Cincinnati guard picks Vanderbilt

Ashlee Bridge, a 5'11 guard from Princeton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, announced on Wednesday that she has given a verbal commitment to attend Vanderbilt University. Bridge becomes the fifth and final member of recruiting class which will enter Vanderbilt as freshmen in the fall of 2006.

"I don't think you can find a better combination of sports and academics," Bridge said from her home on Wednesday. "You're in the SEC, which is a great conference for women's basketball, and secondly, you go to school at Vanderbilt. That did it for me."

As a basketball player, Bridge is considered to be both athletic and versatile. "I can shoot the ball when you need me too, and I can cut to the basket when you need me to that," she told VandyMania.

"Defensively I think I can be a big help because I'm so long. When I'm standing with my arms stretched up, I'm like 7'2. So my arms are very long, I can get my hands on a lot of balls. I'm pretty tall guard at 5'11, and I can also shoot the ball, so I think that will be some help."

Bridge becomes the latest member of the Cincinnati connection at Vanderbilt. Prior to her arrival at Vanderbilt in 2002, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb was the head coach at Xavier University in Cincinnati for seven years. Junior point guard Dee Davis, a member of Balcomb's first recruiting class at Vanderbilt, graduated from Princeton High in 2003.

Despite the fact that Balcomb was coaching in Cincinnati at the same time as Bridge was preparing to begin her high school basketball career at Princeton, Bridge was unaware of her presence

"I wasn't a real big sports fan," Bridge said. "I didn't go to any games or know that she was there until she told me that she was previously at Xavier. I had no idea she was in Cincinnati."

Dee Davis ultimately turned out to be the link between them. During Bridge's freshman season at Princeton, Davis was a senior on the team. It was Davis's signing ceremony in the fall of 2002 that first brought Vanderbilt to Bridge's attention.

"I hadn't actually known anything about Vanderbilt until she signed," said Bridge. "That was when it was first in my head, about three years ago."

After Davis left Cincinnati for Vanderbilt, Bridge averaged 12 points per game as a sophomore and averaged 16 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, and 2.4 steals per game as a junior, as the team compiled a 41-6 across the two seasons.

By the time her junior season began, she was seriously considering Vanderbilt. In December, when Vanderbilt traveled to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, just 35 minutes down the road from Cincinnati, Bridge came to the game - along with the entire Princeton basketball team, wearing black or gold t-shirts that spelled out "LETS GO DEE!!" on one side, and "VANDERBILT" on the other.

After her junior season, Bridge was honored as one of the forty top high school players in the country to be invited to USA Basketball's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. By then she'd already decided that Vanderbilt was her #1 choice over Minnesota and Georgia, but waited until after she'd been accepted for admission by the university before making her decision public.

Bridge is the fifth high school senior to announce her commitment to attend Vanderbilt. She is expected to be the final member of the class which also includes Amber Norton, a 6'1 forward from Louisville, Kentucky, Merideth Marsh, a 5'7 point guard also from Louisville, Lauren Lueders, a 5'8 guard from Jackson, Missouri, and Jessica Mooney, a 5'9 guard from Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo copyright 2004 by WhitneyD for Top Stories