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Lindhurst center signs with Southern Utah
Ever since she was little, Brenna Gates has dreamed of playing basketball at the highest levels possible.
Now, her dream is becoming a reality.
Gates, a senior at Lindhurst High, recently signed a national letter of intent to play college basketball at Southern Utah University next season.
It's been a long time coming for the 6-foot-4 center, who becomes first female athlete from Lindhurst to ever receive a full-ride Division I scholarship in basketball.
"I started playing in a recreation league when I was six or seven years old, and I've wanted to play basketball my entire life," Gates said. "When I was little, I used to want to dunk and go pro, so I'm really excited to play at the next level."
Gates has been a varsity performer since her sophomore season and last year as a junior she averaged 18.3 points and a staggering 20.5 rebounds per game. Her play on the hardwood earned her an Appeal-Democrat All-Area first team selection, but colleges have been noticing her talents for some time now.
During the summer before her junior year, Gates played at a showcase tournament for her traveling team, the NorCal Elite. It was there where she caught the eye of several college coaches, including representatives from Southern Utah who talked her into taking a visit to the school's campus in Cedar City.
"I talked to a lot of coaches there and I went on an official visit in September and fell in love with the campus," Gates said. "I'll definitely be the center. The coaches have no plans of red-shirting me and that's my intention."
The sport has been a family affair for Gates, whose mother, Patty, has coached her since her very first season. Now the varsity coach for the Blazers, her mom has played an important role in making her the player — and person — she has become.
"My mom was my first coach, so basketball has been a huge part of my life," Gates said. "We talk about it at home and discuss things that I can improve on, so basketball is about everything for us."
And while it will be hard to see her daughter go, Patty Gates said that the recruiting process has been a joy.
"The whole journey has been a lot of fun," she said. "The coaches there are wonderful. She's only 16, so knowing as a mother that it's not all about basketball and it's more about life was important. It's a big step, but I think she'll keep up and work hard her freshman year.
"I'm very proud of her."
At Southern Utah, Gates will join a Thunderbirds team that finished 7-23 overall and 5-13 in Summit League play. But for now, she will concentrate on her senior year while competing in the reshuffled Golden Empire League.
"This season I want to establish a presence in a new league," she said. "I'm just preparing myself against higher competition and getting my team ready to play at that level, too."