Apr 28, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorFor the past two seasons, Atajma Criss-Felton has run the Central Wyoming College Lady Rustlers' show from her point guard position. Now the Las Vegas native will take her show on the road once again, all the way to Huntsville, Alabama.
Criss-Felton has signed a national letter of intent to attend and play basketball for Alabama A&M University.
For Criss-Felton, getting the chance to play for a Division I program is a dream come true and one she has worked for her entire basketball life.
"It's a really big opportunity for me," said Criss-Felton. "I'm really excited to move on."
Criss-Felton has a renaissance season for head coach Ken Swartz's club this campaign, leading Central in scoring at 15.6 points per game, along with a squad-high 144 field goals, while shooting 40 percent from the floor.
She was named to the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association Region IX all-region squad in the process.
She also was named Central's co-most valuable player, with teammate Olivia Thompson.
However, it's more than physical skills she brings to the table, according to Swartz.
"She was our heart and soul," said Swartz. "Taj is a very hard worker and was our life-saver this year."
Criss-Felton's game blossomed under Swartz her sophomore season, as she was granted not only the minutes, but also the freedom to use the court as her personal canvas.
A mixture of rugged inside play while driving the lane and drawing contact on the way to the basket, plus the ability to step back and hit mid-range jump shots and 3-pointers makes her a valuable asset to any coach's roster, said Swartz.
"We would run plays to clear out for her, so she could go to the basket," he said. "Now, she just needs to shoot more threes to go along with her defensive effort, quickness and speed. I think Alabama A&M is a good fit for her."
As for the step up in competition level, Criss-Felton knows it will be a challenge, but she's confident in her abilities.
"For me, it's mostly a mental game as far as the changes are concerned," said Criss-Felton. "This past year was all about getting the opportunity to play more, and I took advantage of it."
A rigorous summer training regimen also set her up for success when the season arrived, she said.
"I worked on my game a lot," said Criss-Felton, "especially my ball-handling, being able to dribble and create my own shots."
Other schools after her services included Illinois State, Alcorn State and Robert Morris, but Alabama A&M which won out and for good reason, she said.
"It really gave mw a feeling of home," said Criss-Felton. "I have very good communication with the coach, and I've always wanted to go to a historically-black college."
So how does a young woman from the bright lights, glitz and glamor of Vegas, who adjusted to life in Wyoming feel about moving on once again, only this time to the South?
"Coming here was a huge culture shock for me," she said. "Now, I know I'm going to a great university."
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