Destiny McClendon’s dreams of playing division one college basketball were signed into reality on Monday, Nov. 17 as the Lake Oconee Academy senior made her intention of playing at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga official.
“We named you Destiny because you were destined to be great,” said Destiny’s father Stacy McClendon.
Throughout the signing ceremony, prominent LOA figures echoed Destiny’s greatness. LOA Athletic Director Chris Ingle recalled when he knew Destiny was destined for division one basketball; it was during the 10,000 Shot Challenge when McClendon exceeded the standard and shot 60,000. Ingle said they knew she was good in sixth grade but that you can’t make it to the next level without that type of work ethic.
Ingle said that Destiny was the first in the school’s history to sign a women’s division one basketball scholarship, and in fact, she was the only one he knew of all the teams LOA has played over Destiny’s four years at the school.
“Destiny, this is absolutely, no doubt about it the biggest accomplishment you have had in your life,” Ingle said. “You’ve had some good ones already but this is number one. There are hundreds of thousands of people playing basketball in high school across the country that don’t reach this point… I know there are some girls sitting out there that want it as bad as she does and that are willing to work like she is. But she is the first.”
LOA Girls Basketball Coach Kevin Furtado mirrored Ingle’s pride in Destiny. Furtado said that Destiny made a commitment to play at the next level and while some players let those dreams die, Destiny’s dream only got stronger.
“I am a person of words, I always share different types of words with my players every day,” Furtado said. “I want to talk about TRG, toughness, resilience and grit, to me the keys to success.”
Furtado said McClendon has toughness; she never quits on any play. She has resilience, “she plays the same at the beginning of practice as she does at the end, and she plays the same in the first quarter as she does in the fourth quarter.” She has grit, how she’s in it for the long run, often staying late after Furtado and the rest of the players leave to practice, or practicing outside at home or running hills.
“The last thing I want to mention to you is footprints,” Furtado said. “You have girls right here that are going to follow in your big footprints you have set, you are the mentor and the role model for many of these girls. We have girls right now that will follow in your footprints. You are going to go on and leave more footprints over at UTC.”
Destiny’s mother, Janet, spoke about her daughters passion for the game and her father talked about the journey to get to this point in Destiny’s life. He said he knew she was a warrior from the time she was born.
When Destiny took the mic it was all about thanking her support system including her coaches, family and teammates, both past and present. She said she especially wanted to thank her dad who always had faith in her even when she didn’t think she could get to the point she is at now.
Following her signing, LOA CEO Dr. Otho Tucker said a few words about Destiny.
“You work like a champion,” said Tucker. “You work like a person that has a goal and something in mind of what you want to do and who you want to be but you don’t do it with arrogance. You do it with passion for the game and I think that passion for the game has bled over to your teammates.”
Furtado also made mention of the fact that Destiny isn’t done at LOA. She has big goals for the team in the 2020-21 season.
When asked what she would miss most about playing at LOA, Destiny said, “It’s just home.” She said all of her teammates from ninth grade to now have been sisters to her.
In a recent post on the UTC athletics website, UTC women’s basketball coach Katie Burrows talked about signing McClendon and one of Destiny’s future teammates Leah Jones.
“We are excited to add Destiny and Leah to our roster,” Burrows said in the article. “Both had very clear visions of what they wanted their college experience to look like and we fit that mold for them. There is no doubt in my mind they will work hard for this program every day. We look forward to coaching both of them next year.”
Destiny said Burrows and the rest of the UTC coaching staff were among the reasons she chose UTC. She also said the town is beautiful and the campus is family oriented.
“The teammates are awesome,” McClendon said. “They make you feel real welcome.”
Destiny’s hope is to study mass communications with dreams of eventually being a sports broadcaster.
When asked what her hopes are for her future at UTC Destiny said, “I’m looking forward to growing as a player and a person, getting my education, finishing, and hopefully adding to their roster, bringing my talents up there, working hard, getting coached by a great coach staff and like I said hopefully I can add and help them win a championship.”
With a bright future ahead of her and continued support of her family, friends and former coaches Destiny is sure to make a name for herself in her next chapter at UTC.
“I know that not only are you going to be a great basketball player, you’re going to make that university better by being on campus because you are going to make people better the rest of your life,” Tucker said. “You’re going to have people that follow you because you’re the kind of person they want to be. There’s no bigger compliment than being the person other people want to be. I know that’s you and I know you’ll stay that way now and every day forward. I am a better person for knowing you and I think that we all are.”