Ask any Southern Athletic League athlete who Halie Bergman is and they’re bound to know the answer. With only a season and a half under her belt, Turlock Christian High’s Bergman has created a reputation of basketball dominance; scoring 969 career points and averaging 24.2 points, 3.65 assists, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.1 steals a game.
With her senior season looming, Bergman made history Thursday, becoming the first TC basketball player, of any gender, to receive a Division I college scholarship. In a crowded gymnasium, in front of friends, family, and coaches, Bergman signed on to play as a shooting guard for the University of the Pacific.
“Playing D1 has been my goal ever since I was five years old, so it feels good to actually accomplish it,” Bergman said. “They’re moving to the West Coast Conference my freshman year and that’s a conference I really wanted to play in. I really like the coaching staff and the team too; I think they have a bright future.”
Bergman’s talent on the court was apparent from the beginning of her freshman year at TC. In her first year as an Eagle, Bergman averaged 23.9 points a game and scored more than 300 points before being sidelined with a torn ACL halfway through the season. After recuperating Bergman again tore her ACL, this time during the summer, effectively killing any chance at a sophomore comeback.
“When I saw her in practice I thought she was going to be a good player but when she was on the court in the actual game it was a different level of play,” TC’s head coach Edwin Santiago said. “She scored over 35 points that day and I said, ‘we got something special here.’”
She missed half of her freshman season and was forced to sit out the entirety of her sophomore season, but Bergman didn’t lose faith in her abilities. In a surprising turnaround and recovery, Bergman stepped back onto the court as a junior and lit up the scoreboard. In her only full season of basketball at TC, Bergman scored 635 points, helped earn TC a SAL title, led the team to the Division V SJS Section championship game, and played in the quarterfinals of the Northern California playoffs.
“What surprised me is that she was able to overcome two knee injuries and not lose a step or motivation. I have not seen any player play with as much passion for the game as she does. It’s just a part of her, to go beyond what other people say is too much,” Santiago said. “As far as scoring ability, she’s just a competitor. She’s going to score or she’s going to help somebody else score; her awareness is better than anybody I’ve ever coached.”
“There’s something about certain people that just shine. I think magnanimity is a good word for her, she just wants to excel,” Santiago added.
In addition to playing for TC, Bergman also joined the roster of the East Bay Xplosion travel team where she was able to display her skills against a wider range of teams and a higher level of competition — and ultimately attract UOP recruiters. Within two days of UOP’s offer Bergman had verbally agreed to join the team.
“It’s where I wanted to go,” Bergman said. “I like that it’s close to home and that my family can come watch me play a lot.”
But before she joins the Tigers, Bergman must first complete her senior season at TC, a task everyone at the school is looking forward to. Although pieces from last season’s run of success are missing, Bergman’s presence alone is enough to supply confidence and high expectations for the Eagles.
”She raised the bar for all of us,” Santiago said.