At the tail end of her junior year at Dawson County High School, Lady Tiger basketball player Kaylee Sticker made an important announcement about her future collegiate plans.
“After a long and well thought out process, I am extremely honored to announce my commitment to Clemson University where I will further my education and play for Coach Butler along with her amazing staff,” wrote Sticker on her Twitter account May 4.
With another year of high school left to go, Sticker has already verbally committed to play at the Division 1 campus in South Carolina. She has been a highly sought-after athlete for colleges around the nation, who sent recruiters to watch her practice in the off season as well as see her dominate on the court in the winter.
But ultimately it was the proximity to home and the Southern weather and atmosphere that won out over the rest.
“They have a great field of study that I like,” Sticker said. “The coaching staff was absolutely hands down amazing.”
Being recruited and accepting an opportunity to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference has been a great opportunity, according to Sticker.
“It was definitely a dream, nothing to complain about,” she said. “You know, going outside of your comfort zone, I believe, is a pretty good thing.”
According to Head Coach Steve Sweat, Sticker has always been a standout player since her days playing basketball on rec teams in the county. Then when she made her mark on the middle school team, Sweat said he knew she had the potential to be a great athlete.
“The thing about her is, I’ve seen her work and develop her skills and work her way to a goal that I’m pretty sure she’s always had - to get to go play on the next level,” Sweat said. “Not only does she get to go play at the next level she’s going to get to go play in major D1, so goal accomplished.”
As a coach, Sweat is excited and proud to see Sticker achieve her goals.
“I know the feeling when I get to go see our players that we’ve had and they walk out in the college uniform – that does a coach’s heart good,” he said. “I’ll be glad to see it when it happens and when I see her run out in a Clemson uniform playing in an ACC game. That’s something to look forward to.”
As soon as she hit high school her freshman year, Sticker began making an impact on the varsity team. During her sophomore year she became the team’s top scorer and helped the Lady Tigers reach the Elite Eight in state competition.
During her junior year, Sticker averaged 17.5 points per game. She also hit her 1,000th point milestone and was recognized for her achievement Feb. 9.
Her achievements kept racking up as Sticker was named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-State Girls Basketball Team, selected to the 7-AAA All-Region Team and was invited to play in the GACA North-South Junior All-Star Game March 17 at Dalton High School.
“(Other coaches) want her to play every sport here but she plays so much basketball during the off season that she doesn’t have time to play other sports and I’m sure if she did she would be good at any others that she’d play because she just has that ability,” Sweat said.
Sticker has always had the drive and dedication for basketball, possessing the God-given abilities to be a great athlete, Sweat said.
And what could have been a major hiccup in her career last season was only a stumbling block in the road as Sticker persevered to return to the court after a foot injury.
In the middle of the season with rivalry games on the horizon, Sticker was out for six weeks recovering from four to five sprained ankle ligaments.
“I kept my head up,” Sticker said. “Everything happens for a reason. I believe that. I had to be there for my teammates, support them. Just because I sat on the bench doesn’t mean I wasn’t part of the team.”
With the help of physical therapy and a burning desire to beat Lumpkin County, she returned to play Jan. 9 and continued to be the team’s top scorer.
Because Sticker is entering her senior year, she will not be able to officially sign an athletic scholarship with Clemson until November and as far as Sweat knows, she will be the first athlete from the Lady Tigers basketball program to sign with a major D1 school.
“Looking forward to that day because then when you put your name on that paper it’s a little bit different than saying ‘yeah I’ll come’ so that official signing day is what we’re looking for then she’s really going to Clemson,” Sweat said.
But her time at Dawson County is far from over. As a rising senior, she has become a team leader and Sweat hopes Sticker will help lead the team deep into the state tournament for the team’s seventh year in a row.
“Not to be selfish but, Clemson, we get her one more year,” Sweat said, laughing.