ZCHS’ Laila Hull: On Leaving the Eagle’s Nest to Play at UNC
Zionsville Community High School girls basketball is a remarkable athletic program that produces extraordinary talent under its head coach, Andy Maguire, and coaching staff. This season is no exception, and it is with great pleasure that we are featuring ZCHS senior Laila Hull [forward] on our last cover of 2022.
Hull has committed to the University of North Carolina, her “dream school,” and while Hull is working on making her last season as a Lady Eagle the most productive of her high school athletic career, she spoke with Zionsville Monthly about how her time at ZCHS and the support of family, teammates and community have prepared her for the next chapter and playing for UNC.
Observations from the Sidelines
Coach Maguire has observed Hull’s growth over the past 4 years, and he shared his thoughts on her evolution and contributions to the Lady Eagles basketball program.
“Laila’s athleticism has been something that stands out,” Maguire said. “And she’s really committed herself the last 2 years on her skill development. Some of that our program’s helped her with, but a lot of it she’s done on her own. She’s listened to what the college coaches were telling her that she needed to get better at, and she went out and really worked on those skills. Laila’s a really good all-around player, and she’s got a really nice jump shot now and a great three-point shot. Her ball handling improved immensely between her junior and senior years. Not that she was a poor [ball] handler before, she’s just very confident with the ball in her hands and more decisive now.”
Maguire added, “I really saw that growth and [confidence] this summer, and that’s definitely carried over to the court so far this year. As far as a leader, she’s become more confident in speaking up and leading her teammates in a positive way. We have a lot of really good athletes and good teammates that have surrounded Laila and have helped her to be successful. We’ve got a good support cast [current teammates] for Laila, and they’re all capable of moving on to that next level as well.”
The “Dream School”
Attending UNC has been a dream of Hull’s since she was younger, and she shared that she may have been somewhat influenced by her father’s appreciation of the university’s athletic programs and adoration of one of UNC’s most revered alumni — Michael Jordan.
“I’m super excited,” Hull expressed. “It’s a really good feeling to have it off my shoulders going into my senior season and being able to play, not worrying about recruiting and wondering where I’m going. It’s a really good fit for me too.”
When asked what about UNC’s women’s basketball program attracted Hull the most, she replied, “It just really seemed like a family and more authentically than the other places I visited. They’re very inclusive, and I could see myself playing with them. And there’s nothing really to dislike about the school in general. UNC has great academics and great sports. It’s a really good atmosphere to just be around, and the coaching staff has been amazing throughout this whole process.”
Hull shared that she intends to study psychology but acknowledged that is not yet set in stone, as “many people change their major at least once.”
Growth Amid Challenges
Like so many young people whose high school careers were interrupted by the pandemic, Hull had to push through the challenges that it brought on and off the court.
“Our season ended right before all this stuff happened my freshman year,” Hull recalled. “My sophomore year was definitely very interesting because of COVID with all the game cancellations, trying to figure out how to practice, to be a team, wearing masks and all that stuff. But we pushed through it very well. Just being able to grow as a team and getting closer with my teammates was the main thing, I think. We have many highlights, and we’ve continued to grow. My junior season was better than my sophomore and freshman seasons, and I’m hoping that my senior season will have been even better as well.”
When asked where Hull feels she has most improved, she replied, “I think my [basketball] IQ, in general, and being able to do multiple things on the floor — being able to score but I can also defend, rebound, handle the ball and do a lot of things that my team really needs me to do. I feel like I’m more well-rounded. I spent most of this summer and last year working on my outside shot and ball handling.”
Family and Community Support
Acknowledging that she didn’t get to this point in her high school athletic career and commitment to UNC without the support of her family, teammates, coaches and hometown community, Hull shared her advice for the younger classmen and even younger aspiring athletes.
“I think it’s really a mindset,” Hull stated. “If you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then you’re not going to. I’ve had many points in my life where I didn’t know if this what I wanted to do anymore, and I’ve been in major slumps where I didn’t feel like I was improving. Obviously, I kept at it and kept going, and it has brought me to the place where I’m at today. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m always in the gym or with the team or always doing something basketball related. It really takes dedication and knowing what you need to improve on, what you’re good at and getting better about what you’re not good at. Practice is key.”
Hull concluded, “I know people say you have to believe in yourself, which is very true. But if you don’t have the belief from other people, it could be very hard to get to where you want to be or be motivated enough to get there. I was very lucky to have family and teammates who knew of my capabilities even when I wasn’t doing so great. They still put their faith and trust in me, and I took that to heart. I knew that I needed to get the job done, to do what I needed to help them and to help myself.”
Hull Named As Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year
March 8 In its 38th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Laila Hull of Zionsville Community High School is the 2022-23 Gatorade Indiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Hull is the first Gatorade Indiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Zionsville Community High School. The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Hull as Indiana’s best high school girls basketball player. Hull joins an elite alumni association of state award-winners in 12 sports, including Kiki Rice (2021-22, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.), Paige Bueckers (2019-20, Hopkins High School, Minn.), Nneka Ogwumike (2007-08, CyFair High School, Texas), and Candace Parker (2003-04 & 2002- 03, Naperville Central High School, Ill.).
The 6-foot-1 senior guard and forward averaged 22.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this past season, leading the Eagles (20-3) to the Class 4A sectional semifinals. Hull also averaged 2.4 steals, 2.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. A two-time Hoosier Basketball Magazine First Team All-State selection, she concluded her prep basketball career with 1,668 points.
Hull has volunteered locally on behalf of fundraising campaigns to benefit breast cancer research. She has also donated her time with her school’s Black Student Union and by serving as a youth basketball coach. “Laila’s game is so fluid she makes it look effortless,” said Debbie Smiley, head coach of Brownsburg High School. “She poses a very hard match-up with her skills, frame and athleticism. She also displays tremendous sportsmanship and is an awesome team player.”
Hull has maintained a weighted 3.88 GPA in the classroom. She has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball on scholarship at the University of North Carolina this fall.
Hull joins recent Gatorade Indiana Girls Basketball Players of the Year Ashlynn Shade (2021-22, Noblesville High School), Jessica Carrothers (2020-21, Crown Point High School), Madison Layden (2019-20, Northwestern High School), and Sydney Parrish (2018-19, Hamilton Southeastern High School), among the state’s list of former award winners.