No. 2 prospect Evina Westbrook calls Tennessee 'right place to be'

SALEM, Ore. -- Ever since third grade, Evina Westbrook called The Hoop in Salem her second home. She's one of three people to have a key. She clocks in at 6 a.m. each day before school starts to work on her game.

On Thursday, The Hoop was full of supporters eager to see where Westbrook, the class of 2017's No. 2 prospect, would call home. After an hourlong ceremony, Westbrook revealed she had picked Tennessee.

A 6-foot guard, she joins a number of players from Oregon to pick Knoxville, including current Lady Vols Jordan Reynolds, Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared.

"I felt it on my visit," Westbrook said. "I honestly wasn't considering them too much. I went on my visit and instantly couldn't get Tennessee off my mind. From then, I felt in my heart that it was the right place to be."

With the addition of Westbrook, Tennessee looks like a solid No. 2 in the class rankings behind UConn, which added No. 1 Megan Walker earlier Thursday night. In addition to Westbrook, the Lady Vols have commitments from No. 9 Anastasia Hayes and No. 55 Kasiyahna Kushkituah.

Tennessee is believed to still be in the running for No. 10 Michaela Onyenwere and No. 12 Rennia Davis.

During the ceremony, Westbrook's high school and club coaches told old stories about her. Her family even pulled up highlights from her early days playing basketball against the boys.

The Westbrook family had custom T-shirts printed Thursday morning. Eva, her mother, said Evina decided on Tennessee on Monday morning. Coaches from the other finalists -- Oregon State, Notre Dame, Maryland and USC -- already knew Thursday that she would sign elsewhere.

Coaches from Tennessee, who didn't know about Westbrook's decision beforehand, watched her ceremony on a Facebook stream.

"Knoxville here I come," Eva said. "I always told Evina from a young age that if she goes to Mars, that's where I'll go.

"We knew she wasn't going to stay close to home."

Evina said seeing the gym full with teammates, family and friends made the day all the more special.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to have so many people come out and be here to support me," she said. "It shows how much I mean to the community. It meant so much to me."

Just after she announced, Westbrook kept it simple: "Go Lady Volunteers."

"I think it's a huge opportunity for her to step in and play right away," said Kelly Sopak, Westbrook's coach on the Cal Stars AAU team. "The schools that she had narrowed it down to -- that was a big thing."

Now Westbrook will turn her attention back to South Salem High School. The program is looking for its third consecutive state title, and Westbrook said she is ready for the challenge.

"She's helped us put our school on the map, so to speak, with her individual success and our team success," South Salem coach Nick McWilliams said. "You really can't measure the impact that she's had. It's as big as you can get."