JOHNSON CITY, TENN. (Jan. 15, 2016) – Some things in life are just meant to be. Fortunately for the women’s basketball program at ETSU, one of those things is sophomore guard Tianna Tarter.
Growing up in Johnson City and playing at Science Hill High School, the highly recruited Tarter knew that playing at ETSU could turn into something special.
The 5-foot-6 guard was one of the most decorated Hilltoppers in recent history, being named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class AAA all-state team three straight years and was selected as the Big 7 Conference Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season. Tarter helped Science Hill to 137 wins in her four-year career, including 50 straight regular season victories.
In her senior season, Tarter averaged 19 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals per game, as well as shooting 62 percent from the field. Her play on the court made the decision easy for head coach Brittney Ezell to recruit her and hope that Tarter suited up for the Blue and Gold.
“I give a lot of credit to our staff and recruiting coordinator Nikki Davis for staying on top of things and really following up with Tianna late in the recruiting process,” said Ezell. “She has a lot of people here pulling for her.”
Tarter brought her exciting play to ETSU and helped the Bucs reach the SoCon Championship and earn a berth in the WNIT. In her freshman season, Tarter was the second leading scorer with 11.8 points per game along with four assists and two steals per game.
The 2015-16 campaign has been a challenging one for Tarter, as she sustained a major concussion in the first game of the season against UNC Asheville. She was sidelined for a month, missing nine games before returning to the starting line-up on Dec. 13 against Armstrong State. In front of a roaring crowd inside Brooks Gym celebrating the return of the hometown star Tarter amassed a career-high seven steals. An while she kicked off the rust in her first game, just having Tarter on the court was impactful enough.
“She (Tarter) makes everyone around her better and that is the mark of a great player and leader,” said Ezell. “Just her presence alone is wonderful.”
Tarter has returned from injury stronger than ever molding back into the prolific scorer she was during her freshman year. Tarter’s flashes of brilliance on the court has showed up multiple times this season including a double-double at Davidson (26pts/11reb), 30 points at Furman and most recently registering a career-high 33 points vs. UNC-Greensboro.
“I just like to attack the rim,” said Tarter. “I also like to go in try and rebound. I know I’m short, but I still have to try.”
Her play on the court is just one of the reasons she is a favorite among the ETSU fan base. Tarter also gains fans by being the local product that is playing for the hometown team.
“It’s very impactful that she grew up and plays here,” said Ezell. “People can relate to her and her story. Fans know her family dynamic and background.”
There were many schools in the running for Tarter during the recruiting process but the decision to stay home and play for the Bucs had more meaning than just basketball. The opportunity to have her family come to every game, just like in high school, is something Tarter appreciates.
“It’s great! I get to stay home and stay with my family through my college years,” said Tarter. “Everybody is very supportive.”
The success of last year’s SoCon Championship run fuels Tarter to become a better leader, player and person on and off the court as she has helped the Bucs to a 10-8 record as well as win in two of the first three conference games. The support from the fans, desire to win and fuel for success makes a potent formula that hopefully leads to ETSU reaching new heights with Tarter leading the way.
“It felt great to get to the championship game but it was sad that we didn’t win,” said Tarter. “We hope to win the SoCon Championship this year.”
It’s safe to say Tarter is enjoying being the hometown girl and the ETSU women’s basketball program loves having such a talented and classy player on its roster. Buccaneer fans hope that Tarter will only continue to add her legacy and grow the Buccaneer program in the years to come.
By Nathan Palcowski
ETSU Athletic Media Relations