By RICK PETERSON
A recruiting process that started before NiJaree Canady even started her high school career reached its completion Tuesday night, with the Topeka High multi-sport senior star announcing her oral commitment to the Stanford softball program.
Canady, a multi-time All-State selection in both softball and basketball, made her announcement in front of friends and family in the Topeka High cafeteria.
Canady was first contacted by college recruiters while still attending middle school.
"My seventh and eighth-grade years, that's when coaches kind of contacted me and then a rule went into effect where coaches couldn't contact me at all, so it was kind of dry freshman year through Sept. 1st of my junior year,'' Canady explained.
But as soon as the calendar reached Sept. 1, 2020 things really heated up and stayed that way until Tuesday's announcement.
"That's the moment that coaches can contact you and as the clock struck 12 going to Sept. 1st I think I got seven text messages from D-I coaches,'' Canady said. "It's been an experience. Ever since Sept. 1st, that's when everything took off.''
The recruiting process can definitely be a grind for top prospects, but Canady said she was treated very well by the schools that recruited her, even when she had to start narrowing down her college options.
"Honestly, the coaches I was in contact with were 100 percent supportive,'' she said. "I didn't have one coach get mad at me or anything. They all completely understood.''
Canady eventually narrowed down her colleges choices to Stanford, Arizona and UCLA after also taking unofficial visits to Kansas and Oklahoma State and didn't make her final decision until last weekend.
"This past Saturday is when I decided and Sunday is when I let the coaches know,'' Canady said.
And although she enjoyed the recruiting process, Canady said she's glad to put it behind her.
"My first softball tournament is next weekend and I'll be happy not to have any coaches behind the backstop just watching me,'' she said. "Now I'm just playing softball because I love it.
"I'm not worried about scholarships or recruiting or anything, I'm just playing the game I love.''
Canady was named TopSports.news' Shawnee County player of the year in softball as a junior after helping lead the Trojans to an undefeated season and the school's first Class 6A state softball championship.
Canady posted a perfect 21-0 pitching record with an 0.26 earned run average and 226 strikeouts while also hitting .478 with 13 home runs.
Canady was at her best in the 6A state tournament, not allowing an earned run in three complete-game pitching performances while hitting a solo home run in a 1-0 semifinal win over Gardner-Edgerton. High followed the semifinal win with a 7-1 victory over Olathe North in the state championship game.
Canady also headlined TopSports.news' first-ever All-Shawnee County girls basketball team as a junior after leading Topeka High to a second-place finish in the 6A state tournament and a 23-2 record overall.
Canady averaged 20.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.8 blocks.