The Atlanta Celtics carved out a niche’ in girls’ grassroots basketball by helping young ladies attain their goals. Since 2006 the Celtics have helped dozens of girls get to the college level by holding them accountable to standards both on and off the court. As a result, the Atlanta Celtics have become one of the most reputable organizations in the region among parents and college coaches.
Since Daphne Pierce-Smith took over her division of the Celtics in 2006, she has watched a number of her girls be successful at the next level. Most notably is Teanna Robinson of Grayson, Ga., who enters her senior year at Mercer University. The 6-foot-5 center averaged a remarkable 10.1 rebounds per game for coach Susie Gardner and the Lady Bears last season.
Other notable Celtic alumni include Chancy Dunn of Decatur, Ga., who recently finished her four years at Clemson University. Also Anna Claire Knight of Dublin, Ga., enters her senior year at Georgia Southern after averaging 15.9 points per game in Southern Conference games. Another Celtic who is experiencing success at the next level is Lucy Mason who is a junior at UNC Greensboro. She led the Spartans in scoring with a 13.3 average as a sophomore. Last summer coach Pierce-Smith helped developed two of the most explosive guards in the Atlanta area. Class of 2014 shooting guard Jada Byrd of Lithonia, Ga., signed with Xavier after a solid summer with the Celtics. However, it was Brea Elmore of Stone Mountain, Ga., who became the biggest stock riser of the year after her dominating performances on the circuit with coach Pierce-Smith. She signed with Memphis and enters as a freshman on this year’s roster.
PeachStateBasketball.com Tournaments Attended:
End of the Road Championships
Sydney Bozeman – 2015
Ebony Hargrove – 2016
Arielle Harvey – 2015
Taylor Tucker – 2016
Iceis Walker – 2015
Alexis Brown – 2016
Tierra Steede – 2016
Program Notes from Daphne Pierce-Smith:
When asked what is important to the Atlanta Celtics organization, coach Pierce-Smith immediately used the term ‘self-worth.’ As she explains, “We work hard to help develop these young ladies, but more importantly we want them to learn how to value themselves as individuals.”
The process of developing that feeling involves many steps according to coach Pierce-Smith. She mentions a number of expectations and standards that the kids have to meet in order to even be able to play. She says, “We have a minimum GPA requirement, which is 2.5. They bring their report cards to practice and if they do not meet that average, then they go home. We are doing a disservice to the child and the parent if we do not hold them accountable to their grades.”
Coach Pierce Smith goes on to explain, “It is our job to develop student-athletes. We have to educate them and their parents on what is important inside and outside of the classroom. If a child cannot pass classes in high school, how do they expect to be able to get to the college level?”
The ‘no-nonsense’ approach seems to be paying dividends for the Celtics as their program continues to grow and producing college ready athletes. She goes on to say, “When I first got into this game, it was all about trophies and hardware. It seemed that some coaches were in it more for their own ego than for the kids. We have changed that culture and we are helping kids obtain whatever goal they set.”
The Celtics motto is ‘Division-Free,’ which implies the simple concept of going to a school that will pay for your education. In the process the Celtics help prepare ladies from the greater Atlanta area further their education through the vehicle of basketball.
Ironically enough, with the hard work that has been put into holding their players accountable, the Atlanta Celtics went to Adidas Nationals and won the tournament this year. The discipline translated into ‘hardware’ as a byproduct of their work. Pierce-Smith says, “That is something that our kids can be proud of for years to come. We were able to bring home the crystal.”
This season is not different from years past for the Celtics as they have a number of prospects who are being tracked by college programs. The commitments started early with 6-3 post Sydney Bozeman of Dublin, Ga., committing to Furman University. Bozeman is a prospect who worked hard to develop her skills to become college ready. Another player who has already verbally committed is Arielle Harvey of Loganville, Ga., who is slated to sign with UNC-Greensboro this November. The 6’ swing forward has the length and the athleticism to be a college contributor in the near future. Add in post player Shanarica Parks of Dublin, Ga., who verbally committed to Georgia Perimeter, and the Celtics have a well balanced roster of talent.
Coach Pierce-Smith also mentions her two uncommitted seniors as players that are noteworthy. Iceis Walker of Lawrenceville, Ga., is a high energy guard that brings effort to both ends of the floor. In addition, Ashlee Jones of Sanford, Fla., is a 5-9 wing that brings length and athleticism for her team in a complimentary role.
Although the focus this time of year for college coaches is usually on the senior class, coach Pierce-Smith says that her phone has rang non-stop for some of her class of 2016 players. In particular, 6’ forward Ebony Hargrove of Eatonton, Ga., has garnered the attention of coaches from around the nation. As Pierce-Smith said, “Ebony is a fantastic athlete who has actually worked her way through some obstacles. The coaches have recognized that and love her upside.”
She also mentions class of 2016 forward Taylor Tucker of Covington, Ga., as another prospect of interest for the Celtics. Tucker once was only an interior player, but now has made the transition to the perimeter. Pierce Smith says, “Taylor is getting a lot of looks from college coaches at different levels. She will be an impact player for us next year.”
The class of 2016 appears to be packed for the Atlanta Celtics as they take the court the September at the Peach State Basketball End of the Road Championships in Suwanee, Ga. Point guard Alexis Brown of Madison, Ga., is a proven handler at the lead guard position. Along the frontline, Pierce-Smith boasts of more length and skill with prospects like forward Tierra Steede of Marietta, Ga., who provides versatility on the perimeter and the interior.
Coach Pierce-Smith’s voice got excited when asked about the future of the Atlanta Celtics organization. She mentioned a number of talented players that are already on the radar of college coaches. Point guard Tatyana Davis of Buckhead, Ga., will be a player who will mentioned many times in the future. The 5-7 guard in the class of 2017 proved at the Peach State Basketball Pre-Season Shootout that she is a dynamic slasher and scorer.
Other players to keep on your radar for this program are class of 2018 prospects such as Xian Lopez of Snellville, Ga., and Ashley Foster of McDonough, Ga. Both of these kids have shown tremendous promise and on the path for success.
Jonathan Hemingway is the Assistant Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com. The service is used by more than 150 colleges and universities nationwide. He also serves on the selection committee for the EBA All-American, Fab Five and Super 64 Camps. He has been involved in the community since 2002 as a coach, camp director and evaluator. You can reach him via email at JonathanHemingway@PeachStateBasketball.com and follow him on twitter @JLHemingwayPSB