Even on the first day of basketball practice in her freshman year at Wilson High of Hacienda Heights, Stephanie Coons didn't act like a freshman.
She never displayed the apprehension or subservience of the new kid on the block.
From minute one, Coons was all teeth and claws. She battled a senior who tried to pull the ball away from her, and won.
"I remember she literally lifted the other girl who was holding onto the ball and finally she was able to shoot it," said Coach John Crowther. "From Day 1, she was aggressive, and she still is."
Coons, a four-year varsity starter, remembers the incident. "Everyone was laughing because it really was funny," she said. "I wouldn't give. I just wanted to make a good impression. Besides, you have to practice the way you're going to play."
That's always the way it has been for Coons, who practices hard and plays even harder in big games.
She is not only the top player on the Wilson girls basketball squad but one of the most highly regarded cagers in the CIF's 3-A Division. Wilson has a record of 18-6 and clinched first place in the Sierra League.
The 5-foot-11 Coons averages 20 points and 12 rebounds a game as a forward for the Wildcats.
"She's a very good outside shooter and she's very strong, so she can go inside and mix it up," Crowther said."
Coons showed those qualities in a rematch against Rowland--the only team in the league with a victory over Wilson. The second time around, Coons scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. She was the only Wilson player to score in the first quarter.
With that determination and ability, it's no wonder Cal Poly Pomona, year in and year out the best women's college team in Division II of women's basketball, wants to add her name to its roster next season.
"She moves well on the floor and she's a pretty good shooter, but we like her mainly because she's a good all-around athlete," said Bronco Coach Darlene May.
That she is.
The 17-year-old may dedicate herself to basketball in college, but for now she's a three-sport standout. Coons was All-Sierra League in softball and tennis last year.
Her love of sports started when she began playing baseball at age 6.
"I was always very active as a kid and I was always a tomboy," she said. "I even loved playing tag football, and one sport just led to another."
Basketball is her favorite. Last year she was named the most valuable player in the league, won All-CIF honors and was selected to the Los Angeles Times All-San Gabriel team.
Coons plans to obtain a business degree from Pomona where she's made a verbal agreement to play next year.
"Playing basketball is very important to me because it's what I love to do, but it's also important because it's going to get me a full education," she said.
Coons doesn't believe she is close to her potential as a basketball player.
"I think that if I was really pushed, I'd definitely be better than I am now because I'd work twice as hard. I know that I need to work on everything, especially rebounding."
Crowther claims there isn't anyone in the league who can take his small forward to the limit.
"Even at practice, I just don't have anyone that could make her work hard enough," he said. "Still, I think that Darlene is happy to see that she has a lot of room for improvement. They're going to be pleasantly surprised at Pomona."