HARTLAND — The recruiting process lasted longer for Whitney Sollom than for most high school basketball players.
Colleges spotted a big-time prospect when Sollom was already standing 6 feet tall as a seventh-grader.
The University of Michigan began showing interest a year later before she ever stepped on the court for Hartland High School.
Sollom has carefully weighed her options throughout high school, eventually rewarding the Wolverines for their early offer and persistence throughout the process.
She ended one of the rare major recruiting battles for a basketball player in Livingston County by announcing her commitment to Michigan a few weeks before starting her senior year.
Sollom, who now stands 6-4, chose Michigan over Duke, Louisville, Michigan State and UCLA.
“As soon as I committed, I just had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I felt like this is the right decision for me. I felt more comfortable at Michigan. They recruited me so hard from the beginning. They were with me through my (2018 knee) surgery; not that other schools weren’t, but they were for sure. They were so supportive of me; that meant a lot to me.”
Because of Michigan’s proximity to Hartland, Sollom has taken numerous official and unofficial visits to the Ann Arbor campus. After attending a Michigan game her freshman year, Sollom received a scholarship offer from the Wolverines.
“They offered me face-to-face,” she said. “That was really special to me, because I never got offered face-to-face. I just felt like Michigan would step up their game. I felt like I was part of their family as soon as they offered me.”
In a way, Sollom has always been part of Michigan’s family. But she’s also been part of rival Michigan State’s family.
Her father, Ken, was a quarterback for Michigan from 1987-91. Her mother, Dianne (Hall), played basketball at Michigan State from 1990-93.
They guided her through the recruiting process, but never pushed her toward their alma maters.
“They were so supportive in my decision, especially my mom,” Sollom said. “I think she’s a little bit happier than my dad. My parents didn’t force anything on me; I can say that forever. It’s my decision and my school. This is just the school I felt more comfortable with. If I went to a different school with different colors, they’d support me.”
Sollom will become only the sixth Livingston County female to play basketball in the Big Ten Conference, the first since Brighton’s Nikki Davis played at Michigan State in 2000. Howell’s Molly Heikkinen (1993) was the last county female to play for Michigan.
Playing close to home was a significant factor for Sollom.
“Being able to come back and watch my siblings play in their games, just seeing them grow, was huge,” she said. “I’m happy to be playing at a school that my dad, my aunts and uncle went to. I hope I can carry on the legacy in our family.”
Sollom was the county Player of the Year as a junior after averaging 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds for a balanced Hartland team that reached the state quarterfinals for the second straight season. She had 67 blocked shots, nine coming in one game in the regional semifinals.
Her season didn’t begin until Hartland’s sixth game as she recovered from knee surgery that prevented her from playing last summer. She looks to have a huge senior year after being able to play and train all summer.
“When I started playing this year, I felt 100 percent,” Sollom said. “It felt so good to be back out there and playing with my team. Ending my travel season in a (Michigan) Mystics uniform was the highlight of my summer, because I’ve been playing with them for so long. It just felt good to be back out there and playing.
“This time last year, I wasn’t able to work out or run. I’m going to for sure be in the gym and working out a lot and improving my game every day. My goal for my senior year is to make it further than the quarterfinals.”
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Contact Bill Khan at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.