When the school year started, Orangeburg-Wilkinson senior point guard Autheria Dantzler was looking forward to a strong final campaign on the court for the Bruinettes, all the while praying for a college basketball scholarship offer to cement her future plans.
On Tuesday, Dantzler realized one of those goals, signing a national letter-of-intent to continue wearing maroon and orange jerseys just three miles away at Claflin University.
Now there will be no pressure on her play once the O-W season starts with a home game against Bethune-Bowman on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
"For a while, I thought I wouldn't get a scholarship offer, but I thank God that Claflin blessed me with one; and it's a great opportunity," Dantzler said. "I had an academic scholarship for Livingstone (College), but other than that I had no other offers.
"This is a relief. Now I can finally breathe and relax for my senior season. I always wanted to go far away. But, hey, it's not where you go, it's how you make your mark there. I just wanted one chance, one opportunity to play basketball in college. I'm ready to join the Panther family, and I hope they are ready for me."
Dantzler plans to major in biology, with hopes to become a physical or orthopedic therapist.
As a junior, Dantzler averaged 12 points, 5.6 assists, 1 rebound and 3.1 steals per game for the Bruinettes. O-W reached the second round of SCHSL Class 4A playoffs, getting a 46-42 home win against North Myrtle Beach, before falling at Crestwood by a 56-39 score.
The floor general for O-W head coach Cedrick Simpson became the first player in his 15 years coaching either boys or girls high school basketball to sign to play at his alma mater, where he played basketball for the Panthers.
"People don't realize how much she does for us on the court until she isn't out there," Simpson said. "This is number 14 to sign in the last four years here, so that says a lot about the program and the tradition of the program. It's going forward, no matter what people say.
"Having a kid going to school on a scholarship, you can't beat that. And having played here at O-W with a winning tradition, Autheria is used to playing against a high level of competition."
According to Simpson, first-year Claflin women's basketball coach Revonda Whitely saw Dantzler play on the AAU circuit and thought she would be a good fit for the program in Orangeburg. Now Dantzler is the first T&D Region signee for Whitely, who earned her first collegiate head coaching win this past Saturday at homecoming against visiting Florida Tech.
"The speed of the game will be a little different for her in college, but with the way we practice and play, she should be able to slide right into that level and keep on going and getting better," Simpson said. "She will have more maturity after this season here, being one of just four seniors in a program with 37 kids.
"Now that she knows where she is going next year, she can just enjoy her senior year, play her game and no worries. This is great for her family, which put in a lot of hours supporting her playing here and playing all over the place in AAU tournaments. That investment in their child really paid off. Now she will be playing right down the road here, where all of us can see her play."