News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Helping UNA rebound
Hatton's Rutherford
lifts improved Lions

By Ashley Hargrove · 340-2460

FLORENCE — After three seasons of no more than nine wins a year, University of North Alabama women's basketball has rallied, and former Hatton High standout Amber Rutherford is in the middle of the resurgence.

Rutherford, a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward, leads the team in scoring (14.9 points a game) and rebounding (8.3). She's also tops in field goal shooting (51.5 percent) and free throws (93 percent).

To top it off, the UNA women have posted a 10-10 record under first-year coach Terry Fowler, and have won three straight games to move to 3-2 in Gulf South Conference play.

The GSC recognized Rutherford recently as its East Division player of the week for her performances in wins over Valdosta State 55-52 and West Florida 71-64.

She had 13 points and seven rebounds against Valdosta State. Against West Florida, she had 29 points and seven rebounds and made all nine free throw tries.

"It's really an honor to be picked," Rutherford said. "We haven't had anyone represent our team as player of the week since the 2004 season."

Rutherford and her team experienced a coaching change earlier this season. Fowler took over in March after Flora Willie resigned. Fowler is the seventh head women's basketball coach in UNA history.

"Coach Fowler is like a dad," Rutherford said. "He comes in everyday and motivates us. He's a great motivator and coach. I have a lot of respect for him."

Last year, Rutherford led the team with 11.8 points a game and made second-team all-GSC, but this season, her team is looking up.

"Our goal is to have a winning season and make it to the GSC tournament," Rutherford said. "We're going to keep competing and do our best and not give up."

Rutherford came to UNA from Hatton, where she relied plenty on her family ties. Her parents, Barry and Vickey Rutherford, support her along with her brother, Chandler, and sister, Amanda.

Rutherford said that she began her basketball career at the age of 8 in her backyard with her dad helping her learn the game.

"My dad has been a big influence in my life," Rutherford said. "He and I practically lived in the backyard when I was little. I've loved the game ever since I was little, and he loves the game just as much as I do."

Also, she played varsity basketball at Hatton for her aunt, Cophia Rutherford. Alongside cousin Mamie Rutherford, Amber helped lead the Lady Hornets to state championships during her freshman and junior seasons in 2002 and '04.

"I came from a great high school team that had a successful high school program," Rutherford said. "Coach Cophia Rutherford really pushed us hard and I think that's something that has helped me at UNA."

As far as the rest of her career at UNA goes, Rutherford said she hopes to become a better all around player.

"Our team is like one big family," Rutherford said. "We challenge each other everyday at practice to make each other better.

"That's what being part of a team is all about."

Amber Rutherford at a glance

  • Hatton High graduate, helping the LadyHornets win state championships in 2002 and ’04.

  • Decatur Daily girls Class 1A-3A player of the year in 2005.

  • Led North Alabama women’s basketball team in scoring as a freshman last season with 11.8 points a game.

  • Made second-team all-Gulf South Conference in 2006.

  • After winning no more than nine games in each of the previous three years, UNA is 10-10, and Rutherford leads the team in scoring (14.9 points a game) and rebounding (8.3).

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