Despite small stature, Kayla Bonilla becoming elite
Shaw junior Kayla Bonilla laughed when asked how tall she was.
"Maybe 4-foot-10," she said. It was a question, not definitive.
Lady Raiders coach Julee Fryer said she stretches it to 4-foot-11 and, sometimes, even bumps her up to 5 feet.
"It's more like 4-10," Fryer said. "But she plays a lot bigger than that."
Bonilla is quick. She changes direction with fluid motion and outruns all of the other nine players on the court more times than not. She can jump, too, often getting so high that the fall back to the ground after taking a bump by a defender is a painful one.
She took one hard knock earlier this year against Central that knocked her out of the game. She came back for the next one two days later and was at it again.
"I have an attitude on the court," Bonilla said earlier this week. "I'm very fast. I can get around people. Once I get them in the air, I can get around them and finish."
That competitive drive and intensity on the court has led to another successful season individually for Bonilla. She averages 20 points a game and has had four games where she scored more than 30. She scored 38 in a win against Chestatee and 41 in a loss to Northside. Now, in her junior season, she is already coming up on 1,000 points for her high school career and may get there during her two games this weekend -- at home against Northside Friday night and Spencer on Saturday.
Bonilla, in her third year on the varsity team, is still relatively new to the game, when you consider some pick up a basketball by the time they've entered kindergarten. She didn't play competitive ball until her seventh grade year, doing that to just try something new. She had played volleyball and soccer earlier, and she said her mom, who played basketball in high school and college, would take her out for a run or to exercise when she was younger.
"I think I'm just a natural athlete," she said. "I get it from my mother and my dad."
She moves like it. She has an ability to change directions and handle the ball in traffic that even some of the most skilled players would like to have.
"I think she could pick up a Ping Pong paddle and just play," Fryer said. "She's just a natural. I don't think there's any sport that she couldn't play if she wanted to."
And Fryer thinks her lack of size only makes her better.
"I think some people look at size like it's a disadvantage," she said. "But I think maybe it helps her. Maybe she plays the game with a little bit of a chip on her shoulder. She doesn't take shortcuts because she can't afford to."
And the team can't afford for her to, either.
At 5-14, 1-6 in Region 1-5A play, the Lady Raiders have struggled to improve on last year's 11-win season. There have been signs of continued improvement, despite the record, like the season-opening win against Smiths Station and the only seven-point loss to Kendrick that followed that.
When asked about the team's record, Bonilla said that there was still a second half to the region schedule and that nothing was written in stone yet. Fryer said it's that attitude that can make Bonilla such a special player.
"I think it was maybe the year before she got here, and Shaw didn't win a single game," said Fryer, speaking of the 2012-13 season in which the Lady Raiders went 0-25. "Coming into her freshman year and talking with her, you ask, 'Why did you even want to come to Shaw?' And I think that's one of the things that speaks volumes about her. She wanted to come to a program that had struggled and see what she could do to change it. Sometimes she leads vocally, but mostly I think she just goes out there and plays. When she gets that intensity up, it's just, 'Come on, or get left behind.' "
David Mitchell, Follow David on Twitter@leprepsports