By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Larryn Brooks tried to fight back her emotions.
She simply couldn’t.
Sitting at the same table with her best friend and long-time teammate as she prepared to sign a national letter of intent in front of a room full of her classmates and coaches, the moment was too overwhelming.
“I got emotional,” Brooks said. “It was hard.”
On Thursday, Madison Central’s two senior standouts signed with Division I schools. Brooks signed with Indiana University and Ashton Feldhaus signed with Butler University.
Brooks and Feldhaus have played together since they were eighth-graders at Clark-Moores and have been the driving force behind Madison Central’s success in recent years.
With Feldhaus and Brooks in the lineup, the Lady Indians have posted a 79-17 overall record the past three years, while advancing to the 11th Region championship game in each of the past two years.
The duo helped lead Central to its first 11th Region title in 2011 and both were selected to the Kentucky Junior All-Star Game last season.
“It’s just been a blessing,” Feldhaus said. “Five years. Best friends. That doesn’t come easy. We’ve been through a lot. We’ve always fought through it.”
The best friends had always hoped to play together in college as well, but they ultimately choose different paths.
Both gave verbal commitments during the summer (Brooks in June and Feldhaus in July) and made those decisions official on Thursday.
“People asked us if we were a package deal. And we always said yes, if it was the right fit,” Feldhaus said. “She loved Indiana and I loved Butler. So, that’s the best fit for the both of us.”
The long-time teammates won’t be far from each other (Butler and IU are separated by just 60 miles) and they will get the opportunity to face each other on the court.
Butler and Indiana are scheduled to play in each of the next two seasons.
“We are not going to be on the same team, but knowing that we are going to get to play against each other, that’s special,” Feldhaus said.
Larry Brooks — Indiana University
For Madison Central point guard Larryn Brooks, choosing a college turned out to be an easy decision.
“I made one visit (to Indiana) and that’s really all it took,” Brooks said. “I love the coaches. The facilities were amazing. I just thought this was the place for me.”
Brooks also considered Xavier, Miami, Fla. and EKU, but felt Indiana was a perfect fit.
The Hoosiers went 6-24 during the 2011-12 season and 1-15 in the Big Ten while playing against nationally ranked opponents like Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue and Nebraska.
In March, Indiana hired Curt Miller, who had previously coached at Bowling Green State University, as its new head coach.
Bowling Green went 24-7 last year and Miller was 258-92 in 11 seasons as the Falcons coach.
Indiana will play a style that suits Brooks, said Central coach Robbie Cooksey.
“I think she’s going to have a chance to play immediately,” he said. “The offense they run is going to be tailored to her strengths, which are getting to the basket, passing to open teammates, drawing double teams and making space for other players to score and do a lot of other good things. She’s also an excellent defender.”
As a sophomore in 2010, she helped lead the Lady Indians to a 23-10 record and the program’s first region title.
As a junior, Brooks averaged 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and five steals, surpassing the 1,000-point mark on Jan. 18.
“I feel like it’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Brooks said when she verbally committed to Indiana in June. “It was a lot of stress, but to know now that I’m a Hoosier it just feels amazing. It’s like a dream come true. Ever since I started playing basketball in fifth grade I just wanted to play ball and it didn’t matter where. Hearing from Indiana and other schools, and now that I’ve committed to Indiana, it’s been a privilege more than anything.”
Cooksey said he feels Brooks is the best player he’s seen in the region since Lexington Catholic’s Natalie Novosel, who just completed her senior season at Notre Dame, where she averaged 15.2 points per game.
“She’s a once in a lifetime player,” Cooksey said of Brooks. “She may be the best to ever come through Central. Indiana got a huge recruiting find.”
Ashton Feldhaus — Butler
Ashton Feldhaus really didn’t know what to expect when she made an unofficial visit to Butler University last year.
The experience turned out to be one that she would never forget.
“Right from the beginning, that’s where I made the connection with the coaches,” Feldhaus said of the visit. “They had my best interest in mind the whole time. They were so nice to me. They were so patient with me. I had a bond with them I didn’t have with any other coaching staff.”
Feldhaus would make visits to other schools — Indiana, Western Kentucky, Nebraska and Iowa State — but in the end, that connection to the coaching staff at Butler made the biggest difference in deciding where she wanted to play basketball at the next level.
The 6-foot-2, senior was drawing interest from a long list of schools, including: William & Mary, Fairfield, Bowling Green and Wake Forest.
“She had eight or 10 offers, but I think honestly that Butler has always been her No. 1 choice,” Allen Feldhaus said.
That made the decision easy.
Feldhaus has been considered a Division I prospect for several years. She jumped into the starting lineup as a freshman and has been a big key to Madison Central’s success the past few years.
This past season, Feldhaus averaged 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks a game. She also scored her 1,000th career point.
“She’s probably the most skilled player that we’ve had come through the program in quite some time,” Cooksey said. “She’s able to play the perimeter. She’s able to play the post. She’s very good at both. She’s very skilled fundamentally and has a very good basketball IQ. She’s a very unselfish player. She does a lot of things really well.”
And perhaps Feldhaus’ best quality is her versatility.
The senior usually starts at forward for Central, but she has the ability to post up against taller players and also has a nice touch from the outside.
“She’s going to be a very young senior,” Allen Feldhaus said. “She’s going to graduate when she’s 17. I think her better days are ahead of her because she’s going to get stronger. I think the college coaches know that. They see the potential.”
The Butler coaching staff envisions her greatest potential as a small forward or a shooting guard.
“They mainly recruited me as a shooter, which is great because I love to shoot,” Feldhaus said.
Even though Ashton had never been on the Butler campus before that first visit, her father already had a connection to the school.
Allen’s first college game as a player at EKU was against Butler at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The iconic arena, which is called “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral,” was built in 1928 and was the site of the filming of the classic movie “Hoosiers.”
Now his daughter will get a chance to play in the same building.
“That was awesome,” Feldhaus said. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until they told me a little about the history. The whole experience was just awesome.”
Butler finished last season with a 13-17 overall record and a 9-9 mark in the Horizon League.
The school will be moving to the Atlantic 10 in 2013 — which will be Feldhaus’ freshman season.