It’s a roughly 930-mile trip from Waco to Louisville, Ky., but Erin DeGrate can’t wait to make that journey.
DeGrate, La Vega’s dominant 6-4 basketball post, has committed to Louisville, selecting the Cardinals over a stellar list of finalists that included Baylor, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Texas Tech.
“I liked the team, I liked the coaching staff, and the way the team runs like we do at La Vega is just perfect for me,” DeGrate said. “I’ve made two visits there, and it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Last year as a junior, DeGrate averaged 18.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks for La Vega’s 35-0 state championship team, sharing District 17-3A MVP recognition with her equally heavily recruited teammate, point guard Calveion “Juicy” Landrum. DeGrate has honed her touch around the goal over the course of her career and last season shot 60 percent, a vast improvement from her early days in basketball when she would sometimes miss several point-blank layups while continuing to grab the misses and pad her rebounding stats.
“She can take the ball outside, she can hurt you from the free throw line, from either elbow,” La Vega coach Amy Gillum said. “I think she’s just more comfortable with her long arms. I had another center tell me, ‘We just have to get comfortable with our bodies.’ I think Erin has done that.”
Gillum said she’ll be sad to see DeGrate leave the state, but she’s overjoyed that she’s getting the opportunity to play big-time college hoops.
“I hope she loves it, because these kids are my babies, and it’ll be hard having her that far away,” Gillum said. “But if Erin is happy, I’m happy. She believes this is the best decision for her, and I’m on board with that.”
DeGrate plans to sign in November, at the start of basketball’s early signing period. But her pledge to the Cardinals still feels something like the culmination of a long journey.
“It’s definitely a relief,” DeGrate said. “It was a hard decision, because I did have a lot of really good options, but this was the perfect one for me. I’m just glad it’s over, so I can focus on having fun my senior year.”
“Oh, you can see it on her face,” Gillum said. “She’s definitely relieved and excited. I’m happy for her.”
DeGrate likely won’t be the last Lady Pirate player to land a college scholarship. Her fellow seniors Faith Dimerson, Yasmine Evans and Kobi Gill all have started since their freshman years and should have some opportunities to pursue athletics at the next level.
Landrum, a junior who is ranked as the 11th-best player in the nation in the Class of 2016 by HoopGurlz.com, will have an abundance of schools from which to choose.
In fact, DeGrate is already planning to do some recruiting on behalf of Louisville.
“Louisville wants Juicy too, and I’d love to keep playing with her,” she said. “That would be awesome.”