Photos: Our best shots from LHSAA girls basketball state tournament Thursday _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Rayne's Whitley Larry scores as St.Michael's Jordan Schexnayer defends in a Class 4A semifinal in the Girls Top 28 Tournament on Thursday in at Southeastern Louisiana's University Center in Hammond.

It may have seemed a risky proposition when Rayne standout forward Whitley Larry emerged from a series of official visits last fall without signing.

Turns out, Larry was repaid for her patience.

Larry, one of the driving forces in Rayne’s run to the Class 3A state championship game, committed Thursday to the University of New Orleans after an official visit over the weekend.

The NCAA will conduct its spring signing period next month, when Larry will make things official and sign with UNO.

“I was taking a chance and hoping I wouldn’t get hurt or something would happen,” Larry said. “I left my options open to find the school I was looking for in the spring, and I did.”

Larry helped Rayne (31-3) to its first trip to the Top 28 tournament in 26 years. The Wolves advanced to the Class 4A state title game, falling 61-48 to Ursuline.

“She’s the best team leader I’ve ever had,” Rayne coach Chester Randall said. “Just her leadership skills. It’s going to be hard to replace that.”

Larry, a wiry 6-foot-2 player capable of playing inside and on the perimeter, leaves a legacy that includes three trips for the Acadia Parish school to at least the state quarterfinals during her four-year career.

She enjoyed career highs this season in scoring (10.8), rebounding (8.7) and blocks (6.2).

Larry produced 10 double-doubles in her final season, including careers highs in points (24) and rebounds (17) in a 71-20 rout of Crowley. She also recorded the second triple-double of her career with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks in a 60-28 victory over Washington-Marion.

In the last three years, Larry scored 837 points, grabbed 733 rebounds and blocked 512 shots.

“If anybody can adjust and handle the transition, she’s strong-minded to do that,” Randall said. “They’re looking at her as more of a stretch 4 (forward) where she won’t be battling on the block as much.”

Larry grew up learning about basketball by playing against her five older brothers, two of which — Jeremy and Payton — blazed paths before her to play college basketball at Murray State (Oklahoma) College and Bossier Parish Community College respectively.

“They had a big impact on me wanting to go to college and play basketball,” Larry said. “Seeing them, it made me want to do that also.”

Larry said there some parallels between her high school program and her new home.

Rayne improved dramatically during the four-year careers of Larry and guard Charlesha Dugas, with the Wolves considered one of the state’s top teams in Class 4A, capped by a state runner-up finish this season.

UNO finished with an 8-19 record and 5-13 mark in Southland Conference play under fifth-year coach Keeshawn Davenport. The Privateers, who lost four games by less than 10 points, lose only two seniors from that team.

“It’s a big relief to go to school and do something I really love,” Larry said. “In middle school I was still learning the game, and I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play. When I became a starter, I liked it, and I realized I wanted to go to college and play and it happened.”