She could have been a Hawk, a Cougar or a Greyhound, but instead she's going to be a Retriever.
Last Friday, Emily Russo, a rising senior at Glenelg High School and the reigning girls basketball Player of the Year, made a verbal commitment to play basketball at theUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County. She will receive a full scholarship, she said.
For years, Emily has wanted to play Division I basketball. Notre Dame was her dream school,
"But I did a reality check," she said.
Point guards at big-name colleges are generally a lot taller than 5-foot-7. So she started looking at Division I schools that were a little below the treetops.
UMBC, Monmouth University (Hawks), Loyola University (Greyhounds) and the College of Charleston (Cougars) made her short list.
"I've always told myself that I wasn't going to college in Maryland," she said. But UMBC made her change her mind.
"The academics there are amazing and I realized that I would be playing in my community where I know a lot of people."
Emily plans to study science and eventually do cancer research.
One thing that helped convince her to go to the America East school is that Sara Tarbert, her AAU Maryland Grizzlies teammate, is also going there.
"It was the idea of playing with one of my AAU teammates and being able to continue my basketball career with one of my good friends," Emily said.
The UMBC coaching staff was actually checking out Tarbert when they noticed Emily's play.
"They weren't looking for a point guard in my class until they realized how well I would fit into their program," she said. "I had never considered UMBC until they asked me."
Her height didn't bother the Retrievers.
Emily said UMBC coach Phil Sterm's philosophy is — what's the difference in a couple of inches if you shoot from the outside?
"I've never been on a tall team before. UMBC runs a four-guard, one-post player offense. That's exactly my kind of ball."
Emily will sign her National Letter of Intent in November.
"It all worked out. I get to do what I love to do and get an education while I am doing it. ... I also get to represent Maryland when I go to college."
Barnes is honored
Our congratulations go out to Doug Barnes, who received the Soccer Association of Columbia's Polly Carlan Award. The award, named after the late wife of Jim Carlan, SAC's chief operating officer, is given to a coach for exceptional service to SAC.
Doug, the father of six, has spent the past 16 years coaching soccer teams. He has coached recreational and travel teams, and sometimes several teams the same season. For example, he will be coaching two teams this fall — a high school boys rec team and a U-12 girls house Rec A squad.
"I've always stuck with SAC although not all of my kids have. It's convenient and I think they do a tremendous job for having a mostly volunteer organization," Doug said.
"It's quite an honor (to be recognized) and I was very surprised ... and I really respect Jim Carlan."
Now batting ...
Columbia resident Matt McPhearson has been added to the 2012 Under Armour All-America baseball game roster. The outfielder from Riverdale Baptist School will play in Under Armour's high school showcase Aug. 18 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which will be televised live on the MLB Network.
Carol Gralia contributed to this column.