When Katie Robertson first saw Bishop Gorman senior Michelle Obach step on the basketball court as an eighth-grader, the coach knew she had a future college player on her hands.
Former Grace Community coach Jeff Smith joked that he tried to recruit Obach as a third-grader.
The talent in Obach was always evident.
"Her ability has put her at the top but it's her character that has kept her there," Robertson said.
Obach has been at the top of the TAPPS game as a four-year starter for the Lady Crusaders and on Wednesday she ensured her future as a top basketball player, signing to play for NCAA Division II Merrimack College.
"As soon as I saw her I did realize how special she was," said Robertson, Obach's coach since eighth grade. "I knew that if she had decided she wanted to play in college that she was going to have that opportunity. She had a natural ability and knowledge of the game at such a young age."
Obach has been a key figure for the Lady Crusaders, averaging 16 points as a freshman, 19 as a sophomore and 21 as a junior. She's averaged 27 points through three games this season.
Having flourished since a young age, schools from across the country had interest in the quick guard, from Utah to Vermont.
In the end, Obach said the decision to go to Merrimack, in Andover, Mass., north of Boston, was easier than she thought.
"I feel like the second I left the campus I knew that I wanted to be there next fall," she said of her September visit. "Everything matched up with what I wanted in a school."
The recruiting process itself was not so clear cut. During the summer, some schools dropped out of recruiting her while others, like Merrimack, popped up. Robertson, who played two years at Oklahoma State and two at D-II Midwestern State at the same position as Obach, was able to advise her pupil, explaining that D-II is just as competitive as D-I.
"That was difficult to try to navigate and, of course, really stressful," Obach said. "But Merrimack was really a Godsend."
With the decision out of the way, the Lady Crusaders can focus on the 2012-13 season, which the team hopes ends with a state title.
Obach and her fellow seniors have played under Robertson since eighth grade. Robertson became the JV coach when the class of 2013 became freshmen and has been the varsity coach the last three years.
"It's been awesome," Obach said of her time at Gorman. "It's what makes basketball worth playing for me, just the relationships I get to build with the people I get to play with.
"The fact that I've played with them since I was so young has really helped ... and it shows on the court that we know each other and we have that chemistry."
NOTES: The Merrimack Warriors compete in the Northeast-10. … Obach said she plans to major in sports medicine, pre-physical therapy. … The Lady Crusaders travel to play Dallas Lutheran on Friday. They'll host Martins Mill on Tuesday. … Fans are admitted free to any of the three games on Tuesday if they bring an unwrapped toy for the Salvation Army. Other games include Grace Community vs. Marshall and All Saints vs. Troup.