As a sophomore at Columbus State, Tatiana Wayne often found herself lost in the shuffle. The 5-foot-6 guard fought for playing time on a 31-2 team but hit the court sparingly, usually restrained to about five-to-seven minutes per game.
Her story, however, changed for the better in her junior year.
With Columbus State needing a new leader, Wayne pushed herself to the front of the line. She scored in double figures in all 29 games for the Lady Cougars and ended this season with an average of 20 points per game. Historically, her points-per-game average is third-best in the history of the Lady Cougars program.
Wayne’s work earned her the Southeast Region Player of the Year, an honor handed down by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association. This is just the latest achievement for Wayne, who has already been named the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year and a member of the First Team All-Peach Belt squad.
Thanks to her play for Columbus State, Wayne has been named the Ledger-Enquirer’s Female Athlete of the Week.
“It means a lot to me,” Wayne said of the various recognitions she’s received. “I put a lot of work in this summer. I feel like I’ve always been overlooked. I kind of did it for myself because I know what I can do. I stayed focused and consistent during the summer, and I feel like that’s what helped me.”
Wayne dedicated herself to getting better during the offseason and made sure she went to the gym five days each week. She made it a point of emphasis to get stronger before her junior year and to also improve her ball-handling skills and her shot form.
Columbus State head coach Anita Howard said she had seen Wayne’s potential in Wayne’s sophomore season, Howard’s first with the Lady Cougars. Howard took mental note of Wayne’s constant presence in the gym, but Wayne really caught her attention in the fourth game of the season.
Though it came in a losing effort, Wayne went off against Carson-Newman. She scored 37 points in the defeat and also tacked on seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“They’re an Elite Eight team now, and she put up 37 points on them, and it was not forced,” Howard said. “She took what the defense gave her. At one point, she was leading us in assists. She’ll get rebounds. It really wasn’t about scoring the points – she was literally doing it on both sides of the ball.”
Wayne’s presence as a game-changing player was evident throughout the season, but it never clearer than in the Lady Cougars’ game against Georgia College on Feb. 14.
Georgia College entered the game just ahead of Columbus State in the conference standings, and the Lady Cougars began the fourth quarter down 18 points. Wayne’s sudden emergence in the fourth quarter pushed Columbus State on a 25-7 run, which forced an extra session.
“When coaches ask you to leave it on the floor, she literally left it on the floor,” Howard said. “The game went into overtime, and she got a steal. On the steal, she dove on the floor for the loose ball. She sacrificed her body, and I think the team took on that mantra of ‘by any means necessary.’”
Columbus State ultimately held off Georgia College for a 67-61 victory. Wayne had a game-high 38 points.
Her small stature may make her dominance surprising, but for Wayne, her triumphs are a product of not letting her lack of height slow her down.
“I’ve never really focused on that,” Wayne said. “I use my speed to my advantage. I’m kind of strong, too. My speed and my strength, I use that to make up for the height I don’t have.”
Wayne accomplished quite a bit as a junior, but the Lady Cougars’ exit in the first round of the Division II NCAA Tournament put a sour stamp on the season. She said she is motivated to improve her basketball IQ, a tactic which Howard believes will make her an even more dominant all-around player.
Wayne established herself as a player Columbus State could count on this season. With another year to go, she’s eager to take the Lady Cougars to new, even greater heights.
“I’ve won a PBC championship and a region championship. The only thing I’m missing is a national championship,” Wayne said. “This is my last year to do so. I’m really focused and willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”