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TBT’s K’Nisha Godfrey commits to Mississippi State

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Tampa Bay Tech guard K’Nisha Godfrey committed to Mississippi State on Friday. The senior made her on a video that she posted to her Twitter page.

Godfrey is ranked as the 93rd best player in the nation for the Class of 2021 by HoopGurlz. Earlier this month, she listed her top eight schools that included Florida, Georgia, Miami, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. 

The Bulldogs were the team on that short list ranked in the top 25 at the end of last season. Mississippi State was 27-6 and ranked ninth in the final Associated Press poll before the season was canceled. 

Godfrey is a three-year starter and has been a consistent scorer throughout her high school career. Last year, she averaged 12.1 points per game. During the 2018-19 season, Godrey played a pivotal role in helping the Titans win their first state title.

RELATED: Western Conference girls basketball teams announced

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Boys Basketball

Former St. Petersburg star Serrel Smith Jr. commits to USF

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For years, the USF men’s basketball program has tried to land a prized prospect from the bay area, extending offers to local stars such as Tampa Catholic’s Kevin Knox and Thomas Dziagwa, Tampa Prep’s Juwan Durham and St. Petersburg’s Serrel Smith Jr..

All went elsewhere.

On Friday, one of those standouts decided to give the Bulls a chance. 

Smith Jr., who played two seasons at Maryland before transferring to East Tennessee State, announced on his Twitter page that he was committing USF.

The move comes exactly two weeks after Smith Jr. entered the transfer portal. This is Smith Jr.’s third school in as many seasons. Still, the latest stop gives the Bulls a homegrown star, something that has eluded the program for years. 

Only three other locals — Hudson’s Mark Calleja, Seminole’s Henry Beard and Oldsmar Christian’s Troy Holston, have made the USF roster in the past five seasons. Calleja and Beard were walk-ons. 

Smith Jr. was a coveted recruit who continued to receive interest from the Bulls a year ago when he transferred to East Tennessee State. 

“The way the transfer portal is now, players are constantly coming and going,” Green Devils coach Chris Blackwell Jr. said. “Their journeys are always evolving but eventually they end up playing where they should have been all along.

“I’m happy for Serrel. He’s back home, and it should be a good situation for him.”

During his two seasons at Maryland, Smith Jr. played sparingly, averaging 10 minutes and 2.6 points per game. Last season, Smith Jr. averaged seven points and 2.3 rebounds per game at East Tennessee State.   

He was a star throughout his high school career at St. Petersburg. As a senior, Smith Jr. was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 8A state player of the year after averaging 29. 3 points per game and helping the Green Devils reach the state semifinals for the third time in his four seasons with the program. 

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College Basketball

Trinity Baptiste selected in second round of WNBA draft.

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Three weeks ago, Arizona’s Trinity Baptiste, a former star at Hillsborough, made history, becoming the first player from Hillsborough County and just the third player ever from the Tampa bay area to reach the NCAA Women’s Final Four. 

On Thursday, Baptiste was included in another elite list among locals when she became just the third area player to be selected in the WNBA draft. 

Baptiste was picked in the second round (24th overall) by the Indiana Fever. She joins Bernice Mosby (Hernando/Florida/Baylor) and Candice Dupree (Wharton/Temple) as the area’s only draftees. 

After starting her college career at Northwest Florida State College, Baptiste transferred to Virginia Tech. She played in every game for the Hokies during her sophomore and junior seasons, even earning ACC Sixth player of the year honors last season. 

But she never made the NCAA tournament — until this season.

As a starter this season, Baptiste helped the Wildcats qualify for the NCAA women’s tournament for just the eighth time, the last coming in 2005. . 

In the Elite Eight, Baptiste, a senior forward, finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to beat Indiana.

Photos courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics

The only other area players to play in the Final Four were Dominique Redding and Necole Tunsil. 

Redding, who starred at Clearwater, played at Tennessee and won a national title in 2007. She still is the only area player to be crowned a champion at the Division I level. The only other local to make a women’s Final Four is Tunsil, a former star and now coach at Lakewood, who started for Iowa when the Hawkeyes advanced in 1993.

The charmed run continued with Arizona knocking off powerhouse Connecticut in the semifinals before falling to rival Stanford in the title game. 

This past week, Baptiste announced she would forgo another of eligibility to turn pro. Teammate Aari McDonald went third overall in Thursday’s draft. It is just the second time the Wildcats have had two players selected in the same WNBA draft. 

And it marks another historical moment for Baptiste on the local and national level. 

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College Basketball

Trinity Baptiste makes history by reaching Women’s Final Four

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Arizona qualified for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for just the eighth time this season, the last coming in 2005. 

The wait was worth it. 

After struggling for years, the Wildcats went on a charmed run, culminating with Monday’s 66-53 victory over Indiana to reach the Final Four for the first time. 

Trinity Baptiste, a former standout at Hillsborough, played a pivotal role in Arizona’s moment on the national stage. The senior forward finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Elite Eight victory. 

She made bay area history, too.

Baptiste (featured photo of above courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics) is the first player from Hillsborough County and just the third ever from the area to play in the Women’s Final Four. 

Dominique Redding, who starred at Clearwater, played at Tennessee and won a national title in 2007. She still is the only area player to be crowned a champion at the Division I level. The only other local to make a women’s Final Four is Lakewood’s Necole Tunsil, who started for Iowa when the Hawkeyes advanced in 1993.

It was a long road for Baptiste’s inclusion into that elite company among area players.

She started her college career at Northwest Florida State College before transferring to Virginia Tech. She played in every game for the Hokies during her sophomore and junior seasons, even earning ACC Sixth player of the year honors last season. 

But she never made the NCAA tournament — until now. 

The challenge is tough. On Friday, the Wildcats face Connecticut, which is making their 13th straight Final Four appearance. 

No matter. This is why Baptiste transferred to Arizona as a senior. 

Now she has a chance to cap her college career with a national title. . 

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