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Brit Halberg proves she really does belong in D-1 basketball

by: Vern Uyetake, Former Lakeridge star Brittany Halberg drives to the basket during the 2005 state tournament, which helped her land a scholarship at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where she is now the starting point guard.

It seemed Brittany Halberg never got the credit she deserved when she played basketball at Lakeridge High School.

The oversight was almost understandable considering the fact that Halberg played alongside All-American Jillian Harmon, who now stars at Stanford University. By often deferring to Harmon on those 2004 and '05 Lakeridge teams, Halberg was almost completely overlooked when Division I basketball coaches were handing out scholarships two years ago.

As the signing period neared an end that spring, it appeared Halberg was headed to Montana State. It was the only program that had given her any serious attention up to that point. But it didn't seem like a good fit for Halberg, and it had nothing to do with the school's basketball team.

'I didn't see myself living there,' she said recently. 'There wasn't a whole lot to do.'

But Halberg's fortunes changed considerably when Regina Miller, the head women's coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas called up just before the signing period elapsed. Miller was in a bit of a bind after having lost a previously committed player to another school. Thanks largely to a recommendation from Michael Abraham, Halberg's club coach that year, Miller was convinced Halberg was the perfect person to fill that one remaining scholarship at UNLV.

Halberg and her father, Eric, barely took any time to think about the possibilities. The next day they were on a plane for Las Vegas, and Brittany immediately fell in love with the UNLV campus and Miller's program. She flew back home that night and then called Miller the next day and said she wanted the scholarship.

She signed on the last day of the signing period. Miller was excited because she was getting someone with a model work ethic.

'She was looking for someone with my attitude,' Halberg said.

It was a great story to that point, but Halberg didn't exactly have a dream freshman season at UNLV. She saw just 38 minutes of action that season but she never got discouraged.

Halberg then worked hard during the off-season and even harder during the preseason to the 2006-07 campaign. However, that earned her only a backup role at point guard by the start of her sophomore season.

But the Rebels' starting point guard, Alison Holiday, didn't play well during her team's first three games. Miller didn't hesitate and promptly gave the starting job to Halberg. Now, it looks like it might be almost impossible to take the job away from the former Lakeridge star.

'I don't plan on giving it up,' Halberg said one day after playing all 40 minutes in a closely-contested victory over Wyoming two weeks ago.

In fact, the way Halberg has been playing lately, she might be a shoe-in for the most improved player in the Mountain West Conference. The highlights of her season so far include a team-high 19 points and eight assists in an 18-point victory over 19th-ranked DePaul, a team-high 18 points in a 17-point win over San Diego State and a 12-point effort in the regionally televised game against Wyoming.

What's amazing is that Halberg went from a bench player to one of the team's stars in virtually no time at all. It's the kind of stuff that usually only happens in movies. So, Halberg has to pinch herself sometimes to make sure that she's not dreaming.

'It was a dream of mine for so long (to star at the Division I level),' Halberg said. 'But I didn't know if it was going to happen.'

Now, Halberg has become the team leader, partly because of the way she plays and partly because of the way she handles herself off the court. Even though she's one of the youngest players on the team, she helps keep her teammates in line and her constant hustle on the court is rubbing off on the other players.

After one of the team's most disappointing efforts this season, Miller singled out Halberg as the only player on the team that hustled for the entire game.

'I know I'm not the most athletic player on the team,' Halberg said. 'But I have to have energy so they will follow (suit) … I try to set the standard.'

In addition to all of that hustle, Miller is impressed with Halberg's willingness to sacrifice some of her offensive production in order to keep her teammates involved.

'I'm a smart player,' Halberg said. 'And I know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.'

Halberg also is putting her brain power to good use in the classroom, where she is pulling down a 3.7 grade point average in broadcast journalism. Don't be surprised if Halberg becomes the next Ann Schatz (of Portland), who did the television commentary for the Wyoming game.

If she doesn't become a TV commentator, Halberg could see herself becoming a basketball coach. In fact, she's inquired about the possibility of helping out at UNLV once she graduates. That's assuming that she doesn't wind up playing in the WNBA.

'What better job could there be than playing basketball every day and getting paid for it?' she wondered.

But Halberg has some more immediate goals that she would like to realize first.

'My biggest goal is for us to win the Mountain West Conference,' Halberg said. 'We work so hard in practice … I just want our hard work to pay off.'