Alex Raring was a little nervous after her decision to play college basketball.
The Mainland Regional High School senior spent her entire life playing with and against childhood friends. She committed to play at Rowan University next year where, for the first time, the faces on her team would be unfamiliar.
A new school, new coaches, new teammates had Raring, who scored more than 1,000 career points at Mainland, understandably uneasy.
That all changed when the Linwood native found some friends to tag along.
Raring won't be going to Rowan alone anymore. Holy Spirit seniors - and Raring's good friends - Valerie Garofalo and Annie Wenz will also play basketball for the Profs next year.
"Now that I have them, I'm beyond excited," Raring said. "The nerves are still there, but they've been pushed aside by the excitement."
Raring, Garofalo and Wenz, all 18, were talked-about players in the Cape-Atlantic League. Raring was a Press second-team All-Star. Garofalo and Wenz, both Press honorable mentions, led the Spartans to a Cape-Atlantic League championship.
Raring played an integral role in getting Garofalo and Wenz to Rowan. She settled on the school prior to the start of the high school season.
Her decision came in part thanks to a recommendation from Mainland alum Alissa Lamey, who now coaches the Mustangs' freshman team. Lamey became Rowan's all-time assists leader as a point guard before graduating last spring.
"She had a big influence on me going there. I watched a Rowan game this fall, I liked the atmosphere there and I like the school all-around," Raring said.
Garofalo and Wenz weren't as sold on the idea. Despite being key players on a successful Holy Spirit team, neither thought they were good enough to play in college.
"I didn't really think I was ready for that next level," Wenz, an Absecon resident, said.
Mainland hosted Holy Spirit in December to start the basketball season. Shortly before the game, Raring announced on her Twitter account that she'd play for the Profs.
After the game, Garofalo and Wenz tossed out the idea of playing there as well. Intrigued, Raring casually mentioned their names to Rowan coach Gabby Lisella.
By the second Holy Spirit-Mainland meeting in late January, Garofalo and Wenz decided to give Rowan a more serious look. Raring pushed harder to get the Profs interested in the duo.
Once they were approached by the school, Garofalo and Wenz made the leap.
"(Raring) said, 'You really have to go,' and I thought, 'You know what, why not?' " said Garofalo, who lives in Ventnor.
The three bring tremendous chemistry into Rowan's program. Garofalo and Wenz are best friends and will room together at the school's Glassboro campus. Raring and Garofalo were AAU teammates for years. Raring and Wenz became good friends through basketball.
That familiarity will benefit the Profs, a young team that struggled to a 5-20 record last season.
"I think we already have an advantage because we're so comfortable with each other," Raring said.
The Profs also had several Cape-Atlantic League players on this year's roster, including Jess Clarke and Dena Moses from Vineland, Bria Hill of Atlantic City and Megan Russ of Middle Township.
Some athletes struggle when they go away to college. The transition and pressure can be too much. That won't be an issue for Raring, Garofalo and Wenz. They'll have pieces of home with them.
"I have a lot to look forward to. It's very exciting,"Garofalo said. "Not only am I playing, but I have Annie and Alex with me."
Raring always knew she wanted to play basketball in college. Thanks to her input, Garofalo and Wenz get to continue their careers as well.
"I have so much fun with basketball," Wenz said. "I'm not ready to give it up."
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