As a junior at Hampton High School in 2013, Khadijah Berger texted Feyonda Fitzgerald to let her know she committed to Temple.
Berger, who has come off the bench in 25 games this season for the Owls, became teammates with a hometown friend.
“I didn’t believe her, but then she committed and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Fitzgerald said. “It’s good to have someone from home on the same team as me.”
When Berger was 13 years old, she traveled from Hampton, Virginia to join Fitzgerald on Boo Williams’ Elite Amateur Athletic Union team.
Although the two played in different age groups, the two teams practiced together.
“She was a year higher than me, so we always practiced together,” Berger said. “In a lot of the tournaments the younger girls would play the older girls and it would always be us in the championship game.”
Temple began recruiting Berger when she was a junior in high school in 2013.
That same year, Berger and her high school made it to the third round of the Ronald Curry and Boo Williams Christmas Classic but lost to Fitzgerald’s Lake Taylor High School.
“I just talked all this trash,” Berger said. “Before the game we were like, ‘We are about to go head-to-head and go at it.’ Then her team came out and ended up beating us by like 30.”
During Fitzgerald’s freshman season with the Owls, she hosted Berger, who traveled to Temple for an official visit after already committing.
“It was one of the most fun visits I been through since I been here. We went out to eat and every activity they did I was there,” Fitzgerald said. “We were already close, I didn’t have to do anything spectacular and I just showed her a good time.”
After playing 35 games as a freshman and averaging 3.1 points per game, Berger continues to contribute for the Owls from the bench.
This season, Berger has played in 25 games. She is averaging 3.2 PPG and tied her season-high 11 points in a 104-49 Jan. 16 loss to Connecticut, the No.1 team in the AP Top 25 Poll.
“I want to give her more minutes, but sometimes depending on who we are playing and the athleticism I don’t, but she is definitely someone I think deserves more playing time,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “She is an extension of a coach because she sees the bigger picture. She is someone I said from day one probably has the highest basketball IQ on our team.”
As Temple trailed 34-31 against Cincinnati at McGonigle Hall on Jan. 10, Fitzgerald inbounded the ball to Berger, who drained a 3-point basket at the buzzer to tie the game heading into halftime.
Although Berger did not score the entire second half, Temple came out of halftime to outscore the Bearcats 19-9 on its way to a 74-51 victory.
“I feel like I’m a spark,” Berger said. “I come in with the mindset that I need to be doing whatever the starters are not doing.”
Berger plays multiple roles for the Owls from a shooter to a rebounder in the paint. For Berger, it is a role she always accepts.
“Last year I was like, ‘OK I’m a freshman and most freshman that go division I don’t play a lot,’” Berger said. “I knew coming into my sophomore year I needed to be more focused to get more minutes and contribute more.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com.