University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster confirmed Wednesday that both Tatianna Jackson and Whitney Hartlage have transferred.
Jackson, a 5-foot-10 rising junior, averaged 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Mocs, who finished 29-4 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Syracuse. She started the first seven games of the season and finished second on the team in offensive rebounds (54) and steals (29). Hartlage played 16 games in a reserve role and scored 36 points.
Jackson will transfer to NCAA Division I Georgia State, while Hartlage, a 5-foot-9 rising sophomore, will play at NCAA Division II Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky.
Their departures, plus Kayla Freeman's decision not to return from injury, will leave the Mocs with an extremely young roster this upcoming season having lost five seniors in addition to the transfers. Ka'Vonne Towns and Destiny Bramblett will be the only seniors, with Towns being their most experienced returning player, having played in 92 games in three seasons. Bramblett redshirted last season.
Alicia Payne is the only junior.
The majority of the makeup will come from the younger classes. Chelsey Shumpert, Jasmine Joyner, Aryanna Gilbert and Moses Johnson will be sophomores, and University of Tennessee at Martin transfer Sydney Vanlandingham will have three seasons after sitting out last season. Shumpert and Gilbert started the majority of the games last season, while the 6-3 Joyner finished the season as the Southern Conference's leading shot-blocker despite not being eligible for consideration among stat leaders until after the SoCon championship game.
There will be four freshmen on the roster. Tennessee Class AAA Miss Basketball finalist Keiana Gilbert; sharpshooting guard Anna Claire Noblit from Alabama and 6-foot-5 Ashlyn Wert -- along with redshirt freshman Ansley Chilton -- will be in their first season of action.
The young roster will face a challenging schedule, perhaps the toughest in the history of the UTC program. The Mocs will host South Florida, Villanova, Tennessee, UT-Martin, and Stanford, and will travel to Notre Dame. The latter two programs advanced to the 2014 NCAA Final Four. There is also a tournament in San Antonio.
"We've really, really upgraded our schedule," Foster said Wednesday. "It's like none that has ever been played here before -- probably like no mid-major has played before. In my mind, a tough schedule is the next logical step; you don't want to be satisfied where you are, you just try to get better. That's a formula; it's not one people choose much, but it's good for the players and good for the fans."
UTC athletic director David Blackburn realizes that the benefits from hosting such nationally-recognized programs could be instrumental in revenue growth.
"A lot. A lot. A lot," Blackburn said when asked how much. "Coach Foster's relationships and his stature help us attract those programs. From a ticket-sale perspective, it's very important for us because if we can fill the arena one time, for us that's like three-for-one or almost four-for-one, because if you put 9,000 or 10,000 in the arena, we've tripled what we would do for a game normally.
"I believe our team can compete and lineup with most anybody -- not that we can beat everybody, but can compete with a lot of teams, and that revenue growth will be instrumental as we bring those quality teams in because people want to see the elite teams in college basketball."
n Jon Goldberg will be a graduate assistant for Foster's Mocs in the 2014-2015 season. Goldberg played two seasons at NCAA Emerson College, averaging 12.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists during his senior year.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.