For a player who is considered among the top recruits among her age group, Bullis sophomore center Lynee Belton sure got a late start on basketball. In fact, bouncing a ball and shooting hoops wasn’t even on her radar until she was 11; it was gymnastics and cheerleading up until then. “I was a girly girl,” she said.

In the time since, however, the 6-foot-1 Belton has blossomed into a top player, one who can command a game with her athleticism, size and rebounding. In the Bulldogs’ Independent School League AA opener on Thursday night in Oakton, Belton powered her team to a 46-36 win over Flint Hill with a 22-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance.

Belton’s first experience with basketball was as an 11-year-old, when her father had to sneak her into a summer basketball camp because her mother didn’t like the sport and didn’t want her daughter playing it. She was 5-7 then and raw, but a camp director saw potential and asked Belton to join his AAU team.

“I was so uncoordinated, literally falling on the floor every time I got the ball,” she said, laughing. “I worked at it in the gym almost every week and almost every day, and now I’m this.”

Added Bullis Coach Kira Orr: “She is a sponge. I’ve never had a prep player who I can show her something in the post with her footwork and the next trip down the floor and it’s there.”

Before she joined Bullis (8-3, 1-0) as an eighth-grader, private schools such as Paul VI, Spalding and St. John’s recruited Belton, who would have attended Wise in Upper Marlboro. Now, as a sophomore, colleges have come knocking.

“All the ACC, SEC, Big East,” Orr said. “All the big dogs.”

On Thursday, Flint Hill (6-4, 0-1), without two starters, used its defense to slow down the taller Bulldogs. Senior Alison Bragaw-Butler, nursing a shoulder injury, scored 18 points to lead Flint Hill.

But after a first half in which the teams combined for 22 points, Bullis and Belton began exerting themselves. Bullis held a 30-24 lead after three quarters but pulled further ahead in the final quarter behind Belton’s vacuum-cleaner rebounding skills and post moves.

“It worked good, not just today, but with a lot of teams that don’t have a lot of height, we can just lob it up and I can get the ball or Taylor [Jenkins] can get the ball,” she said.