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Grant signs on with University of Portland

As comfortable as Whitney Grant seems to be at the University of Portland, and in particular at the Chiles Center, it's no wonder she has chosen to play basketball for the Pilots.

Grant, a point guard who led South Medford to the state tournament the past two seasons, chose Portland over several other schools and will sign a letter of intent as soon as it arrives in the mail, probably today or Monday.

The 5-foot-6 senior already felt at home at the Chiles Center - the school's home arena and site of the Class 4A tournament - as evidenced by her sterling performances on the big stage.

Her comfort level skyrocketed after visiting the school, so much so that she made her decision Wednesday and shelved plans to visit other schools.

Other contenders for her services were Santa Clara (Calif.), Utah Valley State in Logan and Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma, Wash.

"It was a difficult decision for me because there were a lot of things to think about," said Grant.

At every turn, she found what she wanted at Portland: She got along with the players she met, including a couple she knew from Southern Oregon; she'll have a chance to vie for a starting spot as a freshman; she can pursue studies in personal training; and her coaches are likable, skilled and have morals similar to hers, so much so they'll help her find a church off campus and make sure she's able to get there.

"They think religion is important, and they're big on families," said Grant. "They encourage a lot of the things that are important to me.

"It seemed like a great fit."

Jim Sollars is the Pilots' head coach. He cannot comment on a recruit until he receives her letter of intent.

While visiting the school, Grant stayed with Hanna Seltzer, a freshman guard from Ashland who played all 28 games last year and was fourth on the team in minutes. Grant also talked a lot with Ashlee Giles, a junior guard from North Medford who was one of four double-figure scorers for the Pilots, at 13.3 points per game, before missing the final 13 games with a knee injury.

"Ashlee was really upfront about everything," said Grant. "She was really helpful. It was good because we already had a connection."

Grant had made some connections with coaches from other schools during the regular season, but it was her postseason play that grabbed the attention of many others and led to her selection to the all-state second team.

She averaged 23 points in three state tournament games and tallied 22 in a 64-59, triple-overtime playoff victory over Lakeridge that vaulted South Medford to the tourney.

"I think everything just started to come together," said Grant, who averaged 14.4 points per game and made the Southern Oregon Conference all-star first team. "All the practice and conditioning really paid off. Plus, you realize that once you're in the playoffs, if you lose, then that's it, you're done. I really wanted to keep playing as long as I could."

During the tournament, she did not consider how her play would affect her college opportunities.

"That would have just made me more nervous than I needed to be at that time," she said.

A year earlier, Grant also rose to the occasion at state, scoring 33 points and making five 3-pointers as South Medford lost both of its tournament games.

Grant will be joining a Portland team that played less than .500 ball (13-15, 5-9 West Coast Conference) and didn't advance to the semifinals of the WCC tournament for the first time in the event's 11-year history.

However, the Pilots return all but one of their top five scorers and will have Giles back in the lineup.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail