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Ariel Gaston, a senior point guard who helped seventh-ranked Start (23-3) win the City League girls basketball championship and reach the Division I state semifinals this season, has committed to a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire.
The 5-foot-6 senior joined the Spartans after transferring to Start from Southview in the fall. She had been a starter for three seasons for the Cougars.
"I think they liked my floor control and the way I handled the ball," Gaston said of the Wildcats' staff, which was led by first-year head coach Maureen Magarity.
"I visited there last Tuesday through Thursday. The campus is beautiful, and I liked the coaches and the team. It's a fairly new program, so I feel I'll be able to go there and make my mark."
UNH, which is located in Durham, N.H., finished 9-20 overall this past season and was 6-10 (sixth place) in the nine-team America East Conference.
"It just felt like the perfect fit, and my parents also really liked it," Gaston said. "That was a big thing for me. I expect to go there and play a lot right away. I think I can really impact the program."
Gaston averaged 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game for the Spartans while shooting 42 percent from the field and 54 percent from the line en route to third-team All-City honors.
"She can run the point guard position, and that took a lot of pressure off of Maleeka Kynard," Start coach Bob Brown said of Gaston. "She got us into our offense, and she was tremendous without turning the ball over.
"I think New Hampshire is getting a hard worker and a combo guard that can play the No. 1 or No. 2 spot. That's a valuable asset to have in college."
Gaston's postseason recognition was likely diminished by her playing in a talented Start lineup that included three first-team All-City selections.
Senior first-team All-Ohioans Kynard and Azia Bishop will play at Ohio State and Kentucky, respectively, and junior guard Jaymie Jackson was All-Ohio honorable mention.
But, what Gaston lost in postseason honors, she gained in college recruitment exposure.
"She got a chance to play in front of some [college] schools when we played in the Classic in the Country [at Berlin, Ohio], and that's where New Hampshire saw her," Brown said. "They obviously really liked her, and they came and watched her a couple other times. We also sent them some game tape.
"When she went there for an official visit after the season, they offered her the scholarship."
New Hampshire is an NCAA Division I team. Gaston said her only other offers were from D-II schools, including Tiffin and Kentucky Wesleyan. She is the fifth Start player to land at a D-I college program in the past three seasons.
Yolanda Richardson, a first-team All-Ohioan in 2009, when Start reached the Ohio championship game, recently completed her sophomore season at Toledo.
Tiffani Blackman, a 2010 graduate, recently completed her freshman season at Seton Hall.
"Playing at Start definitely elevated my game and made me a lot better," Gaston said. "Coach Brown is a really good coach, and he puts us in the right atmosphere to be noticed."
3 local players sign with Owens
Macketta Allen and Karahn Scott of Scott, and Emma Ricketts of Anthony Wayne have signed letters of intent with Owens Community College to join its women's basketball program.
Allen, a 5-foot-8 guard who spent her first three seasons as a starter at the former Libbey High School, was an All-City League first-team selection three times and was named to the Division II All-Ohio third team the past two years. She averaged 15.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists this season. Scott, a 5-11 forward was a All-City second-team choice after averaging 12.6 points and 11.3 rebounds as a senior.
Ricketts, a 6-0 forward who averaged 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds, helped the Generals to an 18-6 finish and their first regional appearance. She was twice named All-Northern Lakes League first team, and this season was named to the Division I all-district second team.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.