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October 8, 2012 04:10 PM
Gabby_Otero_002Not since the days of Kathrin Keil in the late-1970s has a New Mexico junior girl been as heavily recruited as Gabrielle Otero.  Possessed with a solid ground game and great determination, Otero burst on the tennis scene when she was 10, winning her  age group in the Southwest. She has gone on to do well at national events across the country, most recently working her way to No. 44 in the 18s.  Her father Steve Otero, a former standout with the Lobos who himself reach No. 51 in the 18s, has coached young Gabby since she could hold a racket. On September 30 Otero announced she will attend Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., on a full-ride athletic scholarship.  She will make it official on National Letter of Intent Signing Day, which runs Nov. 14-21.
When did the recruiting for you start?
Beginning Sept. 1. 2011 schools could contact me by letter or email.  Starting on July 1, 2012 they could phone me. 
But colleges knew who you were before 2011, didn’t they?
There’s tennisrecruiting.net, which can list you no matter your age. Maybe even when you’re in elementary school. [Laughs.] I remember I heard from Air Force Academy way, way back. And Kathy Kolankiewicz (former coach of UNM women) talked to me a long time ago, and so did Roy Canada (Kolankiewicz’s longtime assistant).  They said don’t forget about UNM.
So, how many schools contacted you?
Let me see, I’ve got a list …. 61 total.  Fifty-three sent letters or emailed me and then I visited eight schools. 
That’s a lot.
I think I traveled to five different states in one month. I feel very blessed that so many were interested.
What were the final eight schools?
Let’s see.  Nebraska, Loyola Marymount, CU at Boulder, Alabama, ASU, UNM, Texas Tech, and Louisiana State. I made a list, putting down the positives and negatives of each school. 
That’s quite a group.
I loved all the colleges and all the coaches.
But you zeroed in on LSU early, didn’t you?
I visited them on, I think, Aug. 29.  And they were definitely in my top three. Then at the end of September I went there again.  That’s when I knew.  I had to be sure, though. So I called my grandma and grandpa in Albuquerque and asked to pray for me, to help me see if that was the right decision.
What was it about LSU that you liked?
I liked the South, I liked the humidity, I liked the city. I liked the competition in a big tough conference like the SEC. I put my faith in God that it was the right place.
Anything else?
LSU is building a great new tennis facility, indoor and outdoor. It already has a stadium there with 12 hardcourts but they’re going to start a big expansion this next year. Plus, they have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group there that’s very active.  And I found a good church. 
How about the coach?
Oh, I really loved the coach, Julia Sell.  I’m going to be in her first recruiting class there.  She played college tennis at the University of Florida and No. 1 singles on a team that won the NCAA team title. 
That’s a pretty good pedigree for a head coach.
I wanted a coach who wanted me to commit. Some coaches told me to wait.  When I heard that it was like maybe they were hoping for another girl before me.  I wanted a coach who wanted me. I wanted a coach who had a faith in God, too.  My dad told Julia that I wanted to be the Tim Tebow of college tennis.  She said that was the most amazing thing she had ever heard.
What about those other colleges? Did you have to tell them of your decision?
I called them all them on Sunday afternoon when I got home from LSU.  No emailing them. It was kind of hard. I remember Texas Tech. They had recruited me hard.  I think the coach was heartbroken. Most coaches were OK with it, they understood. 
How will you do living away from your parents, who have been so supportive of your tennis?
There is live streaming of LSU’s matches and they can follow me. But of course, they can’t come to Louisiana all the time to see me.
What are your goals?
To play professionally, to be on the tour, since I was little.  That kind of faded a little my sophomore year of high school.  But then God showed me how it could be possible.  I played better this year than ever before and I know the SEC competition will be even better for me. 
Are you glad the recruiting is over?
It was really fun in the beginning, but then it got kind stressful. Now that it’s over I know I made the right decision.
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