Tia: I started playing organized basketball when I was in sixth grade. I played two years in this one town in Minnesota, then I moved and started playing at the varsity level in the eighth grade in Maple Grove. It was a brand new high school just opening in a suburb of Minneapolis, about 20 or 30 miles northwest. I started playing with them in eighth and ninth grade. I'd only been playing for a couple of years, so I don't think I was that good; they just needed people to play. And then I started playing AAU and stuff like that going into my ninth grade year. That's when I started getting really serious about basketball.
So all through high school, same team. My team wasn't that good; we didn't have that much success as a team but I did pretty nicely myself. I was all-conference my sophomore, junior and senior years, then senior year I got a lot more accolades for the state and stuff. My junior year I had a pretty nice year, too, but actually got hurt at the end of my junior season, so that kind of was tough at the end of season and then going into the summer at the end of my junior year.
VM: What kind of injury?
Tia: I hyper-extended my knee and basically tore my hamstring where it connects to the tendon. It wasn't a complete tear, but it was a pretty nice tear, pretty bad, it took a while to get back. And since it wasn't a complete tear, it wasn't something they could go in and stitch back up. It was something that just had to heal itself. And it was a muscle . . . so it just took a little longer.
I went to Nike Camp and WBCA camp -- after my sophomore and junior years I went to the WBCA and going into my senior year I went to the Nike camp. And that's actually where I met Abi (Ramsey) and Ashley Earley. Abi was on my team.
VM: Had you committed to Vanderbilt at that point?
Tia: No, I didn't even know -- I knew what Vanderbilt was, I knew that they played in the SEC. That's all I knew. I had talked to Coach Foster when they started to call, and they'd sent me stuff, but I really didn't know too much about it. And then Abi was on my team -- she was going there. And I met Ashley Earley through some people I met at camp.
VM: They had already committed?
Tia: Both of them had committed at that time. And Candice (Storey) was actually working the camp. And she was the one basically who sold me. Of course, Coach Foster and all of them did a good job, too, but she was the one that even got me to take an unofficial. She just talked about it. I just really liked her, and I thought she was really cool. I knew I was going to be visiting schools, so I was like, "I might as well go on down and check out Nashville and check out Vanderbilt". So that's kind of how I got here.
VM :And you liked it.
Tia: I loved it. I just came on an unofficial and loved it. And then I really had liked Abi and Ashley Earley, too, and thought they were cool people.
VM: Did you ever compete in track?
Tia: Yeah, my sophomore year in high school I was in track.
VM: What events did you do?
Tia: I started out with the 200 and the 400, high jump and long jump. I never did the 400 in a meet, just did it in practice and didn't like it at all. I did the 200 in two meets. I really wasn't much of a runner. It's just not for me. I don't like going out and running around the track, and so I stayed with the jumping and actually made it to state in high jump. It was fun. I had no clue what I was doing. I just would act like I was going up for a layup every time and throw myself over the bar. I did pretty well. I finished within the top 10 in state and had my school record for a while at like 5'4 or something like that, but I really wasn't that good.
VM: And then when you got here, building your upper body strength was one of the things she started to work on?
Tia: Yeah, well, building strength in general. I really hadn't done any weight training throughout high school. It was something big for me to be able to compete at this level, so I needed not to get pushed around so much and be able to hold my own a little bit, so from the moment I got here, they got me going on our weight program.
VM: How much progress have you made? Is there any particular lift that you could say I went from doing that to doing this?
Tia: Ohmigosh. Like everything. I was benching 70 pounds and now I can max out at like 110, which isn't even that great, but for me, it's the world. That's like a huge accomplishment for me. That's one of the numbers I can think of, but everything is drastically improved.
VM: Can you feel the difference in your play?
Tia: Yes, definitely. I'm just a lot stronger on finishing, and like a 3 point -- actually I never really had to use it in high school. People always liked to get up close on me. If they had ever tried to step off me, that would have been my game, but they always pressured me so I never really had to shoot a 3. But I think that weight-lifting has helped that, just getting more strength and stuff like that, and also just working on my shot, period.
VM: Vandy's got a new coach, and a new offense. Can you talk about that, and how you fit in?
Tia: We're playing a much more uptempo game than we used to, and that is really good for me because I like to get out on the floor and run and be in kind of the open court, just taking off down the floor. But I think in general in the offense overall everyone has a part, and everyone contributes. If someone is open inside, I'm getting her the ball. If I have a chance to drive, I'm going to drive. If I have a 3-point shot, because obviously Chantelle draws a lot of attention, and with the way we move a lot, you can get open a lot on the outside, and so I can take that shot, too.
Just before winter break, VandyMania checked back with Tia to get her take on how things are going so far.
VM: Just to bring things up to date, could you talk about how things are going at this point in the season?
Tia: I think they're going pretty good. Obviously the loss against Purdue, that was a tough one. We didn't play as well as we would have liked to have. That was kind of our first true test. On the other hand, I think it was a good experience for us. It was only six games into the season, and now we know where we're at. We've been at practice, just working hard on it, getting ready for the SEC and the games we have over the Christmas break.
VM: Specifically, what do you feel like is going pretty well as far as the team goes?
Tia: I think that every game we get more comfortable running our offense, just knowing where to be and how to use our players, trying to get Chantelle the ball and make sure she gets her shots. Jenni is doing really good right now. Mac seems likes she's found her three, and we're still trying to find where my opportunities will be offensively.
And I think defensively, we're learning to trust each other more in the new system of defense, and that's only something that can come with time and playing. This is totally new for all of us, so day by day, we're really improving and I think that's the really exciting thing and really positive.
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VandyMania Photos: Tia at the press conference following Jim Foster's departure last April, Tia with strength and conditioning coach Lori Alexander, and Tia with Ashley Earley at the 2002 Basketball Banquet by Whitney D. Tia going up for the layup against Milwaukee and Tia with the steal and fastbreak by Micah Miller.