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High school girls basketball: Cyprus seniors took separate paths to anchor Pirate squad together

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8 2013 5:30 a.m. MST

Cyprus' Abby Barrett drives to the hoop for a layup in a recent girls basketball win over Fremont.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

MAGNA — When Abby Barrett, Julie Caputo and Marquessa Gilson pull on their Cyprus High basketball jerseys, they share a unique kind of pride in the team they lead, the school they represent and the community they've come to call their own.

That's because none of the three captains started their high school careers at the Magna school. Instead, they became teammates after circumstances off the court forced them to take paths they didn't expect to travel when they started high school at other places.

The one constant for all three girls is basketball.

It's what brought them together, and it's the life preserver to which they've clung through the painful twists and turns of life.

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Abby Barrett was an easy target for bullies in her small-town grade school.

"I was so tall, and I used to beat girls up," she said. "Kids made fun of me because my mom was single and I'm not LDS. They said, 'Your dad doesn't love you; your mom is fat.' It was hard."

She and her mom, Leslie Hughes, moved to Missouri, where she endured extreme poverty.

"In elementary school I had to see a counselor," said Barrett. "I got held back in third grade because after 9/11 I was really scared. I was afraid something would kill my mom while I was away."

Eventually Hughes moved back to Utah. She moved to Panguitch because she had friends there, but Barrettt stayed in Grantsville with her oldest brother. She attended Grantsville High as a freshman, but moved to Panguitch to live with her mom after her brother got married.

"I wanted to give them space," she said.

Barrett said she excelled at athletics, and her height, which made her a target in grade school, became an asset in sports, especially her favorite sport — basketball.

But Hughes was diagnosed with cancer and eventually grew tired of arguing with her teenage daughter when Barrett was a sophomore in high school. So, at the end of her sophomore year, Hughes sent her daughter to Magna for a vacation with her 30-year-old married daughter.

"She'd lost her job, and she was suffering from anxiety and depression," said Barrett. "Finally she called my sister. I was supposed to stay a week and it turned into an adoption."

Despite some of the differences she's had with her mom, Barrett says she harbors no ill feelings toward her mother or the transient, tumultuous life they led, including the decision to send her to live with her sister.

"I know she tries her hardest," Barrett said. "She would give up so much for me. She would go without just for me. One time I wanted a new outfit, and she gave up stuff for herself to get it."

Brittany and T.J. Almeida, Barrett's sister and brother-in-law, decided adopting Barrett would give the teen badly needed stability.

The first thing T.J. Almeida did once Barrett was theirs was call Cyprus girls basketball coach Josh Adams and ask about practices and camps.

Adams was eager to welcome Barrett, so he made a call to the team's lone senior, Lori Parkinson, who now plays for SUU, and she got some girls together for a pick-up game.

Barrett breaks into laughter when she recalls that first meeting with her future teammates.

"I was really scared, really nervous," she said. And then the best player on the team approached her and offered her a cracker.

"I think everything led me here," she said. "I ended up here for a reason, to become better, to have basketball be a goal and to have a future."

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