Trio of ASHS hoops stars sign on with Chattahoochee Valley Community College

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017


AMERICUS – A trio of Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) seniors took a big step in continuing the school’s tradition of sending athletes to hone their skills at the next level on April 12.
That morning, three talented members of the Panthers and Lady Panthers basketball teams signed scholarship agreements to attend Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) following graduation and join the school’s Pirates and Lady Pirates on the court next fall.
ASHS’ Kiante Sims, TImia Swanson, and Zari Mays each signed letters of intent to join the CVCC teams for the 2017-18 season.
ASHS principal, Kimothy Hadley, opened the signing ceremony, welcoming the large crowd of supporters to the Panther Den on ASHS campus, saying, “We are very excited for our three student-athletes… Let’s make sure that we continue to work hard because you’re going to do great things… We are very proud of you…”
ASHS assistant principal and co-athletic director, Todd Vickery, then addressed the crowd, saying, “We are so proud of these three student-athletes and their accomplishments on the court and in the classroom. It’s more than just going to practice and being good at a sport; it takes extreme dedication and commitment to excel at the level that these three individuals have and to be able to play at the next level. It is truly a blessing to be able to pursue your passion at a higher level. On behalf of the athletic department, we wish all three of you all of the success in the world…”
Lady Panther head coach, Sherri Harris, introduced Swanson and Mays first, saying, “It’s truly exciting to see two of the young ladies that I’ve coached and have been a part of my life for the last four years move on to bigger and better things. I think they’re going to do great things.” She then turned to CVCC assistant women’s basketball coach, Michael Woods, saying, “Coach Woods, I think you’ve got two truly great kids here…”
Both Swanson and Mays were members of the 2015-16 ASHS team that won the state championship.
Harris explained that Mays has been a major asset to the Lady Panthers during her senior season, averaging nine points, around five rebounds, and one block per game.
Mays was then joined by her parents at the signing table to affix her name to the scholarship agreement.
Harris then handed the pen to Swanson who, she explained, had amassed 94 wins and three regular-season championship wins in her four years as a starter for the Lady Panthers. She went on to say that Swanson had contributed over 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 steals, and around 200 assists to the ASHS cause during her high school career. Swanson was also named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State team and the GHSA All-State team in addition to her numerous tournament appearances.
Swanson’s parents then joined her as she inked the agreement.
Up next was Panther head coach, Michael Hoffpauir, who told the eager audience, “I’m very, very excited about this signing here, today. There’s a whole lot that I can say about Kiante, so this could take a while.…It’s amazing how he’s grown as a ball player.
Hoffpauir said that Sims had put over 450 points on the board for the Panthers during his senior season, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game. He then turned to CVCC Pirate head coach, Michael Woody, and joked, “He took numerous charges. He probably averaged four or five charges per game. Coach Woody, put that to use. He can take it.”
Following the ceremony, each of the athletes spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss their love of the game and their plans for the future.
Sims, a 6’3” forward, told the Times-Recorder, “In my eighth-grade year, I wasn’t planning to play until my coach told me to come and try out. I came out and realized I should play… In my ninth-grade year, I played and it was just raw talent, so I just stuck with it…”
Following his senior season on the basketball court for the Panthers, Sims was named first team All-Region and was honored as an All-Tournament player at a tournament in Atlanta.
Asked what attracted him to CVCC’s basketball program, Sims stated, “I went down there and saw that it wasn’t all about basketball. It was education first. [The coach] reminded me of Coach Hoffpauir, so I felt like I’d be comfortable there.”
Sims added that, in his free time, he likes to play video games and spend time with his sisters.
Sims also played football for the Panthers during his 11th-grade year.
Mays said that she joined the Lady Panthers in her junior year after transferring from Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, GA.
“It’s been amazing since I got down here,” she said. She added that she had received offers from Albany Tech and Atlanta Metropolitan, among others, but decided to attend CVCC because, “I felt like Chattahoochee Valley was a good opportunity for me to go somewhere. Their program felt really warm and they were going to focus on me getting through school.”
With an average of 10 points and five rebounds per game, Mays was named MVP for the All-Star game during her senior season with the Lady Panthers.
“I want to thank god, for one,” she concluded. “A lot of these nights I’ve been praying. Hard days of practice; coming home tired… It’s just paid off.”
Mays added that she would like to pursue a course of study in business management and finance.
On her decision to attend CVCC, Swanson told the Times-Recorder, “That’s somewhere that I feel like I’m really going to fit in. They have a very understanding coach that’s going to help me build my skills and help me go far. I respect [the other colleges] for giving me the opportunity and looking at me. I just feel that Chattahoochee Valley is where I should go if I want to take it to another level.”
She went on to say that she developed her love of basketball at an early age. “When I was mad or upset, [the basketball court] is where I went to… After I got into middle school, I was trying out for Coach Dowdell. She pushed me and made me run and work hard so I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to start doing. This is my new passion’… The stuff you put in during practice is what you’re going to do out there on the court if you work hard.”
Swanson stated that she intends tomajor in physical therapy and eventually pursue a course of study in sports medicine. She added that she also enjoys drawing and playing basketball with her cousins.
Following the ceremony, Harris spoke with the Times-Recorder as well.
“I feel sad and glad. I’m excited for the next part of their lives, but also sad because we’ve lost a four-year starter who averaged a double double most nights,” she said, referring to Swanson. “We’ve got to move on and that’s what, hopefully, we can do. We’ve been doing a great job with our middle school program, building up some of our younger girls, so we’ll be ready. We’re going to be hurting for a couple of years, height-wise, but we’ll be okay.”
“I think that Zari is a steal for their program,” Harris added. “I say that because she’s [been injured]. She played [through the injury] her whole junior year. She didn’t do anything from March until October the following year. She got cleared to come back at the end of October… With her strength, over the years, she’s going to get better. She’s going to be an asset to her team… As the season progressed, she got better and she got stronger plus, she’s got a nice, athletic build and she’s left-handed, so that always helps… I think her future’s bright.”
Hoffpauir then spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss Sims’ career with the Panthers.
“Kiante has been a major factor for many reasons,” he began. “This is my third year coaching him and he has been playing varsity ball for me since his sophomore year. He’s a tremendous kid. He’s always the last one to leave the court after practice. Sometimes, I have to physically take the ball from him. It’s good that he has been able to get to this moment. Two things that we’ve talked about all season long is books and basketballs. Those are the two things that should matter to you during your season and this is a culmination of those two efforts.”
Woods, the CVCC Lady Pirates assistant coach, told the Times-Recorder, “We got a chance to watch [Swanson and Mays] play four times this year… We have an All-Conference First Team player leaving. [Swanson] just fits the mold to replace her with ease… Zari is just an animal on the boards. We do a lot of pressing and play up-tempo ball… and she fits that mold as well, with her athletic ability; being able to jump and rebound and defend. We’re a defensive-oriented team first and they are the pieces of the puzzle that we needed to replace some players that are leaving.”
On Sims signing, Woody, the CVCC Pirates’ assistant coach, told the Times-Recorder, “It’s a great opportunity for Sumter County and Americus-Sumter High School. We’re very proud to have the chance to coach and to mentor Kiante Sims. He has a very bright future ahead of him and we’re just glad that we will be along on the journey with him.”