Kiara Francisco Inks NLI With Lady Tiger Basketball
Nov. 15, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Kiara Francisco from Winter Haven High School in Florida has signed a National Letter of Intent to play her college basketball at the University of Memphis beginning in 2008-09 it was announced by Head Coach Blair Savage-Lansden Thursday.
Francisco, a 5-10 forward, helped her team to two state championships in the past three seasons and helped her Lady Blue Devils team rank No. 1 in the state of Florida for the entire 2006-07 season by averaging 12.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. The team finished Francisco's junior season with a 28-3 record and was ranked No. 12 in the country in the final USA Today Super 25 girls' basketball ranking. Full Court Press has her Winter Haven team ranked No. 21 in the country in its 2007-08 pre-season rankings, while Rivals.com has Winter Haven listed No. 5 on its list of Preseason Fab 50 high school girls' teams.
"Kiara is a great find for us," Savage said. "I don't think she has gotten the level of attention she could have if she had been playing her natural position all along. But playing as an underclassmen behind two other players who are playing Division I basketball this year at the same position, she made the ultimate sacrifice and went and played down in the post to help her team. But now that she's back on the perimeter in her natural position, her best basketball is ahead of her. She's a great rebounder who is strong and who can get to the basket and finish."
A two-time News Chief first team honoree, Francisco is one of just three players in her high school's history to win two state championships. Her high school program, Winter Haven, has been in the Florida state tournament four straight years and in seven of the past eight seasons. The Lady Blue Devils finished Francisco's sophomore year with a 30-2 mark and a state runner-up finish. In the 2006-07 state championship, Francisco scored nine of her team's first 16 points in the championship game, a game her team won 53-42.
"We're excited about adding another player from a winning program and a program that has the tradition Winter Haven does," Savage said. "Kiara comes from a program that produces Division I players who just know how to work."
Francisco was named to the All-Tournament team at the Evans Thanksgiving Classic as a sophomore. That all-tournament team also featured another face familiar to Lady Tiger fans, as current Memphis point guard Alex Winchell was also named to that all-tournament team. Francisco was also named to the All-Tournament team at the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational last year after helping her team to a third-place finish.
Coached in high school by LeDawn Gibson, Francisco spent her junior season as her team's primary defender on the opposing team's best player. Her ability to defend in the post and on the perimeter helped her earn Class 5A All-State Third team honors as a junior, and honorable mention state honors as a sophomore. A First Team All Polk County honoree in 2006, Francisco also played AAU ball with the Tallahassee Essence. She also played on the Florida Starzz, where her team won the five-star NIT tournament last season.
In the classroom, Francisco is a great student. Sporting a 4.3 GPA, she was nominated for a Wendy's High School Heisman and was named an Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar by the College Board following her AP Exams in May of 2007. She was one of 24 students at Winter Haven to earn the designation of AP Scholar.
She is planning on majoring in pre-med at the University of Memphis and hopes to become a pediatrician.