Fletcher settles into starting lineup

Photo by Danny Karnik

For Kierra Fletcher, a rising star for women’s basketball, the sport has always been a family affair. “When I was younger, I would go with [my dad] because he played in a basketball league … so I was always around him playing basketball” she said, talking about her memories of growing up and discovering basketball. After realizing his daughter enjoyed the game, her father began to teach her how to play, “and it just went on from there,” she recounted.

Thus began a life-long love affair with basketball for Fletcher, one that has taken her all the way from Michigan to Atlanta. As a highly touted five-star recruit from Cousino High School in Warren, Mich., Fletcher lived up to the hype thus far, cementing her place as a starter while posting 7.1 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game and leading the team in assists. Last week, her efforts were recognized as she was named ACC Rookie of the Week after posting 18 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes against UNC.

Fletcher is no stranger to a big stage. In high school, Fletcher was instrumental in leading her team to their first state championship. “[The year before] we lost the district championships to a team that we shouldn’t have lost to, so I actually texted my high school coach my sophomore summer, and I told them I was going to take them [to the state championships],” she said. After a long road back, Fletcher got her shot at redemption, taking her team all the way to the promised land. “In the fourth quarter, I got my fourth foul, so I had to sit out for a little over five minutes … then I came back in, made a few good plays, and at the end of the game, we won by one or two points.”

Fletcher was speaking with modesty about her “few good plays” — Fletcher recorded 27 points and eight rebounds in the game, including five crucial points late in the game that sealed the victory for Cousino over Detroit Martin Luther King High School during the 2016 Michigan Class A State Championships.

How did one of the brightest high school stars in Michigan basketball end up at Tech? Academics, said Fletcher. “My dad pushed me to check [Tech] out because my family is really big on academics … once I actually came here and visited and saw the city, and how the school is right in the heart of Atlanta, once I saw the players and interacted with them and the coaching staff … I just knew that this was where I wanted to be. After the first day, I called my dad… and told him that this was where I wanted to go.”

Fletcher has meshed well with Tech and has relished playing with her talented cast of teammates. Compared to high school, Fletcher has much less of a burden for scoring placed on her, and has instead played a balance game thus far, getting good shots off while picking up boards left and right. Among Tech’s main starting five of Francesca Pan, Chanin Scott, Elo Edeferioka, Lorela Cubaj and Fletcher, Fletcher has posted the highest FG percent in conference play (.440), and is No. 3 on the team in overall points behind Pan and Zaire O’Neil.

The road to success has not been the smoothest for Fletcher, she admits. “At the beginning of the season, I was really nervous. I had to take medicine for nausea because I was really nervous… but now I’m starting to come to terms with where I’m at, and I try to stay calm and poised — and I think I’m doing a lot better. It’s definitely been an adjustment, but I feel like I’m getting there.”

While this season has not gone quite as well for Tech basketball as they might have hoped — the Jackets are No. 10 in the ACC with a 5-9 record in conference play — but nevertheless, Fletcher is “excited for the process.”

“I know we have a good recruiting class coming in next year,” she said. “I’m very excited to start playing with them.”