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Aug. 15, 2007
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - As USC Upstate prepares to enter NCAA Division I competition beginning this fall, the women's basketball team will do so with nine newcomers that will enroll to carry Upstate into the new era in Spartan athletics under the guidance of third-year head coach Tammy George.
Oceana Jackson (Carnesville, Ga./Franklin County), Kimberly Pittman (Avery, N.C./Avery), Kasey Thompson (Converse, Ind./Oak Hill), Tara Tranum (Bluff City, Tenn./Tennessee), Kayla Wells (Bristol, Va./Virginia) and Tiffany Whiting (Troutman, N.C./South Iredell) will enter USC Upstate as true freshmen while Samerria Crowder (Raleigh, N.C./Tallahassee C.C.), Samantha Frost (Baltimore, Md./North Greenville University), Cherale Powell (Wilkesboro, NC/Wilkes C.C.) and Kelly Westfield (St. Petersburg, Fl./St. Petersburg College) will transfer into the program.
"We are very excited about the possibilities this recruiting class brings to the table," George said. "There are many versatile players that have the ability to play multiple positions and anyone of them has the ability to contribute or play a major role immediately. With only four returning athletes, we recruited D-I athletes with the understanding that they had the ability to step in right away and see significant playing time."
Jackson, a 6-0 forward, brings with her a lengthy resume from Franklin County High School, where she averaged 22.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game as a junior in 2005-06. Jackson shot 50.5 percent from the field and 72 percent from the foul line for the Lions, while averaging 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Jackson, who has scored 1,306 career points, was a first team Georgia All-State selection as a junior. As a senior, she earned the Georgia Sportswriter's Class AAA Player of the Year award after averaging 23.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and leading Franklin County to the state championship game. She shot 67 percent from the floor en route to being a McDonald's All-American nominee. She was a two-time Anderson Independent Player of the Year and the 2005 Athens Banner Herald Player of the Year.
Pittman, a 6-2 forward, was a star at Avery High School, averaging 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game to help her earn the 2006-07 Western Highlands Player of the Year Award. She was also the Avery High Female Athlete of the Year and was invited to the Blue-White All-Star Game.
Thompson, a 5-10 forward, helped lead Oak Hill to Indiana Sectional and Regional Championships as a senior, leading the Eagles in scoring in both the sectional and regional championship games. A 3-point specialist, Thompson's 48.9 percent (44-for-90) effectiveness from long-range led all Indiana high schools. She finished third in Grant County with a 13.2 scoring average and also made the county leaderboard in field goal percentage (.516), rebounding (4.6), assists (2.4) and steals (2.5). For her efforts, she was named one of the Top 40 Seniors in Indiana by Hoosier Basketball Magazine, earned her second Marion Chronicle-Tribune Player of the Year award and was named to the all Central Indiana Conference for the third time. Also participating in cross country and track and field, Thompson was named to the Marion Chronicle-Tribune's list of Grant County's Top 25 athletes in 2006-07, placing ninth, the highest-ranked female on the list.
Tranum, a 6-1 forward, helped lead Tennessee High School to three conference and district titles while earning three letters. An All-Conference selection in 2007, Tranum averaged 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, shooting 43.5 percent from the floor. She had career-highs of 19 points against Sullivan East and 10 rebounds against David Crockett.
Wells, a 5-9 guard, is another 3-point specialist for the Spartans, as the Virginia native hit 214 trifectas during her prep career. She also set Virginia High School records with 69 3-pointers as a senior and seven in a single game. She earned the Highlands District Player of the Year award as a senior and was also a First Team All-Region IV selection, finishing her career with 1,189 points.
Whiting, a 5-9 guard, earned Charlotte Observer Player of the Year honors after averaging 26.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 5.2 steals while helping South Iredell to the second round of the state tournament. Whiting was also the Southern Piedmont Conference. She earned a spot in the North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star girls' basketball game after earning all-state honors as a senior. Whiting posted a 55-point game against East Lincoln during her senior year and was one of Hoop Gurlz Top Prospects in North Carolina.
Crowder, a 5-9 guard, averaged 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.0 steals per game as a freshman at Tallahassee Community College, and will transfer to USC Upstate with three years of eligibility remaining. Crowder helped the team to a national ranking during much of the season and was a Second Team All-Panhandle Florida Community Colleges Activities Association selection.
Frost, a one-year letterwinner at North Greenville University, a Division II college in North Carolina, will have three years of eligibility remaining when she enrolls at Upstate. In 2006-07, the 6-0 forward appeared in all 34 games for the Crusaders, averaging 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game. Frost shot 57.6 percent (68-for-118) from the floor and also fired 70.8 percent (46-for-65) from the free throw line. Frost served as a team captain at McDonough High in Maryland for two years. As a junior, she averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds per game, earning her the nickname Double-Double, while helping McDonough to the state semifinals. She also played seven years for the Maryland SureShots, an AAU team that won five consecutive state championships and made six national tournament appearances.
Powell, a 5-9 guard, was a two-year letterwinner at Wilkes Community College. She led all NJCAA Division I scorers as a freshman, averaging 27.7 points per game, and also finished second in the NJCAA in rebounding, posting an average of 14.45 per game and was sixth in steals per game (4.0). She finished third in the NJCAA in scoring as a sophomore, averaging 23.5 points per game while her 12.9 rebounds ranked fifth among Division I junior college players and her 4.19 steals per game was 10th. Powell was a two-time Region X First Team member.
Westfield, a 5-11 guard, was a two-year letterwinner at St. Petersburg College. She earned First Team All-Southern Florida Community Colleges Activities Association as a sophomore. She was a second-team All-Conference selection as a freshman and was a two-time Academic All-Conference selection. A four-year letterwinner and three-year captain at St. Petersburg High, Westfield was selected to the First Team All-Pinellas County squad twice, leading her team in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game in the two years. She was also a member of the All-Suncoast Team as a junior and senior and was selected to the St. Petersburg Times All-County Second Team as a senior.
"Mentally and physically, we want to be the toughest in the A-Sun," George said. "We are going to outwork our opponents. We are going to try and get up and down the court and wear our opponents down."
Upstate finished 2006-07 with an 11-17 record under second-year head coach George. George had a tremendous first season with Upstate in 2005-06, leading the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994-95 and coaching Yakeeshia Ross to Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year honors. USC Upstate finished with a 16-14 overall record, including a 12-8 mark in the Peach Belt Conference and the No. 2 seed in the Peach Belt Tournament.