VALDOSTA -- Her ankles strong, her nightmare senior year behind her, Tiffany Tweed can't wait to play college basketball.

Tweed signed a full basketball scholarship to Daytona Beach Community College Friday at her home in Valdosta.

"I'm so excited," Tweed said. "I did not get a lot of basketball playing time my senior year. To have a college such as Daytona Beach still want to give me a full ride, that's just awesome."

Daytona Beach is getting a big player, who, if healthy, will help solidify the center position the next two years. Tweed is 6-foot-4 barefoot, and an inch taller with shoes on, size that is hard to find in a female player.

"We're excited to have a player with the kind of potential Tiffany's got," Daytona Beach head coach Dennis Cox said. "Certainly her size speaks for itself-- you can't teach size. We're looking forward to the opportunity to help her get herself back to where she was before (getting injured)."

Tweed's going to an excellent basketball program at Daytona Beach. The Lady Falcons went 29-2 last year, and were ranked fourth in the nation. They've been ranked in the Top 25 each of the last four years. Cox feels Tweed is the kind of post player DBCC needs.

"She will give us an inside presence that we haven't had in a couple of years," Cox said. "Last year, we didn't have a player over 6-foot-2. We were real athletic, but didn't have that low-post dominant presence that Tiffany can be."

She'll get a chance to contribute quickly.

"We'll try not to put too many expectations on her, but we are going to look for her to come in and make an impact right away," Cox said. "We don't have an unlimited number of out-of-state scholarships, so where much is given, much is expected.

"With a little bit of time to develop, we think she's got the potential to be a great player."

Potential is a key word when it comes to Tweed. In reality, injuries prevented her from showing how good she really could be when healthy at Lowndes. She played much of her junior year with fractures in both feet, and all but missed her senior year with a degenerative condition in her ankles.

"Daytona Beach will find out (how good I can be), though," Tweed said.

"I'm happy for Tiffany, and glad she's getting the chance to go on and play (at DBCC)," said Mike Edwards, Lowndes' assistant coach during Tweed's three years on varsity. "I wish her the best in college."

For Tiffany Tweed, the last 18 months have been an eventful, often trying, journey. One that, thank goodness, the Tweed family says, is over.

She was one of the best players in Region 1-AAAAA as a junior, often unstoppable playing against mostly smaller post players, and was an All-Region selection. After being inserted into the starting lineup, she averaged around 18 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Region 1-AAAAA co-champion Vikettes. Heading into her senior season, she was a preseason Naismith Award nominee.

But during her junior season, she had suffered fractures in both feet, though she kept playing through the pain. That injury deteriorated into avascular necrosis, a degenerative bone condition that literally means "bone death." The avascular necrosis ate away at the bone in her ankle, and all but ended her career at Lowndes. She played two minutes this season. She had to have multiple surgeries, and for a while, was confined to a wheelchair. The surgeries forced her to finish high school homebound.

"I did not have a good senior year. It was very hard," Tweed said. "I've gone through a lot of stuff. But things are starting to look good for me. I just can't wait for college."

She was cleared to walk last month, and wound up walking across the stage at graduation. She finally was cleared to play basketball by her doctor, Dr. Tim Schrader of Atlanta, on May 28. Two days later, she was in Daytona Beach, all but committing to the Lady Falcons.

The Tweed family considers her scholarship a blessing and an answered prayer. At the very least, it's extremely good fortune.

Cox offered Tweed a scholarship primarily on the word of other coaches, which is almost unheard of for a school as successful as DBCC. But Cox knows the value of a 6-foot-4 post player, and respects three coaches who spoke highly of Tweed-- Rollins College head coach Glenn Wilkes, Jr., Kennesaw State head coach Colby Tilley, and Echols County High coach Jeanne Roberts.

It was Wilkes who directed Tweed to Cox. Rollins had been looking at her after her junior year, and knew that DBCC had one of the best rehabilitation facilities in the country, one that could help Tweed and her condition.

Daytona Beach has a training staff second to none and an arthroscopic surgeon not far from campus. So Tweed knows she'll be taken care of.

"It will be nice to have that," Tweed said. "The ankles are doing a lot better. I'll be working out this summer, getting back into shape."

"We're excited that she's healthy, and look forward to her getting back where she was (before the injury)," Cox said.

Another thing she looks forward to is the competition, both intercollegiately and in practice. She has rarely faced players her size, but DBCC has also signed a 6-foot-5, 260-pound post player from North Carolina.

"It can only help us to compete against each other," Tweed said. "I can't wait to practice against her."

Tweed won't be the only South Georgia girl on the Lady Falcons. DBCC has also signed Echols County All-State forward Renata West. West's older sister Lulu was an All-Conference guard for the Lady Falcons last year, and is headed to Kennesaw State.

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