- Chris Hansen, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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Cierra Windham's final list covered four different states with Arizona State, California, Northwestern and Texas A&M, a list she settled on earlier this month. The No. 98 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred visited them all. After a week of pondering she picked up the phone and dialed Gary Blair on Tuesday to commit to the Aggies.
"I think what set (Texas A&M) apart was the academic administration," Harris Windham, Cierra's father, said. "We talked to quite a few people in the academic offices. They really have such great support for all the students and Coach Blair is what you'd call a father figure."
Windham told all the schools recruiting her that academics were at the top of her list. She wants to major in business and minor in communication with the eventual goal of having her own law practice.
Windham's career goals fit in well with her outgoing and confident personality. She embraces leadership and with her FBC club team said she played an almost motherly role. She was the go-to person for her teammates, keeping them on time and up on anything the coaches needed from game times to team meetings.
Windham embraced the recruiting process and connected to all four of the coaching staff's making her final cut. Those connections made the decision difficult as well.
"They're all great programs," the Norco High School star said. "It was actually tough for me to decide, especially with the coaching staffs."
Windham pointed to bonding with both ASU's Charli Turner-Thorne and Cal's Joanne Boyle beyond basketball and on a personal level. But what made the recruiting process entertaining was the connection between Blair and Northwestern coach Joe McKeown.
Blair and McKeown are long time friends. The two had some fun with each other sending quips and jokes back and forth through Windham's recruitment, something the always smiling Windham thoroughly enjoyed. McKeown likes to remind Blair of which of the two is younger and asked Windham to "tell Grandpa hi for me" in reference to Blair in their next call.
Windham is the second verbal commitment for Texas A&M in the class with the earlier commitment of 6-3 post Diamond Ashmore, the No. 48 prospect, from Midwest City, Okla. With the players still considering College Station the Aggies may be on the verge of a top five signing class. No. 2 ranked Kelsey Bone has Texas A&M as a finalist as do No. 29 Kristi Bellock and No. 60 Adrienne Pratcher.
"Hopefully those other players do come," Windham said of those considering the Aggies. "I took my official with Kelsey Bone and hit it off with her right away."
Windham felt a connection with the players at A&M as well and her father felt a family atmosphere as well. She was hosted by sophomore guard Sydney Colson, both of which have a love for animals and turtles as pets.
For Windham the focus now shifts to Norco High School where she will lead what she considers to be a young team. They made the CIF semifinals a season ago losing to Los Osos in a game that still weighs on her mind. Windham will attempt to take the next step in her senior year similarly to the way the Aggies look to advance beyond their Elite Eight appearance last season.
"With younger teammates you have that fire," Windham says. "They know coming in there's a lot expected out of them and I want out of them."
"In the five years (Windham) has been with FBC what stands out the most is her ability to knock down big shots in big time games." Ray Mayes, director of FBC, said. "She has developed her midrange game tremendously, either off the catch or off the dribble anywhere on the court. CC has become (a) big time scorer that is very consistent from three-point range as well."
Windham's combination of size and athleticism also make her a versatile defender with the ability to defend all three perimeter positions and make an impact.
"Texas A&M is getting a dedicated, loyal, hard worker that puts the team first." Mayes added.
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Chris Hansen covers girls' high school basketball nationally for ESPN.com and leads the panel that ranks and evaluates players for the network. He is a graduate of the University of Washington with a Communications degree. He can be reached at email@example.com.