Janeliss Laboy was ready right from the start.
She just didn’t know it.
Laboy is a freshman on the Frankford High School girls basketball team, and a few days before opening day, coach Jonathan Michels told the talented guard she would be in the starting lineup.
Prior to that, Laboy’s experience was playing for the John B. Stetson Middle School basketball team, so it was a massive step.
But she was ready.
“I was nervous, it was very different, but I adjusted to it,” said Laboy, who lives not far from Thomas Edison High School. “I was really nervous at first. When I was playing in middle school, I was one of the better players there, but high school is a lot different.
“The biggest difference is how good everyone is. Defense is way better in high school, way better. It’s a lot more competitive, a lot more of a challenge, mentally and physically for your body. You have to work hard every day, you can’t give up no matter what. Every game is tough, but you have to play your best.”
Her best is proving to be pretty darn good.
After some hiccups early, Laboy has become a star playing for Michels, and every day she takes another step.
“She’s a killer,” Michels said. “She’s a player you want to have on your team. I put a lot on her, as a freshman, and she handles it so well.
“She’s just a great girl. She comes from a great family, and she’s the kind of player you want. She’s tough. She’s smart. She’s a freshman, but she doesn’t play like it. I put a lot on her, and she does so well with everything. She’s the exact kind of girl you want to coach. She is a constant worker, I can tell her things, and she’s the typical young offensive player. She can score. I tell her what we need, and she’ll say, ‘Coach, I got you.’ She might get mad at me, but she understands it, she’s a worker and she’s a sweet kid, on top of it. She’s everything, as a coach, you would want.”
And she’s learning on the fly.
When the season began, it took the younger players, including Laboy, a few practices and games to get up to speed with Michels’ run-and-gun-style offense. But now, everyone is running together.
“I like playing fast, I love running,” said Laboy, who is averaging better than 14 points per game, to go along with 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 steals per game. “My role is to make sure everyone sticks together and score the ball, and the biggest thing is to help us get some wins.
“When you play basketball, you have to be prepared. You have to adjust to different coaches, it was different for me, but I’m really comfortable with my coach. I fit in. I get the ball a lot, but the way my coach is, it was very easy to fit in. We’re doing really well.”
Laboy isn’t just starring on the court, either.
A great athlete, Laboy hopes to run track, which will help her on the basketball court, and she’s also eyeing a possible softball career. She’ll figure out what she’s going to do in the spring, but she believes her top sport is certainly basketball.
She’s also a strong student in the classroom. She’s always been a good student, and she gets that from her mom.
“I’m a straight-A student, I get that from my mom, she’s always pushing academics,” Laboy said. “No B’s. That’s what my mom says. I do pretty well in school, I work at it, and I study, but I do very well.”
Academics is very important, but more so for a student like Laboy, who intends to go in the medical field after high school.
The ultimate goal is to use her athletic ability to earn a scholarship, continue her basketball career while getting a free education.
“My goal is to get a scholarship, I’ve been working hard for that since I was 8 years old, that’s when I started playing basketball for real,” Laboy said. “It would be amazing, a dream come true to get a scholarship because I really want to go to college. I want to be a radiologist. My mom is a nurse and a lot of my family members are in the medical area, I feel like that’s something I would be good at. I can continue my family tradition.”
Her family is not only very smart, they’re very supportive.
Her mom is her role model, but she’s also very close with her younger brother Jamie, who is a manager for the girls basketball team, on top of being a member of the ROTC at Frankford.
“We’re like twins, we’re very close in age and we’re really close,” Laboy said of her brother. “My family is very supportive. We all support each other.”
The same family feeling is evident on the basketball team. And she believes this year could be the start of something very special at Frankford.
“I would love to eventually be All-Public, maybe a few times,” Laboy said. “I think we have a really good team, but we still have a lot of work to do. But we are a very close team. We have that bond. I think that makes us a stronger team.”