Since she was in eighth grade, Jaylen Williams has been on Coquese Washingtons recruiting radar.
Now just a couple of years later, Williams, 15, has become one of the youngest recruits in Penn State womens basketball history.
Williams, a 6-foot-3 post player from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Mass., is the first member of the Lady Lions Class of 2015, having orally committed a week ago. She will be eligible to sign her letter-of-intent in November of 2014.
Williams commitment continues a busy summer of recruiting for Washingtons program. The Lady Lions have received oral commitments from forwards Peyton Whitted (North Gwinnet, Ga.), Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga,) and Jenny DeGraaf (Springboro, Ohio) this summer. Those three players join guard KeKe Sevillian (Goodrich, Mich.) and center Infiniti Alston (Baltimore) in the Class of 2013.
Like Whitted, Mitchell and DeGraaf, Williams attended Penn States Elite Camp in late June. It was there where she received a scholarship offer from the Penn State. She also had offers from Ohio State and Delaware.
I got the offer and I want to say I waited about a month, said Williams, from Easton, Mass., about her decision. I discussed it with my family and my brothers and we decided it was the right choice for me.
Well before that family meeting, Williams had made up her mind.
Ive loved the school for about a year now, she said. Thats like my dream school. I love the academics of the school and the whole basketball program. I love the coaching staff and all of the majors that I could possibly major in which I think is cool.
She also thinks its cool where Washington has taken the program in five seasons. The Lady Lions, who had four consecutive losing seasons including two under Washington, have rebounded. They were 26-7 last season, won the Big Ten regular season title and advanced to the final 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Theyve been doing better each year, Williams said. They made it to the Sweet 16 last year. I think theyll be better and better as the years go on. They have a great coaching staff and with all the players they recruit, Im real excited.
Williams got to meet future teammates Whitted and Sevillian at camp. While she may have to wait awhile to find out who will be a part of her recruiting class, Williams has a favorable impression of how Washington and her staff are building for the future.
Its going to be a good experience, she said. I kind of got a feel for what kind of girls they recruit, so Im excited.
Over the next three years, Williams says shell be hard at work on her game.
I think Im pretty good at rebounding and blocking shots, she said. What I think I need to work on is my face-up game because Im mostly in the post. Im trying to push myself away from my comfort zone in the post to being more of a perimeter basketball player.
Williams comes from a very athletic family. Her father Brent was an 11-year NFL veteran, who still is among the all-time sacks leaders for the New England Patriots. Her oldest brother Brennan is a senior offensive tackle at the University of North Carolina and her brother Camren is an Ohio State recruit at linebacker. Camren had orally committed to Penn State before the Sandusky scandal, but decommitted in January.
Williams said the negative attention surrounding the football program has not affected her opinion of Penn State.
I havent really heard that much about it because its a such different sport, she said. Ive been focused on the basketball program and I dont think it affected the school academically. I think its still a great school. It was sad what happened.
Williams said Camren supports her decision to go to Penn State.
Hes proud of me, she said. He has a little family rivalry all set up. Hes still proud of me that I made my own decision and hes happy that I worked hard enough to get an offer from there.
Williams is glad to have that decision made, long before her final high school season.
It feels so good because I know some people who are going into their senior years without knowing where theyre going, she said. Im happy that I dont have to worry about that anymore.