100 in 100: Clay County’s Laura Cottrell, part of the first family of Western NC basketball

After a standout career at Hayesville High School, Cottrell overcame injury to lead Clemson to an ACC Tournament title in 1996

Hayesville's Laura Cottrell scored more than 2,000 points in high school and was ACC Tournament MVP in 1996 with Clemson.

North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.

Clay County

Laura Cottrell

Cottrell is the youngest member of what could be considered the first family of Western North Carolina basketball. Her father, Steve, coached the men’s team at Western Carolina for 10 seasons in the late 1970s and 1980s before spending another dozen seasons at Hayesville High School. Her brother Michael scored 2,503 points for Cullowhee High from 1983-87, a total that remains a Western N.C. record.

Laura was also the all-time leading scorer among Western N.C. girls when she finished her career at Hayesville with 2,141 points. She also pulled down 1,178 rebounds while leading her team to four consecutive 1A state championships and compiled a record of 108‑9.

Although she suffered a knee injury that kept her out of the 1993 state championship game and required surgery, along with a string of other injuries that slowed her early in her college career at Clemson, the 6-foot-1 post player still managed to make her mark with the Tigers. She started for three years, becoming one of only five players in school history to amass as many as 1,100 points and 800 rebounds (she finished with 1,108 points and 808 rebounds).

In 1996, Cottrell led Clemson to its first ACC Tournament championship, earning MVP honors for a three-game performance in which she amassed 37 rebounds — including 16 in a semifinal win against Virginia. She had 10 points and 12 rebounds in the final against Duke, a game in which the fourth-seeded Tigers led from start to finish on the way to a 71-54 victory.

Upon her graduation, she followed her father and two brothers into the coaching profession. She is currently the head coach at Chattanooga Christian Academy in Tennessee.