Why Duke Recruit Kyra Lambert Is Having More Fun Than Anyone
After a recent scrimmage against a rival high school, Kyra Lambert joined her team in its postgame huddle.
But before she could finish listening to coach John Ince, Lambert was pulled away. Players from the opposing team -- and some younger fans in the stands -- had requested a photo with Lambert, and Ince happily released her from the huddle. "I was shocked," said Lambert, a 5-foot-8 senior point guard at Clemens (Schertz, Texas). "I was like, 'You want to take pictures of me?' I didn't know what to do. It was humbling."
It's a safe bet that those won't be the last photos Lambert takes with fans and admirers.
Lambert, the No. 9 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100, had an 18-hour stretch this week in which she made her varsity debut at her school on one day and signed a national letter intent with her dream college the next.
On Tuesday night, she made her Clemens varsity debut, scoring 31 points in a 71-27 win over Medina Valley (Castroville, Texas). She also had 10 steals, five assists and no turnovers in barely more than a half of action.
Lambert, who was not allowed to play varsity basketball last season due to transfer rules, was thrilled to be back on the court.
"I was a little nervous before the game," Lambert said. "But I was happy to be back on the court helping our team win. I really enjoyed myself.
"We have a lot of talent, heart and hustle on this team, and that's a recipe for success."
After Tuesday night's emotional return to varsity competition came another thrilling moment on Wednesday afternoon, when Lambert signed with Duke University. She is one of five signees in the Blue Devils' smashing 2015 class. Angela Salvadores (No. 5 prospect), Faith Suggs (No. 25), Crystal Primm (No. 46) and Haley Gorecki (No. 55) also signed national letters of intent on Wednesday to join coach Joanne P. McCallie's program.
"Academics are my priority," said Lambert, who has a 4.1 GPA and is intent on studying engineering. "Duke's a wonderful program. I love the coaches, the team, the campus and the education.
"I know I will have a lot of fun there and -- hopefully -- I'll be very successful."
Attending the ceremony were Lambert's parents, her grandmother, a cousin, her schoolmates, members of her church and many of coaches from all ages of her development.
"It went really well -- it felt like half the school was there," Lambert said of the ceremony. "I almost cried, but I held it together because I had to give a speech. My emotions were high, but I had to thank everyone for their support."
Ince is confident Lambert will be an outstanding representative of Clemens.
Even before she played her first varsity game for him, Ince had been staunchly in Lambert's corner, saying she is the best all-around player ever to come out of the San Antonio area.
Lambert played junior varsity ball last season, badly outclassing her opponents. She led her team to a 21-0 record and averaged well over 30 points despite the fact that she rarely played more than a half.
Meanwhile, the Clemens varsity went 27-5, finishing four wins short of a state title. Ince believes that if Lambert had been eligible for the varsity, Clemens would have won the state title.
"Looking at the matchups all the way to state, I think Kyra would have been a difference-maker," Ince said
She will get her opportunity this season on a Clemens team that returns three starters. And then there's Lambert, who was perhaps the best junior varsity player in the nation last season.
Sitting out the varsity action last season was tough, Lambert said, but she seems to have handled everything exceptionally well.
"I've matured," she said. "I look at everything that happened as a learning experience. I feel like God put me in that position for a reason, and I feel like I grew as a person and as a leader."
Her leadership abilities are on display on the football field most mornings at 6:30 as she leads a group of a dozen or so varsity basketball players who run the bleachers or do conditioning drills on the track.
After showering, Lambert heads to class and then has basketball practice, followed by weight training and agility drills.
"She pushes me the hardest," said Kennedi Centers, a 6-1 junior forward. "I can't wait to see where she can take us as a team."
Lambert's work ethic is so exemplary that Ince had to tell her to exclude the JV players from the workouts.
"Their bodies are not ready yet to keep up with Kyra," Ince said. "Kyra is in prime shape. Her body's like a running motor."
Lambert hasn't yet met any of the other Duke signees, but she heard about Salvadores' 40-point performance for Spain against Team USA at the FIBA U17 World Championship over the summer in the Czech Republic.
"Wow, that girl can hoop," Lambert said. "I think it's perfect -- a great group of girls, talented and athletic. We're going to be in shape, and we are going to run teams, hopefully."
Could a Lambert-Salvadores backcourt be a fixture for Duke in the near future?
Lambert, a humble sort, seemed excited about that possibility.
"That would be a great situation," she said. "Me and her on the court at the same time would be a nightmare for the other team, honestly."