Alayshia Hunter has always been tall.
And in girls basketball, being tall will get you noticed.
But that wasn't enough for the 6-foot-2 Hunter. "I really felt like she blossomed last year and came into her own," said Ellison head coach Sherry McKinnon of Hunter, last season's District 12-5A co-Most Valuable Player. "It was about her having to step up her game."
Hunter's work, which included plenty of Saturday and Sunday practice sessions with her father, paid off and culminated Monday afternoon the senior post signed with Louisiana-Monroe in front of her parents, coaches, teammates and numerous friends.
"I really didn't think all these people would come," said Hunter, who also received congratulations from Harker Heights basketball players and AAU teammates Eboniey Jeter and Shanice Davis. "But obviously I'm kind of excited that they did. It shows they really care and supported me."
Becoming one of the best players in a talented district didn't come easy. That's because she didn't have to be.
"I had the easy baskets and I was hard to guard because I was the tallest one out there," Hunter said.
Her freshman and sophomore seasons, Hunter played behind Desiree Wiley, an all-state performer and automatic double-double noe in her second year at Ranger College.
As sophomore, Hunter said she realized then that her height wasn't going to be enough to succeed as it had in the past.
"Everybody else was catching up to me and I just thought to myself, 'I'm not as tall as I used to be,'" Hunter said. "I had to change my play. I had to stop with the post moves and learn how to shoot jump shots and dribble."
The post moves haven't stopped Hunter averaged a team-high 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and two blocks per game last year for the Lady Eagles, who went 30-8 and reached the Region II-5A semifinals.
But her game evolved, with some work. Saturdays and Sundays became "gym days" for Hunter and her father Anthony, while the two also made their way to Abrams Physical Fitness Center after school.
"She craved the knowledge of basketball and had a basketball mind, so teaching her the little fundamentals dribbling, blocking shots, boxing out came pretty easy when she was younger," Anthony Hunter said. "She's a little hard-headed now, but she still likes to learn basketball. It's been a rough road getting to where she is now, but she's there."
Dribbling was the hardest, Alayshia said.
"That was not my thing," she said. "But it's helped a lot, because a lot of the coaches that were looking at me were looking for that four (power forward) or, in a good game, could be a three (small forward)."
She choose Louisiana-Monroe over Southeastern Louisiana and Weber State. The Warhawks went 16-15 last season and 9-7 in the Sun Belt Conference.
Hunter took her official visit three weeks ago, and the campus, which is about seven hours from Killeen, just felt right.
"It's a small campus and it seems like when you walk around, you see the same person," Hunter said. "I don't want to be at a school where I'm just a seed on the ground. I want to be able to know somebody and be able to see them more than once."