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Breland signs with ‘Heels

WINDSOR – Jessica Breland will trade dark blue for lighter blue.

The 6’3&uot; senior at Bertie High School signed a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill here last week and will trade her navy blue for Columbia blue as she heads to college.

Breland, who was highly sought after by many of the nation’s top basketball programs, said her decision was to stay in the state of North Carolina and once she decided that it was Sylvia Hatchell and the Lady Tarheels coaching staff that lured her to Chapel Hill.

&uot;I was drawn by their coaching staff,&uot; Breland said. &uot;I feel like it’s the best in the country.&uot;

The coaching staff was equally impressed with Breland’s talent.

&uot;Jessica can play any position – she can dunk, she can shoot outside, she can play point guard if we need her to,&uot; Hatchell said. &uot;She’s athletic and so versatile. She’s got all the tools to become one of the best players ever to be a part of our program.&uot;

The Bertie senior also aid she was pleased with the school’s academic standing and felt she could excel there as a student.

The final reason for heading to Carolina was the style of play employed by the Lady Heels.

&uot;I like their style of play – a fast-break style,&uot; she said. &uot;That fits my style of play.&uot;

Breland said she made the decision to attend Carolina almost a year ago after visiting the school. She signed her national letter of intent last Wednesday.

As she prepares for her last season at Bertie High School, Breland said she would take the leadership skills she had learned at the school with her to college.

She also indicated this summer’s trips to Brazil and throughout the United States were important in her development as a basketball player.

&uot;This summer helped me a lot,&uot; she said. &uot;I didn’t know there were so many good players out there. It showed me what I had to do.

&uot;The first few weeks, I got knocked around and I knew I had to get into the weight room and get stronger,&uot; she added.

Another key in her development as a basketball player was Bertie head girl’s basketball coach Alice Lyons-Bennett.

&uot;I feel like I need to thank her,&uot; Breland said. &uot;Coach Bennett brought it out of me. She saw the talent I had even when I was in middle school and she brought it out of me.&uot;

Breland said her coach had been with her all the way and helped her not only in basketball, but in life. She said Bennett had kept her out of a lot of trouble when she was younger.

Looking to next season, Breland said she feels the Lady Heels will be in good shape both this year and next.

&uot;They’re going to be good my freshman year, but they’ll be good this year,&uot; she said. &uot;They have a chance to win it all.&uot;

As she looks further into the future, Breland said her goal is to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), but if that isn’t possible, she never wants to leave the game.

&uot;I want to go to the WNBA and some people have told me that they think I can,&uot; she said. &uot;If I don’t make it there, I want to play overseas.

&uot;I love the game and I want to play until I can’t play anymore,&uot; she added. &uot;Then I want to coach.&uot;

Breland was one of two in-state signees for the Lady Heels last week. The other was Trinity Bursey from Sanford.

&uot;We’re the University of North Carolina and it’s nice to have what I consider the two best players in the state becoming Tar Heels,&uot; Hatchell said. &uot;And they’re not just the two best players in the state, but two of the best in the country. They fit our style of play and they fit in well with our team. They’re great kids and they’re going to be outstanding additions to our program.&uot;