Fabulous freshmen finding Hanover a happy home

by Jonathan A. Lee | 1/20/98 6:00am

If you were late entering Leede Arena on Saturday for the women's basketball game against Columbia, you might have thought that it was a freshman team and not the varsity squad. At one point during that game, five Big Green rookies stepped onto the floor and straight-up outscored Columbia's starting five en route to a 76-60 blowout victory.

Not too shabby, huh?

What's perhaps most outstanding is that of those five rookies, four of them are true freshmen -- Samantha Berdinka, Sherryta Freeman, Stephanie Kinnear, and Jackie Lippe are all '01s. And each of them brings a different set of talents to Hanover.

But two things are pretty universal among this bunch -- first, they're all highly decorated athletes who rewrote the record books in high school and secondly, they're all very much in love with Dartmouth.

Samantha Berdinka '01

Berdinka certainly has no regrets about her move from Speonk, NY, to Hanover.

"I really love it here," she said. "Early on, I dreamed about getting an athletic scholarship, but I also recognized that academics would play a big role during my college years. So from there, choosing Dartmouth was pretty easy because you simply can't get a better education than here at Dartmouth."

Berdinka could have pretty much played hoops anywhere. During her years at Eastport High School, she was an athlete extraordinaire -- as a four-year letter-winner in basketball, soccer and softball, Samantha took All-State honors for every season she played.

Then, as if that weren't enough, she capped off her high school years with a stellar senior season -- scoring an average of 25.2 points per game to earn New York State Player of the Year Honors.

And that pretty much explains why Berdinka is playing hoops for the Big Green instead sticking to soccer or softball.

"I always thought I'd be a softball player in college, but by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was having a lot more fun on the basketball court," she said. "I just love basketball more than any other sport."

These days, Berdinka seems very comfortable wearing the Green and White jersey. "Dartmouth is still a Division I school and it's still very competitive," she said. "I can still go as far as I want in basketball."

"Dartmouth is truly an incredible place," Berdinka said. "Everybody's playing college hoops not because they're being paid or because they're being sponsored, but because they love basketball. So I think that aspect really adds something special to this program."

Lately, Berdinka herself has also added something special to the hoops program. The rookie guard is currently seventh on the team in terms of total points scored this season with 50 points in 14 games. Though she averages 3.6 points per game, she sinks 10.2 points for every 40 minutes she's on the court.

Sherryta Freeman '01

Almost before she learned how to walk, Freeman knew how to dribble a basketball. But more than that, she was damn good at it too. At least far better than your average 18-month-old toddler.

"My parents have pictures of me in my walker shooting hoops," Sherryta said. "As far back as I can remember, I've been playing basketball."

And since then, many years of practice have turned into near perfection for Berdinka.

A native of Hillside, New Jersey, Sherryta proved herself to be one of the top recruits to come out of the Garden State. She graduated from Hillside High School as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,056 points over four seasons.

How many high school hoops players do you know who can double the 1000-point plateau? Not many. Of course, Freeman's average of 28.0 points per game during her finale season didn't hurt her cause any.

Dartmouth is certainly fortunate to have Freeman wearing the Green and White. "When I visited Dartmouth, they made me feel at home," she said. "I also realized that this program had a lot of potential and a lot of talent."

So far this season, Freeman has played in all but two games and though she currently averages just 1.8 points per game, her 10 points per 40 minutes played average illustrates just how much she can contribute to this team in the future.

When she's not playing hoops or going to class, Freeman also spends her time working with the 2001 Class Council, though she admits that her "greatest commitment is to her teammates."

Stephanie Kinnear '01

How did an all-star hoops player from sunny California wind up over 3,000 miles from home to settle in Hanover for four years? Just ask Stephanie Kinnear.

Let's just say it's got something to do with family.

"I've always known about Dartmouth, but the first time I visited wasn't until my junior summer in high school," Kinnear said. "And even then, I was just coming to the east coast to visit my cousins who live in Hanover."

But it was love at first sight for Kinnear and Dartmouth.

"When I first saw the campus it was just so beautiful," she said. "I was just impressed with everything about the school and the people here were wonderful."

Admittedly, Hanover is still a long way from home for Kinnear, but she has no regrets for her decision to come to Dartmouth. "It's a little tough to adjust to the cold," she said jokingly, "but I think I can manage."

Back home in Ventura, California, Kinnear was a standout as she led Buena Vista High School to four league championships and three California Interscholastic Federation titles. During her senior year, the 5-10 swing player captained her team to a 27-3 record to earn first team All-League Honors and Honorable Mention All-State Honors.

Though Stephanie averages just seven minutes of play per game, her versatility promises to help the Big Green carry on their winning traditions over the next four seasons.

While she's very much at home on the basketball court, Stephanie, like most other freshmen, is still adjusting to college in general.

"I'm still getting used to the whole routine of college life...going to practice, going to class," she said. "But it's been incredible so far. I really love this place."

Jackie Lippe '01

She's a New Hampshire native, she's a Souhegan High School graduate, and she plays hoops for the Big Green but her initials are not C.B. Indeed, for the second straight year, Dartmouth has recruited another Souhegan sensation as Jackie Lippe came to Hanover to reunite with her old teammate, Courtney Banghart '00.

But Lippe insists that the real reason as to why she came to Dartmouth was a purely academic one.

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