BY TONY STINNETT
Courier Sports Editor
Abbey Sissom knew she was going to be a MTSU Lady Raider long before she let anyone know of her future college choice.
Sissom, one of the top players in the history of the prestigious Cannon County girls basketball program, made it official Wednesday (Nov. 13) when she signed with MTSU. She became the first student-athlete from Cannon County to sign a Division I scholarship in 24 years. Former Lionette Julie Powell signed with Vanderbilt in 1989.
"I made up my mind (that I was going to sign with MTSU) before I even told anyone that's where I wanted to go," said Sissom, who verbally committed to Lady Raiders in May. "All the coaches that recruited me were great people that made me feel welcome and it was really hard to tell them no so that's probably why I dragged it out a little longer than it had to be. MTSU definitely made me feel like they wanted me."
Sissom, the daughter of Gaylon and Suzette Sissom, chose MTSU over several other Division I schools that also made offers, including Belmont, Lipscomb, Samford, UT-Martin, Austin Peay and Chattanooga, among others.
Sissom will be joining a program that has participated in seven NCAA Tournaments in the past eight seasons under legendary head coach Rick Insell, a Woodbury native. Insell said Sissom was a top priority for the Lady Raiders during the signing period.
"More than anything look at what she has done," Insell said. "She has been in the state tournament two of her three years already. She is a long-range shooter much like (former Lady Raider standout) Jackie Pickel. She is a tremendous shooter. She can handle the basketball and play at the one, two or three. She fits our system and is hard-nosed."
Veteran Lionette Head Coach Michael Dodgen said MTSU is a perfect match for Sissom.
"This is a primary example of a kid that works hard off of the floor, on the floor, away from practice, during practice and something positive happened," Dodgen said. "Anytime you have a kid that has an opportunity to play at the next level, no matter what level it is, then it is a big deal. The fact that Abbey signed to play Division I, 30 minutes from hom and has an opportunity to play in a Top 30 program in the country, maybe Top 20, it is great for our athletic program and women's basketball here at Cannon County.
"Abbey has an opportunity to play for Coach Insell and he and his staff did a great job recruiting her," Dodgen said. "They did a great job from day one. They always showed interest. I think with their style of play and they way they like to play gives Abbey a good opportunity to go in and play and be around kids that want to win and are winners at a high college level. To have that opportunity is great for her."
Sissom currently ranks sixth in career scoring at Cannon County with 1,721 points. She is projected to finish as the No. 2 all-time scorer in program history behind Powell. Sissom also is among career leaders with 339 assists and she has knocked down 36 percent of her 3-point attempts and has 256 career 3-pointers entering this season.
Sissom also is a two-time Class AA Miss Basketball Finalist, two-time All-State player, and also was selected to the Class AA TSSAA All-State Tournament team as a freshman. She is also a two-time Cannon Courier Female Athlete of the Year and has helped lead her team into the TSSAA Class AA State Tournament in two of her three years.
"Since I was a little girl I dreamed of playing college basketball," Sissom said. "(Signing with MTSU) makes all of the work and sacrifices worthwhile. It also shows how much the sacrifices paid off. I don't think people realize the sacrifices you have to make to get there. It's a lot of work when no one is watching. Since I was 7-years-old I really haven't had a summer. I've been playing AAU. When others would go to the pool, I would go to the gym and I feel really blessed it has paid off this much and I have received such a great opportunity from it."