Lehigh head women's basketball
coach Sue Troyan remembers Jessica DePalo
's recruiting visit like it was yesterday, but not because she has a particularly good memory.
"On most recruiting visits I spend two to three hours in a prospect's home. With Jess, I started at 3 p.m. and didn't leave until 11 at night," Troyan recalls.
After DePalo committed to the Mountain Hawks, the popular 6-footer began making a similar impact at Lehigh. She became actively involved in the C.O.A.C.H.
(Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping) program and served as its co-chair. The award-winning program sponsors lectures on sportsmanship, literacy, and social issues, and raises funds for needy families with children. She served as the Patriot League's representative on the NCAA Student Athlete Advisory Committee and will attend a national leadership conference in Orlando this summer.
"My parents taught me to be thankful for what we have," says DePalo, a member of a close-knit family of six -- including four daughters -- from Rumson, N.J. "I think it is an obligation to volunteer or help those that are less fortunate."
On the court, DePalo became the first Lehigh player to be named Patriot League "Player of the Year" and twice earned first team All-Patriot League honors. A Dean's List student with a 3.8 GPA in marketing, she was lauded as a regional Academic All-American.
"When you've been recruiting as long as I have, you begin to recognize the type of kid you are looking for," Troyan says. "In Jessie's case, you just knew that she was going to do special things at Lehigh aside from basketball -- and she truly has."
DePalo will pursue a master's degree in education at Lehigh and serve as the team's graduate assistant. She'll trade sneakers for a whistle and clipboard, but she has no intention of dropping her community service or slacking off on her academics.
"I love these opportunities," DePalo says. "They're not obligations to me. Since I was a little girl I've wanted to play Division I basketball and Lehigh has given me my dream. To me, it doesn't get better than that."
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin