Plantation American Heritage coach Natasha Kossenko said Raigyne Moncrief has been a star since the day she showed up for practice as a freshman.
“She started right away — her talent was undeniable,” Kossenko said. “We knew we had something special. She was a natural leader and helped get us to the state semifinals that year.
“She’s the best player and the best kid I’ve ever coached.”
Moncrief’s stellar prep career, however, is almost over.
The 5-10 senior combo guard and LSU recruit is averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and seven steals for the 11-3 Patriots, who are coming off an impressive performance at the Queen of Palms tournament.
The Patriots won all three of their games in Fort Myers (Dec. 27-29), taking the Diamond Division of the elite annual tournament.
Next up is a district rematch Wednesday night against Dillard, a team that beat the Patriots 64-46 on Dec. 15.
This time, Heritage will be the home team.
“I’m loving our team,” Moncrief said. “We’re young, but we’re pretty tough.”
Moncrief is right about the Patriots’ youth — they start two juniors and two eighth-graders, including her sister Krystal, a 5-9 forward.
Moncrief is also an expert on toughness. When she was 7, she would follow her brother to football practice and perform up-down drills and everything else she would see the boys do on the field.
Xavier Moncrief, who was 14 at the time, took it upon himself to make his sister tough, using odd — but ultimately successful — methods.
“He would use the hose and spray me with water and yell: ‘Get tough, get tough,’ ” said Moncrief, whose first name is pronounced “Ray Jean.” “I’d have to stand there and take it.”
Moncrief, whose father, Reggie, coached the Optimist team Xavier played on, didn’t mind her brother’s tactics, which also included boxing and playing street football.
“I guess I liked it or I would’ve told on him,” she said. “I wanted to be tough.”
Moncrief is more than just tough — she also has a 4.5 grade-point average and is extremely athletic.
Kossenko remembers what Moncrief once did at practice during a three-minute water break.
“Ray ran over to the bleachers and cracked open a book,” the coach said. “I said, ‘Ray, I love it, but we have to finish practice.’
“I’ve never had to push academics with Ray.”
As a sophomore, Moncrief earned a state championship in the triple jump and finished second in the long jump.
But a back injury that was aggravated every time she jumped forced her to quit the sport that summer.
Without track, Moncrief has focused more on basketball. Her forte has always been getting to the rim. In fact, Kossenko said Moncrief “couldn’t hit a jump shot as a freshman.”
That has since changed.
“Now she has expanded her game beyond the three-point line,” Kossenko said, “which is what the colleges wanted.”
• Western 61, Flanagan 44: Flan: Norton 12, Cole 9, Mitchell 11, Elyden 7, McCray 3, Schabbel 2. West (12-4): Lewis 5, Katz 19, Hessney 7, Artaza 6, James 18, Royes 6.