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CSU women signs four to basketball squad

Photo from Tifton Gazette
Former Tifton High standout Jessica Covington was the Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year.

Photo from Tifton Gazette Former Tifton High standout Jessica Covington was the Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year.

From Staff Reports

Fresh off winning the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship, Clayton State women's head basketball coach Dennis Cox announced on Monday the Lakers' recruiting class for the 2011-12 season.

Signing with the Lakers for the upcoming season is Florida junior college forwards Shannon Smith (Indian River State) and Brandice Howard (Santa Fe College), and Georgia prep standouts Jessica Covington (Tift County High School) and Shadawn Clanton (Grady High School). This quartet joins a Laker team that returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last season's 35-1 national championship squad.

"In preparing for our recruiting strategy for the 2011-12 season, it was clear that we were taking a big hit from graduation at our small and power forward positions, losing standouts Teshymia Tillman and Breanna Fort," said Cox, who is 184-45 entering his eighth season at Clayton State. "So, that was our focus going in, and I couldn't be happier with the results."

Replacing Fort at power forward was a key priority, and Cox believes he has filled that with additions of Smith and Howard from the junior college ranks.

Smith, at 6-foot-2, will give the Lakers more size and athleticism in the post to help complement Clayton State's dynamic center combination of sophomore Shacamra Jackson and junior Kayla Mobley. Smith, a Cocoa Beach, Fla., native, averaged six points and seven rebounds during her sophomore season at Indian River State before sustaining a season-ending injury in the ninth game of the season.

She was ranked as the No. 16-best power forward at the junior college level by Dan Olson's Basketball Girl's Report. In addition, she was a teammate of current Laker guard Keona Dixon at Indian River State.

Smith played her freshman season at the College of Central Florida, averaging eight points and six rebounds a game. During her prep career at Cocoa Beach High School, she was a two-time all-region selection and a McDonald's All-American nominee.

Howard wound up missing all of last season with an injury, thus she will have three years of eligibility remaining for the Lakers. As a freshman at Santa Fe, she averaged five points and four rebounds a game in earning second team All-Florida Mid-South Conference honors. She brings a strong rebounding mentality to Clayton State.

The 5-11 Howard prepped at Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., where she was a four-time All-Region selection and two-time All-State selection. In addition, she was also the Class 5A State Player of the Year during her junior season.

"Smith is an extremely athletic and powerful post player that can play either post position. She is a very active player that we hope can bring us the energy defensively that we lose in Bre Fort," Cox said. "Howard gives us a player that has the flexibility to play either forward position. But I think her best position is the four, as she can rebound and post, along with possessing solid perimeter skills."

Cox is very high on the two prep recruits coming in for the upcoming season, especially Covington, who will compete immediately for playing time at power forward.

The 5-10 Covington enjoyed a stellar career at Tift County. As a senior, she was the Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year, averaging 18 points and seven rebounds a game in pacing Tift County to a 22-7 overall mark with the Region 1-AAAAA championship and a berth in the Georgia Class 5A State Tournament "Sweet 16."

In addition, Covington was selected to play in the annual Georgia North-South High School All-Star Game.

At 5-8, Clanton will give the Lakers a legitimate shooting threat from the perimeter. During her senior season at Grady, she averaged 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds a game in garnering All-Region honors.

She played her first three high school seasons at Redan High School in Stone Mountain.

"We are also very excited about our incoming freshmen," Cox said. "Covington is a tremendously athletic power forward with a body and skill set that is perfect for our system. I expect her to compete right away for a spot in our post rotation.

"Clanton came to us late, but she is a big guard who has the potential to be a versatile scorer and rebounder on our perimeter. If she develops she could remind Laker fans of Marie St. Fort, so we were very happy to add her to our roster."