Cescili Drake, who was a key to Mount Hebron High School's drive to the state girls basketball championship last year, has announced she will attend the University of North Carolina-Greensboro on a full basketball scholarship.
Drake, a 5-foot-6 guard, will sign a letter of intent Nov. 14.
UNC-Greensboro is an independent school of about 12,000 and will make National Collegiate Athletic Association history next year when it simultaneously upgrades all 12 of its men's and women's sports from Division II to Division I status. No NCAA athletic program has ever made such a sweeping move.
By Aug. 1, the women's basketball team will have progressed from Division III to Division I during coach Lynn Agee's nine-year tenure.
The Spartans were ranked third among Division III schools in 1988, before moving up to Division II. Over the past two seasons in Division II, UNC-Greensboro has gone a combined 34-15. It finished No. 20 in the national rankings last year.
"The campus size, the facilities, the coaches, the staff: They have a lot to offer," said Drake, who plans to study biology or sports medicine and was recruited to play point guard.
"Everyone down there talked about academics more than basketball," she added. "And the move (to Division I) tells me the staff and administration has a lot of confidence in their athletic program."
Drake, an excellent athlete who plays the off-guard position and maintains a 3.89 grade point average at Hebron, averaged 8.8 points, four rebounds and two assists in 24 games last year.
She is best-remembered as the spark to Mount Hebron's tough, trapping, man-to-man defense, which held opponents to 32.9 points a game. Drake led the Vikings with 122 steals, an average of 5.1 per game.
Drake also had a superb run in the regional and state playoffs. She averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 steals, four rebounds, 2.5 assists, shot 46 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three-point range.
"She set the tone for us defensively every night with her intensity," Hebron coach Dave Greenberg said. "Her defense on the ball is excellent, she goes to the hole real well and her work ethic is terrific."
"Obviously, she has the skills, but her intensity is very impressive.
She really gets after it," said UNC's Agee, who watched Drake for two summers at the Kathy Rush Camp at Delaware Valley State College in Pennsylvania.
"We're an up-tempo team, and she is a driven young lady," she added. "I know she hasn't played the point for Dave, but I saw her handling the ball and running the point. She can take charge on the floor. This is an exciting time for us, a very challenging time. We're very glad to have Cescili on board. I don't think we could have done much better."
Drake becomes the 18th Hebron player during Greenberg's 12-year tenure to receive college scholarship money.
"It's a real credit to Ces. She gave up other sports as a junior to concentrate on basketball so this would happen," he said. "It was totally her decision. And it happened."