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From hoops to gymnastics, student-athletes in Utah take advantage of early signing day Wednesday

SALT LAKE CITY — Back when a rebound was more about luck than skill, Riley Court dreamed about playing college basketball.

Noah Togiai grew up in a football-loving family and never thought he’d even have the opportunity to play hoops for an education.

And Katie Toole is having trouble believing that she will be representing the school from which her grandfather graduated.

All three teens joined with a handful of other Utah high school athletes who took advantage of the NCAA’s early signing opportunity and legally accepted scholarship offers from various schools on Wednesday.

Some athletes signed their paperwork privately, while others participated in celebrations that lauded them for years of hard work and dedication.

“It’s so crazy,” said Toole, a senior who signed her paperwork to play at Utah State University during a lunch-time ceremony at Viewmont High. “I’m just so excited. I want to get started right now.”

The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 15.17 points, 6.48 rebounds, 2.91 assists and 2.35 steals per game last season.

Court, a 6-foot-4 guard, said he chose Weber State after meeting coach Randy Rahe and his assistants.

“I met the coaching staff this summer,” said the Pleasant Grove senior. “As soon as I met them, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. ... I love how they run the program, and I just love it up there.”

Court averaged 14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season.

Westlake senior Brayden Holker played club basketball with Court for Utah Basketball Club. Eight of the team’s nine players will sign scholarships.

“In 12 years of being involved with club and AAU, I’ve never had eight of nine players sign (college scholarships),” said John Palica, director of Utah Basketball Club, at the team’s signing breakfast at EnergySolutions Arena Wednesday. “This is historic. These are really astounding numbers.”

The team’s coach, Todd Phillips, who is also the head coach for Salt Lake Community College, said that not every collection of outstanding athletes is as successful as a team as this year’s group.

“It’s a tremendous honor for me to coach these kids,” he said of the group that went 27-6 and finished the season ranked No. 16 in the country and No. 2 in the West region. “It’s not always the case when you put a bunch of all-stars together.”

Holker said he chose SUU because the program was passionate about him playing for the Thunderbirds.

“I wanted to go to school where I was wanted the most,” he said. “It felt awesome to sign, here with my team. We’ve been friends since freshman year, so this is great.”

Togiai, a senior at Hunter, participated in the ceremonial signing, which included each boy donning a ball cap emblazoned with the school’s logo, but he won’t officially sign his paperwork with the University of Utah until he finishes with the NCAA's clearinghouse. UBC officials said that could be as soon as Saturday.

Togiai said he doesn’t think he’d be playing for the Utes next season if he hadn’t been invited to play with the elite club team.

“I actually never thought this would happen,” he said. “I always thought growing up that I would be a football kid. But things changed, and basketball started to come my way.” His two older brothers play college football, including Ian, who is a freshman at Utah State.

“All the way up until my sophomore year, when my first offer came in,” said Togiai of when he thought college basketball might be an option for the football-loving teen. “That’s when I realized I have a shot for this. ... If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t think I’d be putting on this hat to play basketball. I think I’d be playing football.”

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 22 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals last season.

Pleasant Grove senior MaKenna Merrell signed her scholarship commitment paperwork to the Unversity of Utah at American Gymnastics Wednesday afternoon.

“(Gymnastics) is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Merrell, who started participating in gymnastics at age 2, in part because her mom was a coach.

She grew up watching her sister compete at BYU, but wasn’t sure she’d have the same opportunity to compete in college until she got a letter from a college in eighth grade. Once the Red Rocks came calling, she knew that’s where she wanted to compete.

“When I went up there on an unofficial visit, I liked how they ran the program, how organized everything was,” she said. “And their gym is amazing.”

Merrell is one of the few Utah gymnasts to earn the honor of competing for one of the country’s top programs. She said she’s looking forward to taking the floor in front of those record-breaking gymnastics crowds.

“It’s exciting to know that I can compete in front of that many people, and they’ll all be cheering me on,” she said, adding that beam is usually her favorite event. “I just like a constant challenge, and you can never lose your focus on (beam).”

Other signings on Wednesday included:

Fremont senior Whitney Wray signing to play volleyball at Salt Lake Community College. She earned 184 kills and 124 digs in helping the Silver Wolves earn the Region 1 championship this season.

Sky View senior Lindsey Jensen signed to play basketball for Utah State. In 51 games with the Bobcats, she averaged 14.96 points, 6.49 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.2 steals. She was also a key contributor to Salt Lake Metro club team.

Olympus senior Jake Lindsey signed with Baylor University. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals last season.

Layton senior Jarriesse Blackmon signed to play basketball for UC Santa Barbara. In his junior season, Blackmon averaged 16.25 points per game, 10.79 rebounds, 2.17 assists and 2.04 steals.

Juan Diego’s Gabe Colosimo signed to play basketball for Seattle Pacific. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 20.78 points, 3.83 rebounds, 4.74 assists and 3.35 steals.

Granger senior Makol Mawien, a 6-foot-9 forward, signed with the University of Utah. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in his junior season.

Sky View senior Shannon Sorensen signed to play volleyball at Dixie State University. Shannon led Sky View to an undefeated Region 5 title and a second-place finish in the 4A state tournament. She earned 219 kills with a hitting percentage of .283, 86 total blocks and 41 service aces.

Canyon View celebrated three student athletes signing scholarships. Senior Keaton Kringlen signed to play baseball at BYU. Senior Zach Brinkerhoff signed to play baseball at BYU. Senior Kaitlyn Delange signed to play softball for Dixie State University.

Hurricane senior Kamryn Watts signed a scholarship to run cross country at Southern Utah University.

Timpview senior Riley Corbin signed to play basketball for Dixie State University. In his junior season, he averaged 9.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Herriman senior Lucy Biles signed to run for the University of North Carolina. The three-time cross country state champion and nationally ranked runner celebrated her signing with her family and high school coaches.

Park City senior Alyssa Snyder signed to run cross country with Montana State.

Logan High senior Tyler Brimhall signed to play basketball with the University of Idaho. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 21 points for the Cache Valley Elite AAu team this summer. He averaged 17 points per game for Logan High in his junior season.

Ogden senior Xena Motes signed her National Letter of Intent to play golf for Weber State University. She is a three time region medalist and three time All-State team member. She also was a member of the Junior Americas Cup team for Utah this summer and was the only high school girl to make it to the round of 16 in this year's Utah Women's Amateur.

Pleasant Grove senior Easton Walker signed his National Letter of Intent to play Baseball at BYU. Easton, was the Utah Valley Player of the Year and 5A MVP last season. He follows the footsteps of his two oldest brothers, who also played college baseball.

Fremont senior Shelbee Molen signed her scholarship paperwork to play basketball for BYU on Wednesday night with her prep teammates and coaches at the school. She averaged 16.2 points per game in her junior season.

Woods Cross senior Taylor Dillon signed his NLI to run track and cross country for Weber State University.

Judge Memorial senior Rachel Gondrezick, signed scholarship paperwork that will extend her volleyball career at the collegiate level with St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. She will be an outside hitter for the Saints. The Saints compete in the NCAA's Great Northwest Athletic Conference at the Division II level.

Her teamamte and fellow, Judge Memorial senior Lauren Naatz, signed to play volleyball with the University of Portland. She will be a libero, or a defensive specialist, for the Pilots. The Pilots compete in NCAA Division I as members of the West Coast Conference.

Davis senior and four-star recruit Jesse Wade signed to play for nationally ranked Gonzaga University on Wednesday. The 6-foot guard averaged 17.36 points, 3.41 assists, and 2.41 steals per game in his junior season.

Copper Hills senior setter Veronica “Roni” Jones signed a scholarship to play volleyball for BYU.

Bountiful senior Zac Seljaas, a 6-foot-8 guard, signed to play basketball for BYU. He averaged 18.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists last year as he led the Braves to the 4A state title.

Springville senior McKayla Montgomery signed to run track for Utah Valley University. She is a State Champion in the 200-meter and also the 4x100 meter relay, which she anchored. She also took second place in the 100 -meter race at the State Championship Track Meet her Junior year. She's a four-year letter winner in both soccer and track. She led the Red Devil soccer team in scoring all four years, finishing her senior season with 19 goals and a quarterfinal appearance.

Lehi setter Kara Moore signed to play volleyball for Dixie State University on Wednesday. She'll graduate early and start attending Dixie in January. Moore helped the Pioneers to a second-place finish in the 5A state championships this season. She led the team in aces this season and was the co-region MVP in 2012. She is a three-year starter. She is also an accomplished club and beach volleyball player, including a 2014 Beach Silver medalist.

Riverton senior Jeff Arens signed his scholarship paperwork to play baseball at Utah Valley University. He was first-team all region in his junior season.

San Juan senior Tatiana Su'e Su'e signed her National Letter of Intent to play softball for Weber State University. Su'e Su'e earned the Deseret News' Ms. Softball award in 2013, her sophomore season when she led the Broncos to the 2A state title. She is a two-sport athlete and earned the 2013 Female High School Athlete of the Year from the Governor's State of Sport Awards.

Skyline senior forward Laurel Tomlinson signed her letter of intent to play basketball at University of Nebraska-Kearney. She was also a member of Salt Lake Metro Basketball club.

Lone Peak senior Kelsey McCann signed a NLI to play basketball for UVU.

Lone Peak senior Katie Smith signed her scholarship paperwork to swim for BYU.

Lone Peak senior Rylee Rogers signed a scholarship offer to play volleyball at UVU.

Panguitch senior Darri Frandsen signed a basketball scholarship with Southern Utah University. A key member of Salt Lake Metro, Frandsen is also an honor student and three-sport standout for the Bobcats.

Bountiful senior Jeff Pollard signed a scholarship offer from Washington State University. He is also a member of Salt Lake Metro.

Alta senior Rachael McDonald, who also plays for Salt Lake Metro, signed a scholarship offer to play basketball for the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Emery senior Ashlynn Allred has signed to run track for Weber State University. She is a three time 2A 200-meter champion and a two-time 100-meter champion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Know of a student-athlete who signed a college scholarship Wednesday? Email us the details at and we’ll add them to the story.

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Early signing day video Nov 12, 2014.