Tuesday was a whirlwind day for Loretta Kakala.
The Manteca High girls basketball standout spent the early part of the day giving a tour around campus to a group of eighth-grade students from the Manteca Unified feeder schools. In the evening, she and her first-place Valley Oak League Buffaloes had a home game against Oakdale.
In between, Kakala, who will be playing basketball next fall for Louisville, was honored by McDonald’s / American Family Insurance at Winter Gym.
She was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Games.
“It’s a great honor to be selected to the team,” said Kakala, who was joined on stage by her folks Ray and Fay Kakala along with her grandparents from Tonga.
No doubt, she’s thrilled to be picked among this elite group.
According to Ben McDermott, who is a program coordinator for McDonald’s All-American Heroes, 24 boys and 24 girls nationwide were selected to this year’s prestigious team out of a pool of 800.
Kakala was one of four from California chosen – the McDonald’s / American Family Insurance group are also scheduled to do similar-type visits to the schools of Ayanna Clark (Long Beach Poly / Long Beach), Destiny Littlejohn (Bishop / La Jolla) and Kianna Smith (Troy / Fullerton), said Clay Merrill, communication manager of Moroch.
They’ll be part of a West team that’ll face off against the East in the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game scheduled for March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.
Kakala received her black game jersey during the afterschool event that kicked off with a rally.
“We are looking forward to seeing you play in Chicago,” said Heather Brent, who is the spokesperson for the Golden State Restaurant Group and Schrader Family Organization, owners and operators of a network of 33 McDonald’s franchises in the San Joaquin Valley.
Kakala, meanwhile, admitted to be nervous on her special day.
“I was more nervous about this than my signing (event) with Louisville,” she said.
Kakala used the eighth-grade class orientation from earlier in the day to calm her nerves.
She also paid tribute to her brother Justin, who is a MHS junior and a member of the boys varsity basketball squad, – he turned 17 on this day.
She’s the first Manteca Unified student selected as a McDonald’s All-American and the fourth from San Joaquin County, joining fellow Mantecan Chelsea Gray, who attended St. Mary’s High in Stockton and is currently a member of the WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks.
The 6-foot-3 Kakala, who heard the names of former McDonald’s All-American list from over the years, grew up a football fan.
“I was encouraged to play basketball at an early age since I was already tall,” she said.
First-year Manteca High girls hoop coach Ryan Bono raved about Kakala’s work ethic.
“Loretta has worked hard and has really dedicated herself to her craft,” he said. “She continues to grow as a person and as a basketball player.
“McDonald’s and Louisville will be getting more than just a basketball player – they’ll be getting a special young lady.”
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com.