For the past few years, Ariel Massengale has had to hide her Tennessee Lady Vol gear in the back of her closet. Not anymore.
Massengale, the top point guard prospect in the 2011 class who is rated the No. 6 overall prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hot 100, on Thursday committed to the Lady Vols, giving Pat Summitt her second member of the U17 USA basketball team.
"Ever since I started playing basketball I wanted to go to Tennessee," said an ecstatic Massengale. "Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about all the schools I'm talking to, but I felt in my heart that I just needed to do it, commit to Tennessee."
In Knoxville Massengale will join U17 teammate Cierra Burdick, the No. 4 prospect in the 2011 class from Matthews, N.C., who won a world championship with Massengale this summer. Massengale said she told Burdick the good news before she called Summitt, but told Burdick to keep it quiet for a couple hours. Now that it's official, Burdick is ready to talk about her new teammate.
"I'm excited, I feel like I just committed," Burdick said. "I knew at the end of the road she'd be wearing orange and blue with me."
A natural leader with the ability to score, Massengale played her way into Tennessee's recruiting list after leading the U17 national team to a gold medal and her Tennessee Flight team to the national championship at Nike Nationals in North Augusta, S.C, this July. Massengale said Summitt told her that in France, Summitt was impressed with Massengale's ability to knock down a big shot when needed and knew then that Massengale would fit right in with the Lady Vols.
Burdick knows what Summitt means.
"She's the best point guard I've ever played with, hands down," Burdick said. "She loves to run but she can also put her team in a half court set and I think that's what makes her able to play with so many players.
"She's a true point guard and she's gonna look to pass before she scores but she has the ability to drop 20 and 22 like she did in France if that's what her team needs."
For the Massengale family, sending Ariel to Tennessee will be like a homecoming. Much of Carvel and Anita Massengale's family still lives in the Volunteer state -- it was family connections that brought Massengale to the Flight even though she lives in Bolingbrook, Ill. -- and Carvel said she will have lots of support when she finally steps on the court.
"This is something she's been dreaming about ever since she picked up a ball," Carvel said. "Now she gets to have it."
Though Massengale had said just last week that she was planning to take official visits to Tennessee, Duke and Kentucky, she knew early on that she had always wanted to be a Lady Vol.
"I had a couple long talks with my high-school coach and he said if I wanted to do it now I could, and then we can worry about getting this three-peat," said Massengale, referencing Bolingbrook High School's quest for a third consecutive state title.
Now, Massengale can relax and focus on her high-school season. But first she has to find a few items from her wardrobe.
"I've always had lots of Tennessee stuff, since I was in the third grade, but I had to put it away when high school came around," she said. "I'm excited to be able to wear it again."
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Lindsay Schnell is a staff writer for HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has been involved in the Oregon girls' basketball community for most her life as a player, high school coach, writer and fan. She also has been regular contributor to The Oregonian and won several awards for her writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.