Manchester Memorial guard Peace Kabari was the best freshman in the state during the 2011-2012 girls basketball season. Well I guess she enjoyed being a freshman so much that she wants to do it again. Kabari has made the decision to transfer from Memorial to Phillips Exeter Academy. She will enroll at PEA in the fall, repeat her freshman year and reclassify to the Class of 2016.
"The deciding factor for leaving Memorial was the education" Kabari told the NH Notebook. "Phillips Exeter is on another level of academics that I want to be a part of, so when I was accepted I knew I had to take the chance."
Kabari made quite an impact on the high school basketball scene this winter, which gave her plenty of options for schools. From there things simply fell into place for her and PEA.
"I never really thought of prep schools, in fact they never really crossed my mind until last year when some close friends thought it would be the perfect opportunity."
Many people consider Phillips Exeter to be the best academic prep school in the entire country. Kids come from not just all over the U.S. but all over the world to go to PEA. It has small class sizes, a challenging curriculum and a degree from Phillips Exeter really sets you up well for the future.
"Peace is a special person and athlete, in that order" said Kara Leary, who is Kabari's AAU coach with the NE Crusaders. "She wants to excel as much in the classroom as in her extracurricular activities, which include not only basketball but also music and track among others."
PEA isn't the only prep school Kabari was considering. In fact every girls basketball fan in the state probably knows what the other school was. In one of the most read girls basketball columns this site has ever posted, I talked about how she was suspended one game this season for missing school the day before. She was absent from school because she was visiting the New Hampton School. New Hampton made it to the NEPSAC championship game last month and had four scholarship players on the team. New Hampton however, does not have a track program.
"Track was a big part of why I chose Phillips over New Hampton" explained Kabari. "I love track almost as much as basketball and I couldn't imagine a future without it."
Kabari is one of the most athletic girls basketball players to come out of New Hampshire in a long time. The 5'6" guard is able to wiggle her way through defenders while driving to the rim, she twists and turns her body in mid-air while putting shots up inside. And she she leaps high up in the air for rebounds, often getting up higher and grabbing boards over girls who are 6'0" or taller. You simply cannot teach that kind of athleticism. Still, Peace realizes that she still has work to do in order to take her game to the next level.
"To improve my game I need to work on ball handling" said Kabari. "I know that my forte is currently a two guard, but the point is in my future so that's one thing I need to work on. Secondly, I have the mindset of a forward so I like to cut into the paint and post up. But now I'm learning to shoot more because my height demands it."
The first time I saw Kabari play was during the 2011 NH AAU State Tournament, when she was playing for the NH Lady Cats and they were playing against the Crusaders. She simply dominated that game, coming out of nowhere to grab steals on defense and scored at will on offense. She put the team on her back, leading them to the win with 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ steals. Right then I knew she would be a special player. Kabari kept that momentum rolling into the high school season, when she started all year long and put up big numbers across the board for a Memorial girls team that made it to the D-I semi-finals where they took eventual champs Bishop Guertin to double-overtime.
"Peace is blessed with excellent athletic ability and some great basketball skills" said Coach Leary. "She also has an unbelievable drive to improve her game. As she continues to get repetitions on her shot and continues to push her basketball I.Q., her game will continue to grow. The sky is really the limit for how good she can be."