TUNNEL HILL —
Northwest Whitfield High School boys basketball coach Ryan Richards believes a shooter can always find a place to play at the next level.
Tanner Quarles is evidence of that.
The senior celebrated his decision to attend Rome’s Shorter University on Thursday at Northwest. Quarles, who plans to walk on to the school’s basketball team, is receiving an academic scholarship.
Perhaps the number that defines Quarles the most is 92. That’s the amount of 3-pointers he hit this past season, setting a single-season school record. He took a lot of 3-pointers to make a lot of them, Richards said, and he always gave himself an internal green light.
“One of the traits of a great shooter is no conscience,” Richards said. “He’s confident in what he can do, and he backed it up this year.
“He backed up his confidence shooting the basketball and helped us winning a lot of games.”
Twenty-three victories, to be exact, including the Region 7-4A championship, the first in program history. Quarles averaged 13 points per game this season, the third of three straight as a starter on Northwest’s varsity team.
He will be the first Bruin to play basketball for a NCAA Division II school since Richards became coach 10 years ago.
“When you can shoot, you can always find somewhere to play,” Richards said. “Teams always have to find a way to put the ball in the hole and he has a quick release. He’s going to have an adjustment period like they all do, but I think the tools are there.”
Shorter is transitioning to Division II from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Hawks competed in Division II’s Gulf South Conference this season and finished 21-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play. However, they weren’t eligible for NCAA or conference tournaments and won’t be until the 2014-2015 school year.
Instead, Shorter won the National Christian College Athletic Association Division I championship.
When Quarles (5 feet, 10 inches) watched Shorter play this spring, he saw talent already in place and his role not changing too much.
“I saw them play a while back and saw how good they were,” said Quarles, who believes he’ll start on the Hawks’ junior varsity team. “I said to myself, ‘I guess I’ll go shoot some 3s for them.’ I went to a tryout last week and did OK, and then they asked me to join.”
Other schools interested in Quarles were Berry College, also in Rome, and Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Three Dalton players — Rico Mears, Brandon Painter and Demond Rucker — and Northwest’s Dustin Stanley have committed to play at GNTC.
However, Quarles wasn’t sure if he was going to play in college at all. Before the season ended, he was ready to “not play anymore and have these good memories.” Then Northwest lost to Grady in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament and he wanted a different ending to his time with the sport.
“I realized I could go somewhere and play,” he said. “After we lost to Grady, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I don’t want to play anymore.’”