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Hanley decides early that Austin Peay is for her

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By Mike Farner

MOUNT WASHINGTON - On the basketball court, Bullitt East's Whitney Hanley knows what she wants and goes after it.

It was the same thing for the Lady Charger senior when it came to picking a college and a basketball program to compete with after she finishes her playing days at Bullitt East.

On Wednesday, Hanley completed a rare early signing when she put her name on the dotted line to attend Austin Peay University, a Division I school in Clarksville, Tennessee that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Hanley was the first of four players expected to sign with Austin Peay during the early signing period and she will be joined by South Oldham's Lauren Jones. Hanley and Jones played together this past summer on a traveling All-Star team that played in Chicago.

Wednesday's signing in front of family, teammates and friends capped a year-long process between school and player.

"I loved everything about it," Hanley said about what she saw on her visit to Austin Peay. The high school senior made an unofficial visit to Clarksville back in the summer and then made her official visit in September.

"I really felt at home," she added. "They have been recurint me for a very long time."

While Hanley was recently rated one of the top-24 seniors in Kentucky this season by the Rick Bolus Recruiting Service, she got a helpful boost from former Bullitt East head coach Steve Small who now is back living in Mount Washington after a long stint as a coach at Western Kentucky University.

Austin Peay head coach Carrie Daniels, as well as assistant coach Camryn Whitaker, both were part of the Lady Topper program when Small was in Bowling Green.

Small has been helping out with some Bullitt East athletes and he made the first contact with Austin Peay's coaches.

That was during Hanley's junior season and both Daniels and Whitaker saw Hanley play last season. They kept up with her during the summer before making their final offer which was a full athletic scholarship.

With a solid offer from the Lady Governors, Hanley committed to Daniels a month ago. There was no hesitation that something else might develop during this season.

"I thought it would be less stressful during the season," Hanley said of taking the offer on the table. "I just wanted to commit as fast as I could because I really liked them."

Hanley also considered Division I Binghamton (NY) University as well as Division II Northern Kentucky University.

"We are extremely excited about adding Whitney to the Lady Govs family," Daniels said. "She brings the total package as a player, but more importantly, as a person.

"Whitney is a versatile player who can play any of our three guard spots," the second-year head coach added. "She can handle the ball, sees the floor exceptionally well and has a great shot whether it's off the pass or off the dribble. I have no doubt she will have a tremendous career in an Austin Peay uniform."

Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings felt his team's travels and strong schedule was a positive to get Hanley recognized by college teams.

"Whitney is a good example of the kids in our program," Stallings said during the reception. "She had a lot of talent to begin with, but she worked hard. It was her desire to play at the next level.

"She sets a good example for the kids in the community that you can reach your dreams if you are willing to work for them."

Austin Peay uses a three guard alignment and Hanley can either be a point guard or move to a wing as a shooter.

"I think she will be a nice combo-guard," Stallings said. "I don't know if they have a true point guard or shooting guards. She will fit into their system well."

Hanley, the daughter of Phil and Susan Hanley, has played in 80 games in her first three varsity seasons with the Lady Chargers. This past year, when she helped the red and gold to a 22-10 mark, she averaged 15.7 points a game along with 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. She also shot 53 percent from the floor and 37 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

The 5-10 guard has already scored 979 points in her career

After making it all official on Wednesday, Hanley spoke to a small crowd assembled for the big event. She thanked God and her family as well as teammates, teachers and administrators. Hanley said she is looking forward to the opportunity to compete for an OVC championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Hanley also pointed out to the rest of the Lady Chargers that they too can reach their goals with the Bullitt East staff already in place.

Hanley grew up in Mount Washington as the middle of three children in her family. Older brother Jake is now 22 yards old and he played football at Bullitt East. Her younger sister, Meredith, is a cheerleader and runs track.

Growing up, Hanley got her first taste of basketball in the Bullitt County Parks and Recreation League and then moved to on to AAU teams coached by Mike Keener. Hanley won two Bullitt County Middle School Basketball titles under head coach Christal Scott at Mount Washington Middle School.

There is still a whole season ahead of her at Bullitt East where the Lady Chargers are contenders in the always tough Sixth Region.

"I'm expecting good things," the 17-year old said. "We've been working hard. We're so excited about the season. We're looking forward to having a great time together."

Bullitt East will open the season at home next Tuesday against Fern Creek and senior Miss Basketball candidate Monique Reid who signed with the University of Louisville the same day Hanley was signing with Austin Peay.