BARSTOW • Lavanne Pennington has taken the long road to the upper echelon of college basketball.
The Barstow Community College guard signed a letter of intent with Division I San Jose State University this week. Pennington said he had considered New Mexico State and the University of Hawaii before settling with San Jose after a visit to the campus and due to the proximity to his family. His mother lives in San Bernardino and he has family throughout the Inland Empire and Los Angeles area.
"The area, the city, the campus, the coaches, the people, the other players it was all just nice up there," Pennington said. "It was very welcoming. I also wanted to stay in California so my mom would have more chances to see me play."
Pennington will be receiving a full ride to the university, according to San Jose coach George Nessman. Pennington averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists a game for the Vikings during the 2010-11 season which saw BCC lose to defending champion Saddleback in the first round of the state playoffs.
Nessman said the Spartans are losing two senior guards and will be looking for a contribution from Pennington in the upcoming season.
"We see a lot of potential with Lavanne on both ends of the floor," Nessman said. "He's a good scorer on offense, but he's also a hard-nose defender. He's a good athlete with some Div. I experience."
San Jose isn't Pennington's first trip to Div. I basketball. He played high school ball in Riverside at Riverside North High School before transferring to Genesis One Christian School in Mendenhall, Miss. to finish his high school career. Pennington was then picked up by the University of Southern Mississippi where he played for one season.
However, the school didn't prove to be the right place for Pennington at the time.
"Mississippi was a good experience overall," Pennington said. "It just wasn't what I was looking for. I couldn't get into the playing style or culture and decided to leave."
After leaving Mississippi Pennington and BCC coach Reggie Howard were in contact and within months he was on his was to Barstow. Pennington and Howard were part of a Vikings team that went further than any BCC mens basketball team in more than 10 years.
Howard said he made a deal with his players before the season.
"I tell everyone that plays for me that if they go out there and work hard and give me everything during the season then when the season is over I'll do the same thing for them," Howard said. "I hope I can get more of these guys moving on to bigger schools. It's the goal for us and them."
Pennington said Howard kept his promise.
"We gave him our all during the season, and he's helped me out," Pennington said. "Barstow is a good place to come to concentrate and focus on a goal."
Pennington's next goal will be staying in shape and prepared for summer school at San Jose and a Spartans' basketball trip to Rome this summer to play against some of Italy's top teams.
"I'm looking forward to it," Pennington said. "I've never been on a trip like that. I've never been out of the U.S."