The Savannah State women’s basketball program added six new players to their upcoming 2020-21 roster, deepening a bench that will see most of its starters return.
The Lady Tigers suffered several injuries during last season, but their core, all of which are returning for the new year, still managed a strong first season back in NCAA Division II and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).
The 2019-20 Lady Tigers finished 15-8 overall, their best record over the last six years, earning the No. 2 seed in the SIAC East Division during the regular season.
Ahead of the program’s 76th year of competition, Savannah State will field an all-star, heavy-hitting team with depth.
Head Coach Cedric Baker, heading into his 17th year at the helm of the program, signed four new guards and two new forwards to shore up his 2020- 21 squad.
Locally, the Lady Tigers inked forward Tabitha Deal, a 6-1 Woodville Tompkins High School Graduate. The honor student averaged 5.4 rebounds per game in her senior year. Baker is hoping Deal will add depth at the forward position, something the team lacked last year, and sustain rebounding margins.
“She’s an athletic insider with a text book game from the key and a developing perimeter threat,” Baker said.
Deal will be joined in the paint by NCAA Division I transfer Bria Gibbs. The 6-0, junior comes to Savannah State from Presbyterian College.
An honor student as well, Gibbs was a Big South Conference Scholar Athlete. In one of her best career outings, Gibbs scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against former Savannah State foe South Carolina State. Baker and company will look to Gibbs to add competition on blocks, rebounds and finishes in the paint.
“Bria brings to the team and to our fans a mental calmness as an even handed extended lane and block player with a scorer’s mentality,” Baker said.
Of the four new guards, three are coming straight from high school and one will transfer in from junior college.
Mia Goolsby, a 5-3 junior, comes to Savannah State from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She made the President’s List while at MGCCC, earned all-region honors and was the second leading scorer, averaging 10.5 points a game.
“Mia will amplify our outside shooting percentages from previous years and bring much needed experience that will flourish in pressure situations,” Baker said. “She is very opportunistic in her approach to defenses as a point guard and has an exemplary shooting range beyond the arc. She excels under pressure and has great court awareness.
Nyla Allen, a 5-7 point guard from Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla. Also signed with the Lady Tigers. Allen averaged 13.5 points and 4.7 steals a game. She was named First Team All First Coast Selection, MVP of the Title IX National Championship, and earned All-Gateway Conference Team Honors, as well as 25 MaxPreps Player of the Game Awards.
Out of Baltimore, Maryland, Jourdyn Ayers signed with the Lady Tigers as a point and shooting guard. The honor student averaged 23 points a game during her senior year, and earned All-Division Athletic Honors in 2019 and was First Team All-County in 2020.
Out of Columbus, Georgia and Carver High School, Diamond McGilberry, a scholar athlete, also signed with the Lady Tigers as a shooting guard. McGilberry was a National Honors Society member and won the Piedmont Hospital Axillary Award for Academic perseverance.
“Diamond will intensify and extend our defensive pressure to the borders of the court,” Baker said.”
The fresh six will join returners Joan Messina, Azhana Maxwell, Robbi Allen, Le’Andrea Gillis (who lead the SIAC in scoring last season), Ta’Kyla Austin (2019-20 SIAC Newcomer of the Year), Autumn Westmoreland, and Amari Heard (2019-20 SIAC Freshman of the Year).
Women’s basketball was the first and only women’s sport at Savannah State for many years. The first team, the 1928-29 squad, opened the program’s history with a 5-3 overall record and won the city championship. The storied program has won championships on the Division I and II levels and in three different conferences.