Illinois-Chicago entered the hunt for Kiarra Thompson late, but made the biggest impression.

Thompson, a Merrillville senior who averaged 16.1 points per game in her last year with the Pirates girls basketball team, recently signed with the Flames. She'll start her college career in mere months.

Thompson said she also visited Three Rivers, a junior college in Missouri, and South Carolina Upstate.

"Very important, academics was No. 1," said Thompson, who plans to study biomedical engineering. "The campus was nice, and the coaching staff was so nice.

"I liked their work ethic and how positive they stayed with me."

Thompson, a four-year starter with the Pirates, graduates as No. 3 on the all-time career rebounds list at Merrillville and fourth all-time in steals. She averaged 8.1 rebounds per game last season.

Thompson said her family was happy that she had picked a school close to home.

"I went through an individual workout with them and toured the campus," Thompson said. "I met some of the players as I was touring, and they were very nice."

Thompson won four sectional titles with the Pirates and was a part of the 2015 semistate team. She was named to the Duneland Athletic Conference's all-league team as a senior.

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.