Virginia freshman Kylie Kornegay-Lucas is no stranger to success at the highest levels of basketball. As a senior at New Hope Academy, Kornegay-Lucas was part of the team that won the Geico High School Nationals but her journey to UVA has featured numerous stops across the country.

A native of California, Kornegay-Lucas spent the bulk of her formative years in the Orange County area but is no stranger to the east coast. Her first stint on this side of the country came as a middle schooler, when Kornegay-Lucas moved to Charlotte, N.C.

“My mom is in the Air Force, so we moved to the east coast to Charlotte from sixth to eighth grade,” Lucas said. “Then after eighth grade for freshman year, I moved to Northern California to San Jose for Archbishop Mitty. I was only there for a year, and I moved to Delaware and I was there for my tenth and eleventh grades; and then senior year, I moved to Maryland.”

After her one-year stint at Archbishop Mitty, Kornegay-Lucas returned to the east coast and played two seasons at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del. In her first season at with the Riders, Kornegay-Lucas led the team to a 21-2 record. In both of her two seasons with the Riders, she was named All-USA Delaware Girls Basketball Second Team, first team All-Henlopen Conference and first team All-North Basketball.

It was following that junior season at Caesar Rodney that Kornegay-Lucas decided to move to Maryland.

“My junior year of AAU,” she said. “I played for Team Durant and my coaches there are the head coaches for New Hope, and they wanted me to come play for them.”

New Hope Academy had just finished its first season with a girls’ basketball team. The program flashed plenty of promise but ended the year around the .500 mark.

Kornegay-Lucas joined the squad for its second season and helped the program to an improbably surge nationally. After finishing 14-15 in its inaugural campaign, New Hope posted a 40-3 mark just a year later.

The stellar season landed the Tigers a spot in the four-team Geico Nationals in New York City. As the four seed, Kornegay-Lucas and New Hope faced a familiar opponent in the semifinals: Miami Country Day. The Spartans were the number one overall seed and defeated New Hope earlier in the season. Kornegay-Lucas recalls the game carrying a little something extra for the Tigers after the previous close loss to Miami Country Day.

“It was a really intense game because we lost to them in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona in overtime,” she said. “So that was a big, big game for us.”

Kornegay-Lucas dropped 12 points for New Hope in the semifinals and finished as one of three Tigers in double figures. This time, New Hope got the better of the Spartans, earning a 60-52 win. A big part of the victory was the third quarter, where New Hope surrendered just five points.

For Kornegay-Lucas, that level of defense was nothing new.

“My defense is really what helps me,” the guard said. “My defense makes my offense, so I had a few important steals and quick layups that helped us.”

Two days later, that stingy defense would lead to a national championship for New Hope. The Tigers stifled St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) to just 34 points. Kornegay-Lucas scored 11 points and was named to the All-Tournament team. For the young Cavalier, it was a moment to remember.

“When the buzzer went off, we all went crazy,” Kornegay-Lucas said. “We screamed and jumped up and down, and some of the players were crying. Hugs and smiles and all that. The whole school welcomed us back to campus and we had a pep rally and stuff like that.”

Now, two games into her collegiate career, Kornegay-Lucas says defense is her “bread and butter” but knows there’s plenty of work to be done.

“Playing in college,” she says, “everything is a little bit faster, so I still have to get better just to play at the college level.”