Staff Photo: Jason Braverman North Gwinnett's Peyton Whitted (25) drives to the basket as Central Gwinnett's Lexus Travis defends her during the finals of the Jared Cook Holiday Classic on Thursday.
With one member of its rising senior class already committed to a major Division I college program for years, another member of the North Gwinnett girls basketball team's class of 2013 also has secured her college future.
Peyton Whitted, a 6-foot-3 forward, gave her non-binding verbal pledge to play at Penn State on Monday, joining longtime Maryland commitment Lexie Brown in picking a big-time college program before her senior school year even begins.
"We talked during the last year and she'd been getting (scholarship) offers for a while," North coach Bryan Sellers said of Whitted, who chose the Lady Lions from among a list of finalists that included Virgnia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. "Her goal was to make a decision by the end of the summer. She had offers from so many different schools."
In addition to her finalists, Whitted also received offers from the likes of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Auburn and Marquette, and she recently visited Tennessee.
"The academics there are just awesome," Whitted said. "Coach (Coquese) Washington is building a great program. They made the Sweet 16 last year and won the Big Ten. And I want to win those championships as well. The team is close together and I want to be part of a team where everyone clicks."
The attention from so many schools was not surprising after Whitted averaged 12.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a junior this past season to earn second-team All-County honors from the Daily Post.
She was also a major force in the Bulldogs' run to the Class AAAAA state semifinals, their first Final Four appearance since 1963, by averaging 14.8 points and 10 boards during the state playoffs.
Sellers sees a Penn State program that qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season -- including the Lady Lions' first Sweet 16 berth since 2004 -- is a good fit for the versatile rising senior.
"She wanted to go to a school with good academics, as well as basketball," Sellers said. "She had a great Final Four for us, and she offers match-up problems no matter where she plays. Penn State plays a faster-pace game, so she can face up and play the four or play three. And they've got a great coaching staff up there."