It is tough to imagine UH women’s hoops without thinking of Laila Blair. The senior guard has been the team’s leading scorer since her freshman season. She became a team captain as a sophomore. She was the first player in program history to make the American All-Conference first team. In many ways, Blair’s name has become synonymous with the Houston women’s basketball program over the last four years.
Yet Blair wants the world to know there is more to Laila than the buckets she gets on the court.
When she finds the time, such as during the winter break, Blair takes the chance to do some reading. It is a hobby she says she did not pick up until college, having only been consistent with reading the Bible growing up. While the Bible remains her all-time favorite book, road trips and airport visits for away games during the season have given her the chance to become a more consistent reader.
“I just finished this book called Moving in the Apostolic,” Blair said. “It’s a Biblical book, it talks about advancing the Kingdom of God and allowing heaven to touch Earth.”
If books are a more recent interest of Blair’s, movies are a story of lifetime enjoyment.
“I’ve always been a big movie fanatic,” Blair said. “My favorite movie genre is horror.”
An avid horror movie fan, Blair is a longtime fan of the works of Stephen King. In particular, she says “The Stand” is her favorite Stephen King adaptation, though insists the 1994 version is much better than the 2020 remake.
Blair’s love for movies would not translate into personal creativity until high school. In her sophomore year, Blair discovered a love for graphic design after taking a digital art course that introduced her to photography and the ins and outs of Adobe Photoshop. As she got later in her high school career and grew into one of the top 30 point guards in her class, she became immersed in filmmaking by editing her own highlight tapes.
“In my senior year and going into college… I started making highlight videos of me playing,” Blair said. “I really found a lot of joy in just making edits… then it turned into ‘I want to shoot a movie.'”
Once she committed to the University of Houston for basketball, Blair decided to major in media production to pursue her filmmaking dreams. Some of her films have been casual, such as gameday vlogs on her YouTube channel. Other more elaborate works include her current project, a short film telling the life story of Richard, the beloved cashier at the Student Center South market.
“It was just a thought at first… Richard is an extraordinary dude so it’s easy to tell his story,” Blair said. “It was fun and it inspired me to do more. This is just the beginning of what I’ll do in the film world.”
Blair’s documentary on Richard, to be called “Richard’s Best” when it is eventually released, is just one piece of the UH star’s journey as an ambitious creative-minded person.
In the fall, she joined Coog Radio as one of the co-hosts of a weekly radio show called “Coogs @ Nite.” The show is lifestyle-focused, and Blair says what started as simply a desire to get more involved on campus became a release from the basketball grind.
“To meet those girls that are part of Coogs @ Nite, to spend time with them and laugh with them and talk with them,” Blair said. “It was an outlet to take myself outside of just talking about basketball, which I love… but you do need other outlets.”
The radio show also gave Blair the opportunity to meet new people and make positive connections with others, something she values highly. Her filmmaking dreams make this clear – while her favorite films to watch may be “The Stand” or “It”, Blair’s own work instead tells the stories of people who have left positive impressions on her life such as Richard.
Above all, Blair dreams of one day making a film telling the life story of her late grandmother.
“My grandmother is a big reason why I’m so passionate about my faith,” Blair said. “I just want to honor her life. She was one of those people behind the scenes…she didn’t have a lot of money, wasn’t into materialistic things. Everything about her was just about being a light.”
While she concedes there was a time when she felt basketball defined her as a person, Blair shows pride in the game now being just one piece of a larger story.
“That is really my ‘why’ more than anything,” Blair said. “I want people to see me as a light for Christ first and a God-fearing woman.”
“If that is shown through basketball, or through film or through art, whatever I do… I just want to use my platform to be a light.”