Before a game, Pueblo West High School junior Shayla Padilla is all smiles.
But come tip-off, the Cyclones girls basketball team's starting post player puts her game face on.
Padilla, listed at 5-10, controls the paint on defense. And she does so with a determination and intensity mixed with focus and poise.
“I kind of get that from my brother because we’re a defensive-minded family,” Padilla said. “I love playing hard defense and I want you to be scared of me. I want to take the basketball away from you.”
The junior pulls down 5.2 rebounds, nabs 2.4 steals and has a team-high 14 blocks this season. She’s a key defensive component for the South-Central League leading Cyclones who also happen to be ranked No. 2 in Class 4A.
Her defense is stellar despite being a smaller center in terms of her stature.
“You gotta act like you’re 6-2,” Padilla said. “You gotta be big and act like. It’s a mindset.”
On the offensive end of the floor, Padilla is no slouch either.
While opportunistic, Padilla attacks the offensive glass and scores many points on put backs. She averages 3.8 points per game, but has the ability to shoot and dribble as well.
Like on defense, Padilla takes pride in doing the dirty work on the offensive glass.
“I don’t really see myself as a scorer so I try to get offensive rebounds and kick ito to my teammates,” she said. “If a shot goes up, I’m there. I’m rebounding. I’m boxing out.”
She credits her competitive drive to her older brother, Cisco — the 2019 Class 4A state high jump champion.
Padilla herself, placed fourth in the high jump last season for the Cyclones. She also played softball in the fall.
Her brother is her favorite athlete, and she models her drive and work ethic after his.
“He’s an amazing athlete and he inspires me every day,” Padilla said. “He was a state champ and he’s just so competitive. The way he treats people, and just the way he is … he’s an athlete and I love him.”
Growing up the two would often compete against each other. Padilla said her older brother was determined to always beat her.
Together their competitive drive and hard work translated well when the two competed at rodeo in middle school.
When Padilla was in sixth grade, she and her brother were fourth in the world in team roping.
“It was very competitive,” she said. “It made me a better athlete. Riding horses and rodeo is a hobby of mine. I’ll even go out there and rope with my dad (for fun).”
Like her brother, Padilla hopes to become a state champion herself.
While high jump will be a focus for her in a few short months, she currently has her eyes set on a Class 4A basketball championship.
“I think this is our year,” Padilla said. “I want to do with the people who want it as bad as me and this is the group. It would be awesome to win it with this group of girls.”