Basketball Long Beach Poly

Girls’ Basketball Preview: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team had a rough start last year but found its footing under head coach Carl Buggs and ended up claiming the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship, and the CIF State SoCal Regional Division 1 championship. It was a special season during a difficult year, and was remarkable considering how much the team improved over the course of the season.

If Poly’s year is going to once again end with plaques and confetti, they’ll need to improve a lot this year as well. The Jackrabbits enter the season with one player who’s seen extensive starting minutes in senior leader Nala Williams.

“The difference between this year and last year is last year I wasn’t sure about my bench, and this year we’re putting together our starting five,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “We’re working on developing the whole team–it’s just putting in work. We’ve got to put in work.”

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Poly fans might see unprecedented amounts of work from Williams this year. A Poly legacy whose older brother Zafir also won a title while hooping at Poly, the senior guard has the Jackrabbits’ logo tattooed on her forearm. As the only major contributor returning, Williams will need to score early and often for Poly, something Buggs hasn’t really had to ask a lot of individual players to do. The Jackrabbits have had a half-dozen McDonald’s All-Americans and several dozen Division 1 players among their ranks over the last two and a half decades, but it’s rare for a player to average more than 10-15 points per game. 

Williams said she’s not feeling pressure to step up her production and to be more of a leader, after being the only non-senior starter on last year’s team.

“I don’t see that as a burden I see that as a responsibility,” she said. “And I’m ready to take that on. I love this program and I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”

The Jackrabbits will get a big boost offensively when Orangewood Academy transfer Kristal Caldwell becomes eligible after the sit-out period, but they’ll need to navigate a number of games including the start of Moore League play without her.

The Jackrabbits do have other returners who saw time in the playoffs last year, and will look to Skylar Mills and Destiny Horton to take big steps forward. Andrea Perkins got championship experience last year as a freshman, and the ‘Rabbits will look for her to emerge in her sophomore campaign this year, along with classmate Jaleina Taliauli.

Poly will also carry a pair of freshmen on the varsity roster this year, and 5-9 guard Helena Vu looks like she’ll see a lot of time, and have a bright future with the ‘Rabbits.

Long Beach Girls’ Basketball Preview 2021-22

Mike Guardabascio
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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