Spring Grove rising sophomore Laila Campbell gets first NCAA D-I scholarship hoops offer


The Manhattan College women's basketball coaches tuned into the Gettysburg-Spring Grove District 3 Class 5-A girls' basketball championship game on March 12 to see how one of their recruits would perform.

After watching the contest, they also had serious interest in another player.

Spring Grove's Laila Campbell, left, drives the ball down the court while Gettysburg's Anne Bair defends during PIAA District 3, Class 5-A girls' basketball championship action at Spring Grove Area High School in Jackson Township, Friday, March 12, 2021. Spring Grove would win the title game 58-43. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Gettysburg rising senior guard Anne Bair is committed to play for the Jaspers after she wraps up her Warriors career, but after the game ended, the Manhattan coaches decided they wanted to grab another top talent from the York-Adams League.

Spring Grove rising sophomore Laila Campbell scored 24 points in that game and led the Rockets to the district title — and grabbed the college coaches' attention. So much so that, without seeing her play one AAU game this summer, NCAA Division I Manhattan made Campbell a full scholarship offer on Tuesday night.

“It’s so good to know that I have my first D-I offer,” Campbell said. “It's gonna push me in two sports and just grow more as a player in basketball and in track.”

Also a track star: Campbell mentioned track while discussing an offer to play basketball because it's the sport that she started with. Basketball began as a way to stay in shape during the track offseason, but turned into something much more — and something she never expected — as she continued to grow.

The 6-footer scored a career-high 33 points to send Spring Grove to that district final vs. Gettysburg, and that wasn't even the greatest accomplishment of her freshman year.

Once track season began, Campbell made breaking records a common occurrence.

Spring Grove's Laila Campbell wins the girls' 100-meter dash event at 11.93 during the PIAA Class 3-A Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University, Saturday, May 29, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At the Y-A League meet, she broke the records in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.

At the District 3 3-A meet she broke the 200-meter dash record while also winning the 100-meter and 400-meter events.

At the PIAA 3-A state meet, no records were broken, but she claimed the title in the 100-meter and 200-meter events.

Uncertain about future: Currently, Campbell doesn't know which sport she will pursue in college, or if she will do both. Right now, she's focused on competing in the the U.S. Junior Olympics Track & Field Championships in Florida later this month.

It's that focus and dedication, combined with her size and skills, that has college coaches in both sports interested in signing her.

Spring Grove standout Laila Campbell holds her own vs. elite field at Outdoor Nationals

Campbell said the call from Manhattan took her by surprise, since she's still getting used to the recruiting game as she enters her sophomore season. She was happy to share the moment with her father and basketball/track coach, Brian.

“I just like felt like relief and excitement, a whole bunch of different emotions,” Campbell said. “I felt blessed to receive that offer from a college that has a great program. I felt thankful for what they were providing me; having a free ride to school is a big thing. So, I definitely let that sink in."

Focus on track, for now: While Campbell is in track season, the focus is fully on sprinting. She will pick up the basketball often, so she's not completely rusty when preparation for the high school season begins, but her sights are set on improving her speed.

Spring Grove's Laila Campbell, center, moves the ball down the court while Hollidaysburg's Marin Miller, left, and Sydney Lear defend during PIAA Class 5-A girls' basketball state quarterfinal action at Spring Grove Area High School in Jackson Township, Saturday, March 20, 2021. Spring Grove would win the game 71-59. Dawn J. Sagert photo

She wants to spend more time playing AAU basketball in the summer, but the track schedule has prevented that to this point.

While she hasn't decided whether she wants to play basketball in college yet, one thing is clear — she has loads of potential in the sport. She excelled last season as a freshman, despite spending only half the year training for the sport. There would obviously be a lot more room for her game to grow if she gave it all of her attention.

“It's definitely a great thing because I know I still have a lot of meat on the bone and there's a lot of things I could correct and polish in my game,” Campbell said. “So, it's just exciting to see what I can accomplish, not being at my full potential.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.