Malia Kency turned plenty of heads as a freshman last season.
This past summer, the Grovetown High School point guard was turning ankles.
“We were playing in Atlanta this summer … against a (Class) AAAAA school that made the Final Four last year,” Warriors head coach Jaime Echols said. “This girl came out to guard her at half court, and she put a move on somebody and they fell down.
“The whole gym went nuts. And this was a good team and a good player.”
In 2010-11, Grovetown went 25-3 and had a 24-game winning streak.
Star post player and Florida State University recruit Ebony Wells had much to do with the success.
But it was Kency who controlled things from the point, displaying resolve well beyond her years.
Now that Wells is gone, Echols believes Kency could be freed up to do even more.
“Last year, with Ebony, we could sit and play a half-court game and were probably better off,” Echols said. “Now, everything will go through Malia. It’s going to be a style that she’s probably a little more comfortable playing: up-tempo, fast.”
Kency is a quick, shifty point guard who can drive, shoot and get others involved. She developed her skills early; her father is an Amateur Athletic Union coach.
What sets a good point guard apart from an average one?
“Being able to create an offense with everybody involved,” she noted.
It’s something she aims to do this season, as the Warriors look to build on the success of a year ago.
“This year, I have to step up more and be a leader,” Kency said. “I have to take control of my team.”
Echols describes his starting point guard as a “gym rat” who simply loves the sport.
Because the Warriors will rely on their athleticism in an up-tempo style this season, preparation and training will be key.
It’s something Kency understands. In fact, she understands it so well that, upon hearing that the team would have a Friday off after four grueling days of preseason practice, she politely asked her coach to reconsider.
“She begged me to have practice,” Echols said.
A tough summer schedule in Atlanta also helped the cause.
“It was pretty fun,” Kency said of the experience. “We had some tough times, as a team, but we ended up doing actually better than we thought we would do.”
Grovetown opens the season Friday at Lakeside.