Hampshire's Kelby Bannerman's visit to Davidson was put on hold in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senior-to-be finally got a chance to see the Davidson, North Carolina, campus up close for the first time over the weekend on an unofficial trip with her mom, dad and brother. That trip sealed her decision.
Bannerman called and committed to Davidson women's basketball coach Gayle Fulks while on campus. She announced her decision to play for the NCAA Division-I Wildcats on Twitter on Wednesday.
"I just wanted to get on campus," Bannerman said. "Once I got that feeling, we called them to commit. Everyone on campus said hi. No one knew me; they just saw that I had a Davidson shirt on. Everyone was really nice and helpful, and it was such a nice community."
Bannerman, a 6-foot-1 forward, toured the campus with another Davidson commit, Mallorie Haines, whose hometown high school is minutes away from the Atlantic 10 Conference school.
Davidson showed interest in Bannerman early and offered a scholarship in mid-December on a phone call during one of Hampshire's pasta parties. Bannerman didn't have a firm deadline but wanted to make a college decision before her senior year.
Bannerman said she had about 20 D-I offers. Davidson always stuck out because of high academics and a dedicated coaching staff.
"The coaching staff is super real and they’re super honest," Bannerman said. "They would just talk to me about anything. It didn’t have to be about basketball, they cared about me as a person and as a player, which I really appreciated.
"To see how excited they were about the program and how I can fit in really helped me to decide that I can see myself there."
Bannerman was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team pick for the second straight season last winter, averaging 16.4 points and 10.8 rebounds a game, along with 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.7 blocks. She was also named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State team.
At the end of the high school season, Bannerman had about 10 D-I offers and was being recruited by more than a dozen conferences. Those colleges included Illinois State, Bradley, Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Western Michigan and West Point.
More recently, she picked up offers from Florida International University, Princeton, Navy, Buffalo, Penn and the Air Force Academy.
Bannerman said she enjoyed the recruiting process, but is thrilled to have a place to call home for the next four years after high school.
Davidson finished 16-15 overall and 8-8 in the Atlantic 10 Conference in Fulks' third season as head coach last winter. The previous year, the Wildcats finished 17-15 and were a program-best 10-6 in league play.
"I’ve been working toward this for basically my whole basketball career, since third grade," Bannerman said. "And it’s not just the goal of playing college basketball. It’s a goal of getting somewhere with it. I’m not really where I want to be yet.
"I want to become a doctor and I want to get the best education possible. Once I got on campus I knew for sure. It was the right school and fit for me. Nothing else was similar to it."
Bannerman said that she would not be where she is today without her high school and AAU teammates at Midwest Elite pushing her. The three-year varsity starter is excited to be an even bigger leader as a senior.
Bannerman thanked her parents, Michelle and Rob, and her many coaches throughout her basketball career, including Whips coach Eric Samuelson, who also coached Bannerman as a freshman at Midwest Elite.
"Coach Samuelson has done so much for me that I don’t know how to put it in words," Bannerman said. "He’s played a huge role in my leadership and my player ability as well."
Team workouts and drills this spring so far have been limited to virtual Zoom meetings, but that has not stopped Bannerman and her high school teammates from getting better each day, she said.
"I've been working on different things with my trainers, like lifting my shot and getting more explosive with my attacking," Bannerman said. "I’m just excited to show all the work I’ve been putting in this spring and summer.
"Everyone is getting better, I’m getting better ... so it’s going to be a fun year. I'm excited."