Ella Grove did not waste any time in deciding where she wanted to play her college basketball after making a trip to the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.

Grove, a senior guard/forward for the Cardinals this winter, talked with her parents on their way home from the visit. The family tried to think of reasons why she would not want to go to Mary, and they could not think of anything.

“I also looked at Mayville State and Moorhead State. I visited Moorhead,” Grove said. “I had been in contact with the Mayville coach a lot, but after I visited at U of Mary, I just knew I didn’t need to visit anywhere else. We just called them on the way home and verbally committed.”

Grove made it official by signing with the University of Mary on Nov. 15. The Marauders are members of the 16-team Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference at the Division II level.

Grove has the length and versatility that should help her transition to the college level. She is coming off a junior season in Alexandria where she was an All-Central Lakes Conference player. She led the Cardinals in scoring last winter with 349 points. That earned her the Co-Offensive Player of the Year Award from her teammates.

“They just talked about how they liked my style of play,” Grove said of what Mary coaches told her during the recruiting process. “They thought I would be a good contributor to their team, and hopefully get some good minutes my first year.”

Grove said that’s the goal. She knows it will be a jump going from high school ball to the NSIC, but basketball is a sport where top freshmen often can find the court early in their careers.

“I know it will be a big difference,” Grove said. “I’m not sure how much, but hopefully I’ll get some minutes. That’s my goal is to play my freshman year. I think it’s doable, but if it’s not, I’m going to stick with it and work really hard in practice to do whatever I need to do to get playing time.”

Grove becomes the latest in a long list of Alexandria players who have gone on to play collegiately. Head coach Wendy Kohler demands a lot of her players, and Grove feels that’s a big reason why so many athletes are prepared to make the jump to college.

“I honestly think I have more of an advantage just because of how great of a coach Wendy is,” Grove said. “She pushes us so hard, and her program is so good. Everyone who comes through there learns that you have to put everything in and you don’t take any days off. Being coached by her has helped me a ton. She just pushes us every day, and you know your expectations when you get in the gym.”

Before she moves on to college, Grove has some unfinished business with her Alexandria teammates. The Cardinals open up the season against New Prague this Saturday in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins High School.

The Cardinals have high expectations again this year, and are a motivated bunch after going 22-5 last winter but falling by one point in the Section 8AAA title game.

“Since the end of last year, us girls who weren’t in a spring sport talked about just getting in the gym in the morning,” Grove said. “We did some morning scrimmages, just getting in the gym before school with each other. We talked about how motivated we need to be and how much we have to work in the offseason to get ready. I’m really excited to keep pushing in practice this season to get to that state tournament hopefully.”