Word's out on Lynee' Belton
The most rewarding adventure of Lynee' Belton's life started with four memorable words: "Don't tell your mother."
But since that order came down, Mom and thousands of others have seen it for themselves: Belton belongs on a basketball court. The No. 20 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2014 class recently gave a verbal commitment to play at Duke University.
But it might not have happened this way if her father, Wynard Belton, hadn't asked his daughter -- who at the time was an 11-year-old gymnast, ballerina and cheerleader -- whether she wanted to go to basketball camp.
"I said yes because I've always been taller than the other kids, and people were always asking me if I played basketball," the 6-foot-2 Belton said. "So I thought I might as well try it, but my dad asked me not to tell my mother until the day of the camp because she thought basketball was a 'tomboy' sport."
Wynard Belton, who is 6-3 and played high school basketball, said his logic was simple: He has never seen a 6-foot-plus gymnast.
Lynett Belton, who is Lynee's mother, admits she was anti-basketball back then -- but she has come around since. She had to learn the rules of the sport, she said, but now she is Lynee's biggest fan.
Belton will be a senior forward in the fall at Bullis School (Potomac, Md.). As a junior, she averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds, earning first-team All-Montgomery County honors.
She scored 10 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as Bullis (21-5) beat Georgetown Visitation 60-39 in the Independent School League AA final in February.
On the AAU circuit, Belton has starred the past three years for Team Takeover, with the team name serving as an apt description for what she often accomplishes.
"She runs the court well and can finish at the rim with either hand," Team Takeover coach Ron James said. "When she decides she wants to get every rebound, we're very hard to beat."
Belton, who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for Team Takeover this summer, is working on her perimeter skills so she can be even more versatile. Her identity, though, is as a rebounder. That's what she said she enjoys most about basketball, and that's the area of her game Duke coaches seem to really covet.
Belton said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie challenged her to get 20 rebounds in a game while the prospect was at a Blue Devils camp this summer.
"I did it twice," Belton said. "The key is to keep moving. If you don't stay in one place, you won't get boxed out."
History with Duke
Ironically, Duke nearly got itself boxed out in the recruitment of Belton this summer.
In June, The Washington Post reported Belton had cut her list of college choices to 11: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, Maryland, Virginia, Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee and Princeton.
When Duke coaches read that story, they quickly contacted Belton to find out why they weren't on the list.
"I thought they had stopped recruiting me, and for a little bit, they had," Belton said. "I thought it was a done deal, and I had started focusing on other schools.
"But right after the article came out, they picked things up again, and we built a quick relationship from where we left off."
As it turns out, Duke was her favorite team all along. Since she was in seventh grade, she and her father had been watching Duke's men's and women's teams play.
"They were always in my heart," she said. "I thought it would be great if I could play on that court and people could watch me on TV."
One of the things she wants to do when she gets to campus is to meet Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. So far, she has only seen him from a distance.
Belton aspires to be a doctor -- either a radiologist or a neurologist. Her maternal grandmother, Lucinda Parker, is a breast cancer survivor, and that has inspired Belton to enter the field of medicine. She also is interested in treating athletes who have concussions.
Aside from academics and athletics, one of Belton's hobbies is ceramics.
"I work with clay, and I've made bowls and plates," she said. "I also made a sculpture of two girls in the park.
"Ceramics relaxes my mind. It lets my mind be on its own."
Belton, 17, describes herself as "determined, confident, self-willed and independent."
But she wasn't always as self-assured -- or skilled. She still recalls a basketball game from when she was 12.
"I missed at least 30 layups and fell about 10 times," she said. "It was just me being clumsy on my own two feet. And some of the falls came from me being soft."
She's no longer soft, of course, and that makes her dad proud.
"She has reached my expectations and more," he said. "I'm waiting to see what else can happen."