BILLINGS — It didn’t take long for Brooke Berry’s tenure at the University of New Mexico to turn into a nightmare.
Gun violence all too common in her neighborhood in Albuquerque, N.M., including inside gated Lobo Village, is what prompted a move back home — and a spot on the Montana State women's basketball team — for the former Billings Skyview star.
“The worst part of Albuquerque is right by the campus. We'd get text messages every day — 'Emergency alert: Aggravated assault, man walking on campus with a gun, man with a machete, car stolen at gun point.' Just fearing for my life every day, but then still having to juggle things that a college student does and what a student-athlete does," Berry said. "It was a lot and it was mentally draining, honestly. When that third one happened, I was done. I just wanted to come home."
That wasn’t an isolated incident, either. Berry found herself in a scary situation her first week on campus in June when shots rang out after a team get-together.
“Then I called my parents and I'm in my bath tub at the apartment and I'm crying. 'I don't know what to do. I came down here to play basketball, I didn't come to feel unsafe. I didn't know any of this was going on,'" said Berry, who last March helped Skyview win its first girls basketball state title.
Berry began to feel unsafe doing day-to-day tasks, such as grocery shopping and filling her car with gas. Teammates from the area tried to comfort her, but it got overwhelming, especially after a murder on campus.
“Everyone's like, 'Oh no, Brooke, it's OK. This stuff is normal.' This is not normal. This is not something an 18-year old should have to be dealing with away from their parents at college," Berry said. "I called my parents and said, 'No, I'm done. I'm not doing this anymore.'"
Finally in mid-November, following another night of hearing gunshots, Berry left campus for home. She e-mailed professors who sympathized with her situation and allowed her to finish classes online.
The silver lining? After throwing her name in the transfer portal, she says her phone blew up. She scheduled visits with Oklahoma State, Wyoming and Montana State, but she wound up only taking one trip — to MSU in Bozeman.
“I feel at home with these coaches at Montana State. They're so welcoming and everything, and it's two hours away from home," Berry said. "I never thought I'd end up back in Montana, obviously, but now I'm just so excited. My dad also played for the Cats, so it was really special getting to tell him I was going to the Cats where he played."
Now back home, you can see the light back in Berry's eyes. Her tenure at Montana State begins this semester.