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The Louisiana Puma club has tremendous pure talent, but the team was facing serious challenges when the travel season began.
“The Louisiana high school season runs late, so when we went to the Deep South Classic we had only been practicing for a week, so we weren’t really together,” said Coach Reshard Baker. “Plus, we were dealing with some injury issues at that point. Since the Deep South, we have really picked things up. We’re playing up to our potential, and we’re playing like the Pumas should play.
“Everyone is healthy and the girls are working hard. We’re all looking forward to July, because we think people are going to see a big turnaround with this team.”
College coaches will get that chance at the Summer Basketball Playoff in Charlotte. The Playoff will be held from July 27-29. The Summer Basketball Playoff will feature 72 of the nation’s elite club teams. The Playoff will be held at the same time as the Nike Nationals, which will be played two hours away in North Augusta, SC.
The Pumas will be led in Charlotte by a for core group that includes Kalani Brown (6-5, C, 2015, Rated No. 9 in class by the All Star Girls Report), Micaela Wilson (6-2, WF, 2017, No. 10), Troyian Brooks (6-2, PF, 2015, No. 28) and Kiechelle Figueroa (5-7, PG, 2016, No. 19).
“Kalani was let go in the last cut at the USA Basketball Trials, and she has used that as motivation. She took it personally, and has used that to push herself,” Baker said. “Kalani wants to show everyone what type of player she is, so she is working harder in practice and working on her conditioning. She is a great kid with a great work ethic, and she is a team leader.
“Micaela is improving every week, and I’m getting more and more excited about what she can accomplish. She is 6-2, but she can shoot the three or break the press with her ball handling. She is a hybrid, and she is a major match-up problem for everyone.
“Troyian is our spark plug. She gives us our attitude and our personality. She brings great energy to the court, whether it is a game or a practice. She is the hardest worker on the team, and she hates to lose.
“Kiechelle had a meniscus tear, and she is just getting back to 100 percent. She is just starting to get her swag back. She is a big-time player who is unstoppable one on one. I wouldn’t trade her for any point guard in the country.”
Bret McCormick, the analyst for ASGR, also gave his perspective on the Puma stars:
Kalani Brown: “Brown is a lefty low post player who owns the block. A true five, she can score against contact, and she is definitely one of the top post players in the country.”
Micaela Wilson: “Wilson is very talented. She is long and athletic, and she has a great inside-outside game that stretches to the arc.”
Troyian Brooks: “Brooks is a tremendous athlete. She is a great leaper with a high motor, and she can shoot the three. Her stock is going through the roof this summer.”
Kiechelle Figueroa: “She is a lightning quick guard. She has a great all-around game. She passes the ball very well, and she can attack the hoop.”