Forest Park girls' basketball players Monica Wright and Ashleigh Braxton, taking a break from working at a camp at their school one day last week, sat in a sandwich shop and marveled at how fortunate they are to be future Division I basketball players.
Two-time All-Met Wright earlier in the week had unofficially committed to play at the University of Virginia. Braxton, like Wright a rising senior, has a list of suitors that she hopes to whittle down once she can take official visits to campuses after the school year starts.
"You see a lot of people in jobs, kids our age trying to save up money for college," said Braxton, who has four younger siblings. "We both just looked at each other like, we are just so lucky because we don't have to worry about all of [those] things. . . . We get to go and play the sport we love and have a great education from that also."
Wright said two weeks ago that she planned to hold off on committing until after she takes official visits in the fall. But she chose Virginia, which started recruiting Wright early in her career, from a final list that included Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee. Defending national champion Baylor was among another 20 or so schools that offered her scholarships. Wright can sign with the Cavaliers in November.
The 5-foot-11 guard-forward averaged 18.9 points, 12 rebounds and 6.8 assists last season in leading the Bruins to their second consecutive Virginia AAA championship game appearance. She was named the AAA state player of the year by the Associated Press.
Braxton, a second-team all-state pick, plans to visit Florida, Pitt, Richmond and Temple -- leaving her one more slot for an official trip -- and is also considering Miami (Fla.), Northwestern and Wake Forest. No school has an edge, necessarily, but Temple Coach Dawn Staley is the only player whose poster has ever graced Braxton's bedroom wall.
"I wish I could pop in a videotape and fast-forward and know where I chose and take a load off my shoulders," said Braxton, who averaged 11.6 points, 7 rebounds and 7.2 assists last winter. "But I'm definitely excited about getting to travel and meet the coaches face to face. They entertain you, then you come back and think about it and then go to another campus."
Although not as celebrated as nationally touted Wright, the 5-10 Braxton is finding that her particular skills are in demand. She said that most teams are in greater need of guards who can shoot rather than penetrate, which works to her benefit. Braxton made 46 three-pointers last season and took -- and made -- plenty of long-range shots during events in Oregon and Atlanta and other recent basketball stops.
Braxton will undergo surgery Aug. 23 on a torn ligament in her right ankle, but considers it a relatively minor procedure and believes she will be fully recovered by the end of October.