High School Sports

High school girls basketball: State College’s Kyla Irwin picks powerhouse UConn

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It had been a dream of Kyla Irwin’s to play basketball at the University of Connecticut since the fourth grade.

She and her classmates at the time had put together a poster about themselves and what they dreamed to do when they grew up, and Irwin said she wanted to play for the best women’s college basketball program in the country.

On Monday night, an offer was made and accepted, and that dream became a reality.

The State College junior will play for coach Geno Auriemma and the two-time defending national champion Huskies.

“She really wanted to follow that dream of hers,” her mother and State College coach Bethany Irwin said. “When this opportunity came on Monday, she wasn’t going to pass it up.”

It certainly is hard to pass up a program that has won nine NCAA titles and been to 15 Final Fours.

“It was just the best of everything,” said Kyla Irwin, who cannot sign her official National Letter of Intent until November of 2015. “It’s such a great program and the coaches are phenomenal. The campus is — I just love the campus.”

Way back in fourth grade, when the children were putting together their presentations and saying they dreamed of being doctors or firefighters, Kyla Irwin already had her heart set on where she wanted to be.

“I imagined it back then, but I always thought of it as a dream,” Irwin said. “I saw them at a couple tournaments and I thought, “Oh, gee, I wonder who they’re looking at.’ I never really figured it would be me, and right now I’m living my dream.”

The Huskies coaches first started catching Irwin during the AAU season in the spring and summer, and Auriemma caught a couple of the 6-foot-2 All-State forward’s games with the Central PA Elite, based in Harrisburg.

She had some impressive performances, especially at a tournament in Washington where the Irwins figured 80-90 college coaches were on hand, and ever since the Huskies were keeping track of Irwin.

“When UConn came around, I knew,” she said. “It was always my dream school.”

Irwin averaged 19.6 points and 13 rebounds a game as a sophomore last season, helping the Lady Little Lions to a 17-7 record, a District 6 Class AAAA title and a trip to the second round of the PIAA tournament before falling to North Allegheny.

She scored 509 points for the season and also averaged three assists, two blocks and two steals per game. She carries 936 career points into her junior season, which will begin in December.

She officially announced her decision on Twitter early Tuesday evening, waiting until she called each of the other programs that had made offers to express her thanks, and it only took minutes for word to circulate and the phone begin to ring with news organizations from Connecticut and Pennsylvania calling.

With her brother across Long Island Sound playing football at Stony Brook, her mother hailing from Branford, Conn., and with family still in the state, it will help give her a little more comfort.

She picked UConn over Penn State, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, St. Joseph’s, Providence, Michigan and DePaul.

“It really had nothing to do with any of the other coaches,” said Bethany Irwin, who played at Penn State. “As a parent I would have been happy with any of her choices. I thought all of the coaches were outstanding, but when that perfect fit falls in your lap, how could you not take that?”