From many, there will be one. And while there’s still no guarantee contending athletes will win their own state at this point in the season, a number of elite performers are making a case for Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year consideration. Here’s the scoop on the latest top candidate.
Senior point guard, Samuel Clemens (Schertz, Texas)
Greatness Present: Considered one of, if not the best girls basketball player ever to come out of the San Antonio area, Kyra Lambert didn’t even play for her school’s varsity team last season.
She couldn’t. Lambert maintains her transfer from Cibolo Steele to Samuel Clemens in 2013 was for the sole purpose of enrolling in an International Baccalaureate program that was not available at her previous school (a curriculum in which she’s currently thriving as a straight-A student). But the state’s University Interscholastic League determined she made the move for athletic reasons and ruled her ineligible for varsity play as a junior—an odd ruling, considering she had helped a powerful Steele program to the Class 5A state title game as a sophomore (ultimately losing to undefeated juggernaut Duncanville and 2012-13 Gatorade Texas Girls Basketball Player of the Year Ariel Atkins).
While some in Lambert’s circle urged her to sit out the 2013-14 season and focus on improving her game outside the structure of high school basketball, she instead chose to play for Clemens’ junior varsity team.
“Once she was denied eligibility to play varsity by the state governing body, I had a lengthy conversation with her,” Clemens varsity head coach John Ince told USA TODAY High School Sports. “I explained that I couldn’t ask a kid of her talent to play on our JV. However, I wanted her to practice with our varsity to prepare them and make them better as a team, and then take over at the point on varsity for her senior year. Not only did she decide to stay and work with my varsity, but she requested to play on the JV to help them as well. Most kids of her age and talent level would never have made that decision. They would have seen playing JV beneath them. But that’s not Kyra Lambert. She is as honest and genuine as it gets.”
As the varsity Buffaloes fought within four victories of the Class 4A state title last year, Lambert sat idly by, averaging pretty much however many points she wanted before being removed early from blowout victories during an undefeated JV season—all of which made her varsity debut as a senior this winter that much sweeter.
When Lambert finally dressed in varsity blue and gold, the McDonald’s All-American collected 31 points on 22 shots to go along with 10 steals, four assists and two rebounds in the season-opener, overwhelming Castroville Medina Valley in a 71-29 victory. She has averaged 26.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.7 assists per game as a senior, leading Clemens to a 29-5 record entering the Class 6A state playoffs.
“Overall, what I took from this experience was learning to fight through the adversity that confronted me, and I came out better on the other end,” said Lambert. “Because of what I have faced, I am now better equipped for the future. I realize that I am a stronger individual than what I had thought before. As life goes on, more conflicts and hardships are going to present themselves, and due to this situation I know I can get through whatever comes my way.”
Greatness Past: Undoubtedly the nation’s best jayvee player as a junior last winter, Lambert earned an invitation to the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team Trials this past summer. She averaged 13 points, seven assists and four steals as a sophomore for Steele in 2012-13, capturing San Antonio Express News Super Team honors.
Greatness Future: Lambert has signed with Duke.
Make no mistake: The Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year races aren’t over, and the National POY race is now heating up. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of the list. Check back for daily updates on the top contenders making their case.