Take a quick look back at the impressive alumni list from women’s basketball at Los Angeles Valley College and you’ll see a long list of former players who shined for the Lady Monarchs before going on to four-year programs like DePaul University, Butler University, Portland State University, and Cal State Northridge.
That’s where you’ll see Chriselle “Kookie” Taloma’s name highlighted in the 2010-11 graduating class. The point guard was dubbed by teammates during her two years at LAVC as the “Energizer Bunny”, a fitting moniker “Kookie” earned through sheer hustle, determination, and emerging as a team leader on and off of the floor.
Some things never change. These days, you can find Kookie providing leadership, insight, and her trademark energy as both a player and commissioner of the upstart Basketball Beauties League, which launched in 2016 as a spring board for players to be both recognized and respected around the game. This summer alone, the BBL has competed heavily on the court from Los Angeles with the Venice Basketball League, to New York in Harlem at the famed Rucker Park with the Entertainers Basketball League. Needless to say, the ladies of the BBL come strong.
The California native recently caught up with Wooter Apparel to talk about promoting the Basketball Beauties League, her passion for basketball, collaborating with Wooter, and the big plans for growing the league and her career within the game…
It’s been another busy summer for you and the Basketball Beauties League. Before getting into the league itself, can you share more about your experience around the game and how you got started with the league?
I have been playing basketball since I was in elementary at 12-years old and growing up in California. I played 4 years as a starter on Varsity at James Monroe High in Mission Hills and played on two travel teams before continuing to play at Los Angeles Valley College, where I unfortunately suffered a major injury when I tore my ACL. After surgery, I took a break from basketball but stayed within the community and focused on other aspects of growing within the game. That’s when I started officiating youth basketball leagues and eventually started coaching girls basketball at the high school level (Agoura High School). In addition to my aspiring career around basketball, I started running my own adult women’s league, which eventually led me to working with the Basketball Beauties League.
The BBL has really blossomed basketball wise since starting in 2016 after being founded by Jude Thomas. What have you learned the most about helping run a basketball league within that time and making the BBL a destination for female players around the US?
A lot has changed for sure from the court to the business of basketball, but to sum it up, the production level is very important and has changed tremendously. We went from playing in a small recreational park, to playing in high schools and bigger venues and competing in New York at Rucker Park and in California with the Venice Basketball League. What has helped has been the addition of partnering with someone like Game Keeper, as the software and platform allow us to live stream all of our games.
The rosters assembled is impressive. There are a number of players competing in the league who have really made a name for themselves around basketball...for you, who are some of the players that have made an impact this 2019 season?
Tee Laudermill (University of Nebraska), Jenna Bandy (California State University -- Monterey Bay), Brittany Lucio (C.K. McClatchy High School), Jessica Kuster (all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball at Rice University, WNBA and Europe), Maranne Johnson (Sacramento State University), and Gianna Woods (Rogers State University, British Basketball League) are just a few of the names that come to mind who have excelled this summer!
One of the knocks against women's basketball is that there aren't a lot of opportunities for players after college if they don't make it in the WNBA or head to Europe to continue playing. Why should players consider the Basketball Beauties League as a platform to build or grow their careers?
Visibility really is the biggest thing. Basketball is just the platform, but we as players and a league attract industry professionals such as models, actresses, publicist, professional athletes and the like who have basketball experience and are talented players. Participating in the league provides major visibility to these women and attract other brands, companies and organizations to work with as well. It’s part of what makes this league special.
Another advantage this season is being able to work with Wooter Apparel on the jersey and uniform designs, creations, and collaborations. What does it mean to be able to partner with a global brand with a more professional jersey look?
Looks are everything when drawing attention to what you are doing, so partnering with Wooter to create a more professional look is huge for us. In addition, the ladies love them and the material is amazing.
Long term, what is the vision and plans for the BBL to continue to grow from Los Angeles to New York?
The goal is to expand to all major cities and be able to grow women’s basketball at the BBL all over the world. This is just the start of more good things to come!