Two undefeated teams clashed on the court in the state semifinals, but one player stood the tallest and was the biggest star – not that such a sight was unusual this season.
Laney’s Khadijiah Cave is 6-foot-4 – and still growing, she smiled before Wednesday’s practice – but has used more than just her height to spearhead the Lady Wildcats’ 30-0 record heading into Friday’s Class AA state championship game against Wesleyan at 3 p.m. in Macon.
Cave can dribble and shoot. But it was her size that made others want to convince her to take up basketball.
“ ‘Wow. You’re so tall, you should play basketball,’ ” Cave recalled.
Now a senior, Cave started playing in seventh grade, and she towered over opponents back then as well.
This season, she terrorized Kendrick in Laney’s 67-44 semifinal win, stepping away from the basket and close to the 3-point line to reject or contest shots. Cave had five blocks in the first quarter and 10 in the game – all without getting into foul trouble.
Offensively, she had a soft touch around the rim. But she’ll gladly use the turnaround shot or a hook, essentially an indefensible move considering her height. Cave emphasized work on that shot in the summer.
Last week’s win meant Cave still had a chance to win a ring in high school, but the next level already looks promising. She signed with two-time national champion Baylor back in November.
The start of that process surprised even Laney coach Otis Smart initially. When Baylor first contacted him, Smart said he thought it was an imposter pulling a prank. Cave wasn’t ranked by recruiting Web sites, but the Lady Bears have seen her play, including in the state playoffs.
“I couldn’t sleep for two days I was so excited,” Cave said, recalling Baylor’s interest.
But before she goes to Baylor, Cave has one more high school game to play. With a victory against Wesleyan, the Laney girls will be Georgia High School Association state champions for the first time.
Another big game from Cave would be a giant step toward that crown.
“It was amazing down there,” Smart said about Cave’s hook shot against Kendrick. “Man, it was on.”