MISSION — After an illustrious multi-sport high school career, Mission Veterans senior Ronnie Cantu signed her national letter of intent to play college basketball at St. Edward’s University in Austin surrounded by family, friends, coaches and an enormous crowd of supporters Thursday afternoon at Mission Veterans Memorial High School.

“Actually, it’s different (than I imagined). It’s more of an emotional feeling for me now, seeing everybody that’s here,” Ronnie Cantu said. “Even unfamiliar faces are here, and I think that’s what really stands out the most. The people behind the scenes have still been supporting me, especially the student body. I mean, wow, half this school has to be in here right now and that’s an amazing feeling.”

Cantu led the Patriots to new heights as a four-year letterman on both the volleyball and basketball courts, while racking up plenty of hardware along the way.

She helped the Mission Vets volleyball squad secure four straight district championships and won nearly 90% of all her career games, including a 60-0 record in district play.

But where Cantu really shined was as the Patriots’ starting point guard on the hardwood.

She started her career with a bang, capturing both the District 31-5A and RGV Basketball Coaches Association Newcomer of the Year awards. Cantu went on to earn first team all-district honors and an RGV Vipers All-Valley All Star Showcase selection three years in a row, as well as a spot on the District 31-5A All-Academic Team four times.

She capped off her career with back-to-back 31-5A All-Defensive Team nods, the district’s Co-Offensive MVP award as a junior and most recently, the overall Most Valuable Player award.

“I’ve been to signings and things and it’s a special moment,” Mission Veterans head coach, and Ronnie’s father, Rafael Cantu said. “When it’s your own daughter, it’s a little more special. I’m overwhelmed by the turnout and all the students, people inside and outside of the community, the media. It’s overwhelming. This exceeds my expectations by far.”

Ronnie and Rafael Cantu became the Valley’s most elite player-coach, father-daughter tandem at Mission Veterans. The duo led the Patriots to the playoffs for three consecutive seasons in one of the most top-heavy districts in South Texas.

The Cantus helped push Mission Veterans past an extraordinary hungry Valley View team in this year’s bi-district round. They ran into trouble in the area round against Flour Bluff, but went out in a blaze of glory after a furious second-half rally cut the deficit from 16 points to two with 30 seconds to play.

“We had such a great year this year,” Rafael Cantu said. “The way we ended the year was special.”

Ronnie Cantu, who had been dialed in on both volleyball and basketball year round, first visited St. Edward’s — an NCAA Division II school — last summer and knew immediately that was where she wanted to be.

“I went to a camp this summer and it was my first basketball camp. It was my first time really putting myself out there because I don’t play AAU,” she said. “I love Austin so much. It’s like my second hometown. When I got there to the camp, the vibe was so happy and so peaceful, I really enjoyed it. The coach I would talk to and I had a good relationship from the start. I literally fell in love with the school as soon as I stepped foot on it.”

Now, with her high school tenure in the rearview mirror and a promising collegiate career on the horizon, both father and daughter took time to reflect on their journey together to this point and what lies ahead.

“Disbelief, cloud nine, unbelievable, those are the words that come to mind,” he said. “You think about things like this happening when they’re growing up, but it never really hits you until it happens. Ronnie’s worked super hard and she deserves it, but she’s gotten a lot of help from a lot of people, family, coaches, teachers. I feel really lucky and fortunate and happy that this is happening for her. I know she’ll represent Veterans Memorial and work real hard there at St. Ed’s for her team.”

“No regrets. It was a great experience,” she said. “Looking back at my underclassmen years, I couldn’t wait to go to college and get out of high school. Now that I’m a senior, it’s more, ‘Wow, I’m leaving high school. I’m really going to miss it.’ But the future awaits, and that’s the exciting part.”