Only the second Gopher to be named the Big Ten Conference Women's Basketball Freshman of the Year, Minnesota's Rachel Banham is happy that she was able to achieve her goal while playing in her home state and in front of her family and friends.
In recent years, it seems more of a rarity than the norm for elite-level prep stars to loyally represent the state in which they grew up, whether to experience new surroundings or just to get a little bit more freedom, but for Banham, the choice seemed to be an easy one.
"I think it was an easy decision because I knew that I always wanted to play at Minnesota. Even though I had a lot of options, it didn't really matter to me because I knew from a younger age that this was where I wanted to be. That's why I verbally committed decently early. It is also nice because I am only about 20 minutes from home, and I really like that."
A native of Lakeville, Minn., Banham committed to the Gophers early in her junior year at Lakeville North High School, where she led the Panthers to the Class AAAA State Championship in 2010 and ended her career with numerous prestigious accolades, including the coveted 2011 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year Award and was also named 2011 Minnesota Miss Basketball.
When she started her rookie season at Minnesota, Banham had a personal goal clearly in her mind, and wasn't afraid to let that goal be known, and that was to be the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year. And the hometown hero, with the support of her family, friends and the amazing fanbase that has followed her career for years, did just that.