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Mulberry High point guard among country's top scorers

Mulberry High point guard among country's top scorers

MULBERRY, Fla. - Chris Jesse has been a teacher at Mulberry High School in Polk County for 25 years, but even he hasn't seen anything like Lorianys Castanon Cruz.

"I haven't really coached anybody quite like her, someone who is just so dominant," Jesse said.

Last season, Jesse took over the Panthers' girls basketball team as head coach. Little did he know what his then-sophomore point guard was capable of.

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"We really ask her to do a lot," he said.

After all, Castanon Cruz doesn't just run the point for the Panthers, she scores them, too, better than almost anyone else in the nation.

"She knows what she's doing, but she isn't letting it go to her head," said Jesse.

Averaging 37.3 points per game, Castanon Cruz doesn't just lead all high school basketball players in Florida in scoring, but also ranks fifth nationally.

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"It sounds crazy," the Mulberry junior admitted. "As soon as I found out from my coaches, I couldn't wait to tell my parents, because they're so proud of me."

In fact, in a single game this season, Castanon Cruz scored 60 points for the Panthers while outscoring the opposing team's entire roster by three points.

"She told me one time that she wanted to score 50 [points]," Jesse recalled. "In my mind, I'm thinking that's probably not possible. Then, that night, she scores 60."

But for someone enjoying so much success, Castanon Cruz's experience on the court is relatively little.

"I used to stick to softball, and I just never played basketball in my life," said Castanon Cruz.

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As a lifelong softball player, she didn't play organized basketball until just two years ago.

"My ninth grade year really taught me how to play basketball," she said.

In fact, the junior learned how to shoot, not from any coach, but from playing pick-up basketball at home with her dad.

"[We played] one on one, H.O.R.S.E., P.I.G., everything. I always beat him, because I couldn't miss," she recalled.

Now, those games of driveway ball against her dad have turned into something else entirely for Castanon Cruz.

"You don't get that very often where you have one player scoring as many points as she does," said Jesse.

As Castanon Cruz joins the country's elite scorers, the junior has found a new love for a game she never had.