Ariel Massengale commits to Lady Vols

Ariel Massengale, the top point guard in the class of 2011, had her outfit for the next day of school picked out Thursday evening, and it included a lot of orange. She had been eager to end the recruiting process, and she did it by calling Pat Summitt and committing to Tennessee.

Ariel Massengale, a 5'6 point guard from Bolingbrook, Ill., had recently narrowed her finalists to Tennessee, Kentucky, Duke and Florida, but the Lady Vols had been her "dream school," and she made it official Thursday evening with a phone call to Pat Summitt.

"I told her that I wanted to be a Lady Volunteer," Massengale said. "It was a dream. I have always wanted to play at Tennessee. My family visits Tennessee. Both my parents are from Tennessee and when I was younger that was my dream, and I worked hard every day.

"Just to be able to have a dream come true and to live that out, I had to take advantage of it."

Massengale's parents, Carvel and Anita Massengale, both grew up in Tennessee – Carvel in Shelbyville and Anita in nearby Bell Buckle, a small town in Bedford County. Ariel Massengale's uncle is a dentist in Knoxville, and has already sent orange attire to the family, but Carvel Massengale said more would be needed now.

"I have a brother who is a dentist in Knoxville, and he has sent a lot of things up this way over the years for Ariel," Carvel Massengale said. "We'll make sure he loads us up. She has plenty of it now. She's just been waiting. It's been packed up for awhile. When you're going through the process, you don't want to wear some things out.

"But she's so happy. She's already got her outfit laid out what she's going to wear to school (Friday). She's been waiting for this day for a long time. We sat down and discussed it (Wednesday) night. She said, ‘Dad, that's what I want to do.' I said, ‘Let's do it then.' She's excited she gets to wear some of that orange. We'll be getting some more stuff real soon, no doubt."

Massengale is rated the No. 1 point guard in the nation by Hoopgurlz and No. 4 overall in the country. She teamed up with Tennessee commit Cierra Burdick (No. 3 in the country), a forward from Charlotte, N.C., and UT target Elizabeth Williams (No. 2 in the country), a center from Virginia Beach, Va., in Toulouse, France, in July to win the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championships as members of the USA U17 basketball team.

Summitt and Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss made a trip to France to watch the team, and Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood saw the preliminary action in Spain. The presence of the coaches was noted by Massengale.

"Personally, I know that was not a cheap flight or cheap trip," Massengale said. "Coach Dean was in Spain while we played and then her and Mickie were in France, and then Dean came to Nike Nationals to watch (in Georgia), and they were always there supporting me and watching me. Every time I stepped on the court I wanted to play my hardest and give them something to think about like, ‘Hmm, we might want Ariel Massengale.' "

Massengale, Burdick and Williams, who is making an unofficial visit to Tennessee on Friday, are close friends and while the two commits are pushing the Lady Vols to Williams, they also are letting her make her own decision.

"We're doing a little bit of both," Massengale said. "Of course we're going to put in our two cents on Tennessee because that's where we're going, but our friendship is so strong that as long as we're all happy … we're pushing Tennessee for her but if not we'll still be happy for her."

Burdick did put the full court press on Massengale while both were in France.

"We talked about it all the time," Massengale said. "She said, ‘Ariel, you need to come play with me. I want you to be my point guard.' I was like, ‘I don't know. Let me see how things work out,' but it came down to it, and it was a dream come true. I had to accept it."

Tennessee has three scholarships to offer to the class of 2011 and is in need of posts – though Burdick can play the power forward spot in addition to the wing – but apparently Massengale's point skills were too developed to pass on for the Lady Vols, and they opted to officially offer a scholarship. Women's hoops observers in France noted Massengale's overall command of the game and ability to lead as a floor general.

"Talking to Coach Summitt, she told me she noticed the way that I led the team and when my team needed a big basket at a difficult time for us to score I took control and was determined to not let our team lose," Massengale said.

Massengale has won two state titles at the 4A level for Bolingbrook High School in 2009 and 2010 – a teammate is 6'2 post Morgan Tuck, who is in the class of 2012 and whose name also has come up with regard to Tennessee – and has won consective gold medals the past two summers for USA basketball for the U16 and U17 teams.

Last July she led Team USA with 22 points in a 97-74 semifinal win over China and had 20 points in the 92-62 victory over France to take gold. She also won an AAU championship in August with her Tennessee Flight team at the Nike Nationals.

Massengale can now focus on her senior year in high school – she made it to the 4A state title game as a freshman before winning the championship as a sophomore and junior – and she said she has an objective in mind before arriving in Knoxville.

"Mental toughness," Massengale said. "Just keep being a student of the game and always want to learn more, watching Tennessee players, and learning, because I know the college game will be different, and just continue to work hard. Go in there with an open mind and ready to put in some work and make things happen for the University of Tennessee."

Massengale said she will take her official visit to Tennessee this fall – Burdick, who committed last fall on an unofficial visit, would likely come at the same time – but she won't visit any other schools.

"I am done," Massengale said. "I am just going to take my one to Tennessee and enjoy my senior year."

She also is happy to have the recruiting process completed.

"We started school on Tuesday, and it was still hanging over my head," Massengale said. "Everyone was asking me, ‘What are you doing?' I am so relieved. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

The decision was hailed by Massengale's parents, too, who expressed pride in their daughter and happiness that the recruiting process had concluded with their child picking her favorite school.

"Like said said, it's a dream come true," Carvel Massengale said. "She has worked so hard for it, and it's just very, very exciting. I was recruited in high school for football but nothing at the level that she was. To be able to play at the school that she's always dreamed about playing at and playing for someone like Pat Summitt is a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment. I am so proud of her and so happy for her."

"I am very proud of Ariel," Anita Massengale said. "She has enjoyed playing ball since the third grade. It's been a fun experience. The sad part of the situation is having to tell people that she decided to go one way, but people have been very understanding. We are very proud of her."

The Massengales have been in Illinois for 20 years but were regular visitors to the state of Tennessee with their daughter and her older brother, Avery Massengale.

"If you're born in Tennessee and you're a athlete and love athletics, everybody wants to play for the University of Tennessee," Carvel Massengale said. "It's something I wanted to do back in my days of football, and I didn't get the opportunity to, so to have my daughter being able to do so and to play for one of the top programs in the country is just phenomenal for her. I am so proud for her."

He also was relieved that the recruiting process had ended.

"Most definitely," Carvel Massengale said. "It could have been over three months ago, would have been OK with me. It's something that you look forward to as a parent because you know your daughter has the talent to be recruited at that level but once you get into it, it's very stressful, and I am very happy that it's over with for her, most of all for her, but for us also.

"Like she said, it's like a 10,000-pound weight has been lifted off her shoulders. She took a deep breath and smiled and now she can focus on senior year and her high school team winning their third state championship in a row. That's a phenomenal feat, also."

Massengale's USA bio page mentioned she enjoyed a trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains, so she's already familiar with East Tennessee.

"We always tried to make sure our kids get back home to know the family," Anita Massengale said. "Both of them have always loved Tennessee and always said, ‘We want to go back home.' I have said, ‘Well, one day we will.' She is getting an opportunity to go back and she is going to Tennessee. It's been a dream of hers.

"I always said, ‘It's your decision and if you are happy, then we are happy, as long as you're in a good setting where you're going to be taken care of, and I can feel comfortable.' Them treating her like she's their daughter, I feel all of that. I think she will do fine."

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