By Joseph Staszewski
Amani Tatum headed to James Madison University for her first official visit with an open mind and was in no hurry to make a college decision. She left with her mind made up and a longing to return.
The Archbishop Molloy senior point guard verbally committed to play women’s basketball at the Virginia school Sunday, she told TimesLedger Newspapers. Tatum chose Coach Kenny Brooks and the CAA program over Delaware, Seton Hall, Towson and Virginia Tech.
“Before I got on the plane, I couldn’t leave the state without letting him know that’s where I wanted to be,” she said.
The 5-foot-6 Tatum did so because she got that feeling she said she heard others talk about. She sensed in her heart that James Madison was where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life. Tatum felt an immediate family connection with the players and the coaching staff. She wants to study communications with a minor in psychology and also built a strong rapport with the major’s adviser on her visit.
“Just knowing that they want you there and want you a part of the family was one of the biggest things,” Tatum said.
There will be a chance for immediate playing time. James Madison loses senior point guard Tarik Hislop after this season. Tatum joins a program that has enjoyed consistent success. The Dukes won the conference tournament in 2010 and 2011 to reach the NCAA tournament and lost in the WNIT finals last season.
“It’s a good feeling just knowing I am going to go somewhere and be able to compete and get better every year,” Tatum said.
“I think that conference is a [good] fit for her where she can do really well,” Molloy coach Scott Lagas said.
Tatum, who plays her travel ball with the NYC Bulldogs, said it was her leadership and tenacity that appealed to the coaching staff at James Madison. It is that same skill set that makes her one of the city’s top players.
Her unwavering desire to win, her ability to break down defenses off the dribble and a budding jump shot helped lead Archbishop Molloy to the state Federation Class AA title as a sophomore and to the CHSAA Class AA state semifinals last season.
“Amani is such a competitor,” Lagas said. “That girl. She doesn’t want to lose at a coin flip.”
Tatum can go into this season with a clear head about her decision and the support of those around her.