When Deja Kelly was in third grade, she designed a "dream board "that included an action shot of her dad playing basketball for the Texas Longhorns. Printed neatly in blue letters below the picture was: "Follow in my dads footsteps."
Four years later, the 5-foot-8 Kelly took a big step toward that dream when she gave a verbal commitment Saturday to Texas and coach Karen Aston.
Yes, four years later. Kelly is a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Luna Middle School in San Antonio, Texas. She is part of the Class of 2020.
"We are confident about the decision," said Kelly's mom, Theresa Nunn, who coaches her daughter on the South Texas HOYAS (Helping Our Youth Attain Scholarships). "I definitely think she made the right choice."
According to Nunn, Kelly has visited more than 50 campuses across the country, tagging along with her mom's travel teams, and she never wavered in her desire to go to Texas.
In fact, about a month ago, after researching several of the top programs together, Nunn said she asked her daughter to give her three reasons she wanted to go to Texas, and basketball wasn't even a part of her answer. Instead, Kelly pointed to the environment and the Longhorns' tradition, the academics, and her father, Darren Kelly, who played for Texas for two seasons (1999-2001).
"If basketball were taken away tomorrow," Nunn said, "she'd still be in love with the school."
According to Nunn, Kelly received the offer on Saturday while they were at Texas' 48-45 football win over Iowa State. Nunn said she urged her daughter to chew on it for a while, but Kelly saw no wisdom in that option. After calling her dad to discuss the situation, Kelly, a combo guard, accepted the offer following the game.
"I know kids change their minds on a daily basis," Nunn said. "But this is something she's been pretty concrete with for the past five or six years."
Nunn said Kelly started playing basketball when she was 3 and played on Nunn's fifth-grade team when she was in kindergarten. Kelly has always played above her age, and her mom believes she has a maturity far beyond her years as well.
"It's just a different situation," Nunn said. "She has always said she wanted to go to Texas."
But back to that dream board. Beneath a team photo of the HOYAS hoisting a trophy is a logo -- it belongs to the WNBA. To the right, written in blue: "Hard work pays off! Deja Kelly arrives in 2025!"