Five-star 2023 women’s basketball prospect Laila Reynolds is ready to compete for championships and bring a winning mentality to Gainesville.
“[I] always play hard everytime I step on the floor,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds hails from PG County, Maryland. She’s the No.19 recruit in the country as of Nov. 20, according to ESPN. The 6-foot-1 guard has been touted for her ability to score at all three levels of the game by Shane Laflin of Premier Basketball Report.
She averaged 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and two assists per game in her junior season, when she helped lead her high school, Shabach Christian Academy, to the GEICO National Championship game.
Reynolds chose Florida over UCLA, Georgia and Mississippi State. Her decision came down to who she thought could best nurture her as a player on and off the court, Reynolds said.
She sees Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley as a mentor whose style best fit what she needed from the person she’d be playing under for four seasons. Finley is someone players want to be around, Reynolds said, describing her as a “player’s coach.”
Reynolds is a competitor and a proven winner, Finley said. In addition, Reynolds’ work ethic, mindset and love for people stood out to Finley.
“As we grew in our relationship with Laila and her family, it became clearer that our values aligned,” Finley said.
Reynolds’ ability to score, court vision and willingness to defend from baseline to baseline will make her a player Gator fans will remember for years, Finley said.
What stands out most to Reynolds is her ability to score in different ways, Reynolds said. She can drive to the basket, score from beyond the arc or hit mid-range jump shots to keep defenders guessing, she said.
“Anything, any night, I’m unpredictable for real,” Reynolds said.
Sam Caldwell, Shabach Christian Academy head coach, described Reynolds as a player who can guard all five positions. She’s a great shooter and talented at moving downhill quickly, he said.
“Folks are gonna find out how well she can actually shoot the ball,” Caldwell said.
Basketball IQ is another area Reynolds exceeds in, Caldwell said. She’s one of the primary talkers on the floor, he said, and helps guide the team.
Reynolds wants to play hard every time she steps on the floor and help Finley and Florida make a deep tournament run, she said. The Gators made the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season — the first time since 2016.
On top of her scoring, the guard enjoys getting her teammates involved on the offensive side of the ball and spreading it around, Reynolds said.
Reynolds has had talented teammates in the past, Caldwell said, so she’s learned how to both know when to move the ball and when to be the go-to scorer. Her skill to do whatever he needed her to do was a massive factor in the high school’s success, Caldwell said.
It meant a lot for her talent to be recognized throughout the country, Reynolds said. It’s harder to be seen by scouts with the overwhelming amount of talent in Maryland, she said.
“Everybody is a killer,” Reynolds said. “There’s no little dogs down here.”
Reynolds is someone who represented her community and school well, Caldwell said. She’s one of the best people to come through Shabach Christian Academy’s program in a long time — not just as a player but as a person, he said.
“I’ve had the chance to coach a lot of really good players,” Caldwell said. “Laila is certainly one of the best individuals you’d want to meet.”
Reynolds is ready to play in the Southeastern Conference against top-tier programs like South Carolina and Tennessee, she said. She wants to compete every night, and the SEC gives her the chance to do so, Reynolds said. While she won’t arrive in Gainesville until the 2023-2024 season, Reynolds is prepared to make the Gators a contender.
“[I’m] just ready to put some banners up for Florida women’s basketball,” Reynolds said.
Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.