Wills' whirl dizzies Poets' foes

Girls basketball: An aggressive drop-step move she's perfected on her own helps Dunbar's star to 26 points a game and admiration from those who see her play.

High School

February 17, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

During a break in practice at the Dunbar gym, LaKesha Wills tries to get the better of Calvin Dotson in a game of one-on-one.

The 5-foot-10 Wills, the leading scorer for the No. 3 Poets, knows she stands little chance against the 6-2 Dotson, the leading scorer for the third-ranked Dunbar boys. That doesn't stop her.

Testing herself against Dotson gives Wills a taste of what Dunbar's opponents regularly experience when they face her.

The senior All-Metro second-team player might have the most intimidating post game in the area, averaging 26 points and 14.8 rebounds a game. Give her the ball inside, and she's one quick spin move away from two points.

"Nobody can stop it," said Edmondson forward Connie McCullough, who played with Wills on the Baltimore Cougars Amateur Athletic Union team. "She will drop-step and go right up real strong. It's a quick, aggressive move, all in one motion -- spin, turn and make the layup. I have not seen a female yet around here [who] makes her work to get that shot off."

Wills has worked hard to refine her moves, and she's still learning. She looks for hints whenever she's challenging one of the Dunbar guys or studying the moves of an NBA player.

"It's a lot of determination on her part -- her will to improve her game," said Poets coach Wardell Selby, who has coached Wills since she was 12 years old. "Good players work on their game themselves. You just give them the basics, and they take it from there. That's what Kesha's done.

"Some of the moves in the post I've helped Kesha with, but Kesha's been looking, observing college players and some boys. I've had officials who are not doing our games come up and say, `Man, she has moves like a Division I girl -- better than some Division I girls.' A couple plays, she has me in awe."

The only time opponents have given Wills trouble in the last few years has been at the highest level of AAU ball. Playing with the Cougars at the AAU national tournament in Kingsport, Tenn., last summer, Wills regularly faced 6-4 and 6-5 centers.

"I got my shot blocked a lot," said Wills. "I think I averaged six points, but one game I had 21. Playing against those girls helped me. It was a good experience, even though we didn't win as much."

Wills, who has drawn the attention of local Division I programs, likely will move out to small forward in college. She already can hit the three-pointer, but she continues to work on her range as well as her open-court defense.

She has been the key player in the emergence of Dunbar's girls program. Wills averaged 19.9 points and 12.4 rebounds last year as the Poets went 19-4 and cracked The Sun's Top 20 for the first time.

Despite her numbers, Wills remains a team player. She averages 2.5 assists a game and doesn't mind kicking the ball out to the Poets' hot-shooting guards.

Wills likens the unity within her team to that of a family, and she likes to make the family laugh. Admittedly "goofy" at times, Wills is the first one to lighten practice with a joke, but she also can be an emotional leader.

"She wants to win. We all do," said Poets teammate Brande Alsup. "When we get in the gym, if we're not clapping hard enough on the foul line, she's, `Come on, y'all.' "

Even though last season was the best in school history, it ended on a sour note -- a 75-68 regional final loss to eventual Class 2A state champ Parkside, in Prince George's County.

Wills and her teammates dedicated themselves then to winning their first city and state crowns this season. After upsetting defending city champ Western, 69-50, in December behind 21 points and 15 rebounds from Wills, the Poets (18-1) are now favored in Wednesday's city-title game. They likely will face Western again.

"This year, our team is more mature and more focused," said Wills. "We have a goal, and we're trying to reach that goal -- to win city and state titles."

The opportunity to help Dunbar develop into a power -- and play for Selby again -- drew Wills to Dunbar from nearby St. Frances as a sophomore after surgery and rehab for a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee.

"St. Frances was a good school, but I didn't think I fit in as a ballplayer," said Wills. "I always liked Coach Selby's way of coaching. He told me, `You have an opportunity to change this program around.' I wanted to be a part of something positive, making change, making it better, making history."

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