Scream punctuates A'ja Wilson decision
The high-pitched scream said it better than any words Jatarie White could have managed.
The No. 7 prospect in the nation, from Providence Day (Charlotte, N.C.), was beyond joyous when she learned that A'ja Wilson would be joining her at South Carolina next season.
Wilson, a 6-foot-5 forward from Heathwood Hall Episcopal (Columbia, S.C.), is the No. 1 prospect in the country and turns a great South Carolina class into a historic one.
"Oh my goodness," the 6-4 White said after she was done yelling. "I feel great. I feel like I just signed."
White said she last talked to Wilson on Monday and had wanted to watch the "ESPNU Signing Day Special" but was in California for an all-star tournament.
"I asked her if she was nervous about her decision," White said. "She texted me back 'yesssssss' with extra s's."
White said she tried to steer Wilson to South Carolina while at the same time giving her space.
"I was subtle about it," White said with a laugh. "I wasn't trying to be overly aggressive. I told her the ups about South Carolina and how positive the organization is -- just trying to give her information.
"But at the same time, I was being a friend, and I told her to go where she truly wanted to be.
"I feel like A'ja and I are like lost twins. We met almost three years ago. But because we live about 90 minutes from each other, we haven't been able to hang out as much as we'd like. But now we will be able to do that."
Earlier this month, White and Wilson recently got to bond at United Center in Chicago, where they played in the McDonald's All American Game.
"We did well," White said. "But we didn't connect as much as I wanted to because we only had a short amount of practice time. But we will have a lot of time now."
John O'Cain, who was Wilson's coach at Heathwood, coached against White this past season, and he believes the stars will mesh wonderfully.
"Jatarie is more of a true post player," O'Cain said. "A'ja is going to be like [Connecticut star] Breanna Stewart in that she can run pick-and-rolls, pop out and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and do all that kind of stuff."
O'Cain said his gut feeling was that Wilson would choose South Carolina.
"She is close to her family, and South Carolina is close to home," he said. "So I think it was a good choice.
"South Carolina is a great program, and she is going to make them even better. The good news for me is that they are only five minutes away, so I can go watch her play a lot."
By choosing South Carolina, Wilson disappointed fans, coaches and players at the three other finalists -- North Carolina, Tennessee and UConn. Alexa Middleton, a 5-8 guard from Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), had hoped Wilson would join her at Tennessee.
The two were roommates at the McDonald's game and struck up an easy friendship.
"She's a really good person," Middleton said. "We didn't talk about her decision because I knew she wanted to be private about it, just like I wanted to be private when I [chose Tennessee]."
When told she had chosen South Carolina, Middleton's voice gave away her disappointment.
"Ahhhh," she said with a hint of resignation. "I knew it, though. I figured that was her home-state team, and I'm pretty sure her father wanted her to go to South Carolina. Plus, I know she and Jatarie [White] are good friends.
"I think it's a good fit for A'ja. I'm excited, though, because I think we will have some great competition in the SEC."