Published: Feb 15, 2012 02:40 AM
Modified: Feb 14, 2012 03:42 PM
HOLLY SPRINGS - Certain basketball players compete with a level of intensity that shows up prominently on their face, in their movements, and in their words.
Kiara Leslie is not that type of player.
But Leslie, 16, is a tough competitor. Much like her older brother C.J. used to do at Word of God, she is capable of taking over a game with her unique array of skills. But the Holly Springs sophomore point forward does it with an almost effortless grace, a soft-spoken presence and an easygoing smile and warmth that radiates to her teammates and coaches.
If there's a place where Leslie's aggression finally shows through, it's in the stats. There's not a category she doesn't affect.
In the regular season, she averaged 17 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 steals, 2.5 assists and 2.4 blocks per game.
"Her game has improved this year, especially with her being aggressive on the rebounding and shooting end," said Golden Hawks coach Richard Young.
Coaches have teased Young, in his first year at the school, saying that it's unfair for him to have Leslie for two more years.
Holly Springs ended the regular season 17-6 overall and second place in the Tri-Nine Conference at 13-3. The Hawks are poised to make a run in this year's state playoffs, which begin next week.
But Leslie, who already has scholarship offers from N.C. State, UNC-Charlotte and East Carolina, knows her team will need her.
Last season she was injured late in Holly Springs' opening playoff contest, and although Holly Springs won that game, they were unable to get past Wakefield without her in the second.
It's not uncommon for Leslie's famous brother to come to a game.
But even if C.J., now a sophomore at N.C. State and former McDonald's All-American, isn't able to attend, he still gives his sister pointers.
"He's always giving me advice about my free throws," Kiara said.
The youngest of five children and the lone girl, Leslie learned the game from older brothers C.J., Michael, Jamar, Kevin as well as her parents. She admitted that while her family always encouraged her, they never held back or let her win.
Leslie said she only feels some extra attention being C.J.'s little sister, and no pressure. It's not something she brings up.But it's something she can't deny.
Much like her aggression, the genes shine through during the game.
Despite 22 points against Fuquay-Varina, perhaps her best highlight was her stopping on a dime to turn, leap and snag a pass that was almost a foot behind her as she cut to the basket.
Leslie smiled when recalling the play. But she didn't want to bring more attention to it. She instead voiced what really matters to her, what some other players just show more outwardly."The most important things is the 'W'," Leslie said. "We have a good team and just need to play hard."