Atha, who graduated Darlington just last year and holds several records for the Lady Tigers’ program, had her No. 5 jersey retired in a ceremony between varsity basketball games at the Huffman Center.
The 5-foot-8 guard is now a member of the Wofford College women’s basketball team, having played in all 30 games for the Division I program as a freshman last season.
“I definitely was blessed to do everything that I was able to do while here at Darlington, but of course I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without my coaches or my teammates during my four years here,” Atha said. “I attribute it all to them for getting me the ball and trusting in me.”
Atha said her dad, Tommy Atha, who is Darlington’s head football coach and former girls’ basketball coach, told her about her jersey retirement Monday after trying to keep it a secret. But a note about the planned ceremony was put out by the school and the cat was out of the bag.
She said it brought back around a thought she had during her playing days at Darlington.
It also provides a confidence boost at a time of adversity as she recovers from injuring her knee last month.
“When I was at Darlington I guess I always hoped that one day I would be good enough for them to retire my jersey, but I never knew it would happen,” Anna Claire said. “So when he told me, I just was very blessed. Especially right now, going through an injury, it was a good bit of encouragement to get me through this.”
A two-time Rome News-Tribune Co-Player of the Year and all-state player, Atha ended her time at Darlington as the school’s all-time girls’ leading scorer, finishing with 2,265 points even after having to miss a considerable amount of her freshman season when she tore her ACL.
She set the school record for most points scored in a single game (46) in her senior season and averaged 25.1 points per game for her career to go with 8.4 rebounds per game. She holds a total of eight school records.
Atha joined the Terriers after graduation and averaged more than 17 minutes per game in her first season, setting a pace of 4.6 points per game. She set a high mark with 14 points in a win over Southern Conference foe Furman and had five steals against Samford.
But she was injured this season after just two games, tweaking the same knee which had the ACL tear. She said she will likely be out the rest of the season, but will look to get back on the court soon.
In the meantime, Atha said she has set new goals for herself and her life after college.
“I’ve decided I want to coach, so maybe Rome, Georgia, will see me in a few years back on the bench,” she said. “That’s my aspirations now, sort of follow in my dad’s footsteps.”