BERLIN â€“ Lyzi Litwinko, the Berlin girls basketball teamâ€™s all-time leading scorer, appeared to be loaded with options for the next chapter of her playing career after a sparkling junior season.
Litwinko had just earned her first All-State selection after leading the Redcoats to the Class M semifinals, had netted her 1,000th point during that state tournament, and prior to the start of her senior season, had offers from three different Division I schools.
Then, Litwinko was dealt a brutal lesson in powerlessness as those options began to surprisingly dwindle.
First, Ionaâ€™s offer vanished after an incoming transfer took a scholarship spot away from next yearâ€™s team, which wound up being Litwinkoâ€™s. Central Connecticut State University offered Litwinko a spot, but only gave her days to make her decision, and LIU Brooklynâ€™s offer went away after the school merged with Post, resulting in a makeover to the coaching staff. Suddenly, Litwinko was winding down another All-State season as a senior at Berlin, but was still trying to figure out where she would call home next.
â€śThings like that just seemed to keep happening,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śBut I knew talking to coaches that I was going to end up where I was supposed to be.â€ť
Litwinkoâ€™s patience was rewarded as her senior season wound down, when coaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Division I school in Verona, New Jersey, reached out to the star point guard about playing for the Highlanders. Last week, NJIT head coach Mike Lane offered Litwinko a spot, and after months of uncertainty, Litwinko had the next chapter of what has already been a historic basketball career.
â€śAt the end of the day, I'm grateful everything went down like this because I really do feel like I'm going somewhere that feels like home,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śI always loved NJIT, and we were talking, but this past week coach Lane called me and offered me a spot, and there really wasn't a question in my mind. I knew if I got an offer I was going to go.â€ť
When she wasnâ€™t guiding Berlin to the top overall seed in this yearâ€™s Class MM state tournament, Litwinko was visiting the NJIT campus and meeting the rest of the Highlanders, who played nearby at Hartford University back in December. Just under 125 miles separates NJIT and Berlin High School, but after Litwinko got a sense of life with the team and at the school, there was a comfortably familiar feeling.
â€śOn campus when I was walking through the facility and talking to coaches, it just felt like home,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śThe coaches are awesome. [NJIT assistant coach Sara Mitchell] was always talking with me and keeping me in the loop. They were really transparent, which was refreshing. I met the girls on my unofficial visit and they were really cool, and we just kind of clicked.â€ť
Litwinko made it official last week, posting her decision on her Instagram and Twitter, where the Berlin community showed their support for the completion of a journey that saw plenty of ups and downs while Litwinko was going through her recruitment process.
â€śThere was definitely a lot of love from everyone,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śWhen I told coach [Sheila] King and the others, they couldn't be more excited. When I posted it on Instagram and Twitter, everyone was replying and commenting and there was just so much love.â€ť
The reaction from family, friends, coaches and teammates only reinforced the sense of certainty that Litwinko had made the right decision. It came after months of frustration, but after a number of unexpected disappointments, Litwinko is right where she wants to be.
â€śIt's definitely a great feeling,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śThere's nothing quite like it. Once I committed, it was a huge relief. I was talking to coach Lane and he said 'You'll probably get the best sleep of your life tonight,' and he was right. It was a great feeling.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com