Excelling at the highest levels of athletics was pretty much a birthright for Kaila Charles, a class of 2016 wing at Eleanor Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.).
Her father, Walter, who migrated to the United States from Trinidad, played soccer the majority of his life in his native country. Her mother, Rupuerta, meanwhile, was a sprinter for her native Antigua at the 1984 Olympic Games, while Charles’ older sister, Afia -- a former Central Florida sprinter now in graduate school -- competed in the 2012 London Olympics (she’s currently training for the ’16 Games).
And then there are Charles’ two older brothers, Darron Strong and Akil Strong, the former a high school basketball player at Roosevelt and the latter another Raiders’ star who is competing professionally in Canada.
“I guess you could say that’s the one thing we’re all known for,” said Kaila Charles, the youngest of the bunch. “Everyone played sports, and I guess we’re pretty good at it.”
That’s an understatement, to say the least. Especially in Kaila Charles’ case, who might just turn out to be the best of the bunch.
A nationally-rated recruit with more than 30 scholarship offers to her name, the 6-foot Charles has future WNBA aspirations.
But before she starts playing basketball for a living, the Beltsville, Md., native will continue her rise through the ranks at nearby University of Maryland.
Charles committed to the lady Terps May 11, yet another key cog in head coach Brenda Frese’s machine.
“I’m just so excited to be going to Maryland and to have a chance to play for Coach Frese,” said Charles, who averaged 22 points and eight rebounds as a junior, helping Roosevelt to its second straight state championship. “The program itself is terrific, and it’s one of the powerhouses in the country. But, really, it was the way they recruited me; the coaches were so genuine. Coach Frese talked to me more than any other head coach did, and really made me feel comfortable. She’s known me since the ninth grade, and i feel like the more I get to know her, the more I feel our relationship could develop into a mother-daughter relationship.
“The thing with Coach Frese is she’s not all about basketball. A lot of coaches will ask how your weekend went and things like that, but Coach Frese is just so personal. She would ask about my nieces, my family, where I get my hair done, where I like to shop, things like that. So just that personal feel is the main reason I chose Maryland.”
Of course, Charles had developed a built-in affinity for the hometown school as well. She’s been to so many games in College Park, Md., she can’t recall the number, while she’s played her share of pickup ball against the current Terps too.
“I’m appreciative of all the other coaches and programs that recruited me, but Maryland just felt more comfortable,” Charles said. “I loved the coaches like I said, and the girls were fantastic too. I already know Brene Moseley, we text all the time, and I know some of the freshmen and other players too just from playing up there.”
It certainly made it easy to familiarize herself with a school that’s just down the road.
“Maryland is like 10 minutes from my house, so I’m always up there. I personally wouldn’t have minded to get away for college, but staying local is nice too,” she said. “My parents loved the idea of me staying home, and my dad is ecstatic I’ll be right down the street. And for me, it’s not like I’m not going to get the full college experience. I’ll be involved in basketball and things on campus – there’s so much to do there – so it’ll be like I’m away from home.”
Evidently Charles did give some thought to taking her talents to another university, however. She formed a top 10 list of UMD, Duke, Syracuse, South Carolina, Tennessee, Penn State, Miami, Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville a few months back before paring it down to the Terps, Blue Devils and Orange.
“And, honestly, I was thinking about going through the winter, taking official visits, and then seeing what I thought after that,” Charles said. “But I just decided Maryland was really the best fit, so it was no sense in dragging things out. I’m just so happy and thankful to be part of the program. I’m very relieved I don’t have to stress over this anymore, and now I can focus on getting my game better.”
She’s obviously done quite well for herself already.
Despite not taking to the hardwood until the fifth grade.
Given her family’s wide array of talents, it was no surprise Charles participated in numerous sports growing up, including track, volleyball and basketball. But, initially, she didn’t have as much interest in running like Rupuerta or Afia, or hooping like Darron or Akil.
Rather, she wanted to be a gymnast.
“I saw my siblings all playing basketball, and I did want to be like them, but I just wasn’t that good,” laughed Charles. “Gymnastics was something I was good at, so that’s what I wanted to do. But then by like the sixth grade I started to get a better feel for basketball just from working with my coaches. My coach in middle school would work with me after school and in the summer of my fifth grade year, so by the next year my talent started to show. It helped that I hit a growth spurt too (laughs).”
Eventually Charles hooked on with the local Prymetime AAU team, where head coach Adrienne Dunning aided the budding wing further. Less than two years later, Charles had developed into one of the hottest middle school talents around, good enough to earn a spot on the renowned Team Takeover AAU squad.
It was almost a given she’d start her freshman year at Roosevelt, and Charles didn’t disappoint. She averaged almost 13 points per game, immediately catching the eye of Brenda Frese and Co., who began recruiting her before any other staff.
“I know Coach Frese likes my athleticism, and how I’m a tall guard and very versatile,” said Charles, who also gave plenty of credit to her trainer of two years, Brandon Adams. “She likes that I can play a lot of different positions, and defend at all three levels. I can rebound with the 6-4 players down low, and you don’t see that a lot in guards, and I can score well and pass well too.
“I’m mainly focusing on my ball-handling and outside shooting. If I’m going to play shooting guard at Maryland, I know I’m going to have to keep developing my outside shot. But I’m always working on all parts of my game; I never want to be satisfied.”
Flashing an ultra-competitive streak stemming from her family’s athletic accomplishments, Charles has high expectations for herself moving forward. Not only does she want to win a third straight state title and be named a McDonald’s All-American, but she’s already thinking about cutting down the nets at Maryland.
“I’m going to give it my all when I get to Maryland, and hopefully get them back to a championship level,” Charles said. “It’s one of the best programs around, and they expect nothing less than Final Fours and championships there, so that’s what I’m hoping to help them do.”
Local Wing Charles On Board With Frese, Terps
TerrapinTimes Top Stories
Hardwood Notes: Complete Recruiting RundownThe latest in Maryland basketball recruiting.
TerrapinTimesYesterday at 11:40 PM
Watch: Great Athleticism In No. 11 OLBNo. 11 OLB Nathan Proctor's senior highlights show why the ACC, Big Ten and SEC are after him.
Scout FootballYesterday at 11:59 AM
Woods Seizes No. 1 Role, Carter Ready For B1GCOLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland safety Josh Woods ascended to a starting role this week. Meanwhile, linebacker Jermaine Carter discusses Big Ten play and more.
TerrapinTimesYesterday at 10:24 AM
OC Bell Talks Offensive Progress, PurdueCOLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell addressed the media Sept. 28 ahead of the Terps' Oct. 1 game against Purdue.
TerrapinTimesYesterday at 9:07 AM