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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

Barrett said she may have become a different person without the influence of the coaches and teammates who've embraced her at Cyprus High.

"It means I become a person," she said. "Without basketball, no one would know who I was. I would probably be doing drugs; I wouldn't have good grades because I wouldn't strive." She maintains a 3.7 GPA and hopes to play basketball in college.

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Julie Caputo started playing basketball at a Catholic Church when she was in grade school.

She followed her older brother into the gym and fell in love with hoops.

"It was something I realized I really liked," she said. She met WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Natalie Williams through club basketball and loved what the Taylorsville High grad had to teach her about the game.

Williams was an assistant at Skyline, and so Caputo, who'd grown up in Magna, asked her parents if she could attend Skyline High as a sophomore. They agreed.

"I thought it was a really good fit for me," she said. "I wanted to try to be the best player I could be. I loved Skyline. I loved my teammates, and I loved the coaches. I'm really grateful for what they taught me."

Near the end of her sophomore year her father lost his job, and the family was no longer able to afford the commute across the Salt Lake Valley each day. So she transferred back to her home school, Cyprus, the summer before her junior year.

"It was tough," said Caputo. "It was hard to transfer, but I couldn't really be mad because it wasn't their fault."

The Pirates welcomed Caputo with open arms and she quickly found her place in the starting lineup.

"There were people I knew here," she said. "I wasn't too worried. It's been a great experience. It's a different experience from Skyline, but I love it."

She said it wasn't difficult to take over as one of the team's three captains despite missing two years with her teammates because the team has such good chemistry.

"They're really coachable," she said of the younger girls. "They look up to you."

She said the three seniors feel they have something to prove in their first season without Parkinson. "I think teams are underestimating us," she said. "Now that Lori is gone — she was our main player — so people think they can beat us. I feel like we've been working really hard, and we're getting better every day."

Basketball hasn't just been a diversion for Caputo, it's been the center of her high school experience. She hopes that will continue in college, where she'd like to study veterinary science.

"I've learned how much I really love basketball," she said. "No matter where I go, I love the game. And the game has taught me a lot — like that you need to make the best of things."

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Marquessa Gilson chose to go to Skyline over her home school of Olympus as a freshman.

While she loved the coaches and players on Skyline's basketball team, she struggled to find her place in the school community.

"I liked the coaches at Skyline, and they taught me a lot," she said. "I appreciate everything they did for me. But I just felt like I wanted to go somewhere that I could be me. I really wanted to go to a school with more diversity."

She met Parkinson through a club team, the Salt Lakers. They immediately formed a "sisterly" bond, and when Gilson told Parkinson of her struggles, she suggested transferring to Cyprus.

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