurricanes.

            I saw Morgan and Lower Richland during their run and the thing that you noticed most about her was her versatility. Against Colleton County in the AAAA play-offs in 2008 she spent most of the first half guarding the guards and disrupting the passing lanes. Colleton’s Branshea Brown was having her way inside so in the second half Morgan took on the challenge of guarding Brown and held her to four second half points in Lower Richlands win.

            Lastly, let us meet A’ja Wilson of Heathwood Hall Academy where she led the Lady Highlanders to the 2014 SCISA AAA state championship. She hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and then dominated OT for the 66-58 win.      

`           Wilson was a dominate force her senior year averaging 34.4 ppg, 13.9 rpg, three steals and five blocks and for her career she scored 2940 points, pulled down 1654 boards and blocked 512 shots. She was named Ms. Basketball by the HSSR, the National Player of the year by the Parade, Naismith and WBCA and was named SCISA Player of the year for the third straight season.  She was rated the number player in the nation by ESPN and signed with the hometown Lady Gamecocks of South Carolina.

            Wilson rewrote the Lady Gamecocks record books in leading them to the 2016-17 National Championship. She is either first or second in 9 career categories including points (2389), blocked shots (363) and free throws made 597. She was a four-times All American with three of them being first team and SEC player of the year for a record three-times. As a senior she won all the National Player of year awards. Oh, by the way she was voted the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament in their championship season.

            The WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces selected her number one joining a select group of athletes picked number by a professional sports league in Courtney Brown (Macedonia), Jadeveon Clowney (South Pointe) and Zion Williamson (Spartanburg Day School). She went on to win the WNBA rookie of the year and made the All-Star team.  

            Wilson is also on the USA women’s National Team Pool and can become just the third player form the state to play on the Olympics.

            Also receiving consideration were Northwood Academy’s Amber Campbell and Ashley Scott. Both girls finished their careers with over 4000 points. Nancy Derrick of Wardlaw Academy (SCISA’s all-time leading scorer with 4238), Saudia Roundtree of Westside, Aleighsa Welch of Goose Creek, Kionna Jeter of Spartanburg, Danae McNeal of Swansea, Ashley Patterson of Denmark-Olar, Jade Wallace of Broome, Branshea Brown of Colleton County and Chrissy Floyd of Laurens to name a few others.

            I know that I am missing some young ladies. My email is neillkp@yahoo.com, let me know what you think of the Mount Rushmore and if you have a different group or someone who needs to be added. I would love to hear from you.

            When you look at the five young ladies on the Mount Rushmore, what you have is a starting five that would rival any states and if there were a tournament my money would go on our States five. You have the unstoppable force down in the paint in Wilson, at power forward you have the rebounding and defense of Stroman and on the wing or three position you have the all-around game of Feaster. The guards are interchangeable as Latta and Johnson can both play the point or the two guard. To coach this team, I am going to show some love for my fellow Goose Creek alumTim Baldwin.

            This squad would could be named “Showtime II”.


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