Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lady Dawgs Sign Two


Andy Landers ventured back to his roots on Wednesday, signing two reigning Miss Tennessee Basketball honorees ­Shacobia Barbee from Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro and Marjorie Butler from The Webb School of Knoxville ­to letters of intent to play collegiately for the Georgia Lady Dawgs. Wednesday was the first day of the NCAA's weeklong early signing period.

Landers, a native of Maryville, Tennessee, has a long history with Tennessee prep standouts. Bernadette Locke, Lady Dawg Basketball's first All-American and Academic All-American, is a native of Philadelphia, Tennessee, and two current Georgia starters ­Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James ­are from Tennessee as well.

Barbee, a 5-11, guard/forward, was named Tennessee's 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year for all school classifications as well as Miss Basketball for Class AAA. She is No. 82 in the HoopGurlz ESPNU 100. Barbee led Riverdale to a 34-2 record and runner-up finish in the AAA State Tournament in 2011. The previous year, she was named MVP of the AAA State Tourney after averaging 28.7 points and 16.0 rebounds during Riverdale's quarterfinal, semifinal and championship game victories to wrap up a 30-2

"Shacobia comes from an ultra-successful high school program," Landers said. "She could be playing on the best high school team in the country this year. Shacobia is a versatile perimeter player who also has the physical strength, size and toughness to be a small '4'. As good as Shacobia is ­ and she's very, very good ­ she has enormous potential and is particularly exciting with her versatility."

Barbee averaged 16.9 and 9.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore and followed that by contributing 17.6 points and 9.1 boards as a junior. She enters her senior season with 1,680 career points.

"Shacobia is the best player I've ever had in my 22 years of coaching," Riverdale coach John Wild said. "The thing that sets Shacobia apart from so many other good ones I've had is her desire to compete and work hard every single day. She works when we're together and she works when we're apart. That's what sets her from the rest of the pack. Shacobia has God-given abilities, but she's determined to take that God-given ability and work hard to maximize it with her work ethic and her blue collar mentality. Shacobia is bound and determined not to let anyone outwork her."

Butler, a 5-8, guard, was named Miss Tennessee Basketball for Division II Class A last season. She was also the state of Tennessee's 2011 recipient of the Wendy's High School Heisman, an all-sports program designed to honor the nation's top scholars, athletes and citizens. She is ranked as the nation's No. 25 prospect by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and is No. 62 in the HoopGurlz ESPNU 100.

Butler has played on Webb's varsity team since the eighth grade. She helped the Lady Spartans to win the state title in 2009, state runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2011 and the state semifinals in 2010. All told, Webb has compiled a 98-29 record during Butler's four seasons on the varsity. Fifteen of those losses came during Butler's sophomore year when she missed a large portion of the season with an injury.

"Marjorie is a true point guard with an excellent skill set, but more importantly, excellent quarterbacking abilities," Landers said. "She's a leader, both in the way she plays and in the way that she communicates with teammates. Those skills have helped the Webb School only further its reputation as one of the premier programs in Tennessee. Marjorie is both mentally and physically tough and will be a great ­ and much-needed addition to our program."

Butler was named the Knoxville News Sentinel's PrepXtra Player of the Year as a junior. She also is a standout track and field athlete who has captured 10 state titles (nine individual and one relay) in her first three years at Webb.

"Marjorie Butler is a wonderful young lady and just a tremendous person," Webb School coach Shelley Collier said. "She's a leader for our team and sets an example of work ethic and attitude both on and off the court. We're very excited for Marjorie to be able to sign on the dotted line and move on into our season. I know she will finish out her career at the Webb School as a Lady Spartan the way she wants to. I can't say enough about Marjorie Butler and what she's meant not only to our program but also to the entire Webb School family. We've been blessed to have her."

Georgia's Lady Dawgs have long been among the nation's premier women's basketball programs. All of that success has come under Andy Landers, the program's first ­ and still only ­full-time head coach. Landers came to Athens as a 26 year old in 1979 and quickly built UGA into a powerhouse. The Lady Dawgs captured the 1981 WNIT Championship in Landers' second season, reached the NCAA Final Four two years later and advanced to the NCAA Championship game two seasons after that.

Today, Georgia's tallies of NCAA Tournament appearances (28) and weeks ranked by the Associated Press (461) both rank No. 2 nationally. The Lady Dawgs have advanced to 19 "Sweet 16s," 10 "Elite Eights" and five Final Fours and finished as NCAA runners-up in 1985 and 1996. In addition, Georgia has captured seven SEC Championships and won four SEC Tournament titles. All 58 four-year letter winners during Landers' 32 seasons in Athens have received their degrees from the University of Georgia. All told, 35 Lady Dawgs have gone on to play basketball professionally, including 21 in the WNBA. Over the past 11 years, 13 Lady Dawgs have been selected in the WNBA Draft, including eight first-round picks.

Georgia was ranked No. 12 and No. 13 in the preseason editions of the USA Today and Associated Press polls. The Lady Dawgs open their 2011-12 slate this Friday when they host TCU, an NCAA Tournament team during nine of the past 11 years, at historic Stegeman Coliseum.

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