If you've followed Austin area high school girls basketball since 2017, you are very familiar with Cedar Park Vista Ridge star A.J. Marotte. Fans and recruiting experts could only guess where the three-time first-team all-state talent would commit to for college basketball and the day that she would make the announcement. If you predicted the University of Washington on March 31st, 2020, you are awarded a ding, ding, ding. She wrote in a tweet on Tuesday morning that she would continue her basketball career there after her 2021 high school graduation.
"I've been talking to UW for a little less then a year," Marotte said in an interview with VYPE. "They first saw me when I was playing in Spain with one of their  signees, Jayda Noble. [Head] coach Jody Wynn explained to me that she takes her time really evaluating the character of the girls she recruits, not just their skills on the court. So, she said it takes a while for them to offer, but they eventually offered around the beginning of this year."
Marotte knows her current school, Vista Ridge High School, is over 2,100 miles away from the university in Seattle, so she planned a campus visit. Unfortunately, like a lot of things over the last three weeks, it got cancelled because of COVID-19, which is also known as Coronavirus. She decided to go ahead and commit to the basketball program because she has important connections there.
"It is pretty far from Texas, but I didn't want distance to dictate my decision," she said. "UW's staff is just amazing. They recently came for a home visit and I got to sit down and chat with coach[es] Jody and Derek Wynn and I just loved them. They are amazing people, as are the assistants, Paul [Reed] and Michelle [Augustavo-Fisher]. And I just love the culture and environment they've created at Washington, with the girls they recruit and what not. Also playing in a Power Five conference was a goal of mine and, although I had offers from many other P5 schools, UW was just the perfect fit for me."
Marotte's recruiting resume includes 10 Division I offers, but she couldn't pass up the women's basketball program at Washington.
"I am very excited to get out to Seattle and experience the city and my soon to be home," she said. "Washington just fit everything I wanted in a school. Amazing coaches, [it] recruited great girls [and] had a playing style I knew I could fit into."
An out-of-state move may be on the horizon for Marotte, but she is currently preparing for another extravagant season in Texas and Cedar Park. She wants to add to her very accomplished high school career during the 2020-2021 school year and move her high school team closer to two goals it just fell short of in the 2019-2020 campaign: advancing to the UIL 6A state final four and winning a state title.
"Cedar Park is on the up and coming," she said. "There's definitely a lot of people who still sleep on girls here. I'm very thankful I got to play for Vista Ridge. I remember being in middle school [and] dreaming about wearing one of those red and black jerseys. My coaches at Vista have taught me so much, not just on the court. They've taught me how to be mentally strong through adversity and we have definitely faced a lot of adversity in my time there so far. They've taught me things I will remember throughout the rest of my career and I'm so thankful I get to play at Vista Ridge and be a Ranger."
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The Battleground 2k19: College hoops event brings quality matchups, raising awareness about child abuse
When six college basketball teams make their way to Houston in December for The Battleground 2k19 event put on by U-Sports Group, with it will bring some great basketball for the fans.
But arguably the most important initiative from No. 16 Baylor, No. 17 Utah State, South Florida, Oregon State, UTSA and UT-Martin coming to Houston will be a campaign called Athletes Against Abuse.
"While in Houston, the 6 college basketball teams will spend time with local children's organizations to mentor, support and encourage children who have experienced abuse or abandonment," U-Sports Group President Rhossi Carron said. "It is our hope that the [a3] Initiative will start the conversation that sheds light on this heartbreaking epidemic. We truly believe that this campaign and associated activities will greatly impact the lives of abused children and be a rewarding experience for the collegiate athletes."
The [a3] Initiative, in connection with U-Sports Group, will strive to blur the lines between sport and service, inspiring athletes to use their talents, notoriety and influence to improve the lives of those around them. The [a3] Initiative will utilize The Battleground 2k platform to get college basketball programs involved to bring awareness to child abuse in our country.
To go along with raising awareness, fans will get a chance to see these teams in action in a one-day triple-header at the Toyota Center – the home of the Houston Rockets – on Wednesday, December 18.
"Having a nationally televised college basketball triple-header at the Toyota Center is something that we are extremely excited about," Carron said. "The Toyota Center is one of the country's premier sporting arenas and it will provide a playing atmosphere and fan experience that will be remembered. The college teams competing in The Battleground 2k19 are fired up about playing on an NBA court, while fans are excited about the opportunity to see three marquee games at an affordable price, in a state-of-theart facility like Toyota Center."
The day tips off with Oregon State vs UTSA at 4:30 p.m. followed by defending Mountain West Champion Utah State facing South Florida at 6:45 p.m. The night will be capped by Big 12 Conference's Baylor taking on UT Martin out of the Ohio Valley.
"The Battleground 2k Series will provide college basketball programs with an alternative to traditional MTE's and neutral-site events," Carron says. "Our platform was constructed to highlight relevant social issues, with the idea of using the power of sports to create change in our communities and in ourselves. Competing, not just for the sake of winning, but also for the cause of change, is at the heart of U-Sports Group and will be reflected in our sporting events."
Tickets will also be available at the Toyota Center box office. For group tickets and special rates for youth organizations and sports teams, please send inquiry to Tickets@ Battleground2k.com. The Battleground 2k19 is a premier basketball event owned and operated by U-Sports Group, LLC.