Categorized | Sports

Tears of Joy Caldwell signs with UT Martin

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Millington’s Tiara Caldwell will be taking her talents to UT-Martin in 2013.

National Signing Day is known to bring emotions out of those who have earned the right to ink a letter of intent.

As her teammates and friends waited last Wednesday in the Millington Central High School Multi-Purpose Room, Lady Trojan center Tiara Caldwell couldn’t fight back the tears anymore.

Caldwell let the tears of joy flow from her eyes as classmate Johnathan Patterson interviewed her for Trojan TV. She was just moments from signing her national letter of intent to play basketball for the UT-Martin Lady Skyhawks.

“I tell you one thing, this means a lot to me,” she said. “I can’t believe I got here.  I just feel grateful. I’m just so glad somebody is giving me the opportunity to play at another level.”

Lady Skyhawk Kevin McMillan is giving Caldwell that chance on the Division I level. Caldwell’s first level of basketball started a few years ago.

“Seventh grade when I first picked up the ball,” she recalled. “I dreamed I could make it to this day for the first time in the 10th grade. What started to drive me the day my Daddy told me, ‘Tiara from this day on, it’s going to be greatness.’”

Erskine Caldwell was a standout at Trezevent High School and played at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. While his daughter was at Woodstock Middle School she finally approached him about playing basketball.

“I let her pick it up and let her want to play,” he said.

Erskine’s 6-foot, 9-inch frame helped him shine on the court. By the time Tiara was in middle school she was 6-feet tall.

She great almost three more inches since entering Milington. First she played for Head Coach Stan Gatlin. It was her second year under Gatlin Caldwell’s father told her she would be great.

“I told her to work hard and this is home for her,” he recalled. “I told her this is a place she can work and she can shine. I told her she can make this her place.”

It was her sophomore year Caldwell started to emerge as the Lady Trojans top scoring threat. She developed her post game using her speed and athletic leaping ability to score 20 points in several games.

Her rebounding and defense steadily improved that season. Her game went to another level with the arrival of Bruce Marshall as Head Coach.

Caldwell was the leading scorer in most Lady Trojans her junior season and posted several double-doubles.

“Tiara is a great person,” Marshall said. “She’s obvisiously a very good basketball player. For her to be sought by various colleges, she works hard. That’s the thing so many kids now these days don’t understand how important it is to work hard. She’s paid the price and she’s getting the benefits of it.”

Marshall said his transition in Millington was made smoother by his junior class led by Caldwell.

“She’s been a tremendous help,” he said. “There have been times we’ve bumped heads. But that’s a good thing. We’ll set down and talk about things, go over why I do things a certain way compared to previous coaches. It’s to just help broaden her since of basketball. She’s worked really hard. A lot of her leadership is special.”

Caldwell’s leadership role has increased each year. Also a letterman in track at Millington, Caldwell assisted younger teammates in making their mile time to be able to dress out for the basketball team.

Marshall said that is a sign Caldwell is maturing into a Division I caliber student/athlete.

“She’s learned a lot more about basketball that has nothing to do with the floor,” he said. “She’s earned this right to have this opportunity to get a free education.

“I’ve know Coach McMillan for going on 20 years now,” Marshall added. “I know going up there, her basketball knowledge and skill level is just going to improve because he’s such a great teacher.”

McMillan is familiar with the Millington Lady Trojans as the all-time leader in wins. He led the Lady Trojans to the 1994 State Basketball Tournament.

It was three years ago McMillan signed another Lady Trojan in Jasmine Newsome. She left MCHS as the all-time leading scorer. And in her first two years under McMillan, Newsome has helped the Lady Skyhawks win back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship.

Caldwell said she can’t wait to join those winning ways after her senior season at Millington. She said her dream coming true of signing on National Signing day was made possible by several people.

But the support of her Dad was the main driving force.

“My Daddy has been behind me all the way,” she said. “Everywhere I go, my Dad is there. Even if he can’t be there, he’s on the phone talking to me telling me he’s behind me.”

With a view from the top, Erskine watched his daughter wipe the tears away to celebrate with faculty, staff and her peers on her Signing Day.

“ Great, makes it all worth it, all the running run to the AAU,” he concluded. “It’s all worth it.

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