Signing day: LR senior Tiana-Jo Carter to attend Division I Albany

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IT'S OFFICIAL — Lake Region senior center Tiana-Jo Carter signed her letter of intent last Wednesday, committing to Division I University at Albany. She is pictured with her Laker teammates, head coach Paul True (left) and AAU coach Rick Libby. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Tiana-Jo Carter moved to the Lake Region in fourth grade, she was immediately told she would be playing basketball.

It was a likely assumption since Tiana was taller than her classmates.

Tiana, however, wasn’t so sure.

“In the beginning, I really didn’t know what basketball was. I was awful, at first,” Tiana recalled. “Once I started, I fell in love with the sport. To be able to go to college and play the sport I love is just a dream come true.”

The dream became reality last week when Tiana officially signed her collegiate letter of intent to play Division I basketball at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

She is a Laker right now.

She will be a Great Dane in the near future.

To celebrate the signing and the achievements of the All-Conference, 6-foot-2 center, a special ceremony was held at Lake Region Vocational Center last Wednesday night.

With parents, fans and her teammates on hand, Tiana signed on the dotted line, witnessed by Lake Region varsity girls’ basketball coach Paul True and her AAU hoop coach, Rick Libby.

“It is true that it takes a community to raise a child. I may be a little biased, but our community is a special place — where everyone knows your name; is always there to give a helping hand; to show support or to invite you in and pull up a seat at the dinner table. Because this generosity is certainly evident in Tiana’s journey, there would be so many people to thank. The truth is so many can take great pride in this special day for this special young lady,” True said. “As early as Tiana’s early recreation playing days, we knew we had something special. That was crystal clear by her ability to perfectly execute cartwheels, either on the baseline while her coaches were giving instructions or better yet while in transition running up and down the floor.”

True told the large crowd that Tiana’s signing is the reward for her hard work and commitment.

SP 29 Albany Great Danes logo

University at Albany
State University of New York
Nickname: Great Danes
Conference: America East
Record: 5-0
Ranking: Presently #15 in the Mid Major Poll; the only America East team in the Mid Major Top 25
Last Year: 27-4, 16-0 in the conference (second straight conference title)
Head Coach: Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, fourth season (66-28), 10th head coach in the program’s history; previously was the assistant head coach at Indiana University; 1990 graduate of the University of Iowa; worked as an assistant of Joanne McCallie at the University of Maine, Orono, 1992-94
UA Roster: The Great Danes are led by sophomore 6-foot-1 forward Shereesha Richards of Jamaica, who posted 28 points and 15 rebounds in a win over Marist. This week, she was named the America East Player of the Week for the third time this season. The Great Danes also have 6-foot-9 junior Megan Craig of New Zealand. Roster make-up: 1 senior, 3 juniors, 3 sophomores, 6 freshmen.

“This day is not attainable without work ethic and a passion to play at the highest level possible. From her experiences gained through her high school program, as well as her AAU exposure, this day has been made possible through her commitment,” True said. “This will be a new chapter for Tiana. We want her to know once a Laker, always a Laker. We will always be behind her future endeavors unconditionally.”

Tiana was touched by the outpouring of community support and pride.

“I thank those members of the Lake Region community who have watched me grow and develop into the person I am today,” she said. “ I thank my coaches for coaching and inspiring me to be the best I can be, on and off the court. I thank my teammates for always pushing me to be better, not only for myself but the team as well. I thank my family for their support and love.”

College scouts started to take notice of the gifted center two years ago. Albany was right at the head of the line. Others, including Indiana and Syracuse, joined the list of suitors for Tiana, who has a career stat average of 15 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocked shots to help lead the Lakers to two state final appearances.

“It was a long process. It was crazy with all of these colleges contacting me. Once I decided on where I wanted to go, it went really well. It took a lot off my shoulders,” she said.

Albany was there from the start. Other suitors included Indiana (too far away) and Syracuse.

“Family is very important to me so staying nearby was really important. A lot of people think that New York is far away, but it’s only about 4½ hours away from here. If you are going D-1, you’re not going to be coming home often to begin with,” Tiana said. “At first, it was cool to see the number of schools interested in me. Then, when it came down to make a decision, it was very stressful. All kinds of things went through my mind.”

Tiana heard all kinds of advice as she pondered multiple offers. In the end, two pieces advice really aided her in making a final decision.

“A lot of people gave me advice, but maybe the best was, ‘Do what is best for me.’ I have a tendency of trying to please other people, make sure they are happy,” she said. “The other was, ‘Do it because you think it is right, not what other people have to say because I am the one that’s going to be there the next four years.’ Albany is such a ‘family’ team. It means a lot to me. I loved the campus, and the coaches and staff are great.”

When Tiana visited Albany, there was an instant connection.

“You always hear that when you walk onto a campus you’re going to know if it is right for you, that happened for me. I wanted to make sure it was the right decision. Every time I went back, I loved it even more. This is where I wanted to go,” she said. “I really enjoyed Northeastern. I am not a huge city person, but when I was on campus, it really didn’t feel that way. I didn’t get the same feeling as I did with Albany.”

Tiana plans to major in accounting.

“I’ve always loved math. Last year, I took an accounting class and found that is what I want to major in,” she said.

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A GOOD FIT — After considering other offers, including Indiana and Syracuse, Tiana-Jo felt Albany was the best fit.

Playing in America East, Tiana will return to her home state at least once each season when the Great Danes take on the UMaine Black Bears. To the south, fans can also catch Tiana when Albany plays the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

For now, Tiana’s sights are set on leading the Lakers back to the big game. She has been working to improve her post moves (“There is always room for improvement,” she said), a must since most teams will continue to double and triple team her inside the lane this winter.

As for the Lakers’ chances of emerging as a top contender in Class B West again, Tiana likes her team’s chances.

“We did lose some players from last year and it will be felt, no question about that, but I think it is just a matter of working together and pushing each other every day,” she said. “As long as you have team chemistry, you will get far, which has happened the past few years. You will always face challenges. It is what you learn from the those challenges that makes you better. I look forward to the challenges ahead.”

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