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GWINNETT GRADS: Grayson's White enjoys role at Columbus State

Special photo Grayson graduate and current Columbus State player goes up for a shot earlier this season.

Special photo Grayson graduate and current Columbus State player goes up for a shot earlier this season.

On a loaded Gulf Coast Community College (Fla.) women's basketball team, Taren White was a top reserve on a deep team.

While sharing time with teammates who signed with places like Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Seton Hall, Troy and South Florida, the Grayson grad steadily embraced the role of coming off the bench.

"I liked it and I felt like I played better off the bench," White said. "I liked being able to watch (the beginning of the game)."

Now at Columbus State, the 5-foot-7 guard is more than worthy of a starting spot, though she asked her coach if she could stick with what worked last season. Head coach Jonathan Norton agreed, so White isn't in the Cougars' lineup at the beginning of games.

But she gets in pretty quickly and logs heavy minutes.

"She's our leading scorer and she has chosen to come off the bench," said Norton, a 1991 Berkmar grad who was previously the head coach at Berry College. "She's our most talented player, but she got comfortable coming off the bench at Gulf Coast, where they were loaded with major college players. We talked and that's what she wanted to do.

"She's coming off the bench but she plays starter minutes and puts up starter stats."

Because White sat out her first season at Gulf Coast, she is just a sophomore in eligibility for Columbus State. She averaged 6.1 points in her only JUCO season, but has stepped up her numbers for the Cougars. She averages a team-best 11.9 points along with 4.7 rebounds for a very small CSU team that doesn't have a player taller than 5-10 on the roster.

Her coaches want her to be more aggressive and assertive, which isn't always in the soft-spoken White's nature.

"I get that all the time," she said. "I don't know. I try (to be more aggressive)."

At times, she has succeeded.

Just last week, she hit a clutch mid-range jumper in the closing moments to give the Cougars a 69-68 lead in what became a 72-68 win over Armstrong Atlantic. She delivered even more Thursday night, when she hit a game-winning runner as time expired for a 78-77 win over Montevallo. She had a game-high 16 points on an efficient 7 of 13 shooting in that victory.

"We'd like her to be more aggressive," Norton said. "She can create and get a good shot any time she likes in our league."

The coach expects White to be a major factor in the waning stages of the season for Columbus, which has hovered near the .500 mark both overall and in league play most of the season.

BASKETBALL

Chaney earns SSAC award

Collins Hill grad Crystal Chaney, a senior at the College of Coastal Georgia, was named the Southern States Athletic Conference player of the week on Monday. She is the first athlete from her school, which is new to the SSAC, to earn the weekly conference award.

The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 14.3 and 12.7 rebounds as the Mariners went 2-1 the previous week. She is averaging 12.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Big game for Williams

Limestone guard Tia Williams nearly had a triple-double in her team's win over Converse earlier this week.

The Mill Creek grad had 14 points, nine steals, eight rebounds and five assists for the nationally ranked Saints. She followed that up Thursday night by matching a career high with 24 points and knocking down six 3-pointers.

Two locals in town for Tech game this week

Wake Forest plays at Georgia Tech in women's basketball on Thursday, which means a homecoming trip for two Deacon forwards.

Duluth grad Mykala Walker and Norcross grad Dearica Hamby both play heavy minutes for Wake. Walker, a senior, averages 3.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in a top reserve role, while Hamby, a sophomore, averages 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds as a starter.

SWIMMING

Gouge gets conference, national honors

Brookwood grad Kelsey Gouge, a freshman at Florida Southern, won the Sunshine State Conference swimmer of the week award for the second straight week on Tuesday and also was named national swimmer of the week by CollegeSwimming.com. It was her third conference honor of the season.

Gouge won two individual events and a relay as the 13th-ranked Mocs defeated No. 18 Nova Southeastern. She won the 50-yard freestyle in 24.14 seconds and won the 100 free in 52.46. Both are NCAA Division II "B" time standards.

Gouge now has won 17 individual events in her first college season.

WRESTLING

Hunt gets conference honor

Dacula grad Zeke Hunt, a junior at Cumberland University (Tenn.), was named the Mid-South Conference wrestler of the week on Tuesday.

Hunt, ranked 12th nationally, earned the award after a first-place finish at 174 pounds in the Cumberland Open. He had two pins in his four victories and beat Lindsey Wilson's Jameel Bryant, ranked third nationally, in the finals.

FOOTBALL

Jones, Raymond make national team

Gwinnett products Malachi Jones and Kalif Raymond were named to the College Sports Journal National All-Freshman Team for their efforts last season.

Jones, a Central Gwinnett grad, caught 32 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns in his first college season.

Raymond, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad and a first-team All-Patriot League returner, had 777 kickoff return yards and a touchdown and added 101 punt return yards as a freshman.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.