It didn’t take long for Albertville senior basketball star Hannah Lightsey to decide Shelton State in Tuscaloosa would be the next stop in her career.
The Lady Bucs offered Lightsey a scholarship Dec. 15, and she verbally committed to head coach Madonna Thompson less than a week later.
Lightsey made it official during a signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Albertville High School’s South Hall.
“I had other places that did look at me,” Lightsey said. “As the time went on, I started thinking I may not want to start at a four-year [school] and I kind of leaned toward a two-year. And there’s no other place better that I’d rather pick than Shelton.
“It’s an absolutely great and beautiful campus. The faculty and staff and coaches and team are all family oriented, and it’s great.”
Thompson has built Shelton State into an elite program during her 21 years at the helm.
She’s led the Lady Bucs to 18 consecutive 20-win seasons, with 10 of them eclipsing the 30-win plateau. Her teams claimed conference championships in 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Shelton State has reached the NJCAA Final Four the last three seasons and finished No. 3 in the nation. Thompson’s 2017-18 squad compiled a 36-1 record.
The 2018-19 Lady Bucs are 17-3 and ranked No. 12 in the nation.
“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid, and just that it’s coming true it seems unreal,” Lightsey said of playing college basketball. “I’m very thankful for how I got here.
“I just love getting out there [on the court] and doing something I know I’m good at. It just makes me feel like a different person when I’m out there, rather than who I am every day.
“It’s something I’ve loved ever since I was a kid. I’ve enjoyed playing it, I’ve loved spending my time doing it. It’s just one of the best hobbies I thought I could ever do.”
Thompson began recruiting Lightsey after watching her play with her AAU team, the Alabama Elite.
“When I saw Hannah with her AAU team back in the summer, the first thing that catches my eye is the size,” Thompson said. “She is 6 feet tall.
“The second thing that caught my eye was her mobility. She was shooting the 3, she was putting the ball on the ground a little bit and she was scoring around the basket and rebounding, so I saw a lot of versatility in her.
“When you start talking to her you find a kid that really loves the game, who has some gym rat in her. You find a kid who really loves the game, that’s excited about the game, that’s excited about talking to me about it, you know that’s a kid who’s going to keep getting better. She’s going to listen to you, is going to accept coaching.
“A 6-foot kid, she’s a smart girl, she’s just got so many tools. I’m looking for kids with potential. You might not be right where you need to be right now, but have you got growth? Is there somewhere you can go and you can grow? I definitely see that in Hannah.”
Albertville head coach Matt Nelson is proud of Lightsey and excited about her opportunity at Shelton State.
“Hannah’s really come a long way,” Nelson said. “She’s a very hard worker. Anything you tell her to do, she’s going to do and give it a hundred percent.
“Really, really proud of the way she’s helped us and developed in these last two years, and she deserves to be able to go to a place like Shelton and play because it’s a really, really good program.
“Being 6-foot, 6-1 and being able to play outside on the perimeter and also inside in the paint, she can do a lot of things.
“When you’re flexible and can go and play several different positions that’s kind of a hot commodity, and she fits that mold really well and has really done well with it for us this year.”
Nelson hopes Lightsey’s signing establishes a trend for the AHS girls program.
“We want to see a couple of these every year,” he said. “I want us to do well as a team, but I also want us to be able to put players in colleges and continue to play after high school is over.”
Lightsey expressed gratitude to Nelson, Alabama Elite head coach Stoney Burks and several others for their contributions to her career.
“I’d like to thank Kyle Overstreet, Scott Stapler, John Butts, Jay Shankles … just any of my childhood coaches, Brooke and Stan Roe, Todd Blankenship and my Mom especially,” Lightsey said.
Lightsey will lead the Aggies into the Marshall County Tournament next week. Albertville is the defending champion.
Albertville and Fort Payne will flip a coin to determine the host of the Class 6A, Area 13 Tournament in February.
“We’re hoping to make it to Jacksonville [for the Northeast Regional] this year,” Lightsey said. “It will be the first time we’ve made it there since Katie [Allen] graduated. That would be a really big accomplishment, and to host area. I feel like we have the power to win area.
“There’s a lot of great things that’s going to be done the rest of this season. I have a good feeling about it.”