It was love at first sight when Jennifer Chapman of Broadneck High School set foot on the snow-capped mountain campus at the University of Vermont.
"I fell in love with the campus. It was so beautiful, and I knew right away that was the school I wanted to attend," said Chapman, who received a full basketball scholarship and signed a letterof intent on Wednesday.
The University of Vermont, nestled in Burlington, already had taken a liking to the 6-foot-1 center because she is the quintessential student-athlete. Playing varsity field hockey and varsity basketball the last three years, Chapman has maintained a 3.70 grade-point average in the classroom.
The signing ended the pursuit of nearly 70 schools interested in her talents and enabled her to concentrate on herhigh school basketball season, which begins today with the first workout.
Vermont is one of the top Division I women's hoop programs in the East and has an excellent academic reputation. The Catamounts were 21-7 last year, finishing second in the North Atlantic Conferenceto Holy Cross, the team that upset the University of Maryland in theNational Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament last year.
"It's known as a very good Ivy League school academically," said Chapman.
"My visit there was convincing. I had been up there during the summer to take a look, but I wanted to go back and see it when schoolwas in session and see the girls on the basketball team and all that."
Vermont was one of a host of schools, including American University, Delaware, Niagara and Marist that visited the Chapman householdin Arnold to meet the parents of the 6-foot-1 center.
Chapman expects to play her freshman year, which was another plus for Vermont.
"I don't expect to start, but I do expect considerable playing timeas a freshman as a forward-center," she said. "I didn't want to go somewhere where I would be a bench-warmer or practice player. I want to play."
Chapman is the kind of recruit every Division I coach wants because she has the size to be successful, the ability to play Division I, and you don't have to worry about student-athletes like her.
Pointing to Chapman's athletic ability, Broadneck head girls coach Bruce Springer said, "Jennifer is our leading rebounder and was oursecond-leading scorer. She also was our top female high jumper in track as a sophomore."
That leaping and overall athletic ability is what attracted schools to her. Attending the prestigious Blue Star Summer Basketball Camp in New Jersey the last couple of years enabled her to showcase her abilities.
"There are a couple hundred college coaches at the Blue Star camp watching you play, and they work you hard there," said Chapman. "You have to be intense every minute, because you don't know what they are thinking or saying about you, and you never know which ones are actually watching you."
Chapman knows how to win and what it takes. She played on the Bruins' state 4A championship team in 1990 her sophomore year. Last year the Bruins finishedsecond in 4A Region IV to Old Mill, the eventual state champion.
"I owe a lot to Coach Springer. He has really been a positive influence for me," she said.
"Coach Springer has always believed in me and made me believe in myself. Some people will get down on you and tell you that you can't do this or do that, but not Coach Springer. He'salways made me believe I could do what I had to do."
She began playing hoops in elementary school after former Broadneck player Theresa Cornish and Chapman's dad, Steve, took her to an outside court one day.
"Theresa and my dad talked me into playing one day, and I liked it right away," said Chapman, who went on to play in the Greater Arnold Rec Council Inc. at Severn River Junior High and for the Amateur Athletic Union Waves summer team started by Springer and Severna Park JV girls coach Joe Gillespie.
"I've played AAU with the Waves since ninth grade, and there is no question it has helped me develop as a player."
She also credits her parents and sister, Chrissie, who was a field hockey and softball standout at Broadneck and now attends Salisbury State, for their encouragement.
"My mom and dad and Chris have always given me support and encouraged me to play, and the AAU team allowed me to play with different coaches, and I think it's good to learn how to deal with all coaches," said Chapman. "Not everycoach is the same. They all have different ways, and it can help youbecome a better player."
Becoming a better player has earned her a full scholarship to continue her education and puts her in a elite class.
Two county girls received Division I scholarships last year, which is a lot. St. Mary's Laura Coakley garnered a full ride to Wake Forest while Broadneck's Andrea Macey landed a scholarship to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.