A lack of recognition can be the one thing that drives an athlete to succeed. But that hasn’t been the case for Flowery Branch rising senior Taniyah Worth.
It was a promise the Lady Falcons’ all-state forward made to her grandmother, Ruth Springs, that has elevated her basketball career within the last year and continues to give her the motivation she needs in the offseason as a member of the Innerman Academy Adidas Gauntlet team this offseason.
Worth told Springs she would one day see her granddaughter play on a nationally televised stage. And last week, Worth took the biggest step in her basketball journey and toward fulfilling that promise.
She traveled to Portland, Oregon, to participate in the Adidas Uprising All-American Camp, an elite gathering that included some of the most highly regarded athletes in the nation.
And despite her grandmother’s death in 2016, Worth’s plan never changed.
“She plays the game because of her ‘Why,’” said Torrey Bates, coach of the Innerman Academy Lady Rebels. “She promised her grandmother that one day she would get to watch her play on TV one day. That’s pretty much a done deal, you know?”
From starting at the very bottom of the junior varsity ranks as a freshman, to leading Flowery Branch’s girls program to its first-ever state semifinal appearance this past season, Worth continues to refine her craft while holding on to her dream of playing for a Division-I basketball program.
Flowery Branch coach Courtney-Newton Gonzalez has seen Worth take her commitment to a whole new level this summer, on top of seeing an improvement in her mid-range shots.
“It really helped her so much over the last month, month-and-a-half,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “It’s been really good to see her grow and take some of these opportunities head-on and get better.”
Yet it is simply hard to fathom that until the last few months, the first-team all-state selection equipped with all the ability and range has flown under the radar of many college coaches from outside the state. Until four months ago, Worth was nearly overlooked by Bates’ Norcross-based Gauntlet Adidas team, and that only changed because of Flowery Branch assistant Christi Thomas.
The Adidas Circuit gives kids a chance to play All-Americans, and unlike the regular travel scene of basketball, the events are more intimate, said Bates. Gauntlet teams like Innerman Academy typically rely on Maxpreps, Hudl and game appearances to recruit players.
So without Thomas recommending Worth to Bates, the rising senior would have once again flown under the radar. She was then chosen from a list of 200 young players in the state, and within days of joining the Lady Rebels earlier this summer, Worth had Bates’ undivided attention.
“You could see that she has ridiculous amounts of athletic ability, which is what everyone is going crazy over,” said Bates. “She is amazing to watch in the open court, and probably in three years she’ll be the best version of herself.”
Within weeks Worth had the attention of many more — beginning with Alabama women’s coach Kristy Curry during a tournament played in Phoenix.
“Literally after our second game, we had lost by two, and I’m walking off the floor and the coach from Alabama walks up to me -- (after) a loss -- like, ‘Hey coach, I love the way your girls are playing, love how hard you coach them. That Taniyah Worth, we’ve got to have her,’” Bates said.
Since then, Worth has accumulated interest from Auburn, Clemson, Tulane, Florida Gulf Coast, the University of North Florida, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.
Bates attributed that attention to Worth’s ability to thrive under pressure, a quality often found in chess players or debaters.
“She competed like she’s been there all her life, just like what you see from her at Flowery Branch,” he said.
Worth — who led all Lady Falcons scorers as a junior by averaging 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game — capped the postseason with a 33-point, seven-rebound outing against the defending Class 5A champion Southwest Dekalb in the semifinals at Columbus State University in March.
And upon her return from Portland today, Worth will find out if she’ll be one of 15 players chosen to represent Adidas Team USA next summer in Rome, Italy. This year’s international select group went 3-0 in Traviso.
Newton-Gonzalez, as well as the Flowery Branch community, will be banking on some good news by the end of today.