for one more title shot
Not many young women would smile to hear themselves called "beast" or "enforcer." But when those words describe the game of Lulu Brase -- a game already earning the Gaston Day School senior three state titles and a college education come fall -- the standout center considers such terms compliments.
"She's a great player, and she's grown every year," said Bobby Long, head coach of the Lady Spartans basketball team. "She's done everything we've wanted her to do."
The 18-year-old, daughter of Joe and Bertina Brase of Lake Wylie, returned for the 2008-09 campaign as a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association All-State performer. Since the season began, Brase scored her 1,000th career point and signed a national letter of intent to play college ball at Colgate University. Averaging a double double for the second straight season, Brase now sets her sights to the Feb. 26-28 NCISAA state championship tournament and an opportunity to finish her high school career the way she started it -- as a champion.
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Who is Lulu Brase?
The Brase family moved to Lake Wylie from Michigan when Lulu was in fifth grade. Lulu grew up playing soccer and swimming, and admittedly had no concept even of the rules of basketball. Until, in seventh grade, a coach asked her if she would consider playing the game.
"Since then I can't live a day without it," Brase said. "If there's a game on TV, and I'm not doing my homework, I'm watching it."
As an eighth-grader, Brase started for the varsity team at Gaston Day. In her first three years the school won its first three state championships, including signature moments like the first championship win when "no one expected us to be there" and a victory against nationally ranked Providence Day two years later, when Gaston Day played with only five players.
"It was literally David vs. Goliath," Brase said.
But in her junior campaign, Brase and the Lady Spartans entered the state tournament as the No. 2 seed before losing 45-42 to Ridgecroft School in the second round. The bittersweet season for Brase--her first not to end in a state title--included her first All-State nod and attention from several colleges hoping she might don their colors.
"It was tough because I wasn't used to it, being wanted by so many people," Brase said of the recruiting process. "I don't like to disappoint people, so I didn't like having to say no."
After narrowing down her decision to American University, Davidson College and Colgate, Brase came down to the latter two schools. With similar academic opportunities, Brase saw something in Colgate (Hamilton, N.Y.) she could not find at Davidson (Davidson, N.C.) -- the chance to "get away from my parents."
"I just thought it was time to get away, start out on my own," she said.
Long-term, Brace does not see basketball as a career. She will remain open to the possibility, though.
"I know basketball won't be the rest of my life," she said. "I would play beyond (college) if it happens, but I want to start a career."
One more season
Coaches at Colgate indicated to Brase before her November signing that she could see playing time soon at the collegiate level, and that it "should be a significant role." But first Brase has unfinished business at Gaston Day as the only senior on the squad, an opportunity to be the first four-time state champ at the school.
For the team that "started out kind of rough," the Lady Spartans are undefeated in 2009 and in conference (through Wednesday last week). Which, Brase hopes, could lead to the type of success that might compare this team to her other title squads.
"The teams in the past were a little more experienced, they were a little older," Brase said. "But now this team is coming together, we're clicking more as a team. I, personally, would love to see a game between those teams."
Along with personal goals, another state championship would help show the three straight were no accident, Brase said.
"Not winning a state championship would definitely be a disappointment for this team," she said. "(Winning) would be a statement that Gaston Day School is back."
She did admit, however, there would be a fair share of personal satisfaction to have four titles in five years.
"I think it would just mean more because the last time I was in the shadows more," Brase said. "Not that it's just my team, but being a senior I feel like I'm a leader on this team."
Long, with 13 years experience coaching boys and girls teams at Gaston Day, believes his "beast in the middle" can add to her already impressive list of accomplishments.
"She makes the difference in us winning and losing," Long said. "Hopefully she can find one more before she leaves."
About 'Beast' Brase
• Described by Long as "a true post player," Brase leads all Gaston County area schools, both public and private, in rebounding
• Through Thursday, Brase averaged 16.8 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game this season, seven points and four rebounds above her career averages
• Through Thursday, Brace already set career highs this season in points (453), assists (49) and blocks (94), and is on pace to tie or surpass her best season in rebounds
• Brace has three times as many blocks this season (94) as she does all four years prior (31)
• Career stats through Thursday include 1,253 points, 1,375 rebounds, 196 steals, 117 assists and 125 blocks in 141 games
• Brace describes her own game: "Definitely a back to the basket post player, but I can get out and run. Definitely the enforcer--not going to get pushed around."
For information about upcoming games, including times and locations, visit gastonday.org.