Mindi Gregory

Athens' Mindi Gregory, seen here during a game against Winton County her junior season, recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Rio Grande. 

At the end of the day, familiarity and being close to home won out for Mindi Gregory. 

The Athens High School graduate recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Rio Grande. 

The decision was ultimately a slam dunk for Gregory, who said she wasn't interested in going too far away for her college experience. 

Rio Grande started showing interest in Gregory late during her senior season. 

"Rio Grande started to recruit me in the beginning of February," Gregory said. "I had offers from other schools but they were far away, so I was not interested."

Gregory won't be a stranger to Rio Grande's program, as her sister Taylor — a 2016 Athens graduate — played there as well. 

"She helped me in the process by telling me how her experience was," Mindi Gregory said. 

Gregory, a four-year varsity player, was a defensive specialist for the Bulldogs. 

“She has always been a solid defensive player,” Athens coach Seth Matheny said of Gregory prior to last season. 

Gregory said getting after it on the defensive end is her favorite part of the game. 

"Being the one to stop the player with the ball is extremely exciting," Gregory said. "Especially when you steal the ball, which is something I love doing."

Gregory will double major in Early Childhood Education and Intervention Specialist. 

Rio Grande is a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and competes in the River States Conference. The RedStorm are coached by David Smalley, who has led the program for nearly 30 seasons. They went 19-13 last season, and also fielded a JV team that played 11 games, going 5-6. 

"What sold me about Rio Grande was the small campus, being close to home, and the community," she said. "Rio Grande's basketball team does a lot of stuff to give back."

Gregory was able to play alongside thousand-point scorer Laura Manderick during the last four seasons. The duo were able to help Athens turn away Meigs 54-47 in a Division II sectional tournament game last year, the program's first tournament win since 2015. 

"Some of my favorite basketball memories at Athens are when Laura Manderick scored her 1,000 points, our team summer basketball camps, and beating Meigs in our tournament game this year," Gregory said. 

Gregory played for Matheny the last three seasons with the Bulldogs, and for Paul McNeal her freshman season. 

"I would like to thank my coaches throughout the years, especially Coach Matheny," Gregory said. "He helped me a lot and always tried to make me better. I would also like to thank my family for always pushing me to achieve my dream of playing college basketball.

"Athens has helped me by showing me why I love basketball," she added. "My coaches and teammates always push me to do better."

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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