In what has been a golden age of high school basketball in Surry County, it’s been a common sight to see North Surry’s Tiana Shuff taking on a certain cross-town rival as their respective teams battled for local bragging rights.
The only thing that will change this winter is the venue and the colors of their respective uniforms.
Shuff, a three-year starter for the Lady Greyhounds and a key member of the 2016-17 team that reached the 2A state championship game, signed her national letter of intent with Lees-McRae College on Wednesday evening, during the first day of the spring signing period. While Shuff was the only local women’s basketball player to sign that day, her signature came just a few hours after longtime rival Jo Snow announced her commitment to Wingate University — a school that Shuff also seriously considered.
But perhaps a Greyhound and a Granite Bear just aren’t meant to be on the same team.
“Lees-McRae was actually not one of my top choices,” said Shuff. “I was looking to sign with Wingate, but I went up to Lees-McRae a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed the team and got along with all of the players. The coaches were great, and the campus reminded me of home.”
Shuff never put up gaudy numbers for the Lady Hounds, who won two Western Piedmont Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles while at North Surry, to go along with the 2017 West Regional crown. With North Surry loaded with frontcourt talent like Mikaela Johnson, Martha Holt and Elle Sutphin, the team focused on attacking the post throughout her career. But Shuff, who was more of a bulldog than a greyhound defensively and who always seemed to make a big shot when her team needed one, still received notice. In addition to Lees-McRae and Wingate, Shuff also had an invitation to play for N.C. Central, but liked the Bobcats the best.
At some point, she’s likely to find herself guarding Snow again. LMC and Wingate are in different conferences, but are less than three hours apart, and play each other every so often.
“Jo Snow has really been of my close friends, and playing with her and playing against her has always been a great experience. I look forward to doing that again,” she said.
North Surry won 62 games in Shuff’s three seasons on the varsity. Except for a few games where she was injured, she was a fixture in the rotation all three seasons. She said her best memory was the state playoff run in her junior season, when North Surry went 26-6 and reached the state finals.
“Definitely going to the states last year was special,” she said. “Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I enjoyed my time here and I had a great coach in Coach Slate. I’ll miss all of my teammates and it’s going to be different, not playing with them for the next four years.”
North had high hopes of a return to the championship game this past season, but Sutphin broke an ankle and missed virtually the entire season. The team still had several talented players, but playing a schedule and a style that was designed for a team at full strength, North had trouble finding its stride. The Lady Hounds finished third in the WPAC during the regular season, the first time in seven years they hadn’t won or tied for the title.
Then came the conference tournament, and North Surry kicked the pretenders off its throne, trouncing co-champs Forbush and Atkins along the way. For the eighth year in a row, the Lady Hounds won a league title of some sort.
“I think we showed more chemistry with each other in the tournament with each other,” she said. “If we had more chemistry throughout the year, then I think we would have come out better throughout the year.”
Shuff took up basketball when she was just seven years old, and while it was just a fun activity for several years, that changed when she joined Alan Hiatt’s Surry Storm travel team.
“When I started AAU, I was about 12 years old and I really didn’t have the dream to play college ball,” she said. “Then Coach Hiatt showed me that there are so many options. Playing with him showed me that I really wanted to do it and it’s been with me ever since.”
Shuff is close friends with several rival players and coaches from around the area, and teammates Johnson, Taylor Duncan, Mount Airy’s Arry Ward and Hiatt were all present at her signing. She credited her coaches and her mother with a lot of her success over the years.
“My mom has always been there to push me and help me through everything,” she said. “She’s definitely hard on me, but I think it’s going to pay off in the end.”
Lees-McRae projects Shuff to play at the shooting guard position for them, She said she will probably major in teaching.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.