T.C. Williams graduate Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who won back-to-back All-Met Player of the Year honors in 2008 and 2009, scored a career-high 30 points to lead third-seeded North Carolina to a 59-54 win over 14th-seeded Albany in a first-round NCAA tournament game Sunday in Newark, Del.
Ruffin-Pratt, a senior guard who made first-team all-ACC and the league’s all-tournament team, scored 17 of the Tar Heels’ final 21 points in helping to snap Albany’s 19-game winning streak.
North Carolina (29-6) advance to face sixth-seeded Delaware (31-3) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Newark.
Ruffin-Pratt, who was 10 of 24 from the floor against Albany and made five steals, went on her late run despite picking up her fourth foul with more than nine minutes left. She leads her team in scoring (15.8 points per game), steals (92) and assists (150). Her career scoring average before this season was 6.7 ppg.
I caught up with Ruffin-Pratt on the phone recently to ask her about her T.C. days:
Best high school basketball memory: “I think it was just starting my freshman year. People didn’t really expect me to live up to the hype and the reputation that they had on me. Being able to live up to that and do a lot for my high school career, high school team and for my school” was the highlight.
Favorite high school gym other than T.C.’s: “Edison’s gym was a great atmosphere. Every time we played there it was a big crowd. The atmosphere was always crazy and the fans weren’t too far away from the court.” Coincidentally, in a separate interview, Edison grad Chasity Clayton, now at Florida State, picked T.C. as her favorite court other than her own.
Most embarrassing high school basketball moment: “It had to be my freshman year in the regional tournament at George Mason and I threw up in the middle of the court during the game. I went back in and played the rest of the game.” T.C. beat Madison in the semifinals and lost to Edison in the championship.
Favorite high school victory: “I think it would have to be our win against Edison at Edison my junior year. I just remember it being a close game and we pulled it out to win at the end.”
Best player you faced in high school: “Probably [Oakton‘s] Jasmine Thomas [the 2007 All-Met Player of the Year]. I learned a lot just watching her and even playing against her in college [at Duke]. Just how to stay poised, play under pressure and keep focused throughout any situation.”
Best piece of basketball advice you got in high school: “There’s always somebody else out there working. Once you take a day off, somebody out there is working harder than you.”
High school loss that stung the most: “Has to be my junior year when I had to sit out of the first game of regionals because I hurt my shoulder. We lost to like the last-place team in the region.”
Piece of advice for high school players: “Always work hard, not just in basketball but in the classroom, too. You can’t play unless you’re doing well in the classroom, but even on the court, you have to work hard all the time and not give up on what you believe in and what you want to do.”
What do you miss most about high school basketball: “Just high school basketball in itself. Having your whole city behind you every game is kind of like the same feeling you get when you come to college and you have the whole school behind you. Being the only high school in Alexandria, really the only school everybody in the city had to root for, so everybody knew everybody. Just being home is the thing I miss the most.”
Best thing about college basketball: “Oh, by far the atmosphere in every gym. You go to schools that have crazy atmospheres. Playing at Duke has been one of my favorite experiences in college basketball even though we never won there because the atmosphere is so crazy. When we play here at Carmichael Arena, our fans are outstanding. Just the atmosphere everywhere you go.”
Worst thing about college basketball: “The travel schedule. You get back super late [from] some games and have to be at class at 8 o’clock in the morning. Just being able to balance class and basketball.”
What springs to mind when you hear the words March Madness: “Win or go home.”