Dan Pavlik, Campus Carrier asst. sports editor
Sunday was the last home game of the year for the women’s basketball team. They defeated Birmingham Southern in overtime 59-58.
Out of the 16 women on the roster, 15 of them will get the chance to play in the Cage Center again next year. On the other hand, lone senior Valerie McLure has played her final 40 minutes on her home hardwood.
McLure came from Westfield School in Perry, Ga., where she was a four-letter winner in basketball. She also ran cross country and was a state champion for tennis her senior year.
Basketball was her passion, though she turned down offers for other sports and committed to playing for Berry.
McLure was thrown right into a playing role as a brand new collegiate freshman. She played 572 minutes and started 11 games. There was no looking back after that. McLure has had a successful career, amounting to 572 total points to date. To go along with that, she also averages about five rebounds per game, making her a solid four-year player for the Vikings.
Even so, McLure has progressed as a basketball player over the course of the last four years.
“I’ve gained a lot more confidence and leadership on the court,” McLure said. “My junior year we didn’t have any seniors, so it fell on the juniors to lead the team, and that helped my leadership attributes grow. I’ve also played and practiced with a lot of great athletes and was able to learn from them and further my own game.”
McLure is the only remaining player on the team from her original recruiting class of eight. Dunn expressed her thoughts about how far McLure has come since high school.
“She’s an extremely hard worker,” Dunn said. “She surpassed all expectations on and off the court. She’s a good athlete, practices all heart every day, and is a great leader.”
McLure is just as impressive off the court as she is on it. She was the valedictorian at her high school and carried the academic excellence over into college, maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout her years at Berry. In the fall, she will continue preparing for an occupation in health care at the Medical College of Georgia located in Augusta.
Being the only senior on the team, McLure took on a leadership role whether she liked or not.
Whatever the case may be, she has embraced her role as a leader and has set examples for the next generation of Berry women basketball players.
“It was a little weird at first being the only senior,” McLure said. “The girls are so encouraging and nice to me. We’re one big family.”
McLure has a definite impact on the players of the future, so much so that her teammates even call her “Mama Val.”
Whenever someone needed help with anything on or off the court, McLure was always somewhere nearby.
“They say I look out for them like a mom,” McLure said. “I make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to and if anybody needed anything they knew they could come to me.”
The Vikings’ last regular season game is Saturday at Oglethorpe University. The SAA tournament begins on Feb. 24 as they look to make a deep run in the playoffs.