It was always going to be DePaul.
It was always going to be a field of study that provided her potential opportunities to help others outside of the United States.
Basketball and charitable work have been a large part of Kayla Caudle's life. So when the Vernon Hills junior gave a verbal commitment last week to play for DePaul University women's basketball coach Doug Bruno, while also revealing she wants to study international business and someday start a nonprofit organization, it came as no surprise.
It was her mother, after all, who in 2001 started The Spirit of Truth School in Haiti to help children less fortunate than most. Ruth Paul Caudle, a native of Haiti who attended Lake Forest College, succumbed to cancer in 2012 at age 39. Kayla was just 10.
"To be a part of a legacy that she started and continue her work, that's my dream," Caudle said. "Hopefully I can do that."
An all-area and all-conference forward since her freshman year, the 6-foot-1 Caudle fielded 16 scholarship offers. The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Saint Louis, Bradley, Western Michigan, St. John's, Toledo and Valparaiso were among the schools that recruited her. She took unofficial visits to several.
Most of her offers came late last summer after her AAU season with Midwest Elite ended. DePaul was one of those schools that showed interest.
"I always loved DePaul as a school, but it's so close to home," said Caudle, who joked that she didn't even want to go to a school in Illinois after high school.
She visited the Chicago campus in the fall and liked that DePaul has a strong business program. That sold her, as did Bruno.
Moreover, her dad, Brian, and her grandparents won't have to travel far to watch her play.
"I'd go visit another school, lay out the pros and cons, and DePaul would always be the better option," Caudle said. "Going into this AAU season, there were a couple of big tournaments where I could have gotten maybe a couple of more offers, but even then, after playing in those tournaments, I was like, 'DePaul is the one school I've always been set on.' So I figured I'd (commit) now. It's such a relief. When I called Coach Bruno, I was so happy."
Caudle averaged 15.3 points and 14.4 rebounds as a junior. Her 764 rebounds are already the most in program history, and her 885 points rank seventh. She will be the second Vernon Hills graduate to play for Bruno, who successfully recruited center Meri Bennett-Swanson, who is now attending graduate school.
"She helped me a lot in the recruiting process," Caudle said of Bennett-Swanson. "For any information about DePaul, I called her, or we'd text back and forth about the school. She loved her time there, and what she had to say was really helpful."
Caudle gets a break from AAU ball next week when she travels to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. Last summer, she and some other Vernon Hills students went to Uganda. She's been to Haiti multiple times.
"I try to do a mission trip every summer," she said.
Helping others -- it's what her mother taught her.