Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sidelined: A Peripheral View of the College Recruiting Process

part 3

Young athletes and their families, coaches and recruiters, and whistles and cheers from one of ten different courts. Young women exhibit speed and strength and skill on every court. Teams from SoCal like Cal Sparks, Cal Stars, Cal Storm, Cal Swish, but also teams from Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. So much talent. So much to take in.

We were there to watch Nicole. She was playing for a new club team, or an old club team, revived by Coach Lindsay Strothers whom had been the coach at Westview when Jamie Nared was there. Even though Coach Strothers left Westview, he continued to work with Nicole since middle school. Now, with Nicole recovered from her torn Patella, she was showing hustle on both sides of the ball. She looked good on the court, but amongst the masses? With all of these girls and all of these schools and all of these coaches? She knew she wanted to play college, so we were just there, back on the sidelines, waiting to see where she would land.

Schools from the East Coast had shown interest in Nicole, so that summer she visited schools in Boston and New York, but she came home certain she wanted to stay on the West Coast. Offers came in from University of Portland and Eastern Washington, but Nicole held on to Pac 12 dreams and was considering walking on at Washington. She wanted to wait; we waited with her.

Going into her senior season, Nicole's best friend, the girl she'd grown up playing hoops with, the girl who carried the team while Nicole was injured, blew out her knee. This season-ending knee injury changed the trajectory of Nicole's senior year considerably. She still played hard, had coaches looking and a few visits and offers coming in, but without Kam, the likelihood of a playoff run diminished.

The season was coming to an end, and Vermont came to watch a playoff game. Tulsa came to visit. They had posters and fancy DI offers to make. So, as her senior season came to a close, Nicole scheduled official visits. She went to Vermont and Tulsa, and she came to LA. She stayed with us as she visited Cal State Northridge and Cal State LA, Cal Baptist and Cal State Bakersfield. And then she started to lean.

It wasn't about PAC 12, or DI, or a poster of her in a big arena. It wasn't about east or west coast or Nike or Adidas.  What it came down to was a coach and a place. Nicole didn't just have a 4.1 GPA. Nicole was smart. She liked one coach, one program in particular, and felt this was the right fit. She went on her official visit, and then, just as if it was the easiest decision she'd ever made, she committed to Cal State Los Angeles.

Aaaaaahhhhhh!!! Yes! My niece is coming to LA, and our family is thrilled. Coach Tornio at Cal State LA coached former students of mine at Palisades High, and on Nicole's visit, Skai Thompson, who played for Emerson and Pali City Championship teams, looked on. Cal State LA felt like family, and Nicole found her home.

So, that is how Nicole's recruiting ends and where her college journey begins. As she graduates from high school, we are proud of this Golden Eagle ready to take flight!

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