Her decision was made; she was ready to commit to Vanderbilt. It was two hours from her northern Georgia home and it seemed like the right fit. So Ashley Houts, a standout class of 2006 point guard picked up her phone to call the coaches at Vandy and got no answer. She tried again later – still no answer. That left enough time for Georgia Head Coach Andy Landers to make a late run at the point guard.
"I was really close to going to Vanderbilt, probably two phone calls away," Houts said, "but the coach didn't answer the phone.
"Coach Landers called," she added. "He asked me how close I was and I told him." Landers convinced Houts to wait until after the Boo Williams tournament and then make her decision. "I played; a week later I got a phone call," she said. It was Landers again, telling Houts that he wanted to get her down to campus, soon. When she asked Landers when she could visit, she distinctly recalls his response, "How about tomorrow?"
The Houts family packed up and headed the 3 ½ to the Athens, Ga., campus to meet the coaching staff for lunch. "It just took me to go down there," said Houts, who was recruited by most of the SEC and ACC. "Just one time, it's all it took. Coach Landers is an unbelievable person and coach. The staff was very impressive."
Location also was a factor. Like most kids trying to decide what college to attend, Houts wanted to be far enough away from home to be on her own, but close enough be able to visit on the weekend or have her family visit. She also found it important that her family could watch her play.
Houts plays for the Georgia Metros, who played everywhere this summer from Augusta, Ga., to Washington, D.C., to Oregon City, Ore. Houts looked impressive at the End of the Trail and arguably played the point spot better than anyone in the tournament.
"She's a competitor. She really plays hard and loves to win," Metros Coach Kathy Richie-Walton said. "She'll do what ever it takes to win."
Houts is the prototypical point guard, a floor general and vocal leader. "She's really intelligent, very heads up. She's stronger than most guards and can take people of the dribble," Richie-Walton said.
The 5-foot-6 Houts can shoot the ball, too. She hits from the three-point arc and got plenty of looks this summer with teams double teaming standout forward Maya Moore or post Kelley Cain. It looked as if Houts' sweet spot was the left corner. She also showed the ability to create for herself, both getting to the basket and finishing and showing a pull up jumper. Her mid-range game needs to develop consistency, but Houts has shown she is capable of hitting pull-ups and mid-range jumpers. She's trying to bring her game up another level so she's ready to do battle in the SEC.
Houts' long summer had her, and her teammates, all over the place, playing the best teams in the country. They went west only to lose to an eastern team, Boo Williams, in the championship of the End of the Trail. The loss to Boo, their second to that team of the summer might have been the most exciting game of the tournament. The loss was not their only blemish in Oregon as they did lose to the defending EOT champions, the Spokane Stars, in an exhibition game the opening night of the tournament. They would redeem the loss by beating the Stars in the semifinal game, surviving 35 points from Angie Bjorklund and taking a lead as high as 20 points.
The Metros finished their summer tour off at the Nike Nationals, where they went 6-1 losing in the semifinals to eventual champions, The Family, by seven. Houts had solid numbers, averaging more than 10 points, dishing out nearly three assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 rebounds against the country's top teams. She scored 18 points, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals in the Metros' second game, a victory over the West Virginia Tornadoes. She shot 64.3 percent from behind the three-point arc during the tournament, making nine of 14 attempts.
Houts has received a fair amount of accolades in recent years. As a sophomore at Dade County High School in Trenton, Ga., she was Georgia 2A All-State Honorable Mention and All-Region First Team. That summer she was named an All-American by AAU after taking her team to the AAU 16U National Championship and earned an invite to the Nike All-America Camp. She was honored her junior year as the Area Player of the Year.
Every bit as good as the other top point guards in the 2006 class, Houts may have been under the radar playing for a smaller high school. This kid has a bright future ahead of her at Georgia and may prove to be the one that got away from Vandy.
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