Prospect becomes brother's keeper
The Boykins called for a family huddle. It was just about one year ago, in August 2012, when the matter of the upcoming school year became pressing.
De'Janae Boykin, the No. 4 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the 2015 class, was planning to return for her sophomore season at Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), a private school where she was an emerging star.
Her little brother Joshua was set to begin his freshman year at Charles H. Flowers (Springdale, Md.), the public high school that was within walking distance of their home.
But Joshua -- legally blind since birth -- was nervous about being the new kid at his "massive" high school, and he asked if De'Janae could join him at Flowers.
De'Janae went back to her room, thought about it for a while and returned to the huddle with an answer.
"Family always comes first," said De'Janae, 16, who will be a junior at Flowers this fall. "Me and Josh have always been together except for that one year. I just wanted to make sure he's safe, make sure he's OK."
A tough choice
It wasn't easy for De'Janae to leave Riverdale. As a freshman, she had played a starring role as Riverdale won the ESPN-sponsored National High School Invitational, beating other nationally ranked teams en route to the championship.
But parents Jeff and Sheila Boykin couldn't afford to send both kids to private school, so something had to give.
"It made me feel very happy that she would support me and be with me in high school," said Joshua, who can see some nearby objects with his right eye but nothing but blurry images with his left. "Even though we didn't have any classes together, I do see her in the hallways, and it made me feel more confident knowing she had my back and would protect me if anything were to happen."
Sadly, things happened.
"Sometimes people tease me about being visually impaired," said Joshua, who dreams of developing software for video games or perhaps working in the film industry as a writer/director. "They back off sometimes when they know De'Janae is my sister. But most of the time, I just ignore it."
Jeff said he made sure De'Janae was aware of the possible repercussions of her decision to leave Riverdale.
"I told her, 'The level of basketball at a public school is not as good, and there may be some backlash,'" he said. "But she's very mature. It was a little emotional for me knowing she was thinking not about herself but her brother.
"And I think it helped Josh. She is a celebrity at school, which made his life a little easier."
No slip in skills
De'Janae's basketball hasn't shown any signs of suffering. In June, the 6-foot-2 forward helped lead the USA U16 team to a gold-medal win over Canada at the FIBA Americas finals in Cancun, Mexico. She started all five games in the tournament, averaging 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
Flowers coach Patrice Frazier-Watson is not surprised De'Janae performed so well.
The coach loves her versatility and used her at all five positions last season, when she averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Frazier-Watson, who thinks De'Janae will wind up as a wing in college, wants her to continue to work on her ballhandling, but there is no question that college coaches are already very aware of her game.
"It's endless, nonstop," Frazier-Watson said of the number of coaches recruiting De'Janae. "The list goes on and on."
De'Janae said she's had "a lot" of offers, including from top programs such as Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia and Penn State.
"I'm taking my time and enjoying the process," she said. "They haven't bombarded me yet, but it will start to get hectic in September when [coaches] can start calling and texting and making home visits."
De'Janae, who has a 3.25 GPA, wants to study broadcasting in college and said she is not locked in to any geographical area.
Starting at age 6 and lasting for five years, De'Janae took dance lessons -- ballet as well as tap.
"She was very good," said her mother, Sheila. "She would practice for two hours a day, and her instructors were upset when she decided to quit."
Jeff, who is 6-4 ½ and played basketball in high school and also while serving for four years in the Marines, was thrilled De'Janae chose basketball.
He had tried to make a basketball player out of De'Janae's older sister, Janiesha, who is 6-3 1/2. But she didn't have the athletic ability, Jeff said, to play beyond high school.
De'Janae was a different story. She watched as her dad worked with her sister, and when the time demands for basketball and dance forced a decision to choose only one, she selected hoops.
Boo Williams, who coaches De'Janae in club basketball on the team that bears his name, is glad she chose basketball.
She has starred on his team the past two summers, and he calls her a "high-character" player.
"She's good on defense, rebounding, passing and she can shoot," he said. "The only thing she needs to work on is being more aggressive offensively. But I can see why she did so well with Team USA because she can do so many things."
Williams said he wasn't at all surprised that De'Janae sacrificed playing for an elite team such as Riverdale so she could be there for her brother.
"These days, it's a diva world," he said. "Players are all about 'me.' You can find good players. But to find a good player like De'Janae who is also a good teammate and a good person is rare. You don't find many like her."