Loretta Kakala wasn’t expecting to be named a McDonald’s All American. She actually says she wasn’t even expecting to be nominated.
“It was a blessing to be on the nominations list,” she said. “When I saw my name on the official team, that was really humbling. I wasn’t ranked until recently. Last summer was my first summer playing EYBL and playing on a bigger stage, so I didn’t think I had that much recognition.”
The recognition and praise from her school and community was overwhelming Tuesday when the McDonald’s Hometown Heroes presented by American Family Insurance came to her school, Manteca High in California to give her an honorary jersey.
Manteca is about 75 miles east of San Francisco and she is the first McDonald’s All American from her school and the fourth from San Joaquin County.
The McDonald’s game is March 29 in Chicago.
“It was so exciting,” she said. “I had a lot of my main supporters with my family and from the school so I felt really happy about it.”
Kakala, a 6-3 Louisville signee, is ranked No. 25 overall in the espnW HoopGurlz rankings and No. 2 among post players. She said she had not yet spoken with Dana Evans, her future Louisville teammate from West Side Leadership (Gary, Ind.), who is playing for the East at the McDonald’s game.
After averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior while fighting through injuries, she said opting to play on the Nike EYBL circuit rather than for the smaller AAU program that she had been playing with upped her game.
“Switching was one of the best decisions I made,” she said. “It helped my mental game a lot. I feel like I’ve become more of a leader than before.”
While she could have transferred to nearby national power St. Mary’s (Stockton), Kakala stuck with Manteca, where she goes to school with her brother.
“The original plan was to go to St. Mary’s, but we decided to stay in town because it became a transportation issue,” she said. “And my dad wanted me to make history in Manteca.”