JaNya Lilly knows how to play ball with the boys. The 13-year-old from Baltimore not only serves as point guard on her school's boys basketball team, she is the first girl to join, co-captain, and she's one of the best players.
At Hampstead Hill Academy where she goes to school, JaNya tells us she felt the boys needed a boost.
"I was watching the boys play, and I went up to the coach and asked if I could try out," she explained to the Good News Blog. "Because it looked like I could help them out some. They looked like they were a good team, but they needed encouragement."
JaNya first took interest in basketball when she was 5, and joined her first team a year later. She's been playing ever since, practices daily, and these days, also plays for the Maryland Hurricanes, her AAU team.
JaNya's mother, Tonya Hawthorne, describes her daughter as confident and astute, though she remembers being apprehensive about how JaNya's decision to join the guys' team would go over.
"I knew she had the knowledge and the skill level to do it," Tonya comments. "I was really more worried about how she would be received. When I was younger, I remember the boys not wanting a girl doing what they do and especially not doing it better."
Nevertheless, JaNya was a sensation. So good, in fact, she's now leading the team. JaNya credits this accomplishment with her determination to be the best, and her ability to stay focused. She says only once did she feel slightly out of her element.
"They don't treat me differently," JaNya explains. "They treat me like one of the other players. The first time I played against another team, it was a little scary because they were kind of tall. But it was fun, you get used to it."
In addition to her athletic prowess, JaNya has a 3.8 grade point average, with aspirations to be both a professional basketball player and a lawyer. "I like to defend people," she remarks.
According to her mother, the biggest goal now is getting into a local private high school, where JaNya will be able to focus on both academic and athletic priorities. Tonya says JaNya knows that getting good grades goes "hand-in-hand" with achieving her goals, one of which may be to turn out like her superstar inspiration, Michael Jordan.
"Michael Jordan was a team player," JaNya says. "He didn't try to do everything by himself, and did his best all the time."
Word to the wise: watch out for JaNya's crossover!