Oak Park and River Forest girls' basketball star Ashleen Bracey has orally accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball for and attend Illinois State University in Bloomington after her upcoming senior year at OPRF.
Bracey, who also had full scholarship offers from Indiana State and Western Michigan, liked the way that Illinois State felt when she visited.
"It just felt like it was a good fit for me," she said.
Bracey also had offers from Miami of Ohio, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bracey received her first college offer during her sophomore year, from Western Michigan.
The offers kept coming for the next year, and Bracey examined all of them carefully.
One of the main attractions to ISU, according to Bracey, was the program's success last season.
"They're a team on the rise," she said. "They had their first appearance even in the NCAA tournament last year, and they are getting better."
Bracey also liked that Illinois State is relatively close to home, and that there is an emphasis on academics as well as sports.
Bracey knows that balancing sports and academics will be a challenge, and she likes the Illinois State coaching staff's attitude towards putting academics first.
"It's going to be hard [balancing class and basketball], but they're really strict, and they make you go to every class. We run if we miss a class," she said. "The coaches are really big on academics."
Another challenge for Bracey, and perhaps a more immediate one, will be getting ready to play basketball at the college level. She knows that she will have to put in a lot of work in the coming year to get faster, stronger, and more rounded as a player.
"There is a lot more competition in college," said Bracey.
Bracey's coach at OPRF, Adrian Newell, agreed that Bracey will be an asset for Illinois State.
"She's very talented and she's a very smart basketball player," said Newell, "and she can play both inside and outside."
Newell said that Bracey will have to work the most on her perimeter game in preparation for college, because, while she has primarily been an inside player for OPRF, the 5-foot-11-inch Bracey would be undersized for an inside player at the college level.
"She mostly played inside for OPRF," said Newell, "but she's moved out and started playing more on the wing this summer."
In the off season Bracey has mostly been focusing on her perimeter game, which will help in her final year at OPRF.
"She definitely needs to work on her perimeter game, as she has been doing that," said Newell. "That will be key for college. She's already very strong inside."
Another key to getting ready for college basketball for Bracey will be adjusting to practicing more and working harder than she has been accustomed to in high school. "You always have to be stronger and ready to work a lot harder when you go to that level," said Newell, herself a former collegiate player.
Bracey is the younger sister of former OPRF basketball standout Bryan Bracey, who went on to star at the University of Oregon.