Tifton Gazette

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February 1, 2013

Former ABAC coach, current Tift County Lady Devils coach headed for Hall of Fame

TIFTON — When Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College decided to bring back women’s basketball after a 15-year absence before the 2000-2001season, Julie Conner knew it was time to come home.

Conner, a 1988 graduate of Tift County High School, made an immediate impact as the Fillies captured the state championship in 2002.  She was named the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2003 and received recognition from the Atlanta Tip-Off Club.

For her efforts on the sidelines with the Fillies and a distinguished high school coaching career, Conner has been selected as a member of the 2013 class of the ABAC Athletics Hall of Fame.  Tickets are now available at a cost of $30 per person for the 1 p.m. induction luncheon on March 2, which is a part of the Celebrate ABAC Alumni Weekend activities.

Tickets for the event are available from the ABAC Office of College Advancement at 391-4895.  Tickets will be sold only in advance.  No tickets will be available on the day of the event.

Other members of this year’s class include the 1999 national championship men’s tennis team, Henry Will Jones from the 1936-37 baseball, basketball, and football teams; former ABAC baseball player Z.B. Hamilton and former ABAC tennis player Derrick Racine.

For her prowess on the hardwood with the TCHS Lady Devils, Conner earned a basketball scholarship to Georgia College and State University where she was a graduate assistant and full-time assistant after her playing days ended.  

She came back to Tifton to teach at G.O. Bailey and Northside Elementary in addition to her coaching duties with the eighth grade team which she led to an undefeated season.  Conner then moved to Florida where she won 105 games in five years as the head coach at Mariner High School and LaBelle High School.  Twice, her teams reached the Elite 8.

Returning to college basketball proved to be a good move for Conner as she served for eight years as the Fillies’ basketball coach.  She represented Region XVII as the NJCAA Women’s Region Director, was a member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and was on the Kodak All-America committee.

In 2006, the Fillies rolled up a 24-9 record before falling to Georgia Perimeter in the state championship game.

Conner returned to Tift County High School in 2008 as the head coach of the Lady Devils.  Her TCHS squad took the region title in 2011 and leads the league so far this season.

Conner and her husband, Tom, have two children, Tye and Cali.  She is the daughter of former Tift County High School head basketball coach Johnny Rutland.  Conner’s mother, Freida, was a standout basketball player for Lowndes High School.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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