South Pointe girls’ basketball coach Stephanie Butler heard that a new player was moving into the school’s area over the summer.
Butler didn’t think much about it until she saw an AAU highlight clip Sierra McCullough, the new player, posted on social media. That’s when Butler did a fist pump.
McCullough is a 6-foot-2 senior who moved in from Alabama because her mom got a job in the Charlotte area. McCullough is a college recruit -- she committed to East Carolina before decommitting when the Pirates’ coach left in the offseason -- and is just Butler’s second six-footer in six years at South Pointe. McCullough changes shots defensively, runs the floor well and has a decent mid-range jump shot, plus she’s a strong student.
“We’ve been guard-heavy the last several years and we’ve had some girls that had to play in the post that were not post player-size,” Butler said. “So it really helps, balances things out. But you might see five guards on the floor at some point as well.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
McCullough said that while it was tough moving schools before her senior year, basketball has helped her transition.
“Everyone really connects together, we bond really nice,” she said.
The Stallions were ranked No. 4 in the 4A preseason state rankings, and McCullough’s arrival is a big reason why. She was listed as one of 4A basketball’s top-five senior players, but she’s not the only reason why Butler thinks her team could be still be playing the season’s final weekend in Columbia.
Five-foot-8 junior guard Jamia Blake -- also a college recruit with offers from Furman and East Carolina and loads of other schools interested -- finally has a high-level running mate to take some of the scoring pressure off her shoulders. She’s a capable ball-handler but also rounding out her game with increased shooting work. McCullough’s arrival has allowed Blake to focus her game more, not have to be as much of a Swiss Army knife.
“I knew we needed a post in our team and I knew she was really good at her position,” said Blake. “I was happy for her coming so I can look for her down low and she can go to work.”
Butler said that both McCullough hand Blake are flying under the recruiting radar. But that should change for them this winter, Blake especially. She’s a stat-stuffer, whether scoring, assisting, rebounding or whatever the team needs on a given night.
“I know my junior year is gonna be my most important year in terms of recruiting,” she said. “I knew I was gonna have to take it up another notch and be a leader on my team and do everything that my coach asked me to do.”
Scarlett Gilmore is another talented returner, one of just two seniors on a young roster and another player that occasionally had to play in the post out of necessity. Trinity Adams, Makaylah Jamerson and Randi Neal, whose mom played college ball at Virginia with Dawn Staley, should take turns stepping up to augment Blake and McCullough. Freshman Najah Lane will run the show as the team’s point guard, while Butler thinks that 6-foot-3 eighth grader Zaria Bell can be a factor once she gets up to speed.
South Pointe is again competing in one of the best 4A girls’ basketball regions in South Carolina. Westwood is ranked second in preseason state rankings and the only team in the league with more college prospects than the Stallions. Guard Unique Drake signed with St. John’s and is one of the state’s best players.
But Butler believes her team can challenge the RedHawks, something they proved last season with a surprise late season win over Westwood that helped the Stallions climb the region standings. South Pointe also swept Ridge View, annually a very competitive program, and those results should help boost the Stallions’ belief that they can threaten Westwood’s preseason supremacy.
“I think we can make a push,” Butler said. “We had a really good summer and a really good preseason. In measuring us against other people in the state that are really good, I think we’re right there with them. I hope that we can win the region but if we don’t it’s still very possible that we could be playing in Columbia. I think we’ve got the team to do it. Even this year.”
Storylines to watch
- How will Rock Hill look this season? The Bearcats have been the area’s standard for a number of years now, but were hit pretty hard by graduation. Nation Ford and Clover should be right on the heels of Kenny Orr’s team.
- Clover’s Aylesha Wade is only a sophomore but it’ll be interesting to see how much she’s improved from last season when she showed great promise as a ninth grader. The Blue Eagles should be pretty good, and how good depends in part on how much more Wade can shoulder this season.
- How many shots can Amiah Lindsay block this season? The Nation Ford senior swatted 107 as a freshman at Fort Mill, blocked 26 in five games during an injury-shortened sophomore season, then rejected 89 last year. The South Carolina State signee will be a big part of Nation Ford’s attempts to win Region 3-5A.
Players to watch
Aylesha Wade, Clover - talented sophomore guard will be one of the area’s best players and a team leader for Clover, which is ranked No. 10 preseason in 5A.
Unique Burch, Fort Mill - 5-foot-5 junior guard was All-Region 3-5A last season.
Tikyevah Mackey, Lancaster - senior guard averaged 10 points per game last season for Ronnie Robinson’s Bruins.
Amber Bass, Lewisville - named a top-five senior in 2A basketball by the SCBCA.
Amiah Lindsay, Nation Ford - a double-double machine, Lindsay is a senior post player signed with South Carolina State University.
Elliona Moulds, Nation Ford - senior point guard averaged four assists per game last season.
Kelci Adams, Nation Ford - junior wing should take some heat off her teammate inside, Lindsay.
Brittany Bumpers, Northwestern - senior guard will be one of Northwestern’s top players in coach ShaRon Robertson’s first season in charge.
Abrianna Green, Rock Hill - aggressive and athletic wing has been in the shadows a bit the last few years, but much more will be expected from her this season.
Ashley Crank, Rock Hill - senior guard is another Bearcat ready to step into a more prominent role for Kenny Orr’s team.
Scarlett Gilmore, South Pointe - very athletic guard and a team leader for Stephanie Butler’s South Pointe team.
Jamia Blake, South Pointe - Blake pairs with Gilmore to give Stallions the best wing duo in the area. Blake can do it all, one reason she’s getting Division I recruiting interest and offers.
Sierra McCullough, South Pointe - 6-foot-2 post player and college prospect will make a huge difference for South Pointe, which has lacked height the last few seasons.
Ramsay Green, York - point guard has several Division III college offers.