By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Ahmad Fields played it cool during the fall.
As he watched what seemed like teammate after teammate make their college commitments to play Division I basketball, Fields waited for his moment.
The 6-foot-5 combo guard/small forward from Washington, D.C., believed his time was coming.
After all that patience, Fields' ultimate decision on where to sign came fairly quickly as the Massanutten Military Academy postgraduate standout needed just two days to commit to the University of Utah last week.
"I felt like this was the best place for me," Fields said. "It's a family environment and I feel like I can fit their style of play and their aggressiveness on defense."
Fields first came into contact with Utah in late November, when the Colonels took on Notre Dame Prep in the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Conn. After the game that night, Utah assistant coach DeMarlo Slocum put in a phone call to Fields.
The Utes followed up with another visit to see Fields take on Fishburne Military School, invited him for an official visit on Dec. 17, and two days after that trip Fields had agreed to play for Utah and head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Fields had already made an official visit to St. Joseph's and had an offer from that school, as well as most of the rest of the programs in the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association, plus interest from other high-level programs including Miami and Kansas State.
"I think that he wanted to play at that level, and a lot of guys at that level had been recruiting him longer, but they probably hadn't shown as much interest, as much love, all those kind of things," MMA coach Chad Myers said. "I feel like he's definitely good enough to play at that level. And he wants to go somewhere where they really like him, they really want him. He felt like they did the best job recruiting him. Even though it wasn't as long, it was probably harder than anyone else had."
Fields is the sixth player off MMA's postgrad squad -- currently 16-0 and still ranked No. 1 in the nation among prep schools by the website Recruitdirt.com -- to sign with Division I programs. The others are Deandre Burnett (Miami), Garland Owens (Boston College), Damonte Dodd (Maryland), Frank Mason (Kansas) and Q.J. Peterson (VMI).
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, so I really wasn't thinking about it too much," Fields said. "I just felt like whenever the time was right to commit, that's when I was going to do it. I wasn't going to rush into anything."
Fields' signing brings the total of Division I commitments to 13 over the past two years for MMA, and Myers expects more to follow from this year's squad. Rashard Kelly, a 6-7 forward, visited Boston College two weeks ago, Temple coach Fran Dunphy personally scouted MMA junior guard D.J. Foreman recently, and 6-8 forward Jerome Simmons already has offers from North Carolina A&T and Gardner-Webb with more likely to come.
Myers thinks at least four more players will eventually sign with Division I programs, and that all his players will earn scholarships at the Division I or Division II level.
"We definitely make phone calls to try and help those guys out," Myers said. "That's why they come here, is to get a scholarship to go on and play college basketball. So it's our job to try and help out any way we can."
Fields, who's played at schools ranging from D.C.'s Anacostia High School, to Maryland's South Hagerstown and Don Bosco, and Virginia's Blue Ridge School, thinks his final stop at MMA made the biggest difference in his eventual choice.
"They helped me get noticed," Fields said. "I'm getting better every day, I'm getting stronger every day. Utah started recruiting me from this school, so it definitely helped."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>