Pair of Trojans land college scholarships

Published 2:09 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2019

There was reason to celebrate at Charles Henderson High School on Wednesday morning when two senior basketball players signed Division-I scholarships.

Niaira “Tuti” Jones is heading to Nashville to attend Belmont and Samira Moore is staying home to play with the hometown Troy Trojans.

Moore has been playing at the varsity level since she was in the eighth grade. Wednesday’s ceremony was a culmination of her recruiting experience.

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“I feel really excited,” Moore said. “I’m glad I’m finally signed. It’s a lift off my shoulders.”

Playing at home was the ultimate selling point for the six-foot-one-inch senior. Moore will have an opportunity to play close to her mom, someone she is extremely close to.

“I didn’t want to leave my mom,” Moore said. “The coaches have always made me feel welcomed. I have known them for a long time and I know all the players and the past teams. It makes me feel at home.”

Moore has been part of a winning program at Charles Henderson since she was in the eighth grade. Now she has an opportunity to play for another Trojan team that aims to be at the top of the Sun Belt Conference on a yearly basis.

“They are pretty good,” Moore said. “I am excited to join another winning team.”

Moore’s journey began in the eighth grade and she admits her first year was full of nerves and time on the bench.

“I used to be very nervous playing in a game,” Moore said. “I was riding the bench. I usually got in the third quarter. It was just really scary. Everybody was probably like ‘Who is that little girl?’ It was exciting.”

Jones, like Moore, has been playing at the varsity level since middle school. She joined the team way back in the seventh grade. A handful of years later, she is on the verge of joining a team that has had a consistent presence in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s exciting,” Jones said. “I have been looking forward to it. It’s a blessing.”

Jones made a trip to Nashville to make an official visit to Belmont as recently as a few months ago.

“It just felt right,” Jones said. “It felt like a family environment. Everybody seems so loving.”

The city of Nashville offers Jones an opportunity to attend a school in a city that is just the right size.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere that was too big or too small,” Jones said. “It’s perfect.”

With Jones and Moore both signing scholarships, coach Jones and the Charles Henderson Lady Trojans now have had four players sign D-I scholarships going back to last year. Jones and Moore will join Maori Davenport, who went to Rutgers, and Tatyana Siler, who went to Air Force.

“It’s amazing,” Jones said. “I guess my mom really knows what she is doing when it comes to coaching.”

“It tells me that I have a wonderful coach,” Moore said.

Coach Jones was quick to give all the credit to the players.

“We have a lot of dedicated individuals and young ladies,” coach Jones said. “It’s amazing how they set a tone at a young age. Some kids get a big head and never get a scholarship. This group, I am so proud of them. It’s all on them.

“The feeling is overwhelming,” Jones said. “Just to see them pursue their dream.”

Jones has been playing under her mom her whole career. With one season remaining, she admits it’s hard to imagine not having her mom on the bench beginning next season.

“I have never been on a team without my mom,” Jones said. “Even in the summer league games that I have played, she is on the bench. It’s going to be a whole new world.”

For mom, the thought of no longer coaching her daughter after this season is a tough one.

“That brings tears to my eyes,” coach Jones said. “I think it’ll be harder on my son. He will be a freshman next year and it’s going to be hard on him now that she is gone. I hate it for him. He’s going to hate me.”

Coach Jones recently took her team to Tuskegee to watch former Trojan India Blakely play a game. She also traveled to Mobile to watch Davenport and Rutgers take on South Alabama. With Moore being so close, coach Jones expects to be at as many games as she can make.

“I’m going to every game that I can,” Jones said. “I have never had one of my players go there. I am so happy for Samira.”

Moore and Jones have one more season left at Charles Henderson. For Jones, she wants to end it on a high note.

“I want to win another state championship,” Jones said. “Go out with a bang.”