STAUNTON — Emma Witt knows the first thing she wants to get this summer as she prepares to head off to college — a cat.
The Staunton High School senior received a scholarship to play basketball at West Virginia Wesleyan, an NCAA Division II school in Buckhannon. The school allows students to bring pets and Witt plans to do just that.
She wants it to be orange because the school mascot is a bobcat. Actually, she joked that she wanted a bobcat, but assumed the school would draw the line at her bringing a wild animal into her dorm. So a regular house cat will do.
Playing college basketball, especially at a school that offered her scholarship money, has been a dream for Witt since she started playing the game. She wasn’t sure it would happen, at least not the way she planned. Witt was ready to commit to Bridgewater College. While the Division III school doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, Witt had been offered an academic scholarship to the school.
She waited to commit, though. It was a feeling she had.
“I felt like God was just telling me just to wait, just be patient and wait, it’ll come,” she said.
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it did. In late April someone from the coaching staff at West Virginia Wesleyan reached out to her with an offer to play basketball. Witt wasn’t sure until she took the three-hour trip to visit the school.
“I was like, I feel at home with this,” she said.
It helped that, on the trip to West Virginia, she passed through Blue Grass in Highland County. Her late grandmother was a native of the small community just north of Monterey and driving through there, Witt just got a feeling that this was meant to be.
The school offered a major in criminal justice, which is what Witt wants to study, so it seemed to be the perfect fit.
She officially signed with the school Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at Staunton High School. She joined three other Staunton athletes committing to college.
Witt was the Shenandoah District player of the year her senior season. scoring nearly 31 points a game and averaging 13 rebounds. She finished her career with 1,632 points.
Witt, who will be part of a five-freshman class at the West Virginia school, is excited to be part of a team where she’ll have to prove herself all over. She was the leading scorer as a freshman on her high school team and has lived with the expectations of being the best player on the team ever since. That will change this fall.
“The reason why I wanted to get away (from Staunton) is because I can go somewhere where nobody knows anything about me and the only thing they know about me is what I tell them,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for. And I’m so ready for it.”
Other Staunton athletes committing Thursday:
Hollins University, track
Pederson will be running hurdles, as well as possibly running the 100 and 200 sprints.
“It really felt like a good environment,” she said of Hollins. “It felt like home instantly. All the teachers and the coaches were the sweetest people and I just felt like it was the right place to be.”
Lehigh Carbon Community College, baseball
Engleman said the opportunity to step right in and play was attractive to him. With only freshman and sophomores on the team, he will get a chance to be on the field a lot. He said he hopes to play catcher, but will play whatever position the team needs from him.
“I loved the coaches, we really connected,” he said. “The campus is great. I was really impressed.”
Mary Baldwin University, baseball
Hicks liked the idea of staying in Staunton to play baseball. Playing for MBU means he’ll get to play on the same field, Moxie Stadium, where he played high school ball.
“It is close to home and gives me the opportunity to play,” he said. “I’ll get to stay with my family.”
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Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education reporter. Story ideas and tips are always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite† ssubscribe to us at newsleader.com.