Leilani and Leta Otuafi to play basketball in Utah next year
LVN Editor Emeritus
They’re called the shooting cousins in Greenwave country.
The Lady Wave basketball program had a double signing Friday as cousins Leilani and Leta Otuafi signed letters of intent to play women’s basketball at the next level.
Leilani will play at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Leta will play at Utah State Eastern in Price. Both players led Fallon to consecutive state 3A basketball titles during their sophomore and junior years.
As the girls signed their letters, their parents stood behind them, while numerous family members and friends snapped photographs.
Although a full season of prep basketball awaits her and a chance for Fallon to repeat as state 3A champs, Leilani said she looking forward to the next level. Her decision to attend BYU, though, came during the summer.
“In a tournament and I had 30 points after the tournament, the BYU coach sent me a message asking me what my schedule was like,” she recalled. “During the summer he watched my games. Went on an official visit and after that I decided I wanted to go there
Leilani traveled to Provo for an official visit, and afterward, she decided BYU was the right fit.
BYU coach Jeff Judkins, a former player for the University of Utah and four NBA teams including the Celtics and Jazz, said he watched Leilani play in three to four tournaments last summer and will see her play again during the summer of 2019.
”She will be a very good player, and we’re fortunate to have her,” he said.
Judkins said Leilani is athletic, goes to the basket and is physical.
Leilani, a first-team all-region and second-team all-state player, averaged per game 11.2 points, 2.7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2.7 steals. She had a season-high 21 points in one game and scored 20 points twice during the 2017-18 season.
Leta said she played in a tournament in Utah, and the USU-Eastern coach contacted her.
“I didn’t know anything about Price, but I went there in October,” she said. “It felt like home there.”
Upon her arrival, she noticed how welcoming the team was.
“I love what the coaches do, and they want me to be the best I can be and excel my game,” she said after her signing. “They aren’t selfish. They want to better me, so I can keep moving forward.”
Leta’s per game averages included 10.7 points, 2.2 assist, 4.7 rebounds and 2 steals. In the state championship game earlier this year against Lowry, she had a career-high 30 points. During the regular season, she scored 22 points against Truckee.
USU-Eastern coach Chelsey Warburton said she couldn’t comment until the official paperwork is completed.
Both players know the final high-school game of their careers will be a sad occasion for the cousins, but Leta said she hopes BYU may be in her future.
“It would be nice to play with her again,” Leta added.
Being close to one another was also a determining factor for both Leilani and Leta.
The cousins said their experience with Matt Williams’ Jam on It program was a big factor in them being noticed at the basketball tournaments. Leilani said she was inspired to watch Williams’ daughter Gabby, who came to Reno in November 2017 as a member of the then No. 1-ranked University of Connecticut Huskies.
Judkins said both Leilani and Gabby Williams possess many of the same attributes who can score, play defense and be the player with the ball in her hands at the crucial parts of the game.
“They have been the face of Lady Wave basketball, and the level of play they brought forced the other players to step up,” said Lady Wave coach Anne Smith. “They put in so many hours, and it took a lot for them to get at this level.”
Judging by previous conversations with the Otuafis, Smith said she thought the cousins would sign in November.
“The pressure is off and maybe during their senior year they can relax a little bit,” Smith said. “Both put in so many hours, and it took a lot for them to get at this level.”