By BRETT MARSHALL
Kaylea Britton has had her goal of playing NCAA Division I basketball realized on Wednesday when the 6-foot-0 forward put her signature on a national letter-of-intent to attend the University of Vermont in Burlington for the 2012-13 season.
Britton is no stranger to traveling long distances as the Wichita-based AAU team she played for this past summer played in high-level tournaments around the country. In this case, the tournament was held in Portland, Ore.
That's when an assistant coach for the Lady Catamounts saw her play, and liked what she saw. So much, in fact, that when her AAU team played at another tournament a few weeks later in Nashville, Tenn., the coach was on hand once again.
Then, assistant coach Shannon Bush invited Britton to a campus visit. Her trip to the northwest town of 40,000, which sits on the shores of Lake Champlain, was all Britton needed to be sold on where she would take her varied basketball skills to play at the collegiate level.
"They liked me from the beginning, and I always knew that I wanted to play for a coach who really wanted me, recruited me as a top prospect," Britton said. "They've got a new coach (Lori Gear McBride, second season), and I'm part of her first true recruiting class. I really wanted to be part of that and am so excited."
The Lady Catamounts were 5-25 a year ago in McBride's first season. But McBride's pedigree is solid.
She was a member of the 1994 NCAA championship University of North Carolina Lady Tarheels, served as an assistant coach at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Seton Hall University and most recently the head coach of Colby College in Maine.
On her campus visit, Britton said she felt comfortable with the coaches, her future teammates and the campus, which she described as stunning.
"Everything just felt right," Britton said. "I wanted to be No. 1 on somebody's list and they made me feel like I was the one player they really were recruiting."
Britton said she also had been recruited by Metro State (Denver), the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Princeton University of the Ivy League. But it was the Catamounts, a member of the America East Conference, that eventually won out.
Also a track standout in the discus and shot put, Britton said she hopes to play what the team describes as the No. 4 spot, a forward who can also slide to the outside, play a guard spot and shoot from the perimeter.
"They said they liked the fact that I'm strong and like to push people around inside," Britton said. "Inside is what I like best, but I'm sure they'll have me do different things. I'll just go, work hard, and do what they ask of me."
Britton has increased her scoring and rebounding numbers every year of her three-year high school career. She averaged 9.5 points as a freshman, 12 points her sophomore season and 13.2 points last year. She went from averaging 5.3 rebounds to 9.3 between her sophomore and junior campaigns, and has scored 728 career points.
With 1,778 miles separating Ulysses and Burlington, Britton said she is comfortable with being so far away from home.
"The distance never really was an issue," Britton said. "It's more about being comfortable with your future coaches, teammates and the school. Vermont just is the right fit and I'm excited about playing there. I didn't think I'd end up in Vermont, but the dream to play Division I was the most important. I'm just happy it turned out this way."
Vermont's conference schools include the University of Albany (N.Y.), Binghampton University (N.Y.), Boston University, University of Hartford (Conn.), University of Maine, University of Maryland-Baltimore, University of New Hampshire and Stony Brook University.
Burlington is located 225 miles northwest of Boston and 97 miles south of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.