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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
LSU commit Raigyne Moncrief talks tough

By Walter Villa

When Raigyne Moncrief was 7, she'd follow her teenage brother to football practice and perform up-down drills and everything else she'd see the boys on the field doing.

Xavier Moncrief, who was 14 at the time, took it upon himself to make his sister tough, using odd -- but ultimately successful -- methods.

"He would use the hose and spray me with water and yell, 'Get tough, get tough,'" Moncrief said. "I'd have to stand there and take it.

"We'd play football in the street -- it was tackle if you were on the grass and two-hand touch if you were on the road. And he also taught me how to box."

But it's neither football nor boxing that is taking Moncrief to LSU. The 5-foot-10 senior guard from American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) signed a national letter of intent earlier this month to play basketball for Nikki Caldwell and the Lady Tigers.

The nation's No. 18 prospect had also considered Miami, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Moncrief, who has a 4.5 grade-point average and wants to study electrical engineering, has been a high school star since the first day she showed up for practice at American Heritage.

"She started right away -- her talent was undeniable," coach Natasha Kossenko said. "We knew we had something special. She was a natural leader and helped get us to the state semifinals that year. She's the best player and the best kid I've ever coached."

Moncrief's academic prowess also was immediately obvious. Kossenko remembers what Moncrief once did at practice during a three-minute water break.

"Ray ran over to the bleachers and cracked open a book," the coach said. "I said, 'Ray, I love it, but we have to finish practice.'"

Kossenko said Moncrief earned her teammates' respect because she was so dominant in getting to the basket.

The rest of her offensive game, though, needed to be refined, which is what has happened in the past two years.

"She could not hit a jump shot as a freshman," Kossenko said. "Now she has expanded her game beyond the 3-point line, which is what the colleges wanted."

Moncrief said driving to the hole is still her forte, along with her pull-up, medium-range jumper and her lockdown defense. The exceptional athlete also is a willing passer and a tremendous leaper.

"I love to compete," said Moncrief, who said she's still working to improve her 3-pointer and the use of her left hand. "In practice, I will ask Coach if we can keep score. That makes it fun. It makes me go harder because I hate to lose."

Moncrief doesn't lose often. As a sophomore, she earned a state championship in the triple jump and finished second in the long jump.

But a back injury that was aggravated every time she jumped forced her to quit the sport that summer.

"It was hard [to quit]," Moncrief said. "When I started winning, I fell in love with the sport."

With track out of her life, Moncrief intensified her basketball training. This past summer, she made a habit of playing pickup games against boys -- and even adult men -- at Fort Lauderdale's Oswald Park.

When she first started showing up at Oswald, the guys didn't want to pick her because she was a girl. But she quickly proved she could "hang," and playing against male players has helped her game.

"I couldn't just easily shoot the ball," she said. "I had to make an extra move to get open.

"You have to be smart, aggressive and fast to play against boys."

Not to mention tough.

Moncrief's little sister, Krystal, a 5-9 forward who already is on the Heritage varsity as an eighth-grader, played in a couple of those pickup games.

But Moncrief said she's nowhere near as tough on Krystal as her brother was on her, a fact the kids' mother, Veronica, confirmed.

"Xavier didn't have any mercy on Ray," Veronica said.

"I guess I liked it, or I would've told on him," Moncrief said. "I wanted to be tough."

Raigyne Moncrief believes Xavier wanted a little brother, and she filled the void by becoming a tomboy.

"My mom had to force me to put on a dress at that age," Moncrief said. "I never played with dolls. I was straight tomboy.

"By the seventh grade, I changed completely. That's an age where you start liking boys. I started wearing dresses. Now I'm getting my nails done, my eyelashes -- straight girlie."