By Jeremy Balan
Entering his first year coaching the Jordan School boys basketball team, Robert Sotelo asked for one thing from his players – commitment.
It’s hard to imagine a player with more of that value than senior guard Franeka Hall.
Hall, a star on the girls basketball team last season who averaged nearly 25 points per game, is now playing for the boys team.
After low participation and academic ineligibility forced Jordan to cancel its girls season, Hall and her parents explored the idea of her playing on the boys team.
“At first, I was disappointed, because I’ve played basketball since sixth grade, every year,” Hall said. “Then they said there was a possibility I could still play with the boys and I got excited.”
The Jaguars, who are 1-15 this season and have struggled to score at times, welcomed her with open arms.
“She was kind of a folk hero,” Sotelo said. “We all heard about her and she came with great praise. Sure enough, it took a game or so for her to get involved, but everyone’s really rallied around her and everyone has a respect for her. She is that good and you get that respect from being a good ball player.”
Hall has also shown that she can lead the Jaguars on the scoresheet.
In a 58-24 loss to Galileo, she led the team with 10 points and in a 74-35 loss to Balboa, which features several athletic guards, she scored a season-high 12 points.
“On the girls team, I heard that she was really good,” said Balboa head coach Val Cubales. “We didn’t take her lightly. We defended her and she was left alone at the 3-point line a couple of times, and she hit three or four of them. I thought people would make a big deal about it, but we were more concerned with leaving her open.”
Hall admitted that she has gone through an adjustment period, but is no longer intimidated by the boys, some of which are more than a foot taller than her.
“I’ve adjusted now and I think this is going to prepare me for college ball, because they’ll be just as fast and as aggressive as the guys,” Hall said. “It was a little intimidating the first game, but after the first game and the first [blocked shot], I said, ‘It won’t happen again.’”
Sotelo admitted that he’s seen moments of apprehension from Hall on the court, but the players on the team have rallied around her, not only as a teammate, but as a viable player on the court.
“It was kinda weird at first, because I’ve never had that experience before on a team, but as time went by, we got comfortable, because we treat her as a teammate,” said Jordan junior Romari Collins, one of the captains on the team. “I’m not afraid to pass it to her, because I know she’s good with the ball and I trust her.”
Hall is embracing the opportunity with solid play, but the most important fact is that she remains on the court, where she belongs.
“I didn’t think it was even possible for me to play, to start, score or even touch the ball on the boys team, so it’s good,” Hall said. “I really love it.”