High school girls basketball practice began across the state Monday, and on the eve of that big day, Maliah Howard-Bass made a big decision.

But the Columbus North senior, who committed to Ball State on Sunday, wasn’t able to begin practicing with her basketball teammates. She’s still with the Bull Dogs volleyball team, which opens sectional play Thursday against Columbus East at East Central.

“I am looking forward to basketball,” Howard-Bass said. “But we still have to finish volleyball season. We’re definitely wanting to get the (volleyball) sectional title. We’ve been working hard in practice to finish out our games.”

Howard-Bass hasn’t had any trouble finishing on the basketball court the past three years. She has 918 points, 265 rebounds and 176 steals during that span and has helped lead North to a 78-6 record and the 2015 Class 4A state championship.

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Last year, Howard-Bass averaged 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals to lead the Bull Dogs to a 27-2 record and a state runner-up finish and earned Indiana Junior All-Star honors.

“I just want to go out strong and contend for state again,” Howard-Bass said. “Even though we have a bunch of injuries, I still think that we can make it.”

Howard-Bass also had scholarship offers from Indiana State and Florida Gulf Coast, Evansville and IUPUI. Southern Illinois also had offered but had given away its allotment of scholarships for the Class of 2017.

The choice came down to Ball State, Indiana State and Florida Gulf Coast.

“I felt that Ball State was the best choice for me and my family and academically,” Howard-Bass said. “The campus life, the coaches … I fit in well with the style of play, and it’s close to home.”

The Cardinals went 22-10 and reached the second round of the Women’s NIT last season under coach Brady Sallee.

Howard-Bass began playing basketball at age 4 and volleyball at age 8 or 9. She also played softball from fourth through eighth grade and ran track in sixth through eighth grades and again the past two years.

Early in the recruiting process, Howard-Bass considered playing both volleyball and basketball in college.

“Later on in the recruiting, I just wanted to focus on basketball,” Howard-Bass said. “It’s going to be nice, just focusing on one and not worrying about open gyms, practices (in the other sport) and all that stuff.”

Howard-Bass plans to major in exercise science. She intends to sign her national letter-of-intent during a ceremony Nov. 9 at North High School.

In the meantime, she is glad to have her college decision out of the way.

“I wanted to commit to a school before the fall signings,” Howard-Bass said. “It kind of releases the pressure, because then I don’t have to worry about calling everyone and setting up plans. I can just focus on schoolwork.”

Maliah Howard-Bass

Name: Maliah Howard-Bass

High school: Columbus North

Year: Senior

Height: 5-foot-9

Sports: Volleyball, basketball, track and field

Favorite sport: Basketball

College choice: Ball State

Intended major: Exercise science

Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.