The hardest decision for Ellie Spelhaug was not choosing a college. It was selecting a sport. 

For the past three years, Spelhaug has been a starter or an all-state performer in four sports for Pleasant Valley — volleyball, basketball, track and field and softball. 

In particular, she was torn between basketball and softball at the next level.

"Both have been my favorites for as long as I can remember, but I knew deep down in my heart basketball is what I wanted to continue playing for four more years," she said.

So on Saturday, her 18th birthday, the senior-to-be gave Bradley University's basketball program a verbal commitment for the 2018-19 season. 

The 5-foot-10 Spelhaug, closing in on 1,000 career points, has been an Iowa Newspaper Association all-state selection each of the past two seasons. She averaged a team-high 16 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last winter. 

Bradley's coaching staff contacted PV coach Jennifer Goetz over spring break. 

The Braves saw Spelhaug play a couple times in AAU tournaments with the Minnesota Fury/Iowa 2018 squad in April. They extended an offer soon after.

Spelhaug took a visit to the Peoria, Ill., campus last Tuesday. 

"I really fell in love with the campus and the coaches were awesome," Spelhaug said. "Everything I saw, I loved. I think I knew right away I wanted to commit, but I decided to take some time to talk about it with my family."

Former Muscatine standout Leti Lerma just finished her basketball playing career at Bradley. Spelhaug said Lerma had glowing remarks about head coach Andrea Gorski and the Braves' coaching staff that just completed their first season together. 

Bradley reminded Spelhaug of PV, an open offense and a program predicated on family. 

"It was something I'm used to and something I want to continue," she said.

Goetz thinks with Spelhaug concentrating on just one sport in college, her skill level will soar.

"Obviously, Bradley agreed," Goetz said. "Her game has such a high ceiling. I firmly believe they're getting a gem."

Spelhaug, an all-state pitcher, had options in both sports.

Iowa State and Northern Iowa were the top possibilities in softball.

"UNI was beyond amazing to me," she said. 

Bradley, South Dakota and Illinois State were the frontrunners in basketball. According to Goetz, Bradley is the lone offer thus far.

At one point, Spelhaug did possibly consider going the Division II route and competing in both sports. 

"I've been doing four and five sports for a long time, and my goal is to become the best athlete and basketball player I can be," she said. "(Division I) has been my dream for a very long, long time, and to have the option to decide between both sports is an absolute blessing."

Goetz said the Missouri Valley Conference will be a good fit for Spelhaug, the first Division I basketball recruit to come through the PV coach's program for all four seasons. 

"When I watched them at the Valley tournament, I remember thinking in my head, 'This is a level Ellie and some of our kids can play at,'" Goetz stated. "I couldn't be more proud. Ellie deserves this. 

"As a basketball coach, I'm ecstatic the decision is made before the basketball season. The weight of the world is off her shoulders."

Spelhaug, uncertain of what she'll study in college, said Bradley will be accommodating in working with her softball schedule next summer.

"They want me to finish high school Ellie before I become college Ellie," she said. "I wouldn't want to skip out on softball, something that I love.

"They're going to work with me as much as they can. I was very appreciative of that, another thing that drew me to them."


Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.