Stafford senior post player Merritt Hempe heard it a lot Tuesday on her first day of school and knows it is a question she will field well into the girls’ basketball season: How’s U.Va.?
That’s when Hempe tells the inquirer that she’s no longer going to Virginia , the school she had unofficially committed to before Cavaliers Coach Debbie Ryan resigned in March.
This summer, Hempe revisited her options and has decided instead to attend the University of Georgia.
The 6-foot-3 Hempe, an honorable mention All-Met last season who averaged 20 points per game, attended camps this summer at Georgia and West Virginia — two of her finalist schools — and ultimately opted to commit to Georgia.
When she attended camp at Georgia, the school did not feel as far away from home as she thought it would.
“When Debbie Ryan retired, the first thing I thought of was Georgia, and they called me,” said Hempe, who estimates that she took about 13 unofficial visits to various schools. “When I went down there it felt perfect and right. The distance didn’t matter. When I sat down in Coach [Andy] Landers’s office me and my mom had a really long talk and I [thought] this is where I wanted to be.
“It was definitely tough because both schools are so great and both have great coaching staffs. There was nothing against the coaching staff at U.Va. They’re a great group. But Georgia was really the perfect fit for me.”
Hempe informed the schools recruiting her of her decision but did not go out of her way to publicize the switch. Word is getting out now, including in the Stafford classrooms and hallways.
“I kind of kept it to myself,” Hempe said. “It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about it. It was just kind of like my business that I needed to handle.”