Brooke Pemberton’s coach said she didn’t say three words last year as a freshman starter for the Windsor High School girls basketball team.
What a difference a year makes.
Not only has Pemberton, 15, lost some of that shyness, but her game is speaking volumes for the Wizards.
“She’s very shy until you get to know her,” Wizards head coach Gary Perko said. “Last year as a freshman, she probably didn’t say but three words the whole year. This year she’s kind of opened up, and she’s opened up with other girls on the team.”
Heading into the Wizards’ Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference season opener at Frederick last night, the 6-foot-1 Pemberton, who plays center for the Wizards, has averaged nearly a double-double (16.2 points, 9.3 rebounds) for the season.
“I came into the season working hard hoping just to do good as a team,” Pemberton said. “I’ve been able to score and rebound. It’s been really fun.”
Pemberton opened a lot of eyes by breaking the school record for points in a single game on Dec. 7. Pemberton scored 34 points in a 43-31 victory over Mountain View. She also had 10 rebounds and five steals in that game.
“I didn’t know what the record was until one of my coaches came up after the game and told me I had broken it,” Pemberton said. “During the game, it didn’t feel like 34 points. If I had an open shot, I took it. I knew I had a lot of points during the game, but I didn’t even think of anywhere close to 34. Everyone on the team was really supportive and really nice about it, and really cheering me on. It’s a long time for a record to stand, and it’s an honor to be the one who breaks it.”
Pemberton not only broke Paula Hergert’s long-standing record of 32 points set back in the 1976-77 season, but she also set a school record in field-goal percentage (14-for-17 for 82 percent) against Mountain View. She broke Sara Schmidt’s single-game mark of 78 percent (7-for-9) set in the 1994-95 season.
Pemberton’s state playoff game in the Sweet 16 last year against Sand Creek, a 51-46 loss, when she scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds was an indication of great things for the Wizards this season.
Pemberton, who averaged eight points and 10 rebounds last year for the 19-5 Wizards, has displayed an all-around game for the Wizards shooting 55 percent from the field, 75 percent from the free-throw line (30-for-40), and averaging 2.1 steals per game to go with her points and rebounds. In the Wizards’ first nine games, Pemberton has scored in double figures seven times and had a season-high 13 rebounds against Rock Springs, Wyo., on Nov. 30. She’s had 10 or more rebounds in four of her first nine games, and has goals of breaking the school’s rebounding records for a game (20), season (217) and career (361) before she graduates.
Pemberton’s not far off from the points-per-game average of 17.8 set by Erin Wilkinson in 2007-08, and has a good chance of breaking Michelle Priselac’s field-goal percentage mark in a season (55.6 percent) set in the 1993-94 season.
“She’s doing about everything,” Perko said. “She’s just very athletic. She can shoot outside. She can take it to the hole. She can run the floor. She can post up. She just works hard, has that natural ability and gets the job done.”
In the game Pemberton scored 34 points, Perko said no one on the Mountain View team could match up with her.
“Our guards and everybody were getting her the ball, and she was taking it to the hole,” Perko said. “We got her the ball, and she scored.”
Pemberton put the work in after last season playing every Monday and Wednesday on the Colorado Flight club team out of Denver from March to August.
“We played throughout the whole summer,” Pemberton said. “We went to four different tournaments around the USA. It’s a lot faster paced game. I felt like when I came back to high school, I was a lot more prepared for the season.”
Pemberton has the talent that puts a smile on a veteran coach like Perko.
“She’s one of the better ones I’ve had. If she continues to improve like she has, I’d say the sky is the limit,” Perko said. “She just has the natural ability, and she just has a nose for the ball. She knows where the ball is coming off to get a rebound, and she goes and gets it. A lot of her points are putbacks. She goes and gets it and puts it back.”
Pemberton’s breakout sophomore season isn’t a surprise to Perko.
“It was just a matter of time before this happened,” Perko said. “After last year what she did as a freshman, I thought she’d come along this quick.”
Pemberton said she’s always working on her game to improve.
“I feel a lot more confident in myself in my abilities to know that I just have to go out there and play and not be as nervous like I was last year,” Pemberton said. “Last year I came in as a freshman not really knowing how this whole thing would work.”
Pemberton, who was born in Illinois and grew up there until moving to Windsor when she was 10, dreams of playing Division I basketball in college, but she understands there’s a lot of work to do before that happens.
“I still have two years until I can do anything, so I don’t want to jinx anything if anything comes up,” said Pemberton, who began playing basketball when she was in third grade. “I want to shoot better on my free throws, and improve my dribbling.”