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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sports

Laila Blair growing into leadership role with UH women’s basketball


The UH women's basketball program has big expectations for sophomore guard Laila Blair who is coming of a freshman season in which she led the Cougars in scoring. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

The UH women’s basketball program has big expectations for sophomore guard Laila Blair who is coming of a freshman season in which she led the Cougars in scoring. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

Sophomore guard Laila Blair took the UH women’s basketball program by storm during her standout 2020-21 season, leading a Cougars team that fell just short of an NCAA Tournament appearance in scoring as a true freshman.

The Houston native finished her freshman campaign averaging 10.5 points per game to go along with 2.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds, earning her a spot on the American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team.

Expectations are set high for Blair’s sophomore season, who was recently named to the Preseason All-Conference Second Team to begin the year, but her impact on the team goes beyond the accolades and statistics.

Blair brings a high level of intensity and leadership to the team.

Despite being just a sophomore, Blair feels ready to lead and take the initiative to be a voice on the team.

“I’m a leader at heart,” Blair said. “I feel like I’ve been a leader as long as I’ve been playing basketball really. I know I have to be mature and hold myself to a higher standard. On the court I feel like I can show that I’m a leader, I feel like I can help my teammates in every way.”

UH head coach Ronald Hughey has been an advocate for Blair’s leadership and growth and is optimistic she will continue to do so while making the team better.

“When you come in as a freshman, you think it’s about you and you get an opportunity to grow and understand that it’s really about the team,” Hughey said. “I think that’s the maturation Laila had last year and she’ll continue it this year. She’ll have a chance to understand that she has to make her teammates better. That’s what she’s already done approaching this season.”

Veteran guard and graduate student Julia Blackshell-Fair knew Blair was special from the moment she joined the UH program.

“The moment she came in I knew she was a dog,” Blackshell-Fair said. “Her high level of intensity has always been there. Going against her every day, she’s making me better as a defender because honestly at this point, I think if I can guard her I can guard anyone in the league.”

Blair’s intensity comes from her personal motto, which she says she abides by in everything she does.

“My motto that I live by is, ‘I’m going to do everything with my all because God gave me this ability,'” Blair said. “Anything I do in a game or wherever, I’m going to go hard because I have the ability and the opportunity to play the game one more time. I’m going to always give my all in whatever I’m doing.”

Blackshell-Fair sees Blair’s work ethic firsthand every day and believes it will be what takes Blair far as a player.

She believes Blair is bound for success.

“She’s going to be great,” Blackshell-Fair said. “I know she’s going to go far, her work ethic is too good not to go far.”

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