Dominance. Consistency. Experience. Leadership.
These are the qualities that the Stony Brook women’s basketball team is looking to get out of their newest graduate transfer, Kaela “KK” Hilaire. These are the qualities that Hilaire has always brought to the court since her days in Floral Park, at Seton Hall, and now at Stony Brook. But for Hilaire, it’s the last quality that she feels is the most important and her biggest asset.
“Since I was a freshman at Seton Hall, I was the leader,” Hilaire said. “That would probably be my biggest asset, being able to get these guys to follow me and they are doing a pretty good job at it. They are letting me lead them, and especially on the floor, they are allowing me to just play my game.”
For Hilaire, she isn’t just a leader in the huddle and breakdown, she’s a leader by example. During her time with the Pirates, she became a unanimous Big East All-Freshman Team selection in 2016-17 while setting the program’s freshman record in assists and also pacing all rookies in the conference in scoring, assists and steals. She was a three-year starter for the team as their point guard and finished her career with 7.4 points per game, a 37% field goal percentage, 76% free throw percentage and 3.7 assists per game.
These statistics are not shocking to those who watched her play in high school. Newsday’s 2016 Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Hilaire scored 29.8 points per game as a senior at Floral Park and became just the 22nd player in Long Island history to surpass the 2,000-point mark. Hilaire led Floral Park to a Long Island title while also being named a two-time Nassau County Player of the Year, a member of 2016 MSG Varsity First Team All-Long Island and a four-time Newsday All-Long Island team member. Now, “KK” is looking to bring her talent back home.
“Well, obviously I never really wanted to go far being that Seton Hall was right there,” Hillaire said. “But family is a big thing for me and the fact that a lot of them can come to this game without paying a toll or a ticket for a train. […] It’s like maybe a 45-minute ride.”
Now representing the Seawolves, head coach Caroline McCombs is expecting Hilaire to show up big for the team on game days. Calling her “our floor general,” McCombs expects a lot, but to Hilaire, that is not pressure, it is trust. “KK’s experience over the past three seasons in the Big East Conference will continue to elevate our program,” McCombs said. “KK has a natural ability to lead on and off the court.”
“That is not something that I am used to,” Hillaire said. “I genuinely appreciate [Coach McCombs]. Just the fact that she cares that much about all of us, and she shows it on and off the floor. She just gives me more confidence and I want to play better for her. I want to bring her a championship. And we all do because she deserves that.”
With her family in the stands, her teammates following her lead and a coach with full faith in her abilities as a player and leader, Kaela Hilaire is ready to elevate her game and bring a championship home.
“I felt like I was a different player when I was [on Long Island]. So I kinda wanna bring back that Floral Park ‘KK’ and just be a better player and a better leader and just grow more, but why not do it in front of the people that I’ve been doing it in front of.”