It’s a historic day for a high school athletic program when a squad member is offered a scholarship to a high profile Division 1 university.
That has happened at Santa Monica High. Point guard Thea Lemberger considered other scholarship offers but has verbally committed to play for UCLA.
First Lemberger will be a senior at Samohi and in the upcoming season will lead a team that reached the CIF Division 4 girls basketball playoff semi-finals last season.
She’s 5-foot-7 and an accomplished high school player now. I’ve tracked her progress since seeing her play for the first time.
She was a 5-foot-4 freshman on the night I walked into the Culver City High gym and saw the Samohi team watching the final minutes of a preliminary game. They had come out of the locker room and were talking and laughing as they awaited their own contest.
I couldn’t help but be impressed with this little girl who was entirely comfortable with her older teammates, clearly confident, not intimidated at all by the large crowd or presence of a formidable opponent for the road game.
Then the teams warmed up, the starting lineups were announced and the little girl showed why she was so confident. I saw right away that she not only belonged but was playing a key role.
As she became taller and stronger during the last three years she proved capable of scoring 20 points or more in a game while making teammates better with her ability to penetrate defenses and make accurate passes. And the Division 1 recruiters noticed.
Lemberger is the first player in Marty Verdugo’s four years as head coach to receive a Division 1 scholarship.
“It’s very exciting. I’m very excited for her,” said Verdugo.” One of my jobs here is to prepare girls for the next level.”
The 2009-2010 Vikings are expected to be strong again as recruiters are also inspecting junior guard Kristina Johnson and sophomore forward Sabrina Norton.
Last season Norton was injured, but the daughter of former NFL star Ken Norton Jr. is well advanced and likely on her way to a college career also.
Verbal commitments are non-binding and it’s too early for Lemberger to sign a letter of intent. But UCLA is clearly her choice.