CENTRAL LAKE — Finch Vanniman stands out on the basketball court.
At 5-foot-10, the Central Lake star found out she had to make herself stand out even more in the recruiting game.
The Trojans senior post player played travel ball, attended numerous camps and marketed herself to colleges in hopes of playing at the next level.
Those dreams paid off this week, when she verbally committed to play basketball at Aquinas College.
“The recruiting process was definitely a challenge,” Vanniman said. “I wanted to make a decision early my senior season. Once I started going on visits, I knew I wanted a smaller school.”
At Aquinas, she’ll be facing off twice a season with one of her best friends, Charlevoix guard Addie Nagel, who earlier committed to fellow Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference member Lawrence Tech.
The two have traveled together a lot for games and college camps.
“We’ve been able to play travel ball together and go to some camps,” Vanniman said. “It’s been great to have a travel partner.”
Central Lake head coach Quinn Barry is trying to schedule Jasmine Hines’ number retirement ceremony on the same day as Vanniman’s letter-of-intent ceremony on Feb. 13. The Trojans host Pellston that evening.
“Finch has always idolized Jasmine,” Barry said. “It’d be great to do those the same night.”
Hines, the state’s all-time girls basketball leading scorer and rebounder who won Miss Basketball and went on to play at Michigan State, also ruled the post for the Trojans.
However, Vanniman has also worked on expanding her game by adding a perimeter aspect.
“She’s as much a threat from the 3-point line as in the paint,” said Barry, who thinks she’ll be a very effective pick-and-pop stretch four at the college level. “She’s going to be a nice addition to their program.”
Vanniman is only the second Central Lake girls player to move on to the college ranks since Hines graduated in 2011, joining Cybil Ritchie, a 5-7 guard who averaged 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds as a freshman last season at Finlandia University.
A four-year starter, Vanniman has an outside shot at reaching 1,000 career points this season. She’s missed the last three games with an ankle sprain and targets a return next week when the Trojans host East Jordan and Mancelona on Wednesday and Friday.
Vanniman, a multi-sport athlete who missed her junior season of volleyball while recovering from shoulder surgery, also received recruiting interest from Albion, Lakeland (Wisconsin), Calvin, Concordia, Hope.
Aquinas fit because the Saints offer the two majors the 3.99 grade-point student aims to pursue after high school — occupational therapy and kinesiology. Aquinas posted a 25-9 record last season, including 16-4 (second) in the WHAC and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 2010. The Saints started the 2019-20 campaign 9-8 (5-3 WHAC).
Barry said Vanniman turns into a different person on the court, going from mild-mannered student to intense, physical athlete in the post once the whistle blows.
“I definitely like to get into a mindset,” Vanniman said. “My dad likes to call it a character.”
Vanniman averaged 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds a game in three contests before hurting her ankle. In four seasons, she’s averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, earning second-team all-Ski Valley Conference honors each of the last two seasons and fifth-team All-Region status on the Record-Eagle Dream Team last year.