Florida High Basketball Player Has Family In Heart and On Court

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Tallahassee, FL - As the girls basketball team from Florida High runs through drills, a familiar voice rings out commands. No, it's not Coach Lisa Kelley. She watches as it all happens. It's her rookie, Ieshia Small, who demands more from the team and instructs them on how to execute the offense. Thing is, the girls she's "coaching" are pretty talented without the instruction.

But, it's clear, Small isn't your typical player. She's one of the top in the country.

Small starts listing the offers she has: "Tennessee, Maryland, Georgia..."

Almost every school in the country courted the six-foot guard, and they're still trying.

But this is her first year playing for Florida High. She moved here from Miami, where she spent her entire childhood. It was a move the basketball prep community initially called foul.

It was March of her sophomore year, right after she returned home from a playoff game. She learned her mom was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack.

"They wasn't with me on nights when I cried and I had to call her," Small said.

The news would eventually turn tragic. The next day, her mom, Michelle Robinson, died at 48 years old.

"She'd been to all of my games. She never missed a game," Small said. "Always was with my mom. To be honest, right now I still don't accept the fact that she's gone, but I know that deep down inside that she's in my heart."

Small and her younger brother, Marvin, were left without parents - their father died years earlier.

"One time I came back down to Miami from being out of town and then the next thing I know I'm being taken away into foster care," she said.

Throughout the next 15 months, the kids shifted from home to home. But Small played through her junior year at Doctor Michael J. Krop High School. Last season, her team lost in the Class 8A state championship game.

"And then I ended up playing travel ball with my coach, Coach Kim Davis," Small said.

"That's when we kind of knew going into the summer and after the summer that something just isn't right," said Kimberly Davis Powell, Small's legal parent.

Davis Powell coached Small on the Essence AAU travel team. She and her husband offered the kids a place to live in Tallahassee.

"All we thought about was what do we need to do to help these kids and the rest will fall into place," Davis Powell said.

Even as she applied for adoption, Davis Powell heard a lot of negativity.

"It was bad. It was bad. 'You only want her because she's a ballplayer,'" Davis Powell remembers people saying to her.

But at 38 years old, Davis Powell has one adopted child and she is a legal guardian to four others. That's not including the two new members of the family.

"I've been involved with girls for 15 years, some kids who have been in some pretty bad situations," she said, "and we just kind of helped out and I've opened up our home."

After filing the adoption papers last February, 10 months later on November 15, it became official.

"It was just like, phew, it's over. Now we can live our lives," Davis Powell said.

The same feeling Small hopes to have when making a college decision. It's between Rutgers, South Carolina and Baylor.

"It'll be somewhere I know I want to spend the rest of my four years at that will basically be my second family," Small said.

When she looks around on the signing day, her mom will be looking from above-- and right there on the court sitting next to her.

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