At 4-foot-11, Shaw senior point guard Kayla Bonilla has faced her share of mismatches on the basketball court over the course of her career. Despite the height disadvantage, Bonilla got her chance to stand tall on Wednesday.
Bonilla signed a girls basketball scholarship with Valdosta State in a ceremony at Shaw. With friends, family, teammates, Shaw head coach Julee Fryer as well as former middle school and AAU coaches on hand, Bonilla had the chance to celebrate her high school accomplishments while looking toward the future.
“I feel like it’s a great accomplishment,” Bonilla said. “I felt like I set the standard for other people.”
Although Bonilla made her choice to be a Lady Blazer official Wednesday, it was no secret she had Valdosta State on her mind. She said she took a visit to the school earlier this year and came away impressed with both the coaches as well as the environment on campus.
From there, the decision was an easy one.
“When I first visited, it was just a feeling I wanted to go there, so I stuck with it,” Bonilla said.
Above all else, Bonilla said the chance to take in the moment with her loved ones was the most special part of the ceremony. She fought back tears when she thought about the help they had given her during her life and basketball career.
“It’s special,” Bonilla said. “I’m just glad I have the support system and the people who could be here. It’s a big aspect in life.”
Bonilla said the Valdosta State coaches expect her to step in as a leader immediately.
Bonilla and Dawniqua Snead, who signed with Andrew College in March, came to Shaw in fall 2013 after playing together at Fort Middle School. The year before they reached high school the Lady Raiders were winless, leaving quite the uphill battle ahead.
Once their senior year came to a close, they had won 37 games.
“The two of them made a commitment to turn a program around, and they stuck to it,” Fryer said.
Bonilla joins Snead and Yolanda Givens as the team’s seniors who have signed a college scholarship. That achievement by all three is one Fryer said should not be downplayed.
“It’s just exciting, because it’s not over,” Fryer said. “So many (high school) athletes, they get the four years and then it’s done. I think for players like Kayla, basketball has become such a positive thing in her life. To know that gets to keep going and growing is great.”
After taking pictures with members of the crowd and answering questions, the moment seemed to finally set in for Bonilla. After all, it’s one thing to have your collegiate plans in order; it’s another to finalize them.
“It’s amazing,” Bonilla said. “I’m speechless.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports