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August 23, 2013

Akela Maize poised to fulfill her ACC dreams



Greensboro, N.C., native senior center Akela Maize would attend the ACC women's tournament in her hometown and dream about one day playing in it.

The 6-5 Maize made her dream a reality when she gave her verbal commitment to play for NC State on Aug. 1. The Lady Phoenix AAU standout picked coach Wes Moore and the Wolfpack over offers from Missouri, Providence, and Virginia Tech, plus interest from Notre Dame.

"They have a new coaching staff and they just welcome you and make you feel at home there," said Maize, 17. "I feel like family already, even though I have another year of high school left. The atmosphere at NC State is just great, with the students and faculty so loving and welcoming. There is new energy, buildings and they are trying to build NC State up."

Maize is excited that her family is only a little over an hour away and can come watch her play her home games, and some road ACC games in the area. The 2015 ACC Tournament will also be exciting for her in Greensboro.

"I love that idea of having my family come to the games," said Maize, who wants to study sports science and physical therapy at NCSU. "They can come support me because sometimes when you are down, you can just look into the stands and see your mom smiling down on you. That gives you more energy to work harder and push harder."

Maize plans to attend the Clemson at NC State football game Sept. 19, and that might also be the start of her official visit.

Moore originally started recruiting Maize when he was at Tennessee-Chattanooga, and he continued when hired by the Wolfpack in April. Assistant coaches Lindsay Edmonds and Nikki West were also credited by Maize for doing a good job of recruiting her.

"At NC State, he [Coach Moore] really pressed on bringing me there," Maize said. "They offered me after I unofficially visited this summer. I just loved the whole visit and everything in late June. I committed Aug. 1 because that was my sister's birthday.

"Coach Edmonds is my favorite, but Coach Nikki is really funny. She has a lot of great stories and good to listen to them. They were good to talk to."

Maize and Upper Marlboro (Md.) Riverdale Baptist senior shooting guard Chloe Jackson are the first two commits for Moore. The two played against each other in the past and have interacted on Instagram.

Maize admittedly grew up a North Carolina fan, but she's all about the red and white now. Dudley High has produced past NC State football players David Amerson of the Washington Redskins and former NFL player DeMario Pressley.

Maize, who played for Greensboro Dudley, is making to move to Thomasville (N.C.) New Hope Christian, which is coached by Delaney Rudd.

Rudd knows a thing or two about the ACC. Rudd was a standout guard at Wake Forest and then embarked on a four-year NBA career with the Utah Jazz. He also coached Maize with the Lady Phoenix AAU program.

"She's long and an athletic player," Rudd said. "She runs the court well and that is her real strength. She is 6-4 and can get up and down the floor pretty fast."

Rudd said she blossomed during the summer of 2012, and will need to continue working hard in the weight room and her mid-range shot during her senior year.

"She started to show signs of developing, but she still needs to get stronger, and she knows that," Rudd said. "She started shot-blocking last summer on the AAU circuit. Her jump shot has gotten better, but she is still developing and working."

Edmonds used to coach in the Lady Phoenix AAU program and has known Rudd for years. Connections are everything in basketball recruiting, and the Lady Phoenix has numerous other quality players available. Maize could be the first of a pipeline to NC State.

"Coach Moore has a great track record and I've dealt with him in the past," Rudd said.

Maize believes she averaged a double-double last year at Dudley, and is eager to showcase her all-around game.

"I'm very patient on the court. I'll get my teammates involved and get them going if I'm not on. I'm a big team player and I don't want to be a ballhog, people would say. I love rebounding and that is my biggest asset."


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