Photo provided by Kasiyahna Kushkituah

Kasi Kushkituah commits to Lady Vols

Top 2017 post verbals to Tennessee

Kasiyahna Kushkituah, a top recruit in the Class of 2017, committed Tuesday night to Tennessee. The 6-4 post cried tears of joy when she called Holly Warlick. The head coach had to put down the phone and scream in happiness.

Kasiyahna Kushkituah, who goes by “Kasi,” is a 6-4 center at St. Francis High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. She had drawn the attention of top programs for years and had whittled her list to Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State.

On Tuesday night, Kushkituah called Holly Warlick to commit to Tennessee. She will sign her LOI during the early period in November and enroll at Tennessee next summer after her senior season at St. Francis.

Kushkituah made a low-key announcement on Twitter, which set off a flurry of happy retweets from Lady Vol fans, despite the late hour.

Kushkituah cited academics, her fit with the Lady Vols program and player development – Tennessee has put a lot of players in the WNBA – as factors in her decision.

“What we decided was the overall academics, the comfort level and the ability to develop on and off the court,” she said.

The family was interviewed Tuesday night by phone by InsideTennessee – and all were relieved that the recruiting process was completed. Kushkituah’s mother, Talandra Echols, and her stepfather, Otis Wilson, expressed tremendous pride in Kushkituah.

“We are very proud of her,” Wilson said. “We watched her grow, especially the last four years. We’ve seen a lot of improvement as a player and as a young lady. We are very excited for what’s to come in her career as a player and a person. And I think Tennessee is going to bring a lot of that out. I think it’s a great fit.”

“I am very relieved, because we pretty much put everything in her hands and left it up to her to decide,” Echols said. “There was a lot coming at her over the last five, six years since she started playing. She was able to be very mature about her decision. She looked at how she would fit in, if she would feel comfortable and her future. I am proud of her for hanging in there and always trying to improve.”

The family visited Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State over the last month.

“We took about a week and a few days to decide after she finished her last visit at Florida State,” Echols said. “We gave her a couple of days off, and we started talking Wednesday of last week. We weighed all of the pros and cons, everything from academics to the overall campus environment, the level of her comfort and her ability to play on the court.”

Kushkituah and her family made the call to Warlick when they realized the decision was made.

“We went ahead and let Kasi speak to her and tell her that she had made her decision to go to Tennessee,” Wilson said. “It was emotional for Kasi.”

“When Kasi called Holly, she was trying to tell her, but Kasi started crying in the process because she was so happy,” Echols said. “We think Holly may have been trying to hold back her tears, too. We weren’t sure. She was screaming on the phone. She had to put us on hold so she could scream.”

“I was excited and relieved,” Kushkituah said. “She was like, ‘Why are you crying?’ And I was like, ‘I am just so happy.’ ”

The proximity of Knoxville to the state of Georgia also factored into Kushkituah’s decision, because she wants her family to be able to see her play.

“I didn’t want to go too far and everything is driving distance,” she said. “My grandparents come to every single one of my games and my uncles and my nephew. They are always there. I wanted to make it easier for them.”

Tennessee has a huge need for posts, no pun intended, in the classes of 2017 and 2018 – along with wings and guards. Anastasia Hayes, a top-ranked guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the Class of 2017 already has committed to the Lady Vols. And Tennessee is far from done in the Class of 2017, as the Lady Vols intend to sign four to five players.

Kushkituah is hoping Maya Dodson, her teammate at St. Francis, will join her in Knoxville. Dodson, a 6-2 wing, is a dynamic player and also is considering Notre Dame and Stanford.

“Hopefully she’ll come with me but whatever decision is best for her, though,” Kushkituah said.

Dodson immediately tweeted her congratulations to Kushkituah.

Kushkituah, who intends to study marketing and entrepreneurship in college, also will be able to compete for playing time as a freshman at Tennessee.

“I love competition, so, yes, that was a big factor,” said Kushkituah, who offered the following scouting report on her game:

“My game is really back to the basket, layups, footwork, defense. I run the floor very well, and I score well. I need to work on my 10-foot jump shot and improve my post game.”

Kushkituah is looking forward to her senior year in high school with her college decision in the books.

“I am relieved and happy,” she said. “It was a long process, and I took my time and got through it.”

The family will now be in the market for orange clothes.

“We have to shop for orange,” Echols said. “Kasi loves pink, but we’ve got to pick up some orange gear.”


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