Area colleges: Sisters grow closer through addition to family

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10:34pm

London and Icelyn Elie weren’t always this close.

The two collegiate basketball sisters — London plays at Trevecca Nazarene, while Icelyn is at Middle Tennessee State — now talk every day. But they have had their moments.

“We got to the point where we would fight all the time,” London, a redshirt sophomore forward for the Trojans, said. “I can recall a time during a volleyball match [in high school] where we were warming up in the hallway and they all wanted us to race to see who was faster. ... She beat me by like a toe. The first thing I did was swing. I didn’t mean to swing at her but I hit her in the face and we got to fighting. Our coach was like, ‘If we don’t win this game, I am telling your mother.’ We ended up winning.

“We used to fight all the time. We fought so much my junior and senior year. Once I got out of the house, our relationship grew so much better.”

The relationship became tighter when London — the oldest of six — learned she was pregnant her senior year at Lebanon High School.

“Really, I was the only one that could talk to her then, and just give her the support that she needed because at first she didn’t know what she was going to do, whether she was going to college or not,” said Icelyn, who is a year younger and currently averaging 10.9 points as a sophomore forward at MTSU. “I let her know that was the best thing for her, to go to school. I am real proud of her because that is something hard. Not everybody can raise a child, go to school and play basketball.”

But that is exactly what London has done. She redshirted the 2008-09 season, giving birth on her birthday to Jayden on Dec. 12, 2008. Jayden, now 2 years old, stays with London’s parents in Lebanon while she lives on campus.

London, who is undecided on a major, seems to have handled parenthood, school and basketball well. After a year off, she came back last season and was named the TranSouth Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. This year she has only improved and leads Trevecca with 12 points a game.

“It has been real tough on her but she is really doing well,” said Trevecca coach Gary Van Atta, who also coached London and Icelyn during AAU ball. “I sat in the living room with [London’s] mom and dad and listened to [them] just say to London, 'If you’ll give this a chance, we’ll help you anyway we can.' They have made it possible for London to do what she is doing now and still feel like she is a mom.

"... It is a tough lesson to learn but without the support of her family and her other family in her teammates, she probably wouldn’t make it but she is doing really, really well.” 

* Record round: Middle Tennessee State senior Jason Millard earned his second collegiate golf title with a school-best 63 in the final round of the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate on Tuesday.

The Murfreesboro native and Riverdale product broke a 34-year-old school record of 64 — set by Emile Vaughn in 1977 — set a course record by three strokes and helped the Blue Raiders capture their first team victory.

“I didn’t know about the school record until I was told after my round,” Millard, who had 10 birdies Tuesday, said. “I knew I was close to the course record but to be honest my mind never thought about records during a single shot. I was focused on trying to make as many birdies as possible to help my team win.”

Belmont basketball honors: Belmont junior forward/center Scott Saunders was named to the Capitol One Academic All-America University Division Men’s Basketball Third Team. Saunders, a 6-foot-10 native of New Orleans, is averaging 10.0 points and 5.7 rebounds. In addition, he holds a 3.84 GPA in his major of finance and is the 18th Belmont student-athlete to receive Academic All-America honors.

Sophomore Ian Clark earned the Atlantic Sun Conference’s player of the week award. The Memphis native averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and one steal in two Belmont wins last week. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 18 points against East Tennessee State last Thursday and followed that up with 20 points against USC Upstate on Saturday. He shot 57 percent from the field in both games, including 8-of-13 from 3-point range.

The Bruins (25-4, 17-1) also moved up to third in’s Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. Belmont, which won the A-Sun regular-season title outright with the win over USC Upstate, was previously ranked sixth. On Monday, the Bruins received one vote in the Associated Press poll, marking the sixth straight week in which they have received votes in the AP or USA Today/ESPN coaches polls.

Aim high: The Tennessee State football team finalized its 11-game 2011 schedule on Monday with the addition of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent Air Force Academy.

The Tigers will play at Air Force on Sept. 14 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The game replaces the Atlanta Football Classic against Florida A&M.

It is Tennessee State’s first game against an FBS opponent since 2006 when it lost 30-9 to Vanderbilt. The Tigers, members of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), have played just three games against FBS opponents since 1981. Air Force went 9-4 last year and defeated Georgia Tech 14-7 in the Independence Bowl.

• Two Trevecca honorees: Michael France, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Shelbyville, was named the TranSouth men’s basketball player of the week. He averaged 30 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals in two games last week. He scored 30 points in the Trojans’ win at Lyon College on Feb. 14 and had 28 in their loss to Freed-Hardeman last Thursday. He also added 22 in Trevecca’s loss to Bethel on Monday.

Prior to Monday’s game, he was averaging 22.5 points, shooting 58 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range in his last eight games. On the season, he leads the Trojans (11-15, 5-9) with 19.2 point s a game.

For the second straight week, Matt Tidwell, a 6-2 junior outfielder from Dickson, was named the conference’s baseball player of the week. He hit .526 (10-for-19) with two doubles, five runs and nine RBIs as the Trojans went 3-2 during the week. The Creekwood High product has hit safely in all 11 games this year for Trevecca (8-3).

• Fresh face: Tennessee State junior Kim Haynes was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s newcomer of the week.

Haynes, a 5-foot-6 junior college transfer from Dallas, averaged 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games last week for the Lady Tigers. She scored 14 points, grabbed six boards and dished out four assists in a loss to Tennessee Tech last Thursday. On Saturday, she scored 13 points, hauled down six rebounds and had one assist in a victory over Jacksonville State.

Haynes is averaging 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Lady Tigers (8-19, 4-12).