Ballard High School’s Javonna Layfield has drawn a comparison that’s likely to make Western Kentucky women’s basketball fans take notice.
At least to her AAU coach, Layfield – a junior forward – shows similarities to WKU standout sophomore guard Alexis Govan.
“When she went up there for her unofficial visit, I was telling her about Govan,” said Tim Barnett, coach of the Louisville FOCUS AAU program. “She reminds me of what (Javonna) can do. She’s that kind of player. Govan is a lot more aggressive this year with the ball, and that obviously comes with coaching. But she kind of reminds me of her – a lot.”
It’s those abilities that have the 5-foot-11-inch Layfield high on WKU’s recruiting list in the 2014 class.
She was offered a scholarship by the Lady Toppers last season and took an unofficial visit to the school Nov. 2 for WKU’s exhibition game against Harding.
“I like Western Kentucky a lot,” Layfield said. “I like coach (Michelle Clark-Heard’s) style of coaching. I like the program and the school in general, and it’s not far away from home. It seems like a positive place to be.”
Heard got a head start recruiting Layfield a few years ago while the former was nearby as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville, Barnett said.
Layfield was averaging 14.8 points, 10 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 2.2 assists and 1.4 blocks through 18 games this season for the Lady Bruins (17-2). She had 13 points and 13 rebounds in Ballard’s last game, a 70-63 overtime win over Madison Central.
She averaged 9.5 points and 9.3 rebounds as a sophomore.
“She’s been with me since she was in the eighth grade,” Barnett said. “It was always a situation where she was bigger, stronger and extremely athletic. In middle school, they would just put her in the post, and she would jump over everybody. When I got her, it was to really work and focus on skill set.”
Layfield is shooting 53 percent from the field and has worked to improve her perimeter game, she said.
Her outside shot and tendency to be “too unselfish” at times have been coaches’ biggest question marks, Barnett said.
“She can really shoot the 3,” he said. “She just didn’t shoot it before because she didn’t have a good enough position to do it. But she’s got a great form, and she has a solid handle. She’s got a great mid-range game, and I’m starting to see her show more of a skill set this year.”
The Ballard coaching staff forced Layfield to play point guard early in her career to help her eventually make the transition from a post player to a college-level shooting guard or wing.
Layfield struggled with the challenge early, Barnett said, but it’s paid dividends.
“I think I’m very versatile because I’m tall, but also really quick,” Layfield said. “That helps me create a lot of mismatches. I feel like I’m athletic and work really hard to compete. I love, love, love, love to rebound.
“I’m still working on confidence, as far as not passing up the open shot and taking more shots. I’m still working on that and the mental part with it.”
Layfield has scholarship offers from WKU, Eastern Kentucky and UNC-Wilmington, Ballard coach Frank Wright said.
She’s also had some interest from Louisville, Tennessee, Colorado State and Georgia Tech, Barnett said. That contact has started to pick up as Layfield’s shown more aggression and improved perimeter skills.
Layfield called Heard “a really sweet, positive and influential person” and said she liked the up-tempo pace she saw the Lady Toppers play during her unofficial visit.
“They get after it and go up and down, and feel out players so they can play their game,” she said. “That’s the kind of basketball I really like. It’s a style that I would enjoy.”
Layfield doesn’t have any official visits planned right now, she said, and she’s waiting until after Ballard’s season before giving much thought to her recruitment.
The Lady Bruins have won seven straight games and have the most wins in Region 7. Layfield plays with senior center Tearra Banks, who had an offer from WKU before signing with Austin Peay.
“I love my teammates,” Layfield said. “We’re like a family, and we work really hard. We want to make a name for ourselves and get as far as we can get. It’s been really fun working with these girls, playing and winning. I hope it continues for a long time.”
Once Ballard’s run does end, Layfield has to consider what school will be the best fit, Barnett said. So far, WKU has been right in the mix.
The Lady Toppers have one scholarship available and have no seniors this season. They have four signees in the 2013 class.
WKU (15-3, 8-1 Sun Belt Conference) will try to build on its best start since the 1994-95 season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at South Alabama.
“The thing about WKU is that coach Heard has come in and completely changed the culture there,” Barnett said. “I always told (Layfield) not to worry about the name on the uniform. You’ve got to go where they really want you, and where you can contribute and be part of it right away.”