Kaylee Helton will sign to play at the University of Rio Grande today at 10 a.m. at Western High School in Latham. Rio Grande is an NAIA Division II school.
Helton, whose 63-point performance against Clay to win a sectional final ranks as the sixth-highest individual score in OHSAA history, said the decision came down to Urbana University and Rio Grande.
Her high school coach, Darren Lightle, said Rio Grande just made the better offer.
“There's been a ton of pressure on such a young kid to make a decision,” said Lightle. “Her and I and her dad and family have gone through it together. There's the pressure you enjoy and then there is what's the best thing for me to do and the right thing for me to do.
“Rio just gave her a little better deal to an extent than Urbana,” he added.
Helton will help fill the void left by senior Britney Walker. Walker averaged 17.5 points per game last season, seventh in the AMC.
Helton said it was important to go to a school where she could make a difference.
“I think I can make a big impact if I work hard,” said Helton. “When I went down there on the visit they were very welcoming and I got along with their players really well. Also it's a small school which is what I was looking for.”
Another positive for Helton is the proximity of Rio Grande to Latham. During the Lady Indians' tournament run the team had a strong following and Helton hopes that carries over into college.
“Everybody was like ‘Go to someplace where we can watch you play,' so I did,” said Helton. “So hopefully I get some support.”
Helton was also contacted by Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky Wesleyan University during the recruiting process.
Lightle is convinced that Helton can make an impact right away at the college level.
“I think Kaylee has the ability and the potential to really be a factor in their program next year as a freshman,” said Lightle. “I think she can step in and do some things. I think she has a lot of heart and really wants to continue playing.”
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org