Newsday swishes and dishes on Long Island's girls basketball scene.
Kaela Hilaire to stay at Floral Park
Ending months of speculation, eighth-grade point guard Kaela Hilaire will play her high school career at Floral Park, she and her father both confirmed Friday evening.
"Anywhere else I would go I would definitely have had to come off the bench," said Hilaire, a potential Division I prospect and second-team All-Long Island selection this year. "I will have way more playing time here."
Hilaire, who averaged 14.9 points and a Long Island-best 7.6 assists as she led Floral Park to the Nassau Class A semifinals, and sophomore-to-be center Lorraine Hickman give the Knights a dominant 1-2 combination as they prepare for next season in Conference A-III along with county champion North Shore.
"I haven’t beaten them my past two years," Hilaire said of the Vikings, who defeated Floral Park 61-54 in the semifinals. "I’m really looking forward to playing them again. I think we can beat them."
Now that she has chosen to stay at Floral Park, Hilaire said that she'll work even more with Hickman and her teammates in the offseason so they can reach their goals over the next four years.
"I’m looking forward to making First-team All-Long Island and winning the [championship]," she said.
Floral Park coach Michael Spina is excited to have Hilaire back and for the end of the rumors and speculation about where she would play next season. Spina said he is looking to assemble a competitive non-league schedule to challenge his team and showcase his players against top competition.
"It’s awesome to have her back because she’s my field general," Spina said. "She makes things happen, she controls the pace of the game and she has the ability to make everybody around he that much better. It’s nice to know that going into every game we play we have a chance to win.
"I know how my offense is going to start - it’s going to start with her."
Hilaire spent the past two seasons playing for Floral Park as a seventh and eighth-grader but was considering leaving to enroll in a CHSAA school. Her father, Daryl Hilaire, a 1988 graduate of Holy Trinity, said his alma mater and Nazareth Regional in Brooklyn were potential destinations for his daughter.
Nazareth won its second straight CHSAA state championship behind sophomore point guard Bianca Cuevas. It was a tumultuous season for the Lady Kingsmen, who lost to eventual champion Cicero-North Syracuse in the Federation semifinals, as controversial coach Apache Paschall passed away in January, the eligibility of several transfer players was investigated and the school announced it was closing and has since announced it will remain open for at least four years.
"I think it was more her relationship with her classmates and her comfort in the school than her [potential] teammates [elsewhere]," said Daryl Hilaire, Kaela's father. "I think her playing and practicing with Bianca would raise the level of her game but I felt that she needed playing time to show what she could do.
"I think she felt more comfortable [staying]."