EDWARDSVILLE — What began as a dream four years ago became a reality Wednesday for Edwardsville senior Emmonnie Henderson.
Rated as one of the top 40 high school senior basketball players in the nation, Henderson made it official when she signed an NCAA Division I letter of intent to attend the University of Louisville beginning in the 2013-14 season.
A 6-foot-2 all-state forward, Henderson chose Louisville over Tennessee, Purdue and Miami (Fla.), citing her relationship with Cardinals head coach Jeff Walz for the major factor in her decision.
"It's a relief. It's a huge relief to have this (recruiting) over with,'' Henderson said. "I don't have to think about where I'm going to go during the (high school) season. Now I can just go out there and hope we win a national, oops, I mean a state championship. National championship, hopefully, next year.''
Third on the Edwardsville career scoring list entering her senior season with more then 1,300 points, Henderson averaged 15.6 points and eight rebounds last season for a Tigers team which finished 34-2 and reached the Class 4A state title game where it lost to Chicago Whitney Young.
Henderson said she made official visits to all four schools -- Purdue, Miami, Tennessee and Louisville.
"I went and checked out all the schools I was interested in. Basically, Louisville was the one that fit best for me. That's the one I wanted and that's that I picked.
"I finalized my decision when I went down there. My mom didn't want me to commit until I got home from my visit and had a day to think it over. My mind was made up though. I wanted to go there.''
Henderson's signing was witnessed by several family members and Edwardsville High School personnel including Tigers coach Lori Blade.
"Its been exciting for our program and I think Emmonnie has been excited,'' Blade said. ""The recruiting process was overwhelming at times because it was nonstop.
"Probably the best part for me was that it opened up doors for some other kids. We're about the program, and Emmonnie understands that.''
Henderson will join one of the top programs in the nation at Louisville. The Cardinals finished 23-10 last season, losing to Maryland 72-68 in the NCAA East Regional second round. Louisville was the NCAA Division I national runner-up to Connecticut in 2009 when it finished 34-5.
The Cardinals are currently ranked ninth in the nation with a 2-0 record.
While many of the top programs in the nation were interested in Henderson, it came down to Tennessee and Louisville.
"A lot of it had to do with my relationship with coach (Walz) and the team,'' Henderson said. "Tennessee was a really good school and just to clear it up for good, Pat Summit choosing to leave had nothing to do with my decision to attend Louisville. It was all about my choice and my desire to go to Louisville."
Summitt, who announced last year she had early-onset dementia, stepped down in April after collecting 1,098 wins, eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances in 38 seasons.
A three-time Class 3A state champion in the shot put and two-time defending champion in the discus, Henderson will also compete in track and field at Louisville.
Henderson is the No. 2 ranked high school shot put athlete in the nation.
Henderson said Wednesday that she will redshirt her freshman season in track and field.
"That's what I plan to do. That way I'll have a fifth year to get my master's in engineering, hopefully.''
Louisville is expected to sign another local player in the next days. Southwestern Illinois College All-American point guard Janelle Cannon gave a verbal commitment to the Cardinals earlier this summer.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com