WALKER – After sitting out a year after transferring to Walker High, Tarondia Harold saw her lone season at the school slowly eroding away.
When the LHSAA suspended head coach Korey Arnold on Nov. 16 for recruiting violations and suspended him for a calendar year, the state’s governing body on high school athletics also ruled two players ineligible for the 2018-19 season.
Harold, along with her younger sister Trinity, were the two players withheld from competition – a span of nearly a month of the season – when the LHSAA later ruled them both eligible Dec. 20 for the remainder of the season.
That enabled Tarondia, a 5-foot-8 senior guard/forward, to resume her dream of helping Walker to the state tournament and earning a scholarship.
Harold managed to accomplish both, helping the Lady Cats to a 32-5 record and Class 5A state semifinal finish. She also garnered a handful of scholarship offers along the way, eventually signing with the Arkansas Ft. Smith, a Division II school.
“I was worried that I wouldn’t have a chance to show my talents and showcase my abilities in front of anyone,” Harold said. “It was something I couldn’t do anything about, but it’s about how you get over the barriers and how you react to things. I wanted to play hard no matter what. I didn’t have the whole season.”
Harold was Walker’s only other double-digit scorer behind senior Tiara Walker, the Class 5A Most Valuable Player, with 11.5 points, 4.0 steals, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
“Tarondia is an amazing person on and off the court,” said former Walker coach Hannah Jones, who coached last year’s team before making a family-related move to Lake Charles. “She is a hard worker and it shows in the classroom, on the basketball court, and on the track.”
Harold was one of three players Arkansas-Ft. Smith signed during the late signing period, which also added a pair of junior college players.
“I am very excited to have Tarondia join our family,” said Arkansas-Ft. Smith’s second-year coach Tari Cummings. “She is a long, explosive athlete who can score in multiple ways on the floor and an aggressive on-the-ball defender as well as off the ball. Tarondia is also a great student and person, continuing to add to the culture of our program.”
Cummings is hopeful the arrival of her overall four-member signing class will help swing the pendulum of the program’s success in a positive direction. The Lady Lions were 10-18 a year ago, including seven losses by 10 points or less.
“She has a bright future ahead of her,” Jones said. “The University of Arkansas Fort Smith is adding a great student- athlete, but they are getting an even better person to their program.”
Harold, who was part of Walker’s 4x100 and 4x200 state-bound relays, toured Arkansas-Ft. Smith campus in May during an official visit and came away impressed with the school’s atmosphere and Cummings’ personality.
“When I went there, I automatically felt like I belonged,” Harold said. “She (Cummings) made it feel like it was an atmosphere for me. She really wanted me to be there to bring intensity and to score points.”
Harold decided on Arkansas-Ft. Smith over Baton Rouge Community College, Ouachita Baptist and Ecclesia College (Springdale, Ark.).
“When I toured the school, I wasn’t focused on their record,” said Harold, who plans to major in business marketing. “I was more focused on helping to make the whole organization better with the players we have and the players coming in.”