One afternoon last year, a teenage girl showed up at the Garfield High gym in East Los Angeles with her parents, escorted by the dean of students.
"I'd like you to meet Brisa Silva," the dean told Bulldog girls' basketball Coach Ed Kikuchi, who was busy conducting practice for 45 players. "She'd like a tryout."
Silva returned to the gym the next day. Kikuchi handed her a basketball and told her to dribble. Up and down the court she went, dribbling right-handed, then left-handed.
End of tryout.
"You're on the team," Kikuchi told her. "I knew right away she was a talent."
Silva, who arrived from Mexico speaking no English and wanting to become a professional basketball player, is turning into an extraordinary player.
She's averaging 24 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 steals for Garfield (21-3), which went 10-0 in the Eastern League and opens the City Section playoffs tonight as the No. 5-seeded team, playing host to Woodland Hills Taft.
Kikuchi, who officiated for 25 years and has coached for 10 years, said, "I've seen a lot of players. Out of the East L.A. area, she could be the best."
The 5-foot-7 Silva has made more than 60 three-pointers, and possesses quickness and athleticism. She has even intimidated players on the Garfield boys' team.
"They're scared of her," teammate Cinthya Felix said. "They don't want to play one-on-one because they might lose."
Silva said she has been playing basketball since she was 5. She lived in Rosario, a small city an hour from Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa. She'd play every day at a park near her home on baskets that had no nets. She participated in the Junior Olympics.
Her uncle bought her fancy shoes, Air Jordans and Pippens. Her favorite player is Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.
She's a 17-year-old sophomore who has only one year of high school eligibility left because she'll be too old to play as a senior.
She said through an interpreter that one reason she wanted to come to Los Angeles was for the basketball opportunities.
"The competition is better here," she said.
Last season, she began as a reserve after arriving in January and ended up starting on a team that reached the City Invitational semifinals.
"There were some players jealous at the beginning because she was so good, but they respected her afterward," assistant Kleber Camacho said.
Kikuchi is grateful that Silva just happened to move two blocks from Garfield.
"If [other schools] knew ahead of time she was a superstar, she could have played at any school she wanted," he said.
Silva is trying to improve her English. She watches cartoons and is taking English as a second language.
Felix, who arrived from Mexico more than two years ago and now speaks fluent English, said Silva doesn't use her English much for fear people might laugh if she says the wrong words. "She's going to be able to do it," Felix said.
Meanwhile, Silva is having no trouble becoming an American teenager. She loves Big Macs, Whoppers, Chinese food and hanging out at the mall. Basketball, though, is her passion.
When asked to demonstrate her shooting skills, she stood up from the bleachers, dribbled to the three-point line and calmly made the shot.
Iverson couldn't have done it better.
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Westlake Village Oaks Christian is 22-1 in its first season of varsity basketball, and the Lions have a future college player in 6-2 sophomore guard Mike Hornbuckle, who can shoot, dribble and play defense.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com.