When Guyer guard Bella Earle was a sophomore, she received her first Division I offer from Abilene Christian.
Over the next year as Earle emerged into a budding star, she garnered interest from several other programs, including hometown North Texas.
But Earle never forgot the support Abilene Christian showed her — or the fact they were the first to believe in her.
And on Saturday, Earle’s recruitment came full circle as she announced her commitment to Abilene Christian via Twitter.
“I had always told [Abilene Christian coach Julie Goodenough] this: that first Division I offer pushed me to be even better,” Earle said. “It drove me to get more offers. But she always told me that ‘we’re the school for you, and you’re at the top of our list.’ It just stuck with me. They believed in me throughout the process.”
During her junior campaign this past season, Earle led Guyer to a 31-6 record — its best in school history.
The Lady Wildcats made a run to the area round of the playoffs before falling to Cedar Hill in overtime, which went on to play in the region final.
Earle ended the season averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, earning Class 6A all-state honors from the Texas Girls Coaches Association. She was also named District 5-6A MVP and Offensive Player of the Year on the Denton Record-Chronicle’s All-Area team.
Earle will return for her senior season at Guyer later this fall along with TCU commit Evie Goetz.
“I’m super excited,” Earle said. “It will be a super fun year. I’m excited to see how far we go, and hopefully we make a run to state. We have unfinished business from last year.”
As for her recruitment, Earle said her decision came down to Abilene Christian, UT Arlington, Kent State, Stephen F. Austin and North Texas.
She said ultimately, Abilene Christian was the best fit for her — not just on the court, but off it, as well.
“[Goodenough] recruits and coaches good players that not only have a good basketball mindset, but are great people,” Earle said. “She’s a really firm believer in faith. Since I’m a Christian and my dad is a pastor, I wanted to go to a program that not only makes me a better basketball player, but a better person, in general.”
Earle joins an Abilene Christian team that went 24-5 overall in 2019-20. The Wildcats went 16-4 in Southland Conference play before the conference tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018-19, Abilene Christian went 23-10, eventually falling to national powerhouse Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Whenever I was in the eighth grade, I remember telling my dad after I got my Division II offer from TWU, I wanted to get some Division I offers,” Earle said. “Ever since, we’ve practiced five or six nights a week. With it being over now, and after I’ve committed, it’s kind of surreal. Time flew by.”