TAMPA, Fla. – University of Tampa head women's basketball coach Tom Jessee has announced that five student-athletes will join the Spartans for the 2018-19 season. The group includes three high school standouts and two junior college transfers.
Among the newcomers are Tyra Cormier (Houston, Texas/Kilgore Junior College), Amaya Lasley (Bowling Green, Ky./South Warren High School), Kris Nelson (Augusta, Ga./Temple College), Melijah Sullivan (Bartow, Fla./Winter Haven High School) and Tatiana Toledo (Blainville, Quebec/Rosemere High School).
"We are really excited about this group. We were able to get some really skilled freshmen, as we do every year. These particular three chose to come here over the Division I route and we were fortunate to get them to come to us to get some youth to build our program. We love the four-year players for us and as you go back through time, it's important to have those parts in your program. The two JUCO kids bring two positions that we were very much in need of, in the point guard and center positions. We went and got some experience in those spots as you don't want to have to throw your freshmen to the wolves. We feel our freshmen can now learn as they go without having the expectations being too high. I thought we met our needs to get younger and bring in some experience, and we feel that we have done exactly that."
Following are complete bios on each of the members of the incoming class, along with quotes from coach Jessee on each player.
Tyra Cormier | 6-0 | Jr. | C | Houston, Texas | Kilgore Junior College | St. Mary's (Texas) College | Westbury Christian School
As a Sophomore (KJC): Played for Kilgore Junior College…In 32 games, averaged 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds…Scored a season-best 15 points at Tyler.
As a Freshman (SMC): Attended St. Mary's College in San Antonio, Texas…Honored as co-freshman of the year…Started 27 of 28 games…Averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game…Shot .433 from the field…Scored a season-high 16 points against Cameron…Top rebound effort was even against West Florida.
High School: Graduated from Westbury Christian School…Was team captain as a senior for the Wildcats…Played for coach Josh Bailey…Averaged 10 points per game…Named second-team all-state all four years and first-team all-conference selection…Made the state playoffs in 2015 and 2016, finishing as the runner-up for the state title both seasons...Was runner-up for Homecoming Queen…Also played for Texas Elite.
Personal: Volunteered with mission trip to Oklahoma City in high school…Majoring in exercise sports science with minor in teaching…Daughter of Rita and Quincy Cormier…Has two brothers, Jeremiah and Quincy…Dad played collegiately at Long Beach College…Full name is Tyra Renee Cormier…Birthdate: 8/25/1997.
Jessee on Cormier: "Tyra is a junior college transfer with good size who is a very versatile player. Obviously we expect her to come in and compete right away at the center position. She does a nice job with her back to the basket and face-up, and can stretch the floor to the three-line. She also runs the floor really well. She is not a typical center in terms of height, but we really like her skillset. We are excited to have her here, and think she can help us right away."
Amaya Lasley | 5-8 | Fr. | G | Bowling Green, Kentucky | South Warren High School
High School: Graduate of South Warren High School…Was named team captain all four years for the Spartans…Played for coach Blane Embry...Member of all-district and all-region teams…A part of 1,000 point and 2,000 point club… Also played for Kentucky Premier for coach Chris Souder.
Personal: Majoring in health science with minor in social work…Daughter of Kelly and Everick Lasley…Has one sister, DeVanee… Full name is Amaya Gabrielle Lasley…Birthdate: 12/17/1999.
Jessee on Lasley: "Amaya is a really highly recruited freshman out of Kentucky who comes from a great high school and AAU program, which is one of the best in the country. We expect that outside of the obvious learning curve that all freshman go through, that she has a great skill set to be a combo guard for us and play someone and two. She is a good athlete who can score the basketball, can defend and can pass. She is a freshman who we believe can come in and contribute. How fast will depend on adjusting to the college game and the college system, but she is college-ready and we are fortunate to have her and excited to have added her as an early signing."
Kris Nelson | 5-4 | Jr. | G | Augusta, Georgia | Temple College | Robert M. Shoemaker High School
As a Sophomore: Started all 29 games for the Lady Leopards…Averaged 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game…Ended season with 143 assists…Scored a season-best of 19 points at Cisco College.
As a Freshman: Awarded All-Conference Honorable Mention…Started all 30 games…Led team with an average of 11.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.
High School: Graduated from Robert M. Shoemaker High School… Team captain her last two years for the Grey Wolves…Awarded Defensive Player of the Year as a junior…Named Offensive Player of the Year as a senior…Took team to first playoff game in 8 years… Named first-team all-district.
Personal: Majoring in criminal justice…Daughter of Kennetta and Eddie Gunns… Has two sisters, Kasia and Kenneddie…Related to O.J. Simpson…Birthdate: 3/18/1998.
Jessee on Nelson: "Kris is a junior college point guard out of Texas who brings something we haven't had in a while in terms of speed. She is a really quick point guard who can push the ball up-tempo, shoots the ball well, is an unselfish passer probably to a fault. We expect her to come in and contend to start right away at that spot. She is a little small in stature, but her game is really, really big as she scores in all three phases in the 3-ball, the pull-up and can get to the rim. She is a good on-the-ball defender who is quick. We are excited to add her and is a kid that we had to work really hard to get."
Melijah Sullivan | 5-11 | Fr. | G | Bartow, Florida | Winter Haven High School
High School: Graduate of Winter Haven High School…Played for head coach Johnnie Lawson…Team captain her senior year for the Blue Devils… McDonald's All-American nominee…Helped team to state championship three years in a row…Scored 16 points in national high school championship as a senior.
Personal: Majoring in marine biology with a minor in sport management… Daughter of Tony and Leslie Sullivan… Has two brothers and one sister, Tony, Antonio, and Minerica… Birthdate: 6/27/2000.
Jessee on Sullivan: "Melijah is a highly recruited freshman from here in the area and just won her third straight high school championship at Winter Haven. They were one of the top teams in the nation at the high school level and played in the national high school championship. This is a really, really skilled kid that was offered by several D1 schools. We are really excited about her future here as the three freshman we are bringing in really give us a chance to build that class. Her skill-set is good, she can play at the three or four position and I expect her to be an impact player right away for us. Any time you can get a Johnnie Lawson-coached kid, you know you are getting a real gem and we are extremely excited to get her."
Tatiana Toledo | 6-5 | Fr. | C | Blainville, Quebec | Rosemere High School | Vanier College
High School: Graduated from Rosemere High School…Played for coach Daniel Methot… Also played for Les Pantheres de Rosemere…Twice named league MVP…Member of the all-provincial Team Quebec 4 years in a row.
Personal: Volunteered at soup kitchen for the homeless at Montreal Old Brewery and worked with mentally challenged students at John Abbott College… Majoring in sport management with a minor business administration… Daughter of Roman and Nancy Toledo… Has one brother, Mikael… Birthdate: 2/12/1998.
Jessee on Toledo: "Tatiana is another freshman. She is a big center out of Canada and a kid that we tracked over the summer. She does a nice job in regards to offensive skillset. She is a left-handed post player who can step out and shoot the ball with range. She is a good free-throw shooter and a kid that is going to need some development in regards to the post, but we are really excited to get her length and her offensive skill set to us as we develop her and transition her into the college game. She could be a real defensive force with that length."