Leechburg’s Lovelace commits to IUP

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | 9:54 PM

IUP's women's basketball coaches saw Mikayla Lovelace play in person when scouting Vincentian's Lexie Griggs two seasons ago.

“I guess I should thank her for helping me out,” Lovelace said.

She'll get plenty of opportunity. Lovelace, a Leechburg senior and the reigning Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year, signed a national letter of intent with IUP on Wednesday, the final day of the early-signing period. She'll join Griggs, an IUP sophomore, on the Crimson Hawks roster.

“It was a stressful process, but I'm so happy I'm about to go to IUP,” Lovelace said. “I love the coaches there. I love coach (Tom) McConnell, and I love the program he has up there. I'm so happy I get a chance to play for someone I truly like and who likes me just as much, I guess.”

Lovelace also considered Ohio Northern and Washington University (Mo.) and received some lower-level Division I interest, but she said she always considered IUP atop her list. Her official visit about two weeks ago, when McConnell hosted an outing at his house for players and their families, cemented Lovelace's interest, and she verbally committed last week.

“It just showed me how family-oriented he is, and how he cares about the players' families,” she said. “He just is a very family-oriented person, and I'm very close to my family.”

A 5-foot-10 wing player, Lovelace averaged 23 points and 7.5 rebounds last season for Leechburg, earning third-team all-state honors in Class 2A. She led the Blue Devils to a record-breaking season in 2016-17, including the school's first-ever WPIAL playoff win, first PIAA playoff appearance and first PIAA playoff win.

Lovelace begins her senior season with 1,455 career points.

IUP won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament.

“Everyone wants a chance to compete, and just knowing that they already have a strong program and they've already been to the championships is a good feeling to know that I have a chance to be a part of something big with this program,” Lovelace said.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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