When Lanita Bartley, 20, was graduating high school in Jacksonville and looking for a basketball scholarship, the Division 1 schools weren’t that interested — perhaps because she is just 5’6″. Yet she was all conference all four years of high school and graduated with a 3.9 GPA.
But when Bartley walked across the stage last Friday and accepted her AA degree, she was only minutes away from signing with the Gators at the University of Florida. What a difference a record-setting two years can make.
“We were really lucky to get her,” said Chanda Stebbins, the women’s basketball coach at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. “She kind of fell through the cracks. Division 1-wise, they just overlooked her. But this spring, my phone didn’t stop ringing.”
Bartley dominated the conference in 2009-2010, leading the Saints to a second straight Mid-Florida Conference title and in the process was named the MFC Player of the Year and a First Team MFC and First Team FCCAA All-State honoree. She was twice named the NJCAA National Player of the Week and was a member of the WBCA State Farm All-America Honorable Mention team.
She finished first in the MFC and fourth in the state in scoring with 17.8 ppg and first in the MFC and third in the state in both assists (149) and steals (92). She also rebounded well from the guard position, averaging 6.2 per game, second highest on the team.
In her two-year career, Bartley scored 748 points (ranking her # 10 all-time at SF), dished out 232 assists, and pulled down 340 rebounds.
All spring, Stebbins fielded phone calls from coaches at schools around the country inquiring about Bartley.
“She was second on the team in rebounding, yet she’s the smallest player on the floor and the farthest from the bucket,” said Stebbins. “From a basketball standpoint, she is extremely athletic — that’s why everyone wanted her — and she’s extremely competitive.
“From an academic point of view, she’s a really hard worker and I can honestly say has come to Santa Fe and really started to enjoy school.,” Chebbins added. “That says a lot about our faculty and their passion for making education a great experience for a young lady who did not have a good opinion of school previously.”
Bartley was named to the Mid Florida Conference Academic Team, 2008-2009, and the All State Academic Team, and carries a 3.3 GPA, despite her grueling schedule. She recently finished the spring semester with a 3.89 GPA.
Basketball “kept me out of trouble”
She started playing neighborhood ball when she was a girl.
“It kept me out of trouble,” Bartley said. “Both my parents are athletes. I grew up playing with a lot of boys. I didn’t play on a team until seventh grade. When I got to high school, I led the city of Jacksonville on scoring.”
Bartley is majoring in pharmacy and excels at math. She prefers to take her classes online. In the spring semester, she enrolled in two regular classes and Open Campus (online) classes. She finds them less stressful, since she tends toward shyness. Being on the team has helped with that.
“Coming to Santa Fe taught me to be on my own, how to make my own decisions,” she said. “I’ve become more mature.”
Her longtime goal is to play professional basketball overseas. When she considered where to transfer, she looked for a university with international connections and a good graduate program. Location, climate, and types of activities available in the community also figured in her decision.
She sees this next step as the bridge to her future, and is excited about taking that next step at UF.
“The University of Florida has a great coaching staff and I look forward to playing in front of a lot of people and competing for an SEC championship,” she said. “I feel UF will better my life and give me a chance to get a good job after I graduate.”
She had this to say about Coach Stebbins: “She’s been hard on me, but I understand why she’s been hard on me. She wants me to be a good person and a good player.”
Bartley’s favorite instructors are Shelley Russell in mathematics; Patty Kunkle in critical thinking, and Naima Prince, who taught Bartley’s Marriage and Family class this spring.
Bartley has one older sister, Kandrea; a younger brother, Jaleel, who is in eighth grade and plays football; and Jamesha, a younger sister who’s a shooting guard for Central Florida Community College.
When she isn’t playing basketball or doing her schoolwork, Bartley enjoys shopping, going out to eat, and “chillin.'”