New Culpeper County High School girls basketball coach Tony Majors knew she was going to be a special addition to a talented, young roster the first time he met Hope Leuterio.
“The very first open gym we had, she was the first person there,” said Majors, who took over this season for former coach Katie Shaw. “We had a little conversation then, and the first thing she said was she wanted to work to be a better shooter. I knew right then she was going to fit in somewhere.”
With four sophomores with starting experience back from last season, why not throw a fifth 10th-grader in there?
“The pace of the game is a lot faster, but I played with an older travel team this year with a lot of 10th, 11th and 12th-graders, who already had varsity experience, so I feel like that helped me get ready,” Leuterio said.
There certainly hasn’t been much culture shock.
After leading the Devilettes’ junior varsity team to championship game appearances the last two years, Leuterio has played in every game for the varsity squad this winter and is averaging 10.6 points. She has also pulled down more than 100 rebounds.
“The thing about Hope is that she has no concept of how big the girls is in front of her,” Majors said. “She has a motor that never stops, and she’s the same in a game as she is in practice, always going 100 percent.”
With five sophomores starting almost every game this season, the Devilettes (10-10) earned the No. 2 seed in this week’s Conference 27 tournament, secured a first-round bye and will host a semifinal game on Wednesday.
“Honestly, we’re not looking past this year, but I think we’re going to be really good by the time we’re all seniors,” said Leuterio, who started playing basketball with Culpeper Youth Basketball in the second grade. “We just have to keep working hard and playing as a team. But by the time we’re seniors, I think we’ll be in states.”
Majors said a huge part of Leutrio’s success this season revolves around her versatility.
“She’s one of those girls who can play just about anywhere,” Majors said. “When our bigs get in foul trouble, we can always trust her to get inside and not only fight for rebounds, but be effective doing it.”
The 15-year-old only stands 5-foot-7, but said she’s spent the majority of her career in the post.
She has spent most of this season as a shooting guard, but credits her growth as a passer to spending last season running point guard for the junior varsity team.
“That really helped with my ball handling, and helps me find open girls,” Leuterio said. “But really it’s just been all the girls coming together. We’re pretty close off the court, so it’s easy for us to click on the court.”
Sophomore point guard Kayla Sakyi is also averaging 10.6 points a game this season, and has tallied 55 assists and 66 steals. Another sophomore guard, Rachel Bullard is averaging just fewer than nine points a game, while racking up 43 steals and 32 assists.