With a few pen strokes, three Truman High School seniors put their minds at ease before their final girls basketball season, while another started a new chapter in continuing a stellar softball career.
With parents flanking them on the stage and a few dozen friends watching and snapping pictures from the auditorium seats, Patriot basketball players Abby Hix and Becca Jonas signed NCAA Division I scholarship letters of intent to Georgia Southern University and Drake University, respectively, while teammate Kayla Harrell signed for a scholarship to Division II Southwest Baptist University. Finally, Paige Parker signed for a Division I softball scholarship with defending national champion Oklahoma.
“It’s a great day for a lot of people – the athletes, families, coaches, friends,” Truman activities director Eric Holm said to the audience before giving the athletes’ coaches a chance to speak. “I know, from my experience as a college coach, it’s an exciting day. They’re anxiously awaiting papers.”
For Parker, Wednesday might have felt like it would never come. Having drawn heavy collegiate interest from the time she started her high school career – she pitched the Patriots to the Class 4 state tournament as a freshman – Parker verbally committed to Oklahoma in the spring of her freshman year after visiting the Norman campus.
And before taking any pictures with friends, Parker hurried off to fax her LOI to the Sooner coaches.
“One-hundred-percent sure,” she said of her early commitment, having also received offers from Kansas and Missouri. “As soon as I stepped on campus at Oklahoma, I knew that’s where I wanted to go.
“On my summer team ... when other schools came to tournaments, I made sure all of them knew I was going there.”
Parker led the Patriots to a state championship in 2012, and the team fell one game short of returning to state last month. Parker finished with a career record of 93-15 (state record for games pitched), with a 0.30 ERA and a state-record 1,348 strikeouts. At the plate she batted .493 with 114 runs batted in (fifth in state history).
“She’s left an indelible mark on our program,” Truman softball coach Amy Temples said. “I’ve been blessed to coach her. She’s by far the best athlete I’ve ever coached.”
Jonas, Hix and Harrell are returning starters on a basketball team that went 22-1 last season and sports a 24-game conference winning streak. The 6-foot-1 Jonas has 801 points and 503 rebounds in her career.
“I believe coaches think she’s been around eight years,” Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity said. “She’s an amazing combination of post size and guard skills.”
Jonas said she had one other offer (UMKC), but only visited Drake. Already at the Des Moines, Iowa, campus is recent Blue Springs graduate Lizzy Wendell.
“Our families are friends,” Jonas said. “She’s such a good player and such a good friend. She didn’t pressure me (into choosing Drake), but it’ll be nice to have someone there I know.
“It’s exciting to make it official. I know all the coaches there and coaches here are very excited. We want to go farther in the postseason (the Patriots’ only loss last season came in the district finals). It’ll be a more relaxed season.”
Hix has 732 points, more than half coming on 3-pointers. Cassity joked about her habit of pulling up in transition and taking seemingly unnecessary long-range attempts.
“She can turn a game around in a hurry,” Cassity said. “She’s had a lot of those ‘Why did you shoot ... oh, good shot!’”
Hix liked the idea of going to a program that’s building, including a move to the Sun Belt Conference, and she committed in June.
“It’s a relief, but so exciting,” she said of signing her letter of intent. “I wanted to go to a place where I feel I can help the program.”
Harrell, who also was a softball teammate of Parker’s, has 521 career points to her credit. She chose Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo., over William Jewell College in August.
“I really liked both schools,” she said of the NCAA Division II programs. “The atmosphere, the coaching, the players all felt right (at Southwest).”
“She’s one of the most versatile players I’ve coached,” Cassity said. “She’s played anywhere from point guard to post.”