Making it official

Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lakeland senior basketball star Terika Lunsford turned her verbal commitment to the University of Albany into an official, signed commitment on Wednesday morning during a signing ceremony in the library at Lakeland High School.

The full scholarship from the America East Conference school is of course a testament to Lunsford’s skill and hard work on the basketball court, but it’s also a product of her work academically.

In September, when Lunsford made the announcement of her verbal commitment, she said, “the major (Biological Science) was the first thing I was looking at.

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“Being able to play basketball at the Division I level, that’s even better,” said Lunsford. Wednesday was National Signing Day for high school seniors, the first day seniors could sign letters of intent to accept scholarship offers, so Lunsford wasted no time.

In the classroom, Lakeland head coach Alan Jones said Lunsford is around a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA. On the court, Lunsford, a 5-foot-11 guard with outstanding shooting ability from the three-point arc and from mid-range, has gone from averaging 10 points a game as a sophomore to averaging 17 points per game last season, which put her fourth among Group AAA players in South Hampton Roads.

Lunsford is the first Lakeland girls basketball player to earn a Division I basketball scholarship.

For the signing, all of Lunsford’s Lady Cavalier teammates, Jones, Lakeland activities director Teri Tucker, Lakeland principal Thomas Whitley and Terika’s parents, Amy and Phillip, were there.

“It shows how much they care,” said Lunsford about her teammates being there to congratulate her. “They are like my family.”

Lunsford said she’s been confident Albany was the right choice since the summer. While a number of other Division I programs showed interest, Albany made a special effort to show what Lunsford means to its team.

During the summer, Albany head coach Trina Patterson came to Suffolk first-hand to see Lunsford. Most of the time, assistant coaches make trips to see recruits, said Jones.

Shortly after Patterson’s visit, Lunsford visited the university’s campus.

“I was able to play and visit with the current players and see some of the teachers,” said Lunsford. Lunsford said the Lady Great Dane players made her feel welcome, took time out of their schedule to go out to eat, show her around the school and just hang out.

“With it being far away, I felt good that there was a family-type environment. I really need that,” said Lunsford.

Before the new opportunity, and new challenges, of starting with Albany, there’s still the important matter of one final season with the Lady Cavaliers. Lakeland improved from two wins in 2006-07 to a 6-16 record last season, but Lunsford sees a much bigger leap this coming campaign.

“I think we can go all the way and make it to states.

“We definitely have a much bigger team,” said Lunsford. “There’s no reason I can’t help lead the team to our goal.”