Ultimately, the decision of where to attend college falls on the shoulders of a teenage high school student. It's a big decision, but it's one that has to be made. Sometimes, though, people forget how influential the parents can be with such a daunting task facing their kids.
The recruiting process in Division I college basketball can be a nightmare. Just ask Emily Lighty, the mother of Cleveland Vila-Angela-St. Joseph's star David Lighty.
With coaches of Division I teams calling, sending letters, making visits to the school, friends and family asking where the son is going to play for college, and then reporters and television stations wanting interviews, Mrs. Lighty had to embrace it before it embraced her.
Her son averaged 24 points a game this past season before ultimately tearing his ACL in the districts of the state Division III basketball tournament. It didn't slow down the process one bit, however. It simply gave her even more to worry about.
David Lighty and his mother Emily
"Oh my goodness, it is very fast-paced. It can be very overwhelming," Lighty said of going through the recruiting process with her son. "It can probably take control of you if you don't take control of it. Especially when you have so many people interested. It's flattering, but it can be overwhelming."
Fortunately for her, David was able to decide earlier than most where he wanted to attend college.
Towards the middle of April, he began bugging his mother about wanting to go to Ohio State. He felt that Ohio State was the place he wanted to be, although Michigan and Syracuse were both appealing options.
As much as Emily wanted to get the process over with, she also wanted her son to take some visits and be sure of his decision before finally caving in.
That wasn't in the cards.
"When he kept bugging me and he kept asking me if he could call Coach (Thad) Matta (was when we knew it was time to get it over with), and he was driving me bonkers about it," she said of their decision to commit. "I figured at that point he was pretty set. I think that was shortly before the (in-school) visit (by Matta) to the (high) school."
The process began in earnest back in the fall when Lighty took visits to both Ohio State and Michigan unofficially. Both were appealing in their own right, but for David, it was when Ohio State first began to emerge as a slight favorite – although Michigan has been high on the list for quite some time.
Emily recalls that visit last October and meeting Matta for the first time. She talked about the things that personally stood out for her.
"With him, we went to a football game at Ohio State," she said. "We sat down, and we talked and he was very friendly, very personable, and down to earth -- his spirit and that he was a spiritual person. Coming to OSU for him was a humbling experience and one that he seems to be very grateful because he never imagined coaching at a school like that for him. You can see the passion and for the kids as well."
Through the fall and the winter, however, Michigan and Syracuse were both heavily involved. Arizona also became an option that Lighty considered strongly.
From day to day, Lighty may have changed his mind. They were always considering the possibilities of each school, however.
"One of his schools was North Carolina," Emily said with a pause. "I told him if he went to North Carolina or Arizona, I threatened I would move there too. He got a scared look and was like, ‘Why'?"
As his season wore on, the recruiting process took somewhat of a back seat. However, it was the beginning of March when the stress doubled.
In a game against Bedford Chanel for their District Championship in Division III the first week of March, Lighty felt an uneasy feeling in his knee in the third quarter. The pain continued throughout the weekend.
On Tuesday of the following week, their worst fears were realized when and MRI revealed he had a slight tear in his ACL. Emily was devastated.
"It was certainly very worrisome because we didn't know what this was going to do for his career," she said. "But everyone quickly showed us an unbelievable amount of support. The coaches recruiting David could not have been any more supportive."
Not a single school had backed off on account of the injury. It was the beginning of the contact period in April, however, that the full affect of David's status became evident to Emily.
She was thrilled to be sitting in a room with some of the most prominent basketball coaches in the country when they visited the school to speak with her as well as David and his coaches.
"You know what, that will probably be one of the most memorable experiences because here we met these somewhat celebrities that we have seen on T.V., and it's like ‘Wow I'm standing in a room with this person, or seeing this person'," she noted. "It's not like we were star struck, but they were down to earth and genuine. Which of course, made the process even more difficult. That experience was a great one because I felt that I got to know them personally."
By that time, however, David's mind was already mostly made up. He knew he wanted to be a Buckeye.
Emily still hoped he would wait the process out a bit more, and they still were not real comfortable in making visits with his knee only partially healed, but even so, she wasn't quite ready for it to come to a head.
It's possible that his injury may have expedited David's desire to make his choice.
"Quite frankly, I wanted him to make the visits and make the most informed decision he could," Emily explained. "I guess he decided in his heart of hearts that (Ohio State) was where he wanted to be. I guess it actually helped."
The toughest part for the family was to call the other coaches and inform them of the decision to attend Ohio State.
After all, she and David had built some pretty good relationships with the other coaches, and they had no idea of how these coaches would take the news. However, Emily specifically cited Michigan as one team she was extremely impressed with, although every single school that remained on David's list she was thoroughly happy to speak with.
"That was really tough, to call up these coaches that you had gotten to know so well and tell them that you were going to go with someone else," she remembered. "We didn't know if we would have the strength to do it, but it had to be done. I was so relieved with how everyone took the news. It almost made it even tougher knowing the kind of respect they had towards us.'
In the end, however, David will be attending Ohio State with another top Ohio prospect, Daequan Cook.
It's a decision that Emily is more than satisfied with, and she is glad that David knew where he wanted to be for four years. Hometown pride was the ultimate factor in David's decision, according to his mother.
"I would really have to say being a hometown guy and staying in state (was what was most important)," Emily concluded. "He wanted to represent his home state and being apart of the Ohio State resurgence and renaissance, if you will. Being close to home so mommy can see him play was a big thing."
So the next time a heavily recruited athlete goes through the process, perhaps a parent may want to consult Emily Lighty for a little advice. On second thought, she's probably burned out already from the process.
She can attest, however, it's not easy. One thing is for certain, however -- she, like most parents, are very influential.
But she's proud of it, and quite proud of her son, as well.