"I think when I was in the 9th grade was when I realized I had talent," said Rachel Hollivay, "When I was in the 7th grade I thought I was the sorriest thing in the world. I was 6-2 but uncoordinated. I didn't know what to do.
"In the 7th grade I started playing AAU basketball in the summer. My coach, Coach Kim, helped me get better at basketball. I worked hard every day. I spent summers in Florida every single day. She makes it fun while getting better every day. I just loved it.
"Then when I got into the 9th grade, I just got better and better. Now, I am where I am today."
Where she is today is the number 8 ranked player in the class of 2012 according to HoopGurlz.com, which means she obviously has a lot of strengths on the court.
"I like shot-blocking and getting to the basket (offensively) and finishing with a lot of defenders on me," said Hollivay. "I might have three people and I can finish. I can dribble up the floor well to be as tall as I am. I can rebound really well. I can pass really well. And I'm getting better at my shooting."
On the AAU circuit she has showcased her many talents against the top talent in the nation.
"I played against the number 1 player in the nation, Breanna Stewart, last summer," said Rachel. "I was nervous about playing against her because I didn't know what type player she was. We got into the game during the Nike Nationals and I blocked a lot of her shots and I scored on her a lot of times. I thought then that I could play with this girl. My team ended up winning at the buzzer. She foul me and I made the free throw that put the game away. I also played against Elizabeth Williams, who was the number 1 player in the nation for 2011. That made me realize that I am a pretty good player, although I know that I still have a lot of things to work on."
Not only playing against but playing well against those type players showed college coaches how good of a player she was. And the recruiting got hot and heavy for Hollivay.
"I think colleges started noticing me around the middle of my 10th grade year," said Rachel. "I started getting letters then. I had (a lot of) mail. I got so much mail I had to change my address (laugh). I live with my mom so I changed my mailing address to my dad's house. I said, 'here you go, dad, you can read it all' (laugh). He really enjoys reading the mail. He'll tell me what they wrote.
Then last year the calls started coming, a lot of calls.
"Last year was when it got hectic," said Hollivay. "When they (the college coaches) could call me I got a lot of phone calls. I don't really know how many schools called me. But when I started getting calls I did a list of schools that called. The front and the back of the paper was full. I probably ended up with something like 50 schools that called me."
Although an injury limited her playing time last season, it didn't limit her recruitment.
"Even when I broke my foot last year in October, it was hectic then as well," said Hollivay. "They showed so much love to me; they sent pictures saying get well soon. I was so happy."
Knowing she could only choose one school to attend, Hollivay started cutting her list down to a manageable number.
"I started out with a list of 15 schools that I was interested in," said Hollivay. "I came up with that list after looking at my letters, looking at my call log, talking with my parents, researching the programs on the internet. I narrowed it down that way. I just felt like that 15 was somewhere I wanted to be. Then I narrowed it down to 10, then down to what is now my top 5."
"When I did an interview with HoopGurlz I told him I didn't care about the different conferences or who the coaches are, I just want to go play basketball and get my education," said Rachel. "I have been following these programs since I was a little kid. I have always followed Oklahoma due to their post players, the two sisters. And Mississippi State, I have always loved Coach Fanning because she is a nice lady. I love the program that she has had and still has. Her assistant coaches really clicked with me. I am always down there on the campus. I love been around them. Ole Miss, I just have this family oriented feeling with them. And Tennessee, I love Coach Summit and I love her program. Rutgers, since April Sykes went there she's had some success there. I didn't base it on that. I like Coach Stringer who is a very good coach. I just love the atmosphere in New Jersey. When I went there during the summer, I left like I was at home. And the players they have there now, they are some ballplayers. I really like their team."
As for what she will be looking for in a school, she believes the official visits will be a great way to determine where she fits the best.
"I think it will come down to the visits," said Rachel, who plans to sign in November. "Will I click with the team, will I click with the coaches, will I fit in, will I get the best education, will my parents be able to see me because I am a big family-oriented person. It will be hard to decide."
Speaking of official visits, she's already taken one to Ole Miss and really enjoyed it.
"I was excited going to Ole Miss," said Rachel. "It was fun. I got along really well with the team. We went out and had fun. And the love the coaches had for their players really hit me hard. I was like, wow, they do so much for their players and show them love. What Ole Miss is trying to do just clicked on me. (The head coach) asked me if I wanted to be the face of a program or do I want to be another face in a loop of faces? I was like being the face of a program is really big to me."
Her remaining visits are to Mississippi State on September 15-17, Oklahoma on September 23-25, Tennessee on October 8-10 and Rutgers on October 14-16.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.