Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is Gatorade’s State and National Girls Basketball Player of the year. She is also the Naismith National High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year for 2011. These honors top a long list of basketball achievements throughout her high school career.
She plays at 5-foot-11 and is the senior guard for the Mater Dei Monarchs. Kaleena has helped lead the Monarchs to back-to-back State and National Championships in 2010 and 2011. She will leave the Monarchs this spring and will play basketball on scholarship this fall at the University of Connecticut. Click here to learn more about her high school career.
Young players are always asking, wondering and speculating what it takes to make the high school varsity squad and beyond. Enter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She started playing basketball in 3rd grade. She was nine when she learned that she didn’t make the cut for a recreation league all-star basketball team. She cried. Enter her step-father, Khairi Ali. He asked her one question.
“Do you want to kick butt?” Ali asked.
“Yes,” she responded. “I want to kick butt.”
“Then follow me,” Ali said.
Her step-father was no basketball expert but he knew enough to know that she could improve. The next day they began a six-month trial program. Kaleena would follow the work out plan designed by her step-father, at the end of the six-month period she could choose to renew. Obviously she did. Ali specifically designed the program to include early morning workouts to test Kaleena’s commitment. He pulled her out of most of the local basketball circuit as to keep her out of the limelight (she was receiving college offers in 7th grade) and she played outside of Orange County, nationally in fact.
Kaleena is more then just a great basketball player. She is the commissioner of her school’s student-government body, and has maintained a 3.41 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered as an Orange County Head Start mentor and has donated her time to the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, the Blind Children’s Learning Center and the Urban Compass Christmas Outreach initiative. She has also coached youth through the Upward Christian Basketball Program, PAL basketball tournaments and Mater Dei High School youth summer camps.
One might think that with Kaleena accomplishing all this that she may be a bit stuck on herself. However, she is her most critical evaluator.
“I know I can do better” she said. “I just want to be the best player I can be. I’m not the fastest player around. I’m not the tallest or the quickest. I can’t jump the highest. But I have things I know I do well, and I’m not close to being at my peak.”
Perhaps the most telling element of her success is what her teammates say about her. I also happen to think this is the reason she is one of the number one players in the country.
When her teammates were interviewed almost everyone of them said. “She is unselfish, she makes everyone on the team better.”
I look forward to any comments you may have regarding this story or any other.