Prairie’s Heather Corral commits to Washington

Basketball standout passed on Gonzaga, Colorado

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Heather Corral wanted to remain close to her family as well as keep her family name in the Pac-12.

Perhaps one day she will be called Dr. Heather Corral, too.

Corral must wait until November to make it official, but right now she is calling herself a Dawg.

A senior from Prairie High School, Corral told University of Washington women’s basketball coaches Monday morning that she intends to sign a letter of intent with the Huskies during the signing period next month.

“I wanted to be part of a program that was working to build itself,” Corral said. “And if basketball were taken away from me, I’d love U-Dub and still love to be there.”

Corral said she wants to study pre-med at Washington in an effort to become a surgeon.

She knows a thing or two about being on the receiving end of medical care.

Corral. a 6-foot, 1-inch guard, missed most of her sophomore season with a serious knee injury in her right knee.

She returned as a junior, helping the Falcons to the state tournament before tearing a ligament in her left knee and missing the final stretch run of the postseason. She made The Associated Press’ all-state team and was named The Columbian’s All-Region player of the year.

Corral said she was appreciative of all the support from the many coaches who remained in contact with her despite her injuries.

That also made her decision even more difficult. She called officials from Colorado and Gonzaga — her two other finalists — Monday morning to tell them of her choice.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I love both coaching staffs,” she said. “It was really hard to say no to somebody that you’ve got to know through the years. Both have been there through both my ACLs and have supported me through both of them. It was really hard to say no.”

Ultimately, she followed the advice of her sister, Ashley Corral, who is a senior at the University of Southern California. Ashley told Heather that she should go to a place where she could be happy even if basketball were not in the picture.

Heather, with her past injuries, might have a deeper understanding of life without the game than an athlete who has been injury-free her whole career.

She also said she wants to stay close to home, so her family can watch her games and so she can be there for her 9-year-old sister, Allison.

Heather’s high school coach, Al Aldridge, commended the decision,

“It’s a pretty mature choice, a pretty mature reason, I thought,” Aldridge said. “I think she would have been happy with any one of the three environments. I think she’s made her choice for the right reasons.”

Aldridge said that Washington is getting a “premiere” player, someone who might have been recruited as heavily as Ashley was had it not been for Heather missing the last two years of summer ball — prime recruiting seasons.

“She’s so athletic and long,” Aldridge said. “She gets her hands on a lot of balls defensively. Deflections, blocked shots. She’s crafty. She knows when to do it, when not to; her anticipation skills are phenomenal. Offensively, she’s a great passer. She has excellent floor vision. Plus her scoring. She’s the whole package.”

Heather Corral is hoping for an injury-free, win-filled senior season at Prairie.

“My goal is to compete for that state championship,” she said. “Everyone on the team is going to do what they can to get it.”

Then she will be ready for the Huskies, with new coach Kevin McGuff.

“I watched one of his practices. And after seeing his vision, I have a lot of faith in what he says,” Corral said. “They’re going to turn around a program, and I’d love to be a part of it.”

Then there is the draw of playing in an elite conference.

“You grow up and all you hear about is Pac-10. Pac-10, that’s your dream,” she said. “I’m so excited to be part of the new Pac-12.”