In September, Brandi Barnes was still saddled with narrowing her nine college picks. A couple of weeks later, it was down to seven.
"It was down to three when I realized that all those college visits would have to be taken during October, and that meant maybe missing some school and family functions," said Barnes, a 6-foot-3 center for Joppatowne's basketball team.
She then chose the nearest of her final three choices -- Maryland, Georgia Tech and Penn State. "Maryland is close, but far enough away from home," Barnes said. "The program's a good fit for me, and my parents can come see me play and support me."
Barnes plans to sign a national letter of intent to accept a full athletic scholarship from Maryland today, which kicks off a one-week signing period for several sports, including basketball.
None of the area's top three boys basketball players are expected to commit during the early signing period. Dunbar's Tommy Polley (also considering football), Southern-Baltimore's John Hemsley and Calvert Hall's Patrick Ngongba are all expected to wait until the spring signing period.
Polley is considering Florida State, Miami, Maryland, Syracuse and Southern California, while Hemsley ponders Maryland, Pittsburgh, Clemson and California. Ngongba has Notre Dame, Duke, Connecticut and Houston among the list of schools he may attend.
Barnes, a two-time All-Harford County pick last year, led Joppatowne (17-6) to the state Class 1A semifinals, averaging 20 points and 19 rebounds.
Other girls basketball players taking advantage of the early signing period are Seton Keough's Melanie Morris (American), Mount Hebron's Alisha Mosley (Wake Forest) and Severna Park's Jennifer Holmes and Arundel's Chavonne Hammond (both with Vanderbilt).
Morris, Hammond and Holmes, will sign today and Mosley tomorrow. All four were All-Metro selections last year, and last summer they helped the Chesapeake Hurricanes take third in an AAU nationals tournament.
"I saw Alisha and Chavonne this past weekend at a basketball clinic, where we talked to some kids about the recruiting process," said Morris. "It's great. I'm excited, but most of all it feels like a lot of stress has been lifted. I'll be able to play easier this year without the pressure of being recruited."
Morris, 5 feet 9, expects to play shooting guard in college. She played point guard, shooting guard and small forward in leading Seton Keough (24-3) to a Catholic League regular-season title. An excellent ball handler, Morris averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals and less than one turnover per game.
Mosley, who averaged 19 points and 4.6 assists to earn last year's Howard County basketball Player of the Year honors, picked Wake Forest over Villanova.
Hammond, the Anne Arundel Player of the Year, and Holmes were named preseason honorable mention All-Americans by Street & Smith. Each chose Vanderbilt after summer visits to the Nashville campus.
Hammond, a 5-11 forward, averaged 16.9 points, 14.8 boards and nearly two assists in leading the 4A state runner-up Wildcats to an overall 25-1 record. Holmes, a 6-foot-2 center-forward, averaged 13 points, 17 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game for Severna Park during a 20-4 season. The Falcons were Class 4A East Region runners-up to Arundel
St. Paul's Chris Kakel, a three-sport athlete, will sign to play lacrosse for Duke "as soon as the paperwork arrives," he said. The 6-4, 205-pound attackman had 41 goals and 22 assists last year.