Riverdale adds two to college ranks

By Jeffery Armstrong

Two more Riverdale High girls basketball seniors will be moving on to the next level.

Brittany Baity and Jessika Johnson both signed letters of intent to play college basketball Wednesday afternoon in front of friends, family and teammates at Riverdale.

Johnson will be attending Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. while Baity will attend Georgia Perimeter College in Decatur.

Johnson, who averaged 12 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game as a senior, is looking forward to playing college basketball at Western Carolina.

"I'm excited n I knew from an early age that I wanted to play college basketball," said Johnson, who started playing basketball in the seventh grade. "I love Western Carolina's campus, arena and coaching staff."

Johnson said she will have to work hard if she wants to get a lot of playing time as a college freshman.

"The coaches there told me that it's up to me; if I do what I'm supposed to do, then I'll play," she said.

Johnson's parents, James and Karen, were very happy for their daughter's success.

"I'm ecstatic; I couldn't be prouder of Jessika. I'm glad the years of hard work and dedication have paid off," said James. "What I'm also happy about is that Jessika has been very coachable and she has the desire to improve. She's also very level-headed and has great self control."

"I'm extremely proud of her. Jessika has always been a conscientious student who's very goal-oriented," said Karen. "She also has a passion for the game of basketball."

Karen was also happy that her daughter is only 2 1/2 hours away from her.

"She's close enough, but far enough away to satisfy her," said Karen.

Johnson's brother Tim and sister Kimberly were also proud of their big sister.

"This is a big accomplishment for Jessika and I'm real proud of her on her day," said Tim, a sophomore at Riverdale. "This is something she's wanted ever since she started playing in high school."

"I'm proud of Jessika and I'm going to miss her a lot," said 10-year-old Kimberly, a fourth-grader who also plays basketball.

Baity averaged nine points, 6.5 assists, four steals and three rebounds per game as a senior and could've attended a four-year institution, but chose to go to Georgia Perimeter College, a junior college in Decatur.

"I feel good about going to GPC; it will be a good opportunity to build my game up," Baity said. "I feel that I've got plenty of things to do to improve my game and I can do that at GPC, then transfer."

Baity said she needs to improve her offensive game, especially her outside shot. She's solid on defense, but feels she needs to get stronger.

GPC head women's basketball coach James Weldon said he's impressed with Baity and can't wait to get her on his team.

"I feel real good about signing Brittany n I feel she can be the best point guard we've ever had at GPC," Weldon said. "She has the skills, the unselfishness and the basketball IQ for the game; you can't teach that."

Baity mother Joan was happy that her daughter will get a college education, she'll be close to home and she'll play for a winning team; GPC went 22-9 last year and won their conference championship.

"This is a very good move for Brittany. I can go to the games and see her play," said Joan. "Plus she is a natural leader and she hates to lose. She just loves to play basketball."

Riverdale girls head basketball coach Derick Powell is proud of both Johnson and Baity. He said he knew the first time he saw his seniors play as sophomores that they would be college material.

"Jessika has developed and improved so much and she's the most coachable player I've had. I think her best basketball is ahead of her," said Powell. "Brittany is my little piece of leather that's well put together. She'll be the hardest to replace. Brittany was the one constant on the floor and I could always count on her to make something happen."