Veteran’s Day was a significant day for a number of high school athletes in Chattanooga and surrounding areas as it was the early signing date for those who are accepting college scholarships to play their particular sport at the next level.
Two of those seniors are basketball players from Signal Mountain, including Olivia Koontz and Lamiah Walker.
Koontz, a talented 6-3 center who will be starting for the fourth straight season, has picked Tennessee Tech University as her next stop while Walker will be heading to Clarksville to play for Austin Peay after starting for the past two years. Unfortunately for the personable Walker, her high school career is complete prematurely after suffering a torn ACL at an AAU tournament in Indianapolis earlier this year.
Kendra Bell is the coach for the Lady Eagles, who have built a reputable program in recent years. Koontz and Walker are two of the main reasons why.
Signal Mountain was 26-5 last winter and finished runner-up to Red Bank in the District 6-AA tournament before finishing second to Meigs County in the Region 3-AA gathering. Bell has five seniors on this year’s team and despite having four players out for the season already, optimism is high to keep winning.
“I’ve been blessed with being in a position to coach a lot of outstanding girls in high school basketball, but Olivia and Lamiah are two of the best ever,” Bell said Thursday afternoon after her classroom responsibilities had ended for the day.
“They are the epitome of a student-athlete and they take a lot of pride working hard to get better. Both are great role models and both have improved a lot since they joined our program. They have good work habits and a strong drive to keep getting better.
“It’s really nice to see two young ladies with so much talent put in the extra time and it’s also nice to see them getting rewarded for their hard work. Yesterday was a great day for both of them,” Bell added.
“Olivia can shoot the ball really well inside 15 feet, but she’s really mobile and can move well. It’s hard for her to be aggressive because she gets a lot of calls against her, but she still has a lot of room to get better.
“Lamiah can really do it all. She’s very aggressive around the rim and she’s a great rebounder for her size. She’s really a great athlete and we’re going to miss having her on the floor this season,” the coach admitted.
Koontz and Walker were the leading scorers for the Lady Eagles last winter as Koontz averaged 16.9 points per game while Walker was close with 16 points per contest.
Koontz, who is really agile to be a 6-3 post player, averaged almost eight rebounds per game while Walker was right behind. Koontz had more than two blocks per game while Walker contributed two assists and three steals per game.
For her career, which included play in several games as an eighth grader, Koontz has scored 1,592 points, grabbed 840 rebounds and blocked 215 shots.
Walker’s career was only two years after sitting out her freshman year following a transfer from CSAS.
But both are outstanding players, can do it all on the court and both are outstanding students.
Koontz picked Tennessee Tech over a number of schools, including Mercer, UNC-Ashville, UTC, Samford and Wofford.
Her goal is to major in Health Science as she pursues a major in Pre-Med with hopes of one day being and orthopedic surgeon. She is the oldest child of Trisha and Kurt Koontz and an older sister to 13-year-old Tyler, who also plays basketball.
Olivia is also a shot put and discus thrower for the Signal Mountain track team, but basketball is her main sport.
“I’m really excited about going to Tennessee Tech as they have a family-oriented team and a similar style of play that we have here. My time at Signal Mountain has been rewarding and it will be sad to leave, but I’m ready to move on and play at the next level.
“I think we’ll be pretty good this season as we have a lot of athletic players with a lot of talent. We’ll have some new girls in the starting lineup, but my goal for us is to get past the sectional round and quality for the state tournament. We’ve never done that before,” Koontz expressed.
Walker had additional offers from Jacksonville State, Tennessee State and several other schools in the Ohio Valley Conference, but she was quick to pick the Lady Governors, a school where her older sister Lennox is a standout on the Austin Peay track team.
“I’ve spent a lot of time around that atmosphere and it’s an amazing place. I’m really sad that I won’t be able to play my senior year at Signal Mountain, but I’m looking forward to going to Austin Peay. I know that recovery from an ACL tear takes 6-9 months, but I had surgery three weeks ago and I can’t wait to get back out there,” the younger daughter of Cheryl and Toby Walker expressed.
Walker plans to major in Biology en route to becoming a dentist. Obviously, she likes most science courses, but she picked English as her favorite subject because she enjoys writing.
The start of high school basketball is just around the corner with the first games scheduled for Tuesday, November 17.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)