Published by The Enterprise on Friday, March 9
By MICHAEL REID email@example.com
There's no doubt St. Mary's Ryken High School senior JaKayla Brown has lofty aspirations after recently signing her national letter of Intent to play women's basketball at Hofstra University.
St. Mary's Ryken senior and La Plata resident JaKayla Brown, left, pictured battling Holy Cross' Jordan Faunteroy, center, a Maddie Dent, during the Knights' WCAC tournament play-in game on Feb. 22, signed her national letter of intent to play basketball at Hofstra University.
"I want to start my freshman year, get [Colonial Athletic Association] rookie of the year, and all conference mentions," said Brown, a point guard. "[To do that] I just need to stay in the gym, work hard every day and have a good attitude and work ethic."
The 18-year-old La Plata resident also considered offers from College of William & Mary (Va.), Stony Brook (N.Y.), College of Charleston (S.C.) and Towson University.
"It was the environment and I wanted to be in New York and get away from home," said Brown,
who plans to major in public relations and minor in marketing. "And I want to have a career and New York is a big city for public relations and marketing. Also, the team environment, the family atmosphere and the campus, everything."
"It's always going to be education first, and JaKayla is a top student and the school is one of the top liberal arts schools and the size is a good fit for her," St. Mary's Ryken head coach Toyja Somerville said. "It's always nice when the basketball and the education pieces match up."
The Pride are 11-19 (5-13 CAA) this season, falling to Charleston in the opening round of the conference tournament on Wednesday.
"They're getting a lengthy defender and somebody who can pass the ball," Brown said when asked to describe herself, "and a defensive player who can stop the [opposing team's] best player."
"I think most important is the fit, and they recognize and appreciate her defensive skills and they're looking at her to come in and contribute on defense using her height, wingspan, quickness and her defensive acumen," Somerville said. "I think in the college game, because the floor's going to open up, they're getting a dynamic player."
After winning at least 20 games in 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Pride won 13 games last year and are at 11 victories this year.
Hofstra will lose three players to graduation and next season have 8 of 11 underclassmen, not including new recruits.
"Hofstra was really good in the conference and they've had a lot of winning years 20-plus seasons," Brown said, "and now they're trying to rebuild and try and win the conference again with a young team, so hopefully I can come in and contribute right away."
Brown averaged 19.3 points a game and scored her 1,000th career point her junior season.
This year, Brown averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game and added 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.3 assists per game and helped the Knights to an overall record of 8-19 and was named to the All-Washington Catholic Athletic Conference first team for the second straight year.
She scored 25 points and added nine rebounds in a 64-41 win over Carroll of Washington, D.C. on Jan. 10 and the following day added 19 points in a three-point loss to Good Counsel of Montgomery County.
She said her favorite basketball moment was Senior Night Feb. 16 against St. John's (D.C.).
"It was special just thinking that it would be my last game in my home gym," she said, "and all the memories over my four years and just getting ready to embark on this [college] journey."
Somerville said Hofstra is getting a special player who has not played her best as of yet.
"I don't think she's peaked. I don't think she's really seen just how good she can be at this game, but she's getting there," Somerville said. "And I think with the resources that college programs can put toward their kids that it's going to take her [game] to a whole other level."