Imani Stafford chooses Texas
She was also dealing with the probability of missing a considerable portion of her senior basketball season at Windward High School (Los Angeles, Calif.).
But over the weekend Stafford got word from her doctors that the pain from the fracture in her pelvic bone will very soon be a thing of the past, and she also chose the University of Texas over finalist USC.
"I think in college you want to get out of your comfort zone," Stafford said. "I want to push myself mentally and physically."
Stafford wants to eliminate the option of the safety net USC would have provided by being close to home. She wants to fight through the hard times and learn to rely on herself and her team for support.
One thing won't change, and that's her family's basketball pedigree and the expectations that come with it.
Stafford is the daughter of Pam McGee, who won an Olympic gold medal, two NCAA national championships with USC and also played in the WNBA. Both of Stafford's aunts were collegiate players, Paula McGee on her mom's side of the family, who played with her at USC, and Trisha Stafford-Odom, the former Cal-Berkeley star who now is an assistant coach at North Carolina. Stafford's brother, JaVale McGee, is the starting center for the Washington Wizards.
Stafford isn't setting her goals based on the achievements of her family, but she admits it's easier to set the bar really high with so much success surrounding her.
"I can't stop. I don't think it's ever going to be enough," Stafford said. "NCAA titles, Player of Year, USA Basketball teams, the Olympics, I want it all. It's a competitive spirit."
Stafford's journey to reaching that greatness is back on track. She is undergoing a procedure to cement the fracture in her pelvis, which will require just a week to recover. The prognosis means she will be ready to join her team in the mid-December trip to Phoenix for the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions.
With the Texas signing official and her health returning, it's back to the hardwood for Stafford.
"I want to be more than just that 6-7 kid," Stafford said.
Whether she believes it or not, Stafford already is. She is Gail Goestenkors' prize recruit, joining No. 70 Empress Davenport of Duncanville, Texas, a 5-7 guard, in a recruiting class that serves as a legitimate encore to the program's 2011 haul that was ranked 11th in the country.
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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.
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