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Trio of Lady Panthers headed to Morris College to play basketball
Lady Panther basketball players Tiara Howard, Courtney Rhodes and Diamone Johnson are taking their basketball skills to Morris College next season. The girls signed letters of intent Thursday morning at Liberty County High Schools media center. They were surrounded by their family and Lady Panthers coach Carolyn Kelly (far left). - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Liberty County High School basketball payers Tiara Howard, Diamone Johnson and Courtney Rhodes are taking their hoop skills to Morris College next season.
The girls signed letters of intent Thursday morning at the LCHS media center.
The three Lady Panthers were a triple threat against opponents last season with Howard and Johnson dominating as guards and Rhodes using her power and strength on the boards.
The trio played so well together, they caught the attention of Morris College women’s basketball coach Gilbert Wilson, who saw the girls play against Effingham County on Feb. 18 in the first round of the Region 2-AAAA tournament.
“I see all three of them being successful because they play so well together and they can read each other,” Tiara’s mother Shirley Howard said. “As a matter of fact, that is what the coach said when he came. He said he likes the way they gel together, they know each other and he could see their chemistry on the floor.”
Johnson, who also played softball and soccer and participated in track, said all three made the decision to attend Morris together.
“And we are going to dominate together,” Johnson said, adding that they plan on making an impact and not sit on the bench. “We will be ready for them … We are the big three and we are coming in there deep.”
Johnson said she plans to do her best in whatever position Wilson places her and will study forensic science when not hitting the court.
“As long as she keeps up that determination and makes the goal that she wants … that is what I want for her,” Johnson’s mom Gloria Cook said. “I want her to go up there and do what she has to do for herself. Diamone has always been an awesome basketball player. And now she was able to take what she’s got and use it in a positive way.”
Howard plans on studying civil engineering and said the fact that she is going to college on a basketball scholarship still was settling in.
“It’s like a dream, because ever since I was little and playing basketball, I was hoping that a college basketball coach would sign me,” she said.
Howard said she thinks she will play as a wing or point guard.
“It means a lot and it’s a great accomplishment,” Shirley Howard said. “It’s her first step into adulthood. Now everything is up to her. It’s what we’ve talked about since day one. This was a part of the molding and all the nurturing and now this is the fruit of the labor.”
Howard has attended nearly every basketball and softball game and track meet her daughter has competed in at both Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High. She said with Morris College being in nearby Sumter, S.C., she plans to make basketball games there as well.
“I’m going to make as many as I can with my T-shirt and probably a hat on,” she said. “I just need my sport gear, and I will be the biggest fan.”
Rhodes is another multi-sport Lady Panther who excelled in track, weightlifting and basketball. It is her raw strength that, she said, has helped her in the sport despite her lack of height.
“The coach told me that more than likely, even though I’m not the tallest, I will play some down low because I’m strong and able to move people out,” Rhodes said. “I’m fortunate to be able to play even though I’m short. Basketball has always been my first love. I’ve been playing since I was little and I received a lot of inspiration from my family and coaches and that motivated me to keep playing so I kept playing to get better and get a scholarship.”
Rhodes plans to major in biology and minor in criminal justice.
“It’s a real special day and I’m proud of her,” Rhodes mother Cora McClendon said. “She has always been driven.”
“I have to keep on praying,” Cook said. “God willing, I’ll make some games.”

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