Once Aaries Reed told Morgan State three months ago that she would sign to play basketball with the Bears, the Westlake senior started to recruit others.

She considered her AAU teammate -- and McDonough rival -- Ashley Thompson, who was on the Bears' radar, and began talking her up. Last month, Thompson committed to Morgan State.

"I don't know what she did, but it worked," Thompson said.

Reed was thrilled to have a familiar face joining her at college, but there's the little business of the upcoming high school season that has to come first.

"We're not teammates just yet," she joked.

Starting yesterday, Reed, Thompson and several other Southern Maryland athletes will sign Division I scholarships during the week-long early signing period, which runs through Wednesday.

All told, 10 Southern Maryland athletes have made commitments to college programs that can accept signed letters of intent this week. In recent years, only a couple of area athletes signed during the early period. But college coaches are more active in the area these days, as its population has grown and its athletes have succeeded in college.

Athletes can sign early in all sports except for football, field hockey, soccer and water polo, whose players cannot sign until Feb. 1. The late signing period for other sports begins April 12.

But for the athletes who have given colleges an oral commitment, now is the time to make their decisions official.

Calvert's Megan Elliott and Whitney Johnson, two of the top female athletes in the entire Washington area, will solidify their commitments. Elliott, the All-Met softball player of the year, chose to play at Arizona State last month; Johnson, an All-Met volleyball player and All-Extra basketball player of the year, will play volleyball at Albany.

Lackey center Tayvon Jackson will become the first Southern Maryland boys' basketball player to sign early since Westlake's Gregg Jones signed with the Citadel in 1998. Jackson decided on Mount St. Mary's last month after an official visit.

Joining Jackson next year on the Emmitsburg campus in Western Maryland will be Great Mills' Lyle Kralle, who will sign to play baseball for the Mountaineers. Kralle helped the Hornets to a second-place finish last spring in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, the Hornets' best finish since winning the 1997 Maryland 2A title.

Two other SMAC baseball players will sign this week. Patuxent's Kyle Starr will become the first Panther to sign a Division I baseball scholarship when he commits to Radford. In his three varsity seasons, Starr has helped the Panthers to the 3A final in 2003, Patuxent's first SMAC title in 2004 and the 4A East final last spring.

Westlake catcher Ryan Smith will sign with four-time Big East champion Notre Dame. He is the first Wolverine to sign a baseball scholarship since Robbie Jacobsen committed to George Mason in 2002.

Calverton's David Spaulding, though, can say something no other area player can: He's going to play for a national champion. Spaulding will play lacrosse for Johns Hopkins, which won the NCAA Division I championship in May. Spaulding said, though, that the school does not accept letters-of-intent until each student passes admissions. Spaulding said he expects that to happen in December.

"I went to all their games last year," said Spaulding, who orally committed in February, "and I still can't believe" I'm going to play for them.

Spaulding's Calverton teammate, Ben Ganley, won't be too far away after he signs to play lacrosse for Towson.

Westlake's Aaries Reed committed to Morgan State, then did some recruiting of her own.