October 1, 2013 11:09:43 PM
Kayla Nevitt had a plan.
After falling in love with coach Vic Schaefer, his coaches, his players, and the Mississippi State campus this summer, Nevitt envisioned returning to Starkville this weekend and giving a verbal commitment to play basketball at MSU.
So much for that plan.
When Nevitt returns to Starkville, she will be a Bulldog.
On Tuesday morning, the 5-foot-9 guard from Dekaney High School in Houston, Texas, had an epiphany and decided there was no better time than the present to commit to MSU. After checking with her father and her girls basketball coach, Nevitt called Schaefer and gave him a verbal commitment.
"I talked to my dad the night before and we were going over things and he said if you really want to do it just do it," Nevitt said. "(On Tuesday), we were in second period going on third period and I was in my coach's office (working as a student aide) and I asked her, 'Can I call Mississippi State? I know I want to commit.' "
Dan Olson, director of Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and espnW HoopGurlz, has Nevitt rated the No. 187 recruit (No. 39 at her position, shooting guard) in the Class of 2014. She shot 48 percent from the field and led Dekaney High (34-4) in scoring (10.9 points per game) and 3-pointers (54) last season. She also averaged 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.9 steals per game.
Joey Simmons, of Premier Basketball Report, a basketball recruiting and national scouting service that helps connect high school girls basketball players with college scouts from around the country, has Nevitt rated the No. 8 senior in the state of Texas, and No. 85 in the nation. Simmons, who has been involved in coaching for 39 years at the high school and Amateur Athletic Union levels, has coached Nevitt with the Texas Elite adidas AAU team for the past three years.
Nevitt's commitment is the fourth one MSU has received for the Class of 2014. Nevitt will join Scott Central's Victoria Vivians, the No. 24 player in the class, according to Olson, Starkville High School guard Blair Schaefer, who is Vic Schaefer's daughter, and Morgan William, a point guard from Shades Valley High in Birmingham, Ala. William gave a verbal commitment to MSU in July. Olson has Williams rated No. 139 in the country.
The four-player class comes on the heels of a 2013 recruiting class that includes Dominique Dillingham, an All-State player from Texas, Chinwe Okorie, a center from Stoneleigh-Burnham (Mass.) School, Breanna Richardson, an All-State player from Georgia, Kiki Patterson, an All-State player from Columbus High, Ketara Chapel, an All-State player from Texas, and Savannah Carter, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College. New Albany High standout Jazmine Spears also signed with MSU but didn't qualify academically and is at Trinity Valley C.C. Patterson is no longer with the team.
Olson ranked the class of seven players No. 35 in his national ratings. Richardson, who is No. 77 in Olson's individual rankings, is the highest-rated player in the class. Carter is the 27th-best junior college player, according to Olson.
Nevitt said the work Schaefer and his assistant coaches have done proved she could trust his vision and that he was going to bring in great players and people. She said she and her father never had heard a coach tell them they were going to bring in the best all-around individuals, so that made her feel even more confident she made the right decision.
"It made my decision a lot easier knowing he did his research on those players and he knows his stuff," Nevitt said. "I didn't doubt him. When they committed, I was like, 'Yes.' I feel Mississippi State can do new things (when all of the players arrive). I feel the kids he has brought in this year and with my class are just going to help Mississippi State get on the map further."
Believing Schaefer is going to bring in the best players is only part of what sold Nevitt on MSU. When asked to describe her game, Nevitt ticked off a handful of traits that appear to fit perfectly with Schaefer and his defensive mind-set.
"He is big on defense and I am long and tall and I love defense," Nevitt said. "Defense wins games and offense sells tickets, or however the saying goes.
"I am a great shooter. Everybody knows me as a shooter, but I also am a slasher. I am vocal on the court in helping my teammates and directing them. I bring that intensity to the court as far as energy and pumping my teammates up when things are not going their way. I am hard-core defense in getting steals. I am an energy-booster in getting points when we need them. I am a well-rounded player who can get to the basket and to the free-throw line."
Olson and Simmons also believe Nevitt figures to fit well into Schaefer's system.
"She is long and athletic. She defends and can create off the dribble," Olson said. "She has a chance to be a nice player. She is tailor-made for the SEC. She has got that speed and athleticism he will be able to use in a defensive scheme and to extend the floor. She is ideal for that."
Said Simmons, "She has a great attitude, she is a hard worker, she has a great jump shot, and can score at will. She plays very intense defense, and she is a great rebounder for her size. She plays down low in high school. One of her big strengths is she can defend. She also is a good ballhandler. Vic got him a good player."
Simmons said Nevitt averaged 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds this past season with the Texas Elite adidas team.
"I think you're going to see a huge change in the program, maybe not this year but the next year with his recruits coming in," Simmons said. "I think think they are going to be a very good basketball team. They're going to be very competitive."
College coaches can't comment on players until they receive a signed National Letter of Intent. A verbal commitment is non-binding. The first day of the early signing period is Nov. 13. It runs to Nov. 20. Nevitt said she anticipates signing a NLI on Nov. 13 or No. 14.
Nevitt, who competed in cross country in high school, agreed choosing MSU over SMU lifted a burden that had been weighing on her for a long time.
"It was like a relief," Nevitt said. "It was maybe like the first cross country meet you complete in that you feel relief because you know you have a load off your back. ... I was smiling the whole time. I went to class and my friends asked me, 'Why are you so happy?' I just told them I committed. It was awesome."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.