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Dobyns-Bennett athletes make college choices official

JEFF BIRCHFIELD • May 16, 2019 at 12:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Courtney Whitson and Lainey Hill were glad to share this day together.

The Dobyns-Bennett senior standouts and longtime best friends made their college choices official with a signing ceremony at the school on Wednesday.

Whitson, the school’s all-time leading basketball scorer and rebounder, is heading to Middle Tennessee State. Hill, who has gone undefeated in conference play in four years on the tennis court, is going to Centre (Ky.) College.

This marks the fourth straight year Hill will play in the state tournament. She qualified in singles her first two years and has now made it in the doubles bracket two years in a row. Last year, Hill and partner Willa Rogers made it all the way to the state championship match. Rogers had to pull out of the doubles a month ago because of a family commitment during this year’s state tournament, so Hill joined teamed with Sydney Berry to form a new partnership.

Whitson, a two-time All-State selection and McDonald’s All-America nominee, chose MTSU after decommitting from ETSU in the winter. The final choice came between the Blue Raiders and an SEC school.

“My final two visits were to Missouri and MTSU,” she said. “I knew after the final visit that MTSU was where I needed to be. They’re both great schools. I just wanted to see where the Good Lord wanted me. There was a family atmosphere at MTSU, and they’ve been after me since the eighth grade.”

She will head to Murfreesboro as one of the most accomplished athletes in D-B history as a three-sport athlete in basketball, volleyball and track & field. In basketball, she set career records with 2,456 points and 1,463 rebounds. Her single-season marks include 836 points, 73 3-point field goals made, 389 rebounds and a 79 percent free-throw percentage.

“It has been humbling,” Whitson said. “I’ve reminded myself it’s not me, but it takes all the great people in this room (family, coaches, teammates and other friends). It’s so sad to think it’s going away so quick, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Along the way, Whitson compiled a slew of individual honors. She was a three-time Big 7 Conference player of the year, a District 1-AAA tournament MVP and MVP of multiple tournaments. She made the District 1-AAA all-tournament team four times and the Region 1-AAA team three times. Her senior year, she was a Tennessee Miss Basketball nominee and the Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News Northeast Tennessee Player of the Year.

She will play at MTSU for legendary coach Rick Insell, who won 10 state championships and a state record 110 straight games at Shelbyville High School before entering the collegiate ranks.

“It’s going to be challenging, but I can’t wait to see how I’m up to the challenge,” said Whitson, who had numerous Division 1 offers. “I could see when I went down there how the whole city knows Coach Insell because of what he did at Shelbyville. It’s awesome to see.”

According to Bill Francis, her high school coach with the Lady Indians, Whitson’s most impressive accomplishments are starting all 139 games during her varsity career and giving maximum effort every day in both practice and games.

That has also been the case academically for she and Hill, who both rank near the top of their graduating class.

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