Lexington native gains local support

Redshirt freshman guard Savannah Stults looks on as teammates shoot around after practice Jan. 26. Stults played at Lexington High School, a county school near the UNA campus, and she draws a crowd of supporters from the area.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

Many travel from various states or countries to become a student-athlete on the collegiate level. In UNA’s case, some coaches find gems in their own backyard.

Redshirt freshman Savannah Stults, a guard on the women’s basketball team, earned a spot on the UNA roster last season. A Lexington native, Stults is the only player on either basketball team whose hometown is within an hour of campus.

Stults said having local supporters she earned in high school follow her college career means a lot to her.

“There are a bunch of people that come to the games from Lexington,” she said. “If I see them out, they always ask me about school and basketball, and they wish me good luck. That means a lot to me.”

Stults said basketball is a family affair. Her two younger sisters, Morgan and Audrey Stults, both play. Her dad, Beck Stults, played in high school and helped her learn the game.

“My dad coached me when I was younger,” she said. “He’s always been at my games. There would be times we would go (to the gym) on a Sunday night and work on ball handling and shooting. He’s kind of a strict coach, so I feel like when Coach Tiber is yelling at me, I’m used to it.”

UNA did not initially recruit Stults out of high school, but rather discovered her through a tryout. Stults proceeded to walk-on and use a redshirt last season.

“I didn’t really know about Savannah early on,” said UNA coach Missy Tiber. “I just got some word on her that she was a real hard-nosed kid. We brought her in and tried her out after her senior year.”

This season, Stults has been a spark off the bench for the Lions. After having limited minutes early on, she worked her way into a six-man role after the Christmas break. The 5’5’’ guard averages 14 minutes per game and has over three rebounds per game in her last six.

While Stults can get aggressive on the court when she needs to, her teammates say she is usually the quietest player on the team. Stults is beginning to break her shell after having a season under her belt, said sophomore guard Jaclyn Heath.

“Last year, she was really quiet and did not talk that much,” Heath said. “This year, she has really opened up to everyone. She’s a great friend and someone I know I can always trust and someone that I know I will continue to be friends with for the rest of my life.”

Heath said Stults is willing to do what other players will not.

“On the court she brings a lot of effort and passion every single day,” Heath said. “You can always count on her to dive for loose balls and do the dirty work, like rebounding and defense. She has a lot of heart and toughness to her.”

Tiber said Stults continues to improve not only through practice and experience, but also through maintaining a positive attitude.

“I think what makes her a special player is that she has absolutely zero ego,” Tiber said. “It’s not about her. It’s just about going out and working hard to help her team. I think two years down the road, we’re going to be talking about a very special player.”