While most of her friends played varsity basketball last season, highly rated college prospect Kyra Lambert spent her junior year on the Clemens High School junior varsity after transferring from Steele.
Lambert, a combo guard who will sign a national letter of intent with Duke on Wednesday, lost a year of varsity eligibility after a committee composed of the principals in Clemens’ UIL district ruled that she changed schools for athletic purposes.
The experience, she says now, probably made her stronger on and off the court.
Playing varsity ball again, Lambert started her senior season with a 31-point game in Clemens’ 71-27 rout of Medina Valley in the opener for both teams Tuesday night.
A force on both ends of the court, Lambert went to the bench early in the second half and watched the Buffaloes’ backups play most of the last two quarters.
“This is a real emotional time for me,” Lambert said after the game. “I’m just really excited to be back on varsity and being able to play the game at a high level again. It was a learning experience for me last year. I think I grew a lot from the experience, just learning leadership skills. I think it was a blessing in disguise.”
An honor-roll student, Lambert transferred to Clemens to enroll in the school’s highly demanding International Baccalaureate academic program.
“The International Baccalaureate program here is amazing,” Lambert said. “I’m a very high academic person. Academics always come first. I’m a student-athlete. I was trying to get my academics right for the next level.”
But the district committee didn’t see it that way, ruling that Lambert had to play on the Clemens’ JV for a season to re-establish her varsity eligibility.
The NCAA’s early signing period for basketball starts Wednesday and runs through Nov. 19.
Lambert, ranked as the No. 9 recruit in the country by ESPN.com, headlines a handful of San Antonio-area boys and girls who have committed to Division I schools.
Stevens wing Anja Martin, one of the best girls players in the region, is expected to sign with West Virginia and Churchill guard Mikki Flores has committed to sign with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. O’Connor guard Amber Vidal will sign with Nebraska-Omaha next Wednesday.
On the boys’ side, Central Catholic forward/center Tony Lewis will sign with Santa Clara on Wednesday, and Brennan forward Jordan Murphy was still mulling offers from UNLV and Virginia Commonwealth. Kyren Block, who also plays at Brennan, and Asa Cantwell of Johnson are expected to sign with Houston Baptist.
“I’ve had butterflies the last few days,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty excited about finally signing.”
Lambert was recruited heavily, but Duke was the only school she visited. She committed to the Blue Devils in August shortly after visiting the Durham, N.C., campus.
“I fell in love,” said Lambert, who originally committed to Texas A&M before her freshman season. “I love the coaches, the program and, of course, the academics. Academics come first for me. It was a perfect situation for me, with them being a high academic school and also a high basketball school.”
Lewis, 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, picked Santa Clara over Kansas State, Weber State and North Texas.
“Santa Clara really stood out academically, as far as being one of the top schools in the country,” Lewis said. “We all know the ball stops someday. Once you get a degree from Santa Clara, it’s like having a high school diploma from Central Catholic. I really took that heart.
“The coaching staff and I really meshed. We were all on the same page as far as my plans and my goals go. I want to be the first member of my family to graduate from college, and I’d like to play in the NBA someday.”
The son of Dawn and Tony Lewis Sr., both Army veterans, Lewis was born in Bethesda, Md., but has lived in San Antonio since he was an infant. He attended schools in the East Central ISD before enrolling at Central Catholic as a freshman.
“His strengths are he’s got great feet, he’s got great hands, he shoots the ball well and he has good court awareness,” second-year Central Catholic coach Bruce McConaghy said. “He passes the ball well. He’s going to do nothing but get better and better. They’re probably very excited about him. He’s got a lot of upside to him.”
Lambert’s favorite player is Clippers’ Chris Paul
Because of his size, Lewis has drawn interest from college recruiters since he was a freshman.
While Oklahoma City Thunder forward is his favorite player, Lewis said he also watches Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies) and Al Jefferson (Charlotte Hornets) closely.
“Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph and Al Jefferson are masters of footwork in the post,” Lewis said. “I watch them on tape as much as I can.”
Lambert’s favorite player is Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul.
“I love Chris Paul, just his poise and leadership,” she said. “I like to copy his game.”
Lambert was born in Guam but has lived in San Antonio since she was 2. Her parents, Barna and Agapito Lambert, are Air Force retirees.
Lambert’s anticipation on the eve of signing day was palpable as she posed for photos after Tuesday night’s game.
“I’m nervous and I’m excited,” she said. “It’s a day that a lot of athletes look forward to. It’s such a blessing to be able to sign with a school like Duke University.”
Clemens coach Ince: Lambert like a coach on the floor
While it was difficult for Lambert after the district committee ruled her ineligible for varsity play, Clemens coach John Ince said her attitude was exemplary.
“I’ve never seen a kid so strong mentally who could handle something like that,” Ince said. “Most kids would not have been able to handle it the way she did. She’s been positive. She took her one day to grieve, because it was a bummer for her.
“The day they ruled, she took that day that was kind of her day to feel sorry for herself. After that that, she came out and led our JV kids. She was our coach on the floor. She is now. She’s an extension of us.”
Ince described Lambert as a complete player.
“She penetrates, can stop on a dime for a little pull-up jumper, and she’s extremely accurate behind the arc,” Ince said. “The kid crashes the boards like a post player. She has an extremely strong basketball IQ and that’s why Duke is pulling her in.
“They evaluate their recruits not just on basketball talent, but what they can do with the ball when they’re on the floor. They’ve got to make the right decisions, and put the ball in the right hands. Kyra is really good at distributing the basketball. She’ll be a kid who will come in and compete for a starting slot right off the bat.”