There is a special new addition to this year’s Varsity Girls Basketball Team: Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School eighth grader Momo LaClair. Being a middle-schooler on a high school team makes LaClair the youngest player on the varsity team and one of the youngest girl ballers in all of Section III. This young talent is a prodigy with the rock, and the Red Rams can expect big things from her throughout her high school career.
LaClair started playing basketball as a 3-year-old and fell in love with the game instantly. She has been a stand out player since her youth, clearly ahead of the curve of those in her age range. This explains why LaClair has always played above her age level in AAU and other out of school basketball leagues. “I’ve always played up from my grade level because I want to play against the best competition that I can,” says LaClair.
So what makes LaClair such a force to be reckoned with on the basketball courts? “She has strong shooting abilities and can blow by defenders and get to the rim,” says her brother, junior Taku LaClair, who is a starter for the Jamesville-DeWitt Boys Basketball Varsity Team. “On top of that, LaClair is a leader on the court. She has good handle and great court awareness, she always makes the right passes,” says Taku LaClair.
The exception to this was last year when LaClair was in seventh grade. “I played on the modified team last year which was the first time I got to play on the same team as the girls in my grade since elementary school,” says LaClair, “It was fun to play with my friends for once, but I’d rather be playing the best basketball that I can.” After a season of complete domination over girls that were the same grade, LaClair decided that she needed to feed her craving for fiercer competition. Her solution was to make sure that she accomplished the goal that she has had for as long as she can remember- to play varsity basketball as an eighth grader.
Following the end of her modified basketball season last year, the entire remainder of the winter, the spring, the summer, and the fall was dedicated to accomplishing her goal this winter. “There was no off season for me,” says LaClair. “I play basketball and train all year.” LaClair plays on an AAU travel team outside of school ball. Her AAU team faces high end competition, nationally ranked players and teams that provide challenges to LaClair, something that she rarely gets when playing in her own age group. Exposure to some of the best competition around improved LaClair’s craft and increased her insight on the court. “Better competition makes me better. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and makes me better…You can learn a lot from other good players,” says LaClair.
Her hard work paid off this November when LaClair officially made the Varsity Girls Basketball Team, a major goal accomplished for her on the road to chasing her dreams.
“(Varsity) has been really fun so far. I like all the girls on the team,” says LaClair, “they all look out for me.” She describes the atmosphere as being “fun.” The transition for LaClair has been fairly smooth. She had to adjust to some aspects, which are just now being exposed to her at the high school level. “It took me a little of time to get used to playing with a shot clock since that’s new to me,” says LaClair.
Being on such a high potential team who’s currently defending the state championship title, there is a lot of options for the young athlete to nurture her skills. “I have a lot of really talented teammates that I can learn from to become a better basketball player,” says LaClair.
In terms of the team’s success this season, she is very confident in her team’s ability. “We have very good chances to be a top team and go far,” says LaClair.
Momo LaClair says that her major influence comes from her father. “My dad has coached me my entire life,” says LaClair. Her brother, Taku, has also largely impacted her basketball career. Taku LaClair has high hopes for his sister’s future. “I think that Momo is a very good player and will keep growing as a player,” says Taku LaClair “She’ll have a great high school career and I think she’ll go beyond high school basketball.”
LaClair aspires to one day take her basketball talents to the collegiate level. “My dream is to play college basketball,” says LaClair. But as of now, LaClair is focused on winning right here at J-D. “I want to have a good season and help the team make it back to where we all want to go, the state championship.” says LaClair, “It would be pretty cool to win a state championship as an eighth grader.”