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CHESTNUT HILL — Says St. Mary’s High School girls basketball coach Jeff Newhall: “You don’t see a lot of Lynn athletes — men or women — who end up as starters in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
One of the women who has is Marnelle Garraud, a sophomore at Boston College, where she survived a spirited pre-season competition with two teammates to win the job as starting point guard. And for her, she’s reached a level she never thought about attaining when her journey began in grammar school.
“I was in the fifth grade at Sacred Heart School,” she said. “At the time, I was a soccer player, and my older brother played AAU, and I used to go to his games.
“I got interested, and started going to some camps, and played AAU with the North Shore Ballers. My coach was Dave Babb.”
She chose St. Mary’s by the time she reached the ninth grade, because her brother was already there. There, she played for Newhall.
“He is a great guy, and he taught me a lot,” Garraud said. “I have to say that. He also helped me a lot and he got me to start thinking about college.”
Newhall certainly appreciated her. She was a Boston Herald all-scholastic and the Catholic Central League MVP as a sophomore.
“She had over 800 points in the two years she was here,” Newhall said. “She was on her way to becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“She’s a good kid, and she comes from a good family.”
But she left the school after her sophomore year to attend Noble and Greenough in Dedham.
“It wasn’t just the basketball, though that was some of it,” she said. “I wanted to play at a higher level, and there were academic reasons too.”
In the beginning, college was not on her radar.
“I just wanted to play,” she said. ” But at the end of my sophomore season, during an AAU tournament, I started getting approached by some college coaches. And I thought about playing in college. Around then, I knew I wanted to play a different level, and I knew that if I was going to do that, I had to be better.”
She got better. In two years at N&G, she averaged 13 points, 4 steals and 5 assists a game, and when the time came gladly signed on to play at BC.
Last season, she averaged 21 minutes a game, with 4.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists. She was also named to the All-ACC Academic team.
Although it’s only the mid-point of the season, BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee is impressed by what she’s seen.
“She’s a hard-nosed defensive player, and she’s really trying hard to be the floor general,” Bermabei-McNamee said.
Garraud said her game begins and ends with defense.
“I’m a defensive-minded player,” she said. “My offense flows from my defense. Defense is where I find stability on the court. My most satisfying moments on the court are when we’ve made a big stop, or forced a turnover, and we’ve come down the other end and scored a basket.”
The toughest transition, she said, is that in high school, 5-7 was on the tall side. In college, it is merely average.
“You go to drive and all of a sudden you look up and there are all these trees in front of you,” she said. “It’s different in college.”
Steve Krause can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.