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RUTLEDGE – A basketball team with the kind of success Grainger High School has enjoyed has to have a lot of moving parts working together to ensure victory. For the past several years, Josie Harbin has been one of those vital moving parts who has brought a large number of victories.

While Harbin’s numbers may not be as flashy as other members of the Lady Grizzlies team, her effort did not go unnoticed by her coaches or teammates. It also did not go unnoticed by college coaches. Harbin’s work effort has now been rewarded as the Grainger senior guard has signed to play collegiate basketball at Johnson University next season.

“I’m really happy about this. It is a blessing for me to be able to play again,” Harbin said of the opportunity to extend her playing career. Playing at the next level was something Harbin said she had not seriously considered until the end of the season. The pull of the court was something she said she just could not walk away from. 

“I had decided I wasn’t going to play anymore, but after the season, I realized I didn’t want this to end and I didn’t want to give up. I thought about other colleges. But once I had a meeting with the Johnson coach and talked to her, I just knew that was where I wanted to be and to play ball,” Harbin said.

“There is probably no kid more deserving of this than Josie Harbin because of the way she works,” Grainger head coach Rusty Bishop said of Harbin signing to play at Johnson. “I have always told her that if she continues to carry her work ethic with her to any phase of her life, she will be successful because of the type of player, teammate, kid, and student she is. Josie will be a success no matter what.”

The Lady Grizzlies’ success on the hardwood is well-documented and Harbin has been an important part of that success. 

During the past four years, Grainger has had an 800 winning percentage with a record of 108-27, including two trips to the state tournament during the past two seasons. Bishop said Harbin is the type of player every successful team needs.

“Josie was the one who was willing to do all the dirty work. She didn’t have to have the ball every possession, but she was always going to box out and rebound. Defensively and offensively, she was always where she needed to be. You win with people like that on your team. Her stats may not be flashy, but the things she did on the basketball court will be very hard to replace. There were a lot of immeasurables with the things she did. Josie was always where she was supposed to be and was one of those players who teammates and coaches could count on 100 percent of the time. That goes a long way,” Bishop said.

The type of program Grainger has built means that student-athletes who step into it have a great deal of expectations to meet. Because of the success the Lady Grizzlies has had, preparation for playing at the collegiate level is a constant.  

“Playing at Grainger has taught me to work hard every day and that practice makes perfect. There was a certain expectation for excellence at Grainger and to meet that every day, it was a special demand,” Harbin said.

The Lady Grizzlies are proud about the family atmosphere within the Grainger program and Harbin is no different. “The family at Grainger and how everyone showed love to each other, that really has been a top priority for me. The game can bring people of different backgrounds together and once you are a team, a sense of family comes in and you love each other, you are there for each other and you back each other up,” Harbin said.

Harbin plans on a career in medicine after her playing days at Johnson are finished. That desire came to her early in life. She has a sister who has juvenile arthritis and multiple sclerosis and the desire to help other children facing the same obstacles helped Harbin to choose her life’s mission. 

“Ever since middle school, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Going to doctor visits with my sister, I realized I want to become a rheumatologist and work with kids like her,” Harbin said.

“She is in rare air with the type of student and person she is,” Bishop said. “Josie is the kind of person who always puts others above herself. On the basketball floor, that has been evident to me for two years. In the classroom and in the community, she always cares more about others than she cares about herself. In the medical field, there is no doubt she will excel.”