Two weeks before the early signing day Deja Church started having her doubts.
The Southfield A&T senior guard had verbally committed to Minnesota.
It was 11 hours away by car, which would be tough on her family. Fellow Miss Basketball candidate Destiny Pitts (Birmingham Detroit Country Day) also had committed to Minnesota with coach Nikita Lowry swooping in to help recruit the two high school stars.
“They almost had us,’’ said Church.
This year, the Bello twins – Kehinde and Taiye – are freshmen at Minnesota. They were Church’s teammates at Southfield Lathrup.
Just up the road was the University of Michigan. The Wolverines had been recruiting her since the eighth grade.
So earlier today, she made it official and became a Wolverine, signing her national letter of intent before friends, family and teammates in the school’s library.
“I changed my mind about two weeks prior to signing,” said Church. “I was there (Minnesota) and it really started to hit me how I was away from home and I was going to be playing in a new state and my parents were be almost 11 hours away. I started to think about my whole decision and started to rethink things. I knew I had a great university at home right in my backyard.”
Which was good news for U-M coach Kim Barnes Arico.
“I switched and contacted the Michigan coaches and they still honored my scholarship,” said Church. “They were probably one of the first schools to recruit me. About two years ago is when they really started picking it up and coming out to most of the games and just really expressing how they wanted me to go there and how I would fit into their program.
“My relationship with Coach Arico is really good. I’ve known her for about five years already. I trust in what she says and what she believes in. She tells me the truth. We can talk about anything. I know she cares about her players and the program.’’
Freshman Kysre Gondrezick was last year’s Miss Basketball and is expected to start in the Wolverines backcourt this season.
The 5-foot-9 Church hoped to join her in the backcourt next year and she’s also a Miss Basketball candidate along with Pitts and Warren Cousino’s Kierra Fletcher (Georgia Tech).
“Church has played for me for three years,” said Southfield A&T coach Michele Marshall. “She comes from an amazing family. A family that is very supportive. They have done everything that is necessary and important to put her in a good position. Understanding how to carry herself as a young lady and a student-athlete who carries herself in a great way. It has been a pleasure to coach her. I also have her as a student in the classroom. She’s a hard-working young lady who puts everything into what she does.”
She’s also emotional, almost coming to tears when she addressed the crowd.
“The initial choice was so hard for me,” said Church. “Calling the coaches and letting them know I wasn’t coming there. It got to me. The second choice wasn’t that hard. I knew in my heart where I wanted to be and where I needed to be.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.