Girls' basketball: Windward's Imani Stafford has grown into one of the best
Windward junior Imani Stafford, 6-foot-7, has transformed over the last two years into one of the best young basketball players in the nation.
"Two years ago, she wasn't on anybody's chart," said Coach Steve Smith.
Now she's the 11th-ranked prospect in the 2012 class, according to ESPN.
"She's so bright," Smith said. "She was able to pick up things."
That and naturally gifted.
Her mother is former WNBA player Pam McGee, the second overall pick in the 1997 draft. Her brother, JaVale McGee, plays for the Washington Wizards.
Her recent success may also be due to the tutelage of WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, who took an interest in Stafford when she was in the seventh grade and has remained present in the young player's life, helping her take advantage of her height and develop into a dominant center.
Stafford made the U-17 national team last summer and is expected to help Windward become a powerhouse this season.
The Wildcats also have talent in sophomore Courtney Jaco and senior Milica Toscovic, who recently played for the Serbian U-18 national team. They also have a group of freshman who are projected to make noise.
"I'd compare our freshman to anybody in the state," Smith said.
Windward will play in a tournament at the HAX Nov. 13-14. The team will be without Stafford, though, who will be absent that weekend due to family obligations.
-- Melissa Rohlin