Jayla Kelly made a visit to the University of Missouri over the weekend and decided it would be the best place to continue her basketball career.
The 6-foot-4 senior post player, who last season led Parkway Central to the best season in school history, made a verbal commitment Sunday night to play for the Tigers.
“I feel like, with all the other schools, Mizzou gave me the most comfortable feel,” Kelly said. “It gave me a real home vibe, a real home feel. I was just most comfortable with the players and the coaches. That's always great to find and you can't find that everywhere. I think I've really made the right decision.”
Kelly chose the Southeastern Conference program over Missouri State, Northwestern, Purdue, St. Louis University and TCU. The first date college basketball players in the class of 2020 can sign binding letters of intent to NCAA Division I and II programs is Nov. 13.
She averaged 12.4 points and 11.8 rebounds as a junior for the Colts, who finished 24-7 with a program-best third-place showing in the Class 4 state tournament.
Kelly has proven to be an excellent finisher around the basket as well as an adept rebounder and said the chance to expand her game under Tigers coach Robin Pingeton is exciting.
“I think I can do a lot of things and (Pingeton) wants me to be very versatile for them,” Kelly said. “She wants me to do it in games. Shooting threes, mid-range jumpers, handling the ball, or my post moves, which I'm known for, I'm working on all of that. I think I can do all of that for them.”
Kelly, a Post-Dispatch All-Metro first-team selection as a junior, spent the summer playing for the Phenom in the Elite Youth Basketbal League (EYBL). She is the No. 79-rated prospect and No. 9 center, according to ESPN. She is the University of Missouri's first commitment for 2020.
She joins a deep group of players for the Tigers not only from the St. Louis metro area, but the state.
Players with local ties include Aijha Blackwell (Whitfield/Cardinal Ritter), Shug Dickson (Lutheran North) and Jordan Roundtree (Kirkwood). Micah Linthacum (Jefferson City), Ellie Brown (Rock Bridge) and Hayley Frank (Strafford) also are on the Tigers' roster and hail from around Missouri.
“We've been blessed to have several highly touted kids come through the program, but Jayla is one of a small handful that decided to stay home and go to Mizzou,” Phenom program director Reggie Middlebrooks said. “I think it is huge for the program and speaks volumes for the job Coach Pingeton has done. I am super excited to see Jayla stay so close to home and be able to play in front of so many that have grown accustomed to watching her.”