When Mackenzie DeWees first set foot in Quinnipiac University's gymnasium, she said she was immediately reminded of Manchester Valley's.
The big floor, the bright lights — it was exactly what she had envisioned for her future.
DeWees announced her verbal commitment to play Division I basketball for the Bobcats via Twitter on Friday, a decision she made among having received offers from Monmouth and Mount St. Mary's.
"Ever since I stepped on that campus I knew that's where I wanted to be," DeWees said. "Their coach was extremely nice and the way she coaches reminds me of my mom and how she runs her team. I already knew for a long time that I felt like I had a home there."
Of the three schools, Quinnipiac is the farthest from DeWees' Westminster roots. A drive takes a little more than five hours, but that doesn't bother her. Coincidentally, she will have relatives close by to watch her play even if her parents cannot be there.
At Man Valley, the point guard and two-time Times Player of the Year averaged 21.7 points per game in her sophomore campaign. She also averaged 12.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 7.4 steals.
Her points, rebounds, and steals per game each led Carroll in 2015-16 and she guided the Mavericks to the program's first county title and an appearance in the Class 1A West Region final this season.
She has 966 career points after two seasons with the Mavericks.
Mavs coach Heather DeWees said her daughter visited 14 different schools during basketball season.
"People might not understand the level of what you have to do when you're trying to make a commitment decision," Heather said. "You have to go to school, watch the teams play and practice and it's twice the amount you would do as a regular student."
Mackenzie played in an elite camp at Quinnipiac when she was in eighth grade, so she was already familiar with the Bobcats' facilities and traditions.
Tricia Fabbri is the all-time winningest coach in Quinnipiac women's basketball history, according to the Bobcats' athletics website. In 2014-15, Fabbri guided the Bobcats to their fourth straight appearance in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game and fourth straight trip to a national postseason tournament as Quinnipiac won the conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history.
This year, the Bobcats earned 19 straight wins in a two-month span en route to a 25-9 overall record.
That winning tradition is what drew DeWees in, her mother said.
"The decision was a hard one for her to make," Heather DeWees said. "She ultimately wanted to play for a larger program and wanted to go somewhere she could connect with the coaching staff and players. She fits in to their system, a lot of pressing, a lot of fast breaks, trapping and changing of defenses. My hope is that she is prepared for that style of play."
During a visit last June, DeWees got a bite to eat in the campus dining hall. There, a man working at the checkout counter asked if he could guess where she was from just by hearing her speak.
DeWees said she was taken by surprise when he picked Maryland.
"He guessed where I was from by telling me I had a Maryland accent," she said. "No one knew who I was except for the basketball coaches, so to see people that worked there be so welcoming really helped. The campus is beautiful, the teachers are great, and the girls on the team are awesome. There was no reason why I shouldn't have picked this school."
Now that the pressure is off for the 15-year-old, DeWees said her next step is to get healthy. She tore two spots in the labrum in her right shooting shoulder during an AAU game in Delaware a few weeks ago.
DeWees said surgery is scheduled for May 11, and her family hopes she is 100 percent by November, in time for basketball season.
"My goal is to get stronger," DeWees said. "Next year will be good for me to get back out and play at a higher level and I'm excited. I don't want these years to go by too fast and I won't wish them away because I love playing with my teammates."
In two years, Heather DeWees will no longer be able to coach her daughter, but anticipates the chance for her to experience things she's never experienced before.
"We will miss her, but it was important for her to choose the best program for her," Heather said. "We wanted her to be close but I'm proud of her for being so independent in that she can make a choice for herself. I'm not afraid to hop in a car and drive to go watch my daughter play basketball.
"At the end of the day, she wants to win games and wants to play at a level where she will be challenged and Quinnipiac provides that for her."