October 29, 2012 9:35:30 PM
STARKVILLE -- Maggie Proffitt didn't want the distraction.
After playing basketball for a number of years on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit, Proffitt knew she wanted to make her final high school season special. To do that, Proffitt felt she needed to be focused on the Starkville Academy girls basketball team, not thinking about where she wanted to play basketball in college.
Little did Proffitt realize that the University of Central Arkansas would prove to be such a perfect fit.
What started out last month as an unofficial visit to UCA to see if she liked the school and the Conway, Ark., area proved to be the beginning and end to the recruiting process. One day after visiting the campus, Proffitt received a scholarship offer. Three days later, she called the UCA coaches to give her verbal commitment to the program.
"It was a very stressful process," said Proffitt, a 5-foot-9 senior guard. "I just kind of wanted to get it over with. When I went to Conway and visited, I felt like I knew it was the spot for me."
Proffitt said she liked first-year coach Sandra Rushing and assistant coaches Destinee Rogers and Shameka Russell. She also liked the size of the city, which is known as "The City of Colleges." Conway also is home to Central Baptist College and Hendrix College.
Last season, UCA went 24-7 and lost to Oklahoma State University in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Rushing takes over the program after spending the past 10 seasons at Division II Delta State University in Cleveland. She had a 254-58 record in that span, and led the program to eight NCAA tournaments and six Gulf South Conference titles. Rushing hopes to help the program build on a 2011-12 season in which the Sugar Bears went 16-0 and won the Southland Conference regular-season title in their sixth year as a Division I program.
With a senior-dominated lineup set for this season, Proffitt feels UCA gives her an excellent chance to earn playing time as a freshman. She said Rushing, who was hired May 31, 2012, and her assistant coaches saw her in the summer playing with the Kenner (La.) Angels AAU team. In July, Proffitt helped the Angels win the AAU Nationals at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. She also helped lead the team to the Louisiana state title.
"I feel playing AAU was the main thing that helped me," Proffitt said. "AAU is what got me the looks (from college coaches)."
One season after playing an integral role on the Columbus High School girls basketball team's run deep into the Class 6A North State playoffs, Proffitt is ready to help Starkville Academy add to it title haul. Last season, the Lady Volunteers (38-5) won the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II title, the Class AAA championship, and the overall state title. Proffitt feels her outside shooting and her all-around game will fit nicely into the mix of an experienced team that will try to blend youth into the rotation.
Starkville Academy will test that chemistry at 4 p.m. today when it takes on Bowling Green (La.) at the East Rankin Academy tournament. Starkville Academy beat Bowling Green (La.) in its first game of the MAIS overall state tournament last season.
Now that she has made her decision, Proffitt feels she will be focused on playing a key role for the Lady Volunteers. She said she feels secure in her her decision even though she only took an official visit to one other school: Northwestern State (La.). She didn't want to be rushed into making her decision, so she was relieved to find a great fit at UCA.
"I am just glad it is over so I don't have to worry about it," said Proffitt, who will sign a National Letter of Intent next month to make her decision official. "Now we can focus on winning a state title."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.