Nearly a year ago, Andraya Carter was wiping away tears of disappointment. She had tried out for the USA Basketball U16 national team, but for the first time in her career, she was cut. As it turned out, the frustration over not making the team spurred her on to a huge sophomore year.
Perhaps the biggest moment of her sophomore year came just about a week after her Buford Wolves won the Georgia Class AA state championship -- on Wednesday evening she verbally committed to Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols.
"In the end … I think USA has been one of those things that kept me humble and kept me working," Carter said.
The growth in Carter's game from all the hard work came at a good time. Her freshman year she had current Auburn freshman Blanche Alverson and seven other seniors to rely on as the team won the state crown. This season her role changed, and the 5-foot-8 point guard had to not only distribute, but score, defend and most of all, lead.
"At first it was really difficult for me to be honest," Carter said of the transition to being the focal point for her team.
"For a while during the season I wasn't getting it done but my teammates really supported me."
Carter's 20-point, nine-rebound performance in the championship game should be evidence enough that she can put a team on her back.
With the verbal commitment to Tennessee, Carter is prepared for the inevitable pressure this coming club season and throughout the remainder of her high school career, being labeled "the kid that committed to Tennessee."
"I know committing to Tennessee doesn't mean I'm going to play perfect or win everything," Carter said. "I still have to work."
Carter also has a grip on what her future holds in college. She knows many of the players the Lady Vols are recruiting, having met several of them and befriended them, some such as Ariel Massengale that share the same position.
""It doesn't matter to me," Carter said of which position she will play in college. "I want Coach Summitt to put me where I help the team best. I just want to play with Tennessee across my jersey."
From the player who has a smooth way about her on the court and no matter the situation can lift her teammates with her contagious smile, expect to see even more.
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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. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.