Lanett seventh-grade six footer Laila Lancaster has big goals

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

LANETT —A Gardner Newman Middle School guard drove past the top of the Lanett Junior High School zone and hoisted a floater after she got into the lane. Standing near the right block was six-foot-one inch Laila Lancaster, who swiftly jumped in front of the player and rejected the shot that made a sound synonymous with a thunderous volleyball kill. Gardner Newman proceeded to take the ball out of bounds and continued to play, as it was one of Lancaster’s many blocks on the day.

“Of course, you can’t coach height,” Lanett Junior High girls basketball coach E.J. Webb said. “She can block shots, she can rebound, but she still has a long way to go on fundamentals. She can make an easy layup, sometimes, but you have to keep working on your craft. This is probably one of the first post players that I’ve had in my life that can dribble the way she can dribble. She does a good job of dribbling the basketball, which you don’t see a lot in young girls her age anyway. She brings a lot to Lanett Junior High School.”

Lancaster, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, made her debut with the Panthers’ varsity team on Dec. 14 against 7A Central. She finished the game with 4 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.

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“It felt good playing with them because it shows me how I need to play with my junior high girls, and how I need to play when I’m with the varsity team again,” Lancaster said.

She was one of the players to lead the junior high team to a tournament championship last week at the LaGrange Middle School Invitational. Against South Girard-Phenix City last Friday, she scored 12 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 35-21 win.

Her love for basketball developed at a young age when she watched nationally-televised games at home with her father Mandel, who stands at 6-foot-5. She’s taken the trip to Atlanta to watch the Dream host WNBA superstars Candace Parker and Maya Moore live in action.

When her playing career is over, she hopes to become the best possible player that she can be, ranking next to Parker and Moore in the WNBA one day.

“If I tried, I can,” she said. “You’ve got to put your mind to it that you can.”

She likes watching older players like the 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8  Boozer twins on the Lanett boys varsity team so that she can emulate the post moves the athletes make herself when she’s working out. If she falls short of her professional basketball dream, then she plans to become an orthodontist.

“The sky’s the limit for her,” Webb said. “If she keeps working on her craft each day, takes no days off, then she probably will be one of the best girls to ever come through here since Ataiya Bridges. She has those intangibles where she can do those things. I have no doubt that she can do it. I think [Lanett varsity girls head basketball] Coach Charlie [Williams] is going to do a very good job with her in the years to come.  We’re going to work together and try to make her the best possible basketball player that she can be.”