Sheila Boykin set out on the summer basketball circuit this year with one thing on her mind: She was going to prove to anyone and everyone out there that while East Coast girls might get all the pub, West Coast girls can play a little bit, too.
Boykin needs a new to-do list.
After becoming a consistent scorer inside and a solid leader on and off the floor, Boykin on Tuesday told HoopGurlz that she has given a verbal commitment to play at UCLA for head coach Nikki Caldwell.
"First and foremost, the most important thing is that their school has the best academics," said Boykin on her selection of UCLA over Arizona, Arizona State, Miami and Louisville. "Basketball-wise they seem right on point, too."
Boykin joins two other California stars in UCLA's recruiting haul; Justine Hartman and Kacy Swain. Both are also highly regarded prospects. Hartman, of Brea High School, and Swain of Chaparral, are ranked Nos. 7 and 25 in the 2011 class by ESPN HoopGurlz.
This summer, Boykin was expected to step up her game as her club team, West Coast Premier, lost one of their starters, Jordan Adams. A 2012 prospect, Adams was gone for most of the summer season competing with the U17 USA national team at the FIBA World Championships in France. That meant that Boykin and Kacy Swain, another 2011 UCLA commit, had to fill in for Adams' absence.
"I think a lot of it had to do with, 'This is my last go at it,' " said West Coast Premier coach Brian Crichlow. "I put a lot of leadership pressure on her and Kacy. I think Sheila had renewed confidence this summer, and she played like the Sheila Boykin I always knew she could be."
As evidence of her improved play, Boykin shot up in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hot 100 rankings, going from No. 45 to No. 27.
Another plus this summer was that Boykin didn't have to worry about injuries for the first time in a while. After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during her freshman year of high school, Boykin's development was stalled for a few weeks. She returned to Long Beach Poly High School after Christmas of her sophomore year but last summer, in 2009, her doctor sidelined her right before Nike Nationals. Finally, this summer, she was able to play all through June and July, and her dominance inside caught everyone's attention.
"This summer she got to play the whole time on two healthy knees," Crichlow said. "She set out to prove to herself and everybody else that she was as good as advertised."
And she did just that. Boykin said that while she didn't consider herself an underrated player this year with West Coast Premier, she does think that lots of schools overlooked her potential.
"There are a lot of people out there who still doubt me," Boykin said, "but that's just another reason to work harder."
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