PASCAGOULA – Jailin Cherry put her arm around LSU women's basketball coach Nikki Fargas during a visit to Baton Rouge in early October as part of her recruiting tour of several colleges.
"She was like, 'What's up?'" Cherry recalled. "I said, 'This is my new home.'"
The scene at the hotel was one of elation.
"Hands up, screaming," Cherry said, painting the scene. "It was just like I was at a basketball game and I just scored the game-winning bucket. It was just loud, four coaches and me and my parents. It was loud."
The Pascagoula girls basketball star made it official Wednesday. Cherry will fulfill her SEC dreams as an LSU Tiger.
The senior guard signed a letter of intent on Wednesday in the school gymnasium while surrounded by family, friends and teammates.
Cherry was pursued by as many as 40 women's basketball programs, but chose to go with the SEC program closest to home.
"LSU had that family feeling and that's the most important thing to me," Cherry said. "It was like another home away from home."
Cherry also like the idea that the LSU campus was only about 170 miles from Pascagoula.
"The SEC, I feel like there's no other conference for me," she said. "To be playing in Baton Rouge and have family in Baton Rogue and only 2 hours and 30 minutes from home, that's even better. My parents can come watch me just like they do here."
The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 14 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and five steals per game as a junior. She fills many roles for Pascagoula, but she expects to be a point guard at LSU.
She wore a purple shirt and a gold bow tie when she signed her letter of intent Wednesday.
"It's just reality hitting me," a grinning Cherry said. "It's a good day, a fun day.
"To have over 40 schools and decide on one, it's a relief."
Pascagoula is led by coach Crisla Herchenhahn, who is in her first season at the school after moving south from Petal.
The Pascagoula girls (0-2) are still working through some things early on, but Herchenhahn has been impressed by what she's seen out of Cherry.
"She's an unbelievable athlete," Herchenhahn said. "On top of that, she's real passionate about the game and she works hard. It's just hard to find kids that are willing to come in the gym and do the extras. She understands there's a process involved in being good and being able to perform at a high level. A lot of kids just want it to happen but they don't work. She puts the time in."
Herchenhahn believes Wednesday's ceremony will take the pressure off Cherry as she completes her senior year.
"I think it just solidifies things for her, the process is over," the coach said. "She can just enjoy her senior year and accomplish the goals she wants to for high school."