Akita Heatly’s championship career earns nod to the 2022 FAMU Sports HOF

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Akita Heatly was a winner every time she stepped on the hardwood.

The former Florida A&M women’s basketball guard enjoyed a decorated career at Boca Ciega High School and with the Rattlers.

Heatly is being rewarded for her championship-winning basketball career as one of 16 inductees in the 2022 FAMU Sports Hall of Fame class on Sept. 9.

“I broke down when I got the call,” Heatly said.

“I haven’t even taken it all in yet but I’ve been waiting on it. I’m so excited for my family and friends to come and see me get inducted.”

Heatly, 44, obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education/Recreation from FAMU in 2004 and is the Athletic Supervisor for the City of Tallahassee’s Parks and Recreation department.

She’s married to Shalonda Williams.

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A Star is Born

Heatly was born in St. Petersburg and attended Boca Ciega High School in neighboring Gulfport.

She was the figurehead in helping the girls’ basketball to prominence in the mid-1990’s under coach Harry Elifson, who’s now is an assistant coach at USF.

Heatly was a two-time Florida High School Coaches Association Class 5A Player of the Year along with capturing two state championships in 1995 and 1996.

She could score and dish the ball, averaging 13.2 points per game and 8.9 assists. Heatly also placed second in the 1996 Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Basketball ballot behind multiple-time winner Latoyna Washington of Paxton High School.

“Those were the best years of my life,” Heatly said. “Our team was winning and been together since we were freshmen.

“We finally got over the hump in our junior year to win our first title and went back again. It wasn’t just me, I had a really good team.”

Akita Heatly

Going to Gainesville

A hot recruit coming out of high school, Heatly committed and signed with the University of Florida.

Though on the roster, she never played a game for the Gators.

Heatly took a year off from basketball after her freshman year to plan her next chapter.

“I just had a short stop there,” she said. “It just didn’t feel right and didn’t fit me the way that I though it would.

“I left and ended up sitting out a whole year and then transferred to FAMU because back then you couldn’t transfer to another SEC school without sitting out for two years and I didn’t want to do that.”

New Scenery

Heatly transferred to FAMU in 1998 after FAMU Hall of Famer Head women’s basketball coach Claudette Farmer and Beverly Burnett recruited her.

Having friends already enrolled at the school made Heatly’s decision easy.

“My friends that were at the school told me that they’d love to have me,” she said. “Coach Farmer and Burnett told me that I could take them to another level and I said ‘Sign me up, I’m on my way.’

“It felt like going to a family reunion. I’ve never been to a school with just all black kids. That was something new for me. All the coaching staff and the team in general made me feel at home. Plus Tallahassee is a very inviting place.

“That was the environment of the school together. I was really happy about my decision to come and play for FAMU.”

Rickards athletic director Claudette Farmer talks during signing ceremonies on National Signing Day, Feb. 6, 2019.

Rickards athletic director Claudette Farmer talks during signing ceremonies on National Signing Day, Feb. 6, 2019.

A Promise Kept

Heatly did what everyone expected from her, helping take the Rattlers to new heights. She averaged 10.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 2.6 steals.

In 1999, she helped the team win its second MEAC Championship, defeating Hampton 69-47.

The Rattlers advanced into the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Tournament for the second time in history (1995 was first appearance). The 15th-seed Rattlers fell to Clemson 76-45 in the opening round.

“We were one of those team that just came together,” Heatly said. “They’re still my lifelong friends to this day.

“It was something that I couldn’t even imagine. Since I had won at every level, I wanted to push them to win the MEAC and go to the NCAA tournament — and we did it. We went against Clemson and should’ve won that game. I got a really bad concussion. If I could do it all over again, I’d do it the same way.”

Forever Enshrined on The Hill

Heatly will be officially inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame with 15 others in the 2022 class Sept. 9. They will also be honored during the FAMU-Albany State football game that day.

She will join Farmer, who was enshrined in 1991.

“All Coach Farmer wanted to do was win,” Heatly said. “She always encouraged us and pushed us to be the best that we can be.

“She was a real role model for us when we came to school — a mother figure that you always need away from home.”

Heatly got the call from MEAC Hall of Famer Alvin Hollis that she was selected in the 2022 class.

She will dedicate her Hall of Fame ceremony to her late father, Al who passed away in March.

“I’m sad because my dad just passed away so he won’t be there to see me go in,” Heatly said. “He would’ve been so happy.

“It’s so surreal. I never thought that I’d get in — it never crossed my mind. But I was a winner at every level and helped turn the program around.”

Gerald Thomas III covers FAMU athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @3peatgee.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FAMU WBB: Heatly enterring 2022 Hall of Fame for decorated career

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