The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 18, 2013

From driveway to center court

Spartan senior guard Bianca André signs D-I hoops scholarship

FAIRLEA — Bianca André remembers basketball games in her driveway, playing 5-on-5 in her mind, with only herself on the court.

That setting is about to change drastically.

The Greenbrier East High School senior — who can’t help but steal the spotlight on the court, but ducks away from the cameras and microphones off of it — signed a letter of intent Wednesday at center court in the gymnasium where she led her team to the 2012 Class AAA title and an undefeated regular season in 2013. With her teammates and family looking on, she committed to attend Gardner-Webb University on a basketball scholarship next season.

“I just signed a $200,000 scholarship,” said André, a first team all-state selection, unable to hold back her emotions . “I’m pretty excited, and I’m glad my teammates are here. It means a lot.”

Actually a backcourt player, André was the tallest player on the Spartan squad this season. She played as a guard, but had to attack the boards like a forward. It worked almost to perfection, as she averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in leading her team to a 24-0 start, before East was shocked in a region co-final by Capital, falling short of a trip back to Charleston to defend their title.

“We’ve had a great run,” said Spartan coach Jim Justice, who coached André for three seasons. “She’s improved every year. The last third of this year she came on strong and really led us down the stretch.”

Gardner-Webb, located in Boiling Springs, N.C., competes in the Big South Conference. The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished 13-18 overall last year and 5-13 in league play. But they return their entire lineup from last season, including former Summers County star Candace Brown, and André is hopeful she can help turn things around.

“It was definitely a family decision,” said André, who also considered Virginia Tech and Elon, among other schools. “I think it’s the right choice. I’m going to get an opportunity to play and make an impact my freshman year, and it’s close to family.

“I’m just looking to play my freshman year and make an impact. That’s my first goal.”

Gardner-Webb head coach Rick Reeves doesn’t anticipate that being a problem.

“We think Bianca is one of the top players in the state of West Virginia,” the coach told GWUSports.com. “She has outstanding basketball skills and is one of the best shooters I have seen this year at the high school level. Here shooting will bring another dimension to our offensive schemes. But she is more than just a great shooter, as she is a great passer that thinks and plays the game like Larry Bird.”

“She’s a great kid and is very deserving, added Justice. “She’ll make a great college player and a great young woman in a lot of aspects of her life as she goes forward.”

And to the next young player taking on an entire team in her driveway, André has a simple message.

“Practice a lot, and maybe you’ll get a scholarship,” she said. “If you put enough work in, it can happen for anybody.”

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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