After losing one of the nation's top rebounders in the NJCAA, Georgia Northwestern's Lady Cats are restocking the cupboard with a key signing here in Northwest Georgia. Model's four-year starter Caroline Long will enter the program as a true freshman this fall.
The six-foot-one Model Lady Blue Devil center was a four-year starter for the Rome, Georgia high school. Long, along with fellow senior post Carla Clemmons, led the Lady Devils to a 19-8 overall mark, 11-3 in GHSA Region 7-AA. Clemmons will head to Lady Cats rival Gadsden State just across the state line in Alabama.
"Probably more than anything we lose heart," said Model Girl's Head Basketball Coach Sally Echols. "She gives 100-percent of herself for her team. She's heart and defense. She plays the help. She can defend. She controls the post. Plus, she has a real knack of getting to the ball and getting it in." Echols, who will be entering her ninth year as head coach at Model, will have a lot of work to do losing seven seniors from its deep 2012-13 roster.
The Lady Cats know all about losing key post play. 5-foot-10 Odessa Person led the Lady Cats on the glass during the 2012-13 campaign and left a huge hole to fill for next season. "She was a monster for us," said Georgia Northwestern Women's Head Basketball Coach Jim Williams. "Caroline (Long) will have some big shoes to fill when it comes to Odessa (Person)." The Lineville, Alabama sophomore ranked in the NJCAA's top ten rebounders all season long pulling down 14 rebounds a night (ranked seventh nationally). Person closed out her JUCO career with 22 points and 32 rebounds in the NJCAA Region XVII Tournament semi-finals and finals combined this past February.
"I really feel like Caroline's going to patrol and enforce the paint the way we like," said Williams. "We are looking for just the right fit at the right positions. We know if we play good defense, we win ball games."
When the coaching staff at Model speaks of the physicality of Long, the praises come fast and often. "She uses her body just so well," said Echols. "She is deceivingly strong. I mean, she's a six-footer and brings a lot to the floor already. However, she's stronger than even her appearance would hint towards. I've had Kendall Davis who played four years at Berry College and Maci Siniard who played at Anderson University workout with her. They are legitimate four-year college post players. They'll tell you she really knows how to hold her ground and take control. She really knows how to play the position and get the ball."
When it came to making the decision, the factors were simple for Long. "They weren't pushy," said Long of Georgia Northwestern's recruitment of the All-Region standout. "Coach Williams is someone I like and he seems like he'll be a good fit for what I need on the next level. I'm just happy about the opportunity."
The Lady Cats go into the 2013-14 campaign as a three-time defending regular season champion. Williams, the region's Coach of the Year for three consecutive seasons, led the Lady Cats to a 15-10 mark in their last campaign. "We are proud of the tradition we are building," said Williams. "But we are more happy with the kind of young women this program is turning out into the community. Educated and motivated young women who can make things happen."
Georgia Northwestern is entering its seventh season of intercollegiate athletics and its third season as a member of NJCAA Region XVII. Open workout schedules are posted on the college's athletic website at BobcatsCountry.com. Tryouts are expected to be held late this summer for all eligible students enrolled this fall. NJCAA opens practices across the country on October 1.
Georgia Northwestern has campuses serving nine counties across Northwest Georgia and is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. For more information regarding Bobcats Athletics at Georgia Northwestern, visit BobcatsCountry.com for details.