Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SPORTS>>SH senior Philander-bound

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

Sylvan Hills’ senior Brianna Austin will not have to travel far in the fall when she begins her tenure at Philander Smith College in Little Rock. The former Lady Bears starter signed her letter of intent to the university late Friday morning at the Sylvan Hills High School media center.It was the second signing for a member of the Lady Bears basketball team this year. Scoring guard Rachele Dobbins signed with Grambling State in Louisiana at the beginning of basketball season in late ’06. Another former Sylvan Hills standout had a key role in Austin landing at PSC.

Shontaye Reed, a current member of the Lady Panthers basketball program, invited Austin and a number of other players to the school at the request of Philander Smith head coach James Johnson. Johnson was also on hand for the signing on Friday.

The Lady Panthers suffered through a difficult rebuilding season last year, ending up with a 5-20 record.
With only six freshmen and three sophomores, the young squad had little depth, a stat that coach Johnson hopes to rid himself of with the acquisition of Austin, along with four other players.

“We’re looking for a lot better year this year,” Johnson said. “The sophomores have improved a lot, along with the freshmen. With Brianna’s help, along with a couple of other key recruits we have coming in, we hope to improve a great deal.”
It wasn’t one single aspect of Austin’s abilities that impressed Johnson, but rather her overall size and athleticism.
“She has a lot of size, and she can play inside and outside,” Johnson said. “That will be a great asset for our level. She can also shoot the ball really well.”

The signing almost seemed like an overall celebration of the Lady Bears achievements during the 2006-07 school year, as Dobbins and recent CBC soccer signee Brittany Flowers sat in the front row during Austin’s signing. The trio was all smiles, cracking jokes and greeting faculty and classmates that attended.

Austin said the fact that there is a familiar name on the PSC roster was a huge factor in her decision to become a Lady Panther.

“My best friend Shontaye Reed is going there,” Austin said. “She invited me out for a pick-up game, and coach Johnson saw me play. He talked to me and a couple of other girls, then I was told to give him a call.”

Austin also had interest from Henderson State and Central Baptist College, but ultimately chose PSC due to the Sylvan Hills connection with Reed and the fact that the school is much closer to home.