Kyra Lambert doing her level best
Coaches from Stanford, Duke, Ohio State and others have traveled to Clemens (Schertz, Texas) this season, watched the junior varsity girls' basketball game and then packed up before the varsity game tipped off.
That might sound a bit like having salad and then leaving the restaurant before the filet mignon is served, but at Clemens, the JV is the main course.
That's because Kyra Lambert, the No. 6 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class, is playing with the B team.
"I think," Clemens varsity coach John Ince said, "Kyra is one of the best players San Antonio has ever seen."
That begs the question that has been asked by fans, refs, rival coaches, players and pretty much anyone who has seen her play this season: Why isn't the 5-foot-8 point guard playing varsity?
Lambert, who committed to Texas A&M before her freshman season and has since re-opened her recruitment, was ruled ineligible for varsity play by the University Interscholastic League after the State Executive Committee stated that her transfer from Steele to Clemens was for athletic reasons.
The Lamberts -- Kyra and her parents -- have insisted all along that the move was for academic purposes.
After all, Kyra was the fifth-ranked student (out of 565) in her class at Steele, compiling a 4.1 GPA and never getting anything below an "A" in her entire academic career.
In college, she plans on studying international business or engineering.
It was Kyra's sister who convinced her to transfer.
"Our oldest daughter [Lynn] just graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in industrial engineering," said Agapito Lambert, Kyra's father. "But she graduated in five years. For the first year, she had to play catch-up in math and science.
"She told Kyra that if she had it to do over again, she would have taken the IB [International Baccalaureate] program."
Lambert heeded her sister's advice, and, to do so, left Steele (Cibolo, Texas), which does not have an IB program, and headed to Clemens.
That represented a huge loss for Steele, which made it to the Class 5A state final last season with Lambert as its star point guard.
Agapito Lambert said he believes Steele -- by fighting the transfer -- tried to force her back to her old school.
But Kyra stood firm, even if it was emotional.
"I was really hurt when they ruled against me because I know the real reason I transferred was obviously for academic reasons," said Lambert, who said she cried for a couple of days after she was banned from competing on the varsity level this season.
"It was unfair. But then I started to understand the plan God has for me, and I accepted it. I'm taking this step by step and making the best of it -- developing my game."
Amanda Joseph, a 5-7 post player on the JV, said she and her teammates have good-naturedly teased Lambert, calling her "No. 6" in reference to her ESPN ranking and "Stanford" because of her interest in the Cardinal.
But it's all in fun.
The entire San Antonio area loses out because they don’t get to see her on the varsity this season.John Ince, on Kyra Lambert
"I've never seen someone with so much talent be so humble," Joseph said of Lambert. "She's a great girl. She doesn't cuss -- which is amazing for a high school student. I've stopped cussing because I'm around her. She has also taken me to church, taken me to workouts.
"No matter your ability, she will invite you in. And she is one of the few high school kids you can have an intellectual conversation with."
Ince said he has seen other kids gravitate to Lambert, as well.
"Kids can see through fakeness -- they know if someone is legit," Ince said. "And they see how genuine Kyra is.
"In the hallways, you never see her alone. Teachers and kids love her. There is a glow on her face. She beams."
Ince said Clemens' JV games often have more fans than the varsity because fellow students, fans -- and, yes, scouts -- want to watch Lambert.
What they have seen is domination.
Lambert is averaging 24 points, and she plays roughly 16 minutes per game for her 13-0 team.
Ince said Lambert could average 50 if she wanted, and an example of that was a recent game against Lockhart (Texas). Lambert scored 30 of her team's 34 first-quarter points and sat out the rest of the game.
"When she first got here, we told her that an athlete of her caliber had no business on the JV, and if she didn't want to play, we completely understood," JV coach Osana Gonzalez said.
"But she said, 'Absolutely not.' She said she would do everything she could to help our program."
Lambert has done just that, mentoring the JV players during games and practicing against the varsity every day, preparing them for their opposition by running the scout team.
That likely makes Lambert the best and most valuable JV player in the nation.
But is this a wasted year for Lambert, basketball-wise?
"Not at all," Lambert said. "This has given me the opportunity to work on different parts of my game.
"I also enjoy developing the girls around me. When they make a big improvement, it's exciting."
Lambert said she believes she could make a good coach one day. In fact, during varsity games, she usually sits in the stands and takes notes. At halftime, she hands those notes to Ince before he addresses the team.
So what's in Lambert's future?
She is deciding on a college and has Stanford, Duke, Ohio State, South Carolina and Colorado as her finalists.
Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, who coaches Lambert on the AAU club TeamXpress, believes her star can someday be an Olympian. After all, Lambert has been running her 17U team as the starting point guard since she was in the eighth grade.
Lambert, though, isn't sure she wants to play in the WNBA.
Ever the young businesswoman, Lambert notes that the WNBA pay scale is not very inviting and sounded much more intrigued about playing overseas, where she could satisfy her thirst for global travel while making a healthier salary.
For now, though, she will play JV ball, even if no one at Clemens thinks it's fair.
"This is my 16th season in coaching," Ince said, "and I've never seen a kid who deserves to play more than Kyra.
"I really believe [the Clemens varsity] would be undefeated if we had her for games. The entire San Antonio area loses out because they don't get to see her on the varsity this season.
"But she has stayed true to her word. She said she came here for academics, and, by staying with us, she has proven that."