We publicly affiliated ourselves with Shakeela Fowler several years ago when we first met the pint-sized basketball phenom at her uncle’s high school graduation party.
In June we officially will become members of her family when my sister Kathy marries her grandpa Keith.
Listed generously as 5-2 on the Milwaukee King High School girls’ basketball roster and just a freshman, Shakeela leads a run-and-gun offense that’s as entertaining to watch as it is exhausting. On Friday night Milwaukee King and Middleton set a WIAA state tournament record for most points scored in a single game during King’s 78-73 win.
Saturday night Shakeela capped a thrilling WIAA State Tournament weekend by launching a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the Division I state championship game.
The shot arched beautifully toward the basket and rimmed the whole hoop before it rudely dropped out as time ran out, and Milwaukee King lost the game.
Shakeela, who had conducted herself with tremendous poise throughout the tournament, fell to the ground, inconsolable.
From a boisterous Milwaukee King student section, though, arose a series of chants that speak to the power of high school athletics.
“We’re proud of you, yes! We’re still proud of you,” they yelled.
And then, “M-P-S! M-P-S!”
When was the last time you heard anyone cheering for the Milwaukee Public School System?
Saturday night they did.
Milwaukee King, an International Baccalaureate school, sent both its boys’ and girls’ teams to the state championship this year. And, while both teams suffered heartbreaking losses in the closing seconds of the championship game, think what they gained.
In her street clothes with her iPod ear plugs jammed in, Shakeela seems an unlikely hero. Polite, quiet and even a little shy, Shakeela cedes the spotlight in large family gatherings to her outgoing little sister Ameera.
But, having racked up an almost unprecedented 107 assists while averaging 11.3 points heading into the tournament this year, Shakeela clearly owns the court.
She grew up playing with boys in the rec leagues around her home, and her AAU U-13 team won a national title in 2011.
High school pride can be contagious. What starts on a high school basketball court easily spreads to the classroom. That’s why players like Shakeela, who inspire pride in their district through the passion they display, ability they develop, and dignity they convey, prove to be invaluable assets.