CUTHBERT -- Randolph-Clay girls basketball coach Jennifer Acree didn't mince words.
"Columbus State," she said after point guard Asha Alexander and Seminole County star Carrie Washington both signed with the nearby four-year school, "they got a steal."
While The Herald first reported the commitments during the GHSA Region 1-A Tournament more than a month ago, Alexander and Washington both made it official at their schools Friday when they joined the Division II program as arguably Division I talent.
"It feels great," Alexander told The Herald late Friday from her home, where she was preparing to leave the following morning for a senior class trip to the Bahamas on a cruise. "It's close to home and I played AAU ball up there, so I know (the town)."
Washington was also on Alexander's AAU team, and Lady Indians coach Jesse McLeon felt that had a lot to do with the decision.
"She really got to know the (players and the area) a good bit when she was up there," said McLeod of Washington, who averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks a game this past season for the Lady Indians. "The big positive is that she'll be close so we'll get to go see her play."
That sentiment was echoed in Acree's feelings about the signing, although she said Columbus State had at least one other intangible that made it an attractive fit for Alexander.
"Yeah, (Asha staying close) is great because we get to watch her play still, and so does her family, but she wants to be a Pharmaceutical major and Columbus State has a great program there," said the Lady Red Devils coach of Alexander, who was second on the team in scoring behind Destiny Mitchell with 16.5 points a game to go along with 7 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 assists on average. "Asha finished in the Top 5 percent of her class (academically) and she has a great head on her shoulders. I really think Columbus is lucky to have her."
At 5-foot-9, Alexander said she'll likely step into the role of shooting guard when she arrives in Columbus in the fall. At 5-11, Washington will likely fill the role of power forward for the Lady Cougars' program, which went 17-11 last year and lost in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. The Lady Cougars are coached by Columbus State alum Jonathan Norton, who will be entering his second season next year.
Each girl, meanwhile, was recruited by at least one Division I program: Alexander by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Washington by Southern Illinois.
"Southern Illinois was after (Carrie) real bad," McLeod said. "She just really wanted to stay close to home."
Acree said Alexander ruled out UNCC around the middle part of the season, more or less for the same reason.
"Asha's a homebody," Acree said.
Joining Alexander on her trip to the Bahamas was fellow teammate and star Mitchell, who Acree said is still undecided on her future. The coach said Mitchell will take official visits to St. John's and East Tennessee State next week when she returns.
Of course, that begged one question about Alexander and Mitchell's trip together this week: Would either player bring a basketball on the boat and sneak in a little extra practice?
"We might just do that," Alexander said with a laugh.