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Basketball: South Forsyth's Sara Idris commits to North Florida
South Forsyth's Sara Idris
South Forsyth's Sara Idris attempts a shot during a game against North Forsyth during the 2016-17 season. - photo by Brian Paglia

The morning after Sara Idris’ milestone decision, she was in South Forsyth High School’s new gym, taking shots alone. The War Eagles rising senior forward started this routine last summer, when her potential to play in college suddenly crystallized after two colleges visited Idris at her home, both offering scholarships.

“After that, I got this drive to really better myself,” Idris said. “I spent a lot of hours in the gym. I sacrificed a lot of time with friends and family to better myself.”

It only took the first AAU tournament of the summer for it to pay off for Idris.

There, Idris made a connection that led to her verbal commitment Monday to play for the University of North Florida, a Division I program in Jacksonville, Florida, that competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Idris was attracted to the synergy in the program created by head coach Darrick Gibbs, who is still building things; North Florida went 10-20 overall and 3-11 in the Atlantic Sun this past season, just his second in charge.

There was also the atmosphere on campus, and the near-by Mayo Clinic, a potential career resource for Idris, who wants to go into pediatric oncology. Proximity to the beach helped, too.

“Just the atmosphere they created is so awesome,” Idris said. “Coach Gibbs and their staff is amazing. They're the definition of family. You can tell everyone is really close. Their girls are really close together, and everybody lifts each other up on the court. They just have something really special that I liked.”

Idris’ development is still building, too. After overcoming early injury trouble, the 6-foot forward became an impact player for South late last season, her first as a varsity starter. She averaged 7.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals a game to help the War Eagles go 18-10 and reach the state playoffs.

Idris says she has more work to do this summer, particularly improving her ballhandling; the consistency and range of her shooting; and her strength.

That’s why Idris was back in the gym the day after she announced her commitment on Twitter, only with a little less pressure.

“Honestly, I'm just so excited. I'm waiting for school to come back so I can get down there,” Idris said. “But, yeah, there's a lot of stress that's gone. I know I have to still work hard, but when I play this summer I’m not going to (think) if I don't perform well I won't be playing in college.”