It’s quite possible that no one in the history of college basketball has become a member of a Division I team faster than DePaul freshman Gena Lenti.
“It was a matter of about six minutes,” Lenti said. “One minute I wasn’t on the team, a few minutes later, I was.”
Lenti skipped the traditional recruiting process. There were no emails from the DePaul coaches, no phone calls, no texts. And she never came to campus while she was in high school so the basketball players could show her around.
Her recruitment last week consisted of something like: “So, do you think you might want to play?”
Lenti gave a quick “Sure,” and now she has her official gear, and a spot on the women’s basketball team.
She’ll be playing basketball (as a walk-on) the rest of the winter while she awaits the upcoming softball season. Softball is the first sport Lenti signed on to play at DePaul.
Gena, an infielder and outfielder, is the daughter of longtime DePaul softball coach Eugene Lenti, who notice that the team of his colleague, DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno, has been hurt with multiple injuries.
The Blue Demons are 13-5, but they have been playing with just seven healthy players for much of the season. And when former Hersey star Megan Rogowski (broken hand) and Whitney Young product Chanise Jenkins (sprained ankle), were recently sidelined, DePaul lost half of its backcourt rotation within about a week.
That made DePaul especially vulnerable at guard.
Gena Lenti, a standout guard at St. Ignatius, had mentioned to her dad — albeit in passing — that she was missing basketball.
“He came up to me the other day and was like, ‘Do you think you could still play basketball?’” Lenti said. “And then he told me that I should go talk to Doug (Bruno) because the women’s team really needed players.
After a short discussion with Bruno, she was on the team and left Bruno’s office in a euphoric daze.
“I was so excited,” Lenti said. “But I also couldn’t believe it. I was kind of in shock. I was thinking to myself, ‘Did I just really join the women’s basketball team?’”
Lenti’s next stop was a class, which she happened to share with a majority of her softball teammates — including her older sister Ali.
“She was so excited. She told all of the other softball players right away,” Lenti said. “They were all really excited.”
It showed last weekend when the entire softball team showed up to cheer on Lenti in her first college basketball game. Lenti played the final minute of DePaul’s win over South Florida, and she took 2 shots as her softball pals yelled “Shoot it, shoot it,” whenever she got her hands on the ball.
“I could hear them yelling the whole game,” said Lenti, who is trying her best to get into basketball shape and learn the plays and drills. “I was really nervous, but it was fun to play. I was so shocked to get in even for a minute.”
Lenti doesn’t have many expectations at this point.
“My main job is to be a body at practice and to help the team in whatever way I can.”
Meanwhile, Lenti says she will relish this experience. She still goes to softball practice occasionally and has adjusted her academic schedule to make room for both sports.
“When I was in high school, I thought that maybe I should consider playing both softball and basketball in college because I really love basketball,” Lenti said. “But I decided to stick just with softball because it’s my best sport and I thought two sports would be too hard.
“But now that I know that I can juggle all of it, and my academics, I might consider staying with both sports all through college. I like staying busy and I’m having a lot of fun. I also didn’t really know the basketball players all that well before this and now I have a whole new group of friends. I love that.”
Ÿ Patricia Babcock McGraw is a color analyst for DePaul women’s basketball. She also has provided TV commentary for the IHSA tournament and Big Ten basketball.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.