The prediction is coming true.
The Division I offers that Sacia Vanderpool’s AAU basketball coach Tylor Coley was so sure would materialize -- they’re happening.
LSU is one of the latest and likely the greatest one to come in so far. The Tigers, from the mighty Southeast Conference, offered Sunday to the 6-feet-4 Byron junior. Vanderpool has 12 offers total, with LSU, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth, Pennsylvania and Kansas City-Missouri the most notable.
Vanderpool has become the second big-time girls basketball commodity in three years at Byron. Six-feet-5 Ayoka Lee, a 2018 Byron graduate, was heavily recruited before signing with Kansas State. Lee just finished a redshirt freshman season where she tore things up and was named first-team All-Big 12 Conference.
“Tylor told me that my time was coming, that I’d have lots of coaches coming after me,” Vanderpool said. “He said the offers would start rolling in. So I guess I’m not surprised by it, but it's still cool to have colleges contacting me and building those relationships.”
It wasn’t many months ago that Vanderpool was uncertain what she was going to pursue athletically in college, basketball or volleyball. She’s a standout in both and with the kind of height and mobility that draws college coaches.
It took being holed up by a pandemic — COVID-19 — for Vanderpool to make up her mind. After taking advantage of all of that stay-at-home time to think, she’s decided on basketball, the same sport that her mother, Heather Vanderpool, played in college (Concordia University, St. Paul).
Heather loves the choice, and Sacia is feeling good about it, too.
“I never played volleyball,” said Heather, who goes 6-3, while her husband, Brian, is 6-5. “I always had a bigger place in my heart for basketball, so I was hoping she’d go that route. But she had Division I interest (from college coaches) in volleyball, too. Sacia played (Junior Olympic) volleyball just to keep her options open. But she recently kind of made her decision to concentrate on basketball.”
Volleyball isn’t over for Sacia. She’ll play once again for her Byron high school team this fall, pandemic permitting. But basketball is now her truest commitment.
That’s why since the pandemic hit, and her following the stay-at-home orders given, Sacia can be spotted in her driveway every day, shooting, shooting, shooting. Or getting in bloody games of one-on-one with her eighth-grader brother Zach.
And yes, no kidding on the blood. Zach recently got drilled in the face by the increasingly physical Sacia, a portion of his lip ripping through the braces on his teeth.
When Sacia isn’t bouncing and shooting a basketball, there’s a decent chance she’s in the family basement, lifting weights. Sacia knows that to reach the level she wants, adding strength has to be a primary focus. She’s seeking a more physical approach to the game.
“I have to become more physical and aggressive,” said Sacia, who averaged 16 points (shooting 54-percent from the field, including an impressive 43 percent on 3-pointers), nine rebounds and nearly four blocks this past season. That after averaging 12, 11 and 4 as a sophomore.
But she wants more power.
“I’ve been doing my weight lifting,” Sacia said.
Sacia won’t be picking a college with basketball solely in mind. This is also a fantastic student who’s compiled a 3.96 grade-point average at Byron, taking on the toughest classes Byron HIgh School has to offer.
That kind of brainpower combined with her basketball abilities have gotten the attention of Ivy League schools, such as Penn.
Sacia didn’t necessarily see that coming. But she’s been flattered by it and giving it serious consideration.
She wants the right fit and knows it needs to be about more than basketball.
“It was a big surprise to me to be hearing from the Ivy League,” Sacia said. “I’d never thought about that before. But I want wherever I choose to strike the right balance, between sports, academics and social life.”