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Cassie Peoples has been around the Texas women's basketball program since, as a nine-year-old, she started attending camps conducted by the school's legendary former coach, Jody Conradt. As Peoples tells it, the campus in Austin already feels a lot like home. So on Tuesday night, she committed to it actually being home for four years.
That will be in the fall of 2011, as Peoples still is a sophomore at Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas.
Peoples also made unofficial visits to Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Western Kentucky, but it seemed to her that Texas always was beckoning.
"I've been thinking about it since I was nine," Peoples said. Then she made an unofficial visit, for a Texas-Florida Atlantic football game in August. That just about sealed the deal.
|Cassie Peoples will take her game to Austin.|
When Texas dispatched Tennessee on Sunday for perhaps the biggest win of coach Gail Gostenkors' Longhorn career, Peoples was in the stands, as she has been year after year, game after game.
"That definitely got me excited," Peoples said. "From watching them in previous years, I see a huge improvement in all the girls. I think that's just a small glimpse of how Coach G is going to do with the program.
That initial Texas summer basketball camp obviously made a huge impression. There, she met Longhorn players Anissa Hasting and Tai Dillard, who played three seasons in the WNBA with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Those became lasting friendships; in fact, Peoples called both just before making the commitment to Gostenkors.
If it seems like the deck was stacked in favor of Texas, that's only the half of it. Peoples' first club-team coach, Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, was a former national player of the year for the Longhorns. Davis-Wrightsil, who founded the Team Xpress, now is an assistant at Rutgers, but served in the same position at Texas while Peoples was being imprinted.
A silky smooth, 5-foot-6 guard with an effortless jump shot and great command of the ball, Peoples moved with her family from San Antonio to Ormond Beach, Fla., near Daytona, before her eighth-grade year. In Ormond Beach, she played for Father Lopez High School, averaging 24 points and five assists as a freshman. Peoples' father, Marcus, was promoted to regional manager of a national hotel chain and the family moved back to Houston before this school year.
Closer to family in Houston, Peoples is paired at Cy-Fair with another top underclassman, Chiney Ogwumike, No. 3 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super Sixty for 2010. Just this past weekend, Peoples helped Cy-Fair dispatch Waco Midway in Clear Creek, Texas. Midway's star, Cokie Reed, No. 5 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, is a future Longhorn teammate and is 6-4.
The Texas program looms large, just about everywhere Peoples looks.
"I definitely think there's a championship ahead of them," she said, still sounding like a fan.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.