LaShonda Stephens Tucker has had no shortage of athletic accolades in her life, but she will add one more to the list Friday when she is inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame.
Stephens Tucker will be inducted Friday at a ceremony at First Baptist Church — Canton, along with high school teammate Danielle Donehew, Matt Moore and Mickey Swims.
“I was excited when I found out,” Stephens Tucker said. “It allowed me the opportunity to go back and reflect on all the things I’ve experienced with basketball. There were so many people and coaches I met who are still part of my life. It’s been cool.”
She got her start at Sequoyah, where Stephens Tucker produced 1,947 points and 1,238 rebounds from 1992-96. She was the Class AAAA Player of the Year in 1996, a second-team Parade All-American and a Nike All-American, but she said her team success has stuck with her the most.
In her four years, the Lady Chiefs went 110-10 and 44-0 at home. They reached the state semifinals four times and the state championship game three times, winning title in 1994 and ’96. She was part of three region championships, and Sequoyah was ranked in USA Today’s Top-25 in each of her last three seasons.
“The team accomplishments stand out the most,” she said. “You don’t see many people who went to the final four for four years. It definitely stands out more than the individual accolades.”
Despite her success in high school, Stephens Tucker had plenty of adjustments to make in college.
She arrived at Tennessee accustomed to being one of the best players anywhere she played, but when she arrived at one of the nation’s premier collegiate programs, she had to get used to her new role.
“It was a huge adjustment,” She said. “You go from being one of the stars on the team to being just another player. There’s the speed of the game to adjust to, and you have to get stronger physically. Mentally, it’s tough to be coached by someone like Pat Summitt. I don’t know if I ever really adjusted. It was constantly a challenge.”
The level of talent around her may have changed, but Stephens Tucker just kept on winning.
With the Lady Volunteers, Stephens Tucker was part of three Southeastern Conference championships. She won her first national championship in 1997, and the next year, she was the starting center for a team that went 39-0 and defended its national championship.
“We knew we had everyone coming back,” Stephens Tucker said. “We had some really talented teammates. We got some people to transfer in. We knew that would help as well. We kind of expected to be there. We knew what it took, and we knew we could accomplish it.”
Since her playing career, Stephens Tucker has spent 13 seasons teaching in Cherokee County schools and currently teaches and coaches eighth-grade girls basketball at Mill Creek Middle School.
She said coaching is the secondary aspect of her career, but when she is out there, she still draws inspiration from her own 1,098-win coach.
“She demanded a lot,” Stephens Tucker said. “She was very direct, and I think I took that from her with my players. I always try to be direct when I coach. I want to challenge and push you, but I have to make sure I don’t do too much. She was always very good about coming back and encouraging you. She always built you back up too, so I’m very aware of that.”
Besides her middle school team, Stephens Tucker is still invested in the local varsity basketball scene.
The oldest of her three children, Elijah Tucker, is a sophomore and two-time all-county selection at Cherokee, and while it offers different challenges than being a player, Stephens Tucker said she is enjoying being basketball mom.
“My mom set back and let my coaches coach me, but I can’t say I do the same,” she said. “I coach Elijah as much as I can. He’s met a lot of people who have coached me. We try to give him accurate assessments and advice, and sometimes he’ll listen to what I say. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s nice to be on this side.”