When Amarah Coleman arrived at the University of Illinois on Friday for an official campus visit, the Homewood-Flossmoor senior had no intention of making a decision on which college to attend.
By the time the nationally ranked point guard was preparing to leave Champaign-Urbana, Coleman was convinced there was no reason to wait. On Sunday, she orally committed to coach Matt Bollant’s Illini women’s basketball program.
“I was going to give it another week or two, but I thought it was a perfect fit right when I got there so I was like ‘I want to be here,’ ” Coleman said by phone Sunday night.
The 5-foot-11 Coleman is the third player in the Class of 2014 to commit to Illinois, joining center Chatrice White of Shelby, Neb., and shooting guard Brooke Kissinger of Minden, Neb.
Coleman is ranked No. 81 overall in her class by ESPN HoopGurlz, which also rates her as the No. 19 point guard nationally among seniors.
White is ranked No. 27 overall and No. 4 among post players by HoopGurlz, while Kissinger is rated No. 18 among guards.
Coleman won’t be the first member of her family to pull on an Illini basketball jersey. Her stepbrother, Jaylon Tate, is a freshman guard for the UI men’s team. However, Coleman indicated Tate’s presence here did not figure into her decision.
Instead, the strongest selling point was what she witnessed this weekend as Bollant and his staff ran the Illini through practice.
“Seeing how the coaches like to push the players, I decided to make this decision earlier than I thought because I thought I’d fit in perfectly with the team and the program.
“Everything they do, they’re doing it hard. Basically, watching their style of play is what really got me.”
Coleman said she also took official visits to Wisconsin, Colorado and Cincinnati.
“Before going to Illinois, it was a hard decision,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure where I was going to go. But going there this weekend ... I knew that Illinois was the right place to be.”
Coleman is a former teammate of current Illini freshman guard Kennedy Cattenhead. The two played for a Class 4A super-sectional qualifier at Bolingbrook last season. After longtime Bolingbrook coach Anthony Smith left in May to become the coach at Homewood-Flossmoor, Coleman decided to transfer to that school.
Smith also coached current Illini junior wing Taylor Tuck at Bolingbrook.
“His pace of his play and the way he pushed everyone, I knew that I needed to follow him because he’ll make me a better player,” Coleman said.
Not that the future Illini needs much pushing, according to her current coach.
“She’s a kid that wants to be a great basketball player,” said Smith, who guided Bolingbrook to four state titles and two state runner-up finishes in 12 seasons. “She tries hard to get the most out of her talent.”
Smith said Coleman will need to improve her outside shot while making the transition to college but already has all the other attributes to make an impact at that level.
“She’s a slasher,” he said. “She has a very quick first step, and she’s a defensive-minded kid that’s going to bring a lot of energy and passion to Illinois.”