Paul VI Catholic junior All-Met Ariana Freeman committed to Louisville on Wednesday afternoon, the guard-forward won over by the fact that Cardinals Coach Jeff Walz attended all of her games at the Nike Boo Williams Invitational over the weekend and then flew in for an open gym at Paul VI on Tuesday.
“It was the love,” Freeman said. “Coaches can want you and say come to our program, but it’s all about who shows up. When I have an 8 a.m. game and I look and see the head coach in the stands, he was the only head coach of the schools in my top four who was there. Just the love. A coach can’t fake love.”
As Freeman said, at the Boo Williams showcase, it’s not only coaches scouting players, it’s players scouting coaches. Freeman said that all four head coaches from her finalist schools — Louisville, Kentucky, Penn State and Tennessee — were in the Hampton area for the event but that Walz was the only steady presence at her games among the four.
“The [others] had representatives there, assistant coaches, but not the head coach,” said Freeman, who de-committed from West Virginia last month. “If I’m a head coach and I want a player, I’m going to be at all her games and show her that we really want her at our university.”
“Once Ariana made the decision to open back up her recruitment, I don’t think they could have done a better job than what they did in trying to recruit her,” Paul VI Coach Scott Allen said. “Being upfront and honest. They did a textbook job of recruitment with her. They made very evident that she was their top choice they wanted to sign in this class for her position. Their answers were very clear. There was no process to have to go through to try to figure out an answer.
“It’s just an exciting day for her and for our program to commit to a team that just played in the national championship and is one of the top programs in the country,” Allen said.
The 5-foot-11 Freeman, the leading scorer and rebounder for No. 5 Paul VI (29-4) this past season and the only non-senior on the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference first team, took an unofficial visit to Louisville last month. The prospective communications major was tempted to commit on the spot but held off.
The Cardinals, a fifth seed, knocked off four higher-seeded teams, including top-ranked Baylor, to become the lowest-seeded team to reach the final since the women’s championship began in 1982.
“To go up against 6-8 [Brittney] Griner and to go up against a [Baylor] team that’s nearly unstoppable, for a coach to bring that much heart and passion out of his players is crazy,” said Freeman, whose first two scholarship offers were from West Virginia and Louisville.
After calling Walz and his staff from the Paul VI athletic office Wednesday afternoon to announce the commitment, Freeman and her mother, Veronique, had a moment to themselves.
“Me and my mom took a whiff of fresh air and let our hair down and started doing a little dance,” Freeman said. “It was a little weight off my shoulders.”
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