Middleton, a 5-9 guard from Murfreesboro, Tenn., is a top 25 recruit who had been courted by top teams across the country. She had narrowed her choices to Tennessee and Kentucky with Ole Miss also getting a late look after Matt Insell, a Wildcat assistant coach, took over the top spot for the Rebels.
But the pull of her home state school was strong, and Middleton and her family had developed a close relationship with Kyra Elzy, a former Lady Vol who had been an assistant at Kentucky before returning last season to her alma mater.
"I think it was key having a relationship with her," Middleton said in a phone interview with InsideTennessee.
Middleton is a combo guard who can play at the point or on the wing. She is solid in all phases of the game – defense, offense and attitude.
"I really do like defense," Middleton said. "I have to play hard all the time."
That has been the direction of head coach Holly Warlick's recruiting – players whose engines don't have to be started, as Pat Summitt used to say – and the verbal from Middleton continues another Tennessee tradition. Summitt never missed on an in-state player she really wanted, and now Warlick has secured a commitment from a Volunteer State player who had been a priority for Tennessee.
Warlick had made several trips to Murfreesboro during the recruiting process, and Middleton has made unofficial visits to Tennessee. She also is very familiar with the current team, having played on the Tennessee Flight with posts Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison. Middleton also knows guards Andraya Carter and Ariel Massengale.
She averaged nearly 16 points during her junior season at Riverdale High School to help lead the Lady Warriors to an undefeated season, second consecutive Class AAA state title and ESPN and MaxPreps national title.
Middleton said Sunday evening that she finalized her decision over the weekend and was ready to make the announcement.
"I just knew that I was ready to do it," Middleton said. "I told my parents and I talked to my grandparents."
Her grandfather, Curry Peacock, used to teach political science and urban planning at Middle Tennessee before going into private business, and is a longtime Tennessee fan.
"Both sets of grandparents are thrilled with her decision," said Middleton's mother, Celeste Middleton.
Middleton's father, Michael, is originally from Kentucky, and the Wildcats had been contenders in the recruitment of Middleton for a considerable time.
"She has put a lot of thought into it," Celeste Middleton said. "I like it. She is far enough that she is on her own but not too far. I can assure you I will be at the games."
Alexa Middleton also pointed out that her parents can visit – though she laughed and said "but not too often" – and she can fulfill a dream of wearing orange and white.
"It is really special," Middleton said. "A lot of girls have the dream to play at Tennessee. I just knew that was where I wanted to go."
Middleton called Warlick on Sunday night to tell the head coach of her decision.
"She was excited about it," Middleton said. "She said we're going to win championships."
Middleton then made phone calls to the coaches at Kentucky and Ole Miss and handled media interviews. After that, she returned to her chemistry textbook.
"She does have an exam tomorrow," Celeste Middleton said Sunday night.
Monday is the last day of school, and Middleton was ready to make the decision and then turn her attention to summer basketball.
"She has been trying to get everything lined up," Celeste Middleton said.
Warlick will be starting her third season as head coach when Alexa Middleton arrives in Knoxville, and the family is confident in Warlick's ability to keep Tennessee a national powerhouse.
"I am excited about Holly Warlick being at the helm," Celeste Middleton said.
"It felt genuine up there," Alexa Middleton said.
Tennessee wanted a guard in the class of 2014 and is likely to sign a class of two to three players. The Lady Vols also need a post in the signing class and a pure shooter/scorer from the wing.
With Middleton in the fold, Warlick and her staff can turn their attention to filling the other slots. Middleton confirmed that her mind is made, and her verbal will stick to signing day in November.
"I'm absolutely solid," she said.