April 27, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
On commencement day, five women’s basketball players will end their Tech careers the same way they began them – altogether – and in four years time to boot.
Walthour, Bennett, Sasha Goodlett, Chelsea Regins and LaQuananisha Adams made up the Yellow Jackets’ recruiting class in 2008, and they’ve been attached at the hips ever since while putting together a big-time hoops resume.
The group won more games than any class in program history (95), won the most ACC games in their careers (37), won more games in a single season (26, in 2011-’12), won more ACC games in a single season (12 in ’11-’12), and won more road games in a season (10, also in 2011-’12) than all predecessors.
They were just the second Tech squad to reach the ACC championship game and led the Jackets to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever, falling to eventual national champion Baylor.
So when they gathered Wednesday for the team banquet in the Wardlaw Center, and video montages were played on behalf of each senior, it was poignant. Parents, players, coaches, staff members … everybody was especially quiet while fixated on the screen.
“It was more emotional for some than others,” Walthour said. “I think it was so emotional and so special because we couldn’t have asked things to go any better in our senior year. To be able to go to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever was amazing.
“When we were freshmen, we had a number of talks. We vowed that we would always be here for each other, and we were going to do our best to stick it out and end together.
This [graduating together] is something we’ve wanted to do from the day we stepped on campus.”
This goes well beyond what happened on any basketball court.
Tech’s Fabulous Five had one thing in common above others when they arrived on The Flats; they were all from relatively small towns or cities.
Adams and Walthour came from tiny Liberty County High in Hinesville, Ga., Bennett from Statesboro, Goodlett from Bolton, Miss., and Regins from the bustling metropolis of Fort Lauderdale.
The ways of the world were not known to them, but they set about learning them as a group. They would rise, fall and rise against as a unit.
“We struggled because we were from small towns. We relied on each other,” Bennett said. “If we didn’t understand something, we’d go together. We stuck together with everything. We had the same classes, the same workout schedules.
“One time, we thought one of us might be late so all of us stuck together so that if one of us was going to get in trouble, we’d all get in trouble. Another time, we were scrambling, and we … pretty much hopped in a taxi, and when we hopped out we were standing there and [the cab driver] was like, ‘Where’s my money?’
“We were like, ‘Um?’ It was crazy. We didn’t know any better. We were freshmen.”
Regins had $5 or so, and the young ladies worked it out – as they always have.
After graduation, they’ll spend time with families, and then meet again to inscribe their names and a quote each on the famed post in the women’s locker room. Soon after that, they’ll begin moving on with their lives apart.
“That will be very cool,” Walthour said of the locker room tradition. “We kind of made a vow to each other. No matter what we went through, we wanted leave together. We never let any of us stray from that goal.
“I think we’re all more prepared than when we came in. We’ve had a lot of life lessons over the years. Coach Jo [MaChelle Joseph] has taught us a lot about life, and we feel like we made it together. We’re ready to take on whatever the real world throws at us.”
Goodlett’s gone now, off to join the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, who drafted her No. 11 overall last week.
She’ll be back, however, for graduation as the symmetrical sisters of a sort will take advantage of another sort of symmetry. The last coach they’ll ever share, Joseph, played for Fever coach Lin Dunn in college (Purdue) and later worked for her.
Dunn knows what this means, and will let Goodlett come to Atlanta even in the middle of training camp.
“I think we’re the first [group so big in the program] to come in together and go out on the same day,” Walthour said. “We’ve already planned to hang out together afterwards.”
The future calls for reunions, perhaps one as soon as this summer.
“We’re trying to plan a class trip,” Bennett said with a chuckle. “We’ve thought about Las Vegas.”
This is a great cross section of what college should be about, right? Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.