Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball coach Rick Hauser witnessed a noticeable difference in terms of success last season for Haley Schmitt.

Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball coach Rick Hauser witnessed a noticeable difference in terms of success last season for Haley Schmitt.

At 5-foot-11 and the Lions' only returning starter, Schmitt developed into the post presence he'd always knew she could be.

College recruiters began to take notice as well, and she ended up with a list of Division I schools which had interest.

On Nov. 11, the senior signed a national letter of intent to play for Cleveland State University.

"What ended up happening with Haley is that the effort started to match the skill level," Hauser said. "Whoever she was guarding, she'd outrun them. Her junior year, she turned into a finisher. She's really worked hard. She played basketball throughout the whole month of July."

Schmitt averaged 12.5 points last season and was first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and third-team all-district in Division I. She averaged 5.9 points as a freshman and 9.6 points and 7 rebounds as a sophomore, making honorable mention all-district.

Gahanna went 14-10 and was a district runner-up in 2006-07 and went 18-5, won the OCC-Ohio and was a district semifinalist in 2007-08.

Last season, despite having considerably less experience around Schmitt, the Lions were 14-9 overall, went 7-7 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind champion Pickerington Central (12-2) and were a district semifinalist.

Schmitt missed Gahanna's final two games because of an appendectomy, and her absence was noticeable in a season-ending 58-37 loss to post-heavy Dublin Coffman.

Schmitt also considered Niagara, Youngstown State and Morehead State before selecting Cleveland State, which promised more flexibility with her school work.

Schmitt plans to major in nursing. Natalie Miller, who played for the Vikings last season, was a nursing major.

"They were willing to work around the nursing and some of the schools I visited weren't," Schmitt said. "Nursing is supposed to be the hardest major in terms of not being able to travel, but the coaches there are understandable.

"I'm happy with my decision. It's only a two-hour drive, which is good because I didn't want to leave my family. It's exciting."

Last season, Cleveland State lost to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 63-57 in a semifinal of the Horizon League tournament. The Vikings went 19-13 to tie for the second-most wins in program history after winning 19 games and earning an NCAA tournament berth in 2007-08.

"We play a very versatile offense where all of our players need to be able to play different roles," Cleveland State coach Kate Peterson Abiad said. "(Schmitt's) got great quickness, is very agile and is also a real blue-collar worker. She fits our system.

"With 13 Division I schools in Ohio, it's a real battle for players and central Ohio is a talent-rich area. We're pleased to be getting Haley, and hopefully it can open some doors for us down there."