Kailyn Gilbert sealed her masterpiece with a kiss.
Late in IMG Academy’s (Fla.) 68-58 win over DME Academy (Fla.) on Jan. 27, Gilbert pulled up for a jumper from the top of the arc. After the ball fell threw the basket, she blew a kiss to her adoring teammates on the Ascenders’ bench. Gilbert, a senior point guard committed to Arizona, scored 40 points in the victory, helping thrust IMG Academy back into the national conversation after a bumpy start to the season.
“This young woman lives in the gym,” IMG Academy coach Jennifer Sepielli wrote on Twitter. “Way to show up and show out KG.”
Even Arizona head coach Adia Barnes was apparently in the building to watch her incoming guard light it up.
Gilbert, a four-star recruit and the No. 31 recruit in the nation, according to ESPN’s rankings, figures to play a big part in Arizona’s future. She’ll join fellow incoming freshmen forward Maya Nnaji (Hopkins High School, Minn.) and guard Paris Clark (Long Island Lutheran High School, N.Y.), the No. 9 and No. 21 recruits, respectively. Gilbert received some extra motivation last week when the McDonald’s All-American roster was announced, and she was not on it.
She seemed to channel the snub into one of the most impressive scoring performances of the season. Gilbert scored off the dribble, on catch and shoots, and in transition. She found open teammates inside the paint, forcing opponents to respect her long ball and taking advantage of the extra attention. It was a tour de force that showed exactly why Gilbert is one of the most talked about young players in the nation.
40 piece kiss of death. @kailyngilbert pic.twitter.com/eIZBOmXXiP— David Gilbert (@dgilbert021) January 28, 2022
40 piece kiss of death. @kailyngilbert pic.twitter.com/eIZBOmXXiP
The victory represented a seminal moment in the Ascenders’ season. IMG Academy played itself into a hole in December with four defeats in five games, including a three-game losing streak to Hoover High School (Ala.), The Webb School (Tenn.) and Hazel Green High School (Ala.). That this victory came over DME Academy, a team that had suffered only one previous defeat — 62-56 to powerhouse Saint John Vianney (N.J.) on Dec. 29 — should serve as a confidence boost for IMG, now 11-4 on the season.
DME Academy, which has a couple of top recruits of its own, in point guard Sydney Shaw (Auburn commit) and forward Amiya Evans (UCF commit), will get the chance to enact some revenge on Charles and her teammates on Saturday when the teams meet again, this time on DME Academy’s home court in Daytona Beach. In the meantime, the team will need to sit down, watch the film and try to devise a way to stop Gilbert, the IMG Academy star with the silky jumper.
Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.