For the first half of Ariel Butts' life, basketball was nowhere in the picture.
Even though both of her parents -- Joana Butts and Willie Crowell -- played basketball, the No. 75 prospect in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 had designs on being the furthest thing from the future Rutgers star she now is.
"As a kid I wanted to be a cheerleader," the physical 6-3 post from Columbus, Ga., said. "I just kept getting taller, so eventually I decided it wasn't for me."
Now Butts, who sent her National Letter of Intent to Rutgers on Friday, is poised for a basketball career alongside another one of the elite posts in the class, No. 8 Rachel Hollivay of Columbus, Miss.
The turning point for Butts came in sixth grade when she first met Michael Woods, her club coach with the Georgia Jaguars. He saw the potential in the young Butts, who was towering at 5-11 in elementary school.
Being tall isn't the only criteria for basketball stardom and playing the brand of defensive basketball that C. Vivian Stringer's teams are known for.
"I think that's what everyone loves about her, she has that will to win," Woods said. "She's the one player, with her toughness and her competitiveness, you can't teach what she's got."
The commitment means Butts is an 18-hour drive from her hometown and family, but the belief and trust in Stringer was enough for her to make the northbound trek to New Jersey.
"Some other coaches were like, 'If you come here you can start right away," Butts said. "But Coach Stringer was honest with me. She said you're going to have to come in here and work for it."
The work isn't an issue for Butts, even with the highly regarded Hollivay, a 6-4 post with a five-star rating, playing in the post.
"I like Rachel and I was happy when she committed," Butts said. "I know I can give the team something else. I like to pound the ball inside and she likes to step out and shoot some. So we will be great together."
With a pair of twin towers on deck and current junior post Monique Oliver back for another year, the Scarlet Knights should have a stout frontcourt rotation for years to come. Rutgers also has a commitment from No. 69 Precious Person of Rex, Ga., a 6-1 perimeter player.
And Rutgers might not be done with the 2012 class. The program is still in the running for No. 17 Kahleah Copper of Philadelphia, Pa., a 6-1 guard, and No. 66 Je Zhe Newton of Chandler, Ariz., a 6-3 post.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.