If you had told Latorri Hines-Allen of Montclair, N.J., when she tried out for her first organized basketball team back in the seventh grade that in less than five years she would be accepting a full scholarship to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, she would have told you that you were crazy.
Not even five years after being cut from her middle school basketball team, Hines-Allen accepted a scholarship offer from Virginia Tech and is the third prospect to commit verbally to the Hokies in the 2010 class.
Hines-Allen, ranked No. 88 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, wasn't one of those young phenoms destined for stardom from the get-go. Simply looking back at where she started makes her ascendance to the nation's elite all the more remarkable.
"It was in seventh grade and all my friends were trying out for the team," Hines-Allen said of her first experience with basketball. "I was not good. I got cut."
It was her first major hurdle, right at the outset no less, but Hines-Allen kept with the sport, joining the Montclair Police Athletic League.
"They didn't cut people," Hines-Allen said of her in-town recreational league," I worked really hard during that little [season] and then I guess I became good."
Hines-Allen eschewed her middle school team in eighth grade and stuck with the PAL again. Fast-forward to high school, it obviously paid off. Only one of her former middle school team players is accepting a Division I scholarship and that's to play soccer. Meanwhile the PAL experience jump-started Hines-Allen toward a future in a sport she was told she wasn't good enough for.
Despite national recognition following her sophomore year, Hines-Allen still hit roadblocks. After a solid showing this past spring, earning her a place in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, she suffered a severe knee injury that left her wondering whether her dreams of playing collegiate basketball were shattered.
"I remember driving back home, she was scared the schools weren't going to want her because of the injury," said her Team Freckles club team coach Keith Jefferson.
In the fourth game of a tournament at Penn State University, Hines-Allen suffered a non-contact injury to her left knee. She approached the basket for an uncontested lay-in and on her jump-stop her knee buckled.
The injury was ultimately a tear of her anterior cruciate ligament and a grade two tear of her medial collateral ligament as well.
"I got hurt and I thought I would never play again," Hines-Allen added. "I thought it was worse than it was. I didn't think any of [the colleges] would want me because an ACL is so big."
Finding out that all the schools recruiting her were still there for her after the injury was invigorating and helped push her into her rehabilitation and therapy following her Aug. 17 surgery.
This past weekend she made her first, and last, official visit to Virginia Tech. She had previously made unofficial visits to schools closer to home including Iona, but everything about Virginia Tech led her to cancel all future visits and commit.
"First, I liked the coaches, they were real cool," Hines-Allen said. "They treated me nice and well. The team is just as good as the coaches and they have a family bond there and I like that. The facilities were nice; the school spirit was good too. Everybody dresses up, like, every day."
Hines-Allen, a 6-foot-1 athletic forward, joins combo-guard Monet Tellier (Charlotte, N.C./East Mecklenburg), ranked No. 54 in the class, and shooting guard Kyani White (Quicksburg, Va./Stonewall Jackson) in the Hokies 2010 recruiting class.
A high-motor, high-energy, constant effort player, Hines-Allen is the type of kid who can come back from injury because of her work ethic. That toughness undoubtedly comes from having five siblings, three sisters and two brothers, all of whom play sports, mostly basketball.
Hines Allen is just over a month into her therapy and rehab and she's seeing great improvement in her range of motion. She's walking without her brace, sitting normally and navigating steps and various inclines and declines with much success. She has a knack for persevering. Without her senior season of basketball she will again have to draw from within to hone her skills and be ready next year for her life as a collegiate hoopster.
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Chris Hansen is the National Director of Prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college-basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a Communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high-school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.