Peyton Whitted came to Penn State to participate in the Lady Lions Elite basketball camp last weekend, but before the first ball was bounced, the North Gwinnett, Ga., standout needed to confirm a gut feeling.
Whitted spent her Friday taking an unofficial visit, and by that evening, she was tweeting out that she would become a Lady Lion.
Whitted, a 6-foot-3 forward, has orally committed to play for Penn State. She joins 5-6 guard KeKe Sevillian (Goodrich, Mich., High School), 6-6 center Infiniti Alston (Digital Harbor, Baltimore) and 6-2 forward Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga.) in what promises to be a huge recruiting class for the fall of 2013. The four players will be eligible to sign letters-of-intent in November.
Whitted, who can play both small and power forward, is the highest rated player among Penn States 2013 recruits. She is a four-star recruit and is ranked No. 56 in her class by ESPNHoopGurlz.
Whitted chose Penn State over Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. She had narrowed her decision to Penn State and Virginia, and her unofficial visit finally tipped the scales.
I had a feeling it was (Penn State) for a really long time, Whitted said. I just wanted to go through a recruiting process the best way possible, to make sure I saw every school, talked to as many people and made sure I wasnt going to have any doubts when I made this decision. I still dont have any doubts and I dont think I will.
Whitted, who said she has been on Penn States radar since she was a freshman, gives a glowing review of the university and head coach Coquese Washington.
Just look at the school, the eloquent Whitted started when asked what put Penn State over the top. The campus is amazing. The academics are perfect. Coach Quese is the coach that I have imagined would coach me in college. She is just the perfect role model and mentor that Im looking for. ... She doesnt want the team to be just good basketball players. Its more than a basketball player she wants to recruit. She wants to help me to become a better person and better student. In every way possible, she wants to make me better when I leave Penn State. That was the big thing that set Penn State apart because I know she really cares about me.
Washingtons program certainly has Georgia on its mind. Whitted becomes the third player from the Peach State to head north for University Park. Center Tori Waldner will be a sophomore for the Lady Lions this coming season, while Mitchell, from Stephenson High School, joins Whitted in the Class of 2013.
Mitchell, who committed to Penn State on Monday, and Whitted are very familiar with each other.
Its feels like a reunion in a way because we played together last year for AAU with the (Georgia) Hoop-stars, Whitted said. I was very happy to hear she committed there because we played very well together.
It did have an influence knowing that I knew somebody that was going up there and that we were in the same class, said Mitchell. It made me feel more comfortable in coming up there.
Whitted, along with teammate Lexie Brown (orally committed to Maryland), helped North Gwinnett advance to the Georgia Final Four for the first time since 1963.
Whitted averaged 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior. She was even better in the postseason, averaging 14.8 points and 10.0 rebounds.
Im very versatile, Whitted said when asked of her strengths. I can play the three and the four. I have good ball-handling skills. I have a good face-up game on the inside. Im a rebounder. Im left-handed and thats a very good advantage.
She feels those skills will work well for the uptempo Lady Lions, who she follows via the Big Ten Network.
I like that theyre fast, she said. When they get the rebound, they go. When post players get the rebound, they push it up the floor. A lot of schools, the post players will rebound and outlet to guards. Thats not what Coach Quese wants me to do when I get there. She wants me to rebound it, bring the ball up the floor and pass it to a guard once I get past halfcourt.
Whitted, an honor student who recently won a large scholarship for community service, is undecided on her major at Penn State, but has many interests.
I really like interior design, architecture, engineering, sports communication and journalism, she said. Whatever I decide from those, I will do.
Shes glad to have her decision made.
Theres no more stress and no more thinking, Whitted said. Telling the other schools that I wasnt going there is the toughest part of this, but now Im just relieved. I can focus on my senior year, getting my grades together, keeping them up and getting ready for college.
And once she gets to Penn State, she has more goals.
I want to win some championships, Whitted said. I think we have the right players to make that happen.
Walt Moody can be reached at 231-4630. Follow him on Twitter @wmoodycdt