- Chris Hansen, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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At 6 feet 2 inches and 175 pounds, Kayla Brewer physically is ready for the college game. But what is truly unique is that her game and physique are not the only qualities that put her ahead of her peers.
As a freshman in high school, Brewer enrolled in a running start program in which high school students also take classes at the college curriculum level. At the end of this current school year, technically her junior year of high school, she will have a high school diploma as well as an associates degree, equivalent to two years of college credits.
Last Monday the basketball star from Jacksonville, Fla., gave her verbal commitment to the University of South Carolina and became the 15th player in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2011 class to commit. But unlike the rest of the junior class, Brewer will begin college early, entering this coming fall.
Brewer is a person with a clear plan. She chose Dawn Staley's Gamecocks over finalists Stanford, Louisville, Texas, Auburn and Georgia.
Brewer says forgoing her senior year of high school is not a big deal. She is ready for a new challenge. After three years of high-school basketball she will move to her four years of collegiate competition, again with a head start.
When Brewer arrives in Columbia, S.C., she will academically be a junior. Part of her decision to pick South Carolina was their highly regarded sports management program, for which she will dive in headfirst. But she's not the type to waste any opportunity so when she completes her bachelor's degree in just two years at South Carolina, she plans on entering law school.
The scheduling for college life and such an ambitious set of goals, which includes a future playing professionally, coaching, being an agent and sports entertainment attorney, is nothing new.
"My freshman year, when I got picked to test for the program, I figured it'd be a good chance to get a head start on life," Brewer said. "It's extremely tough, pretty much it's like playing on the college level with time management."
Brewer discovered in August that she could forgo her senior year in high school with no academic consequences. Initially she was not sure she was ready or prepared to make such a bold move.
"In early January I put more thought into it," Brewer said. "What's the point in coming back to high school when I felt there no need to and the competition isn't there. I'll probably be better at the next level and get started."
With her Jean Ribault High School team out of the Florida playoffs, Brewer's basketball focus shifts to what could be a truncated club season. She has committed to playing the Georgia Metros this spring and will be with the team at the Boo Williams Invitational in Norfolk, Va., during the spring NCAA certified evaluation period (April 16-18).
After the April weekend she may play in a few more non-certified events with the Metros but plans on righting a wrong from a year ago -- USA Basketball. She was one of the players invited to the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., last spring to try out for the U16 national team. She was not selected and it has kicked her training into overdrive.
"Personally I felt it was political," Brewer said of the U16 team selection, "but I felt it made me work harder so they couldn't tell me no."
Brewer has renewed her training on the court, in the weight room and with a new diet she fully intends on making the U17 team that will travel to Toulouse, France, in July to compete for a FIBA World Championship.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A running start program has given Kayla Brewer a chance to jump start her college career as the junior will enroll at South Carolina this fall.