Teagan Thurman signs with NNU-Photo courtesy of Jimi Perkins.JPG

Teagan Thurman signs with Northwest Nazarene University.

When Teagan Thurman leaves Tehachapi High School, she is going to leave a mark on the record books. From single game and season to all-time scoring, the senior forward will be at the top of nearly all lists. She’s that type of special player, one who not only leads on the stat sheet, but, as it turns out, in how she chooses her college destination as well.

Last Wednesday, Thurman made it official when she signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her basketball career at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. An NCAA Division II program coming off its first Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship and second-round appearance in the NCAA Division II West Regionals, the Nighthawks are targeting Thurman to help spark their rebuilding process after five seniors graduated last season.

Thurman’s selection of NNU was a surprise to many. An NCAA Division I talent, she had many options to play at the highest level of college basketball, but in the end, she simply chose the school, the program and the community that felt right, even if it meant sacrificing the hype of Division I athletics.

“I had a lot of options and I’ve been talking but that’s one school that has been with me since freshman year,” Thurman said. “As soon as I got on campus, I knew it was home.”

Thurman didn’t hesitate to essentially commit as soon as her visit was complete, making an announcement via social media a few months back and then Wednesday officially inking the deal. There will be a few Division I programs that will be scratching their heads, but they should be taking a look at NNU to figure out why.

I’ve been a part of Division I, Division II and NAIA athletics and quite honestly the business of sports has taken over the Division I level, so much so that playing basketball seems like a job for most players, and its importance for many takes priority over academics, the base reason for attending college. It’s tough to strike that balance at the highest level of college sports, where commercialism and winning percentage can often outweigh campus pride and grade point average.

The academics certainly played a role in her decision. I stress to student-athletes when they seek my advice to choose a school that meets their long-term academic plans, and not one that “places” you in a major that is conducive to an athletic schedule. At NNU, Thurman’s academic goals are being stressed as a priority, because her long-term career path certainly won’t be easy.

“I want to be a speech pathologist so I’m going to be double-majoring … bachelor of science with speech communications,” she said.

Double majoring, and just for fun, let’s throw on the demands of college athletics as well. Even though NNU plays at the Division II level, there is just as much practice, travel and game time thrown into the mix. At this level, however, there is more flexibility allowed for academics, something that played a role in her decision to take her talents to the Boise suburb of Nampa.

Those of us in Tehachapi are excited about her college announcement being behind her. A few years of heavy recruiting have come to an end, and the new version of Teagan Thurman is even more fun to watch. She’s leading her team on the court, playing tough defense, challenging herself and her teammates to get better. After a historic 2018-19, this team is poised to make even more noise as proven by their 57-17 drubbing of Stockdale this past week. With the deal at NNU inked, Thurman now gets to focus exclusively on the Lady Warriors.

“That was my intention so I didn’t have the stress and the worry, and I can just focus on my team and getting better while preparing for the next level," she said.

That feeling isn’t lost on her head coach, either, who now has a 100-percent locked-in Teagan Thurman to rely on this season as the Lady Warriors look to build on what was accomplished a year ago.

“Her future is kind of set for her; she knows where she is going to be and she found a place that she was comfortable with and that’s the best part of it,” said Lady Warriors head coach Jimi Perkins. “She’s going to go somewhere where she’s going to fit in perfectly, basketball-wise and personality-wise, so we’re extremely happy for her.”

A great fit for a great player. Take note, kids: This is how college recruiting should be.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.