LARGO – Nahemie Vilain does not recall ever getting this much attention before. Despite being the leading scorer this past season for Northwestern High School, she is not used to the cameras pointed at her. The new experience left the forward staring blankly at the bright lights of broadcast cameras, nearly forgetting the reason they were aimed at her.
“This is an honor for me,” Vilain said. “A lot of (players) do not get this opportunity so when (Head Coach Tiona Harris) recruited me, I just felt blessed and feel honored to play for her.”
Vilain, together with teammate Quatazia Johnson and three other county high school players gathered together at the Novak Field House as part of the Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) Women’s Basketball team recruiting class in a signing day event on April 25.
After an injury-riddled season that forced the Lady Owls (6-10) to cancel their final three games and forfeit participation in any postseason tournaments, the news of new reinforcements was more than a regular recruiting announcement. Players brought their friends and family to the event, signed their letters of intent in front of the media and posed for photos with home jerseys.
“This is extremely exciting for me, and I know it is exciting for the players as well,” Harris said. “Coming to a junior college, they do not expect (events) like this, so we want to show them a good time and show them what (PGCC) is about.”
For Harris, adding local talent has become a priority. Despite the county being a basketball hotbed, girls basketball is still overlooked, leaving several players out of luck during the college recruiting process. Since her hiring seven years ago, Harris is a familiar face seen during the high school season, watching games and talking up her program to students.
“It is extremely important to us as we are community-based,” Harris said. “We want to reach the community, and we want to be seen by the community, and that is our number one goal is to get Prince George's County students here. It looks good for our institution and good for our county.”
One of the bigger names recruited is Tynisha Clark of Suitland High School. In her senior year, Clark averaged 13.7 points per game, second-best for the Lady Rams, and lead the team in rebounds (239). Harris’ relatable approach worked in bringing in the six-foot-one power forward to sign with the Largo-based team, joining her Suitland teammate center Courtney McPhatter.
“She made me feel like I was at home (at PGCC)” Clark said. “She made me feel like she is going push me academic-wise and not just basketball. I know I needed that push both ways and she’s the main reason I am coming here.”
On top of the additions to the roster was the announcement of forward Gia Thomas returning for her sophomore year at PGCC. The five-foot-eight forward from Riverdale only averaged 2.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game coming off the bench for the Lady Owls.
The departure of Gina Seifert, who averaged a double-double in points (21.8) and rebounds (15.7) will give the former Fairmont Heights athlete a chance to shine, Harris said.
“I learned a lot in (my freshman year), met new people and experienced something new outside of high school,” Thomas said. “So I hope (the new recruits) are ready to play on a different level and bring something to the table so we can get some wins this year.”