NAU gets last Amukamara; Passionate joins ‘Jacks hoops

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                </div>  Passionate Amukamara is apparently charting her own course through a college basketball career, breaking the mold set by her sisters at Arizona State. The 5’8″ guard from Apollo High School […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Passionate Amukamara is apparently charting her own course through a college basketball career, breaking the mold set by her sisters at Arizona State.

The 5’8″ guard from Apollo High School will be on the roster at Northern Arizona University in the fall, starting the final phase of contributions from an Arizona family that not only gave their children unique names, but also provided them with a wealth of athletic talent.

Passionate’s older brother, Prince, left the Amukamara home in Glendale after being named the Arizona Republic Big Schools Football Player of the Year as a running back at Apollo, and then went on to play at Nebraska where he converted to corner back and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.  He was selected by the New York Giants with the 19th pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Her older sisters, Promise and Peace, shifted the family focus to basketball and elected to become Sun Devils. Both played the guard position – and did it very well.

Promise was part of the 2011 recruiting class at ASU after averaging 22 points a game as a senior at Apollo and being named the Gatorade Arizona Girls Basketball Player of the Year, while Peace transferred in to the Sun Devil program in 2014 after two years at Mesa Community College, where she was named the NJCAA Division II Player of the Year.  Peace averaged 15.6 points and 4.3 rebounds a game during her senior year at Millennium High School, helping that Goodyear school to its first-ever girls’ state basketball title.

Promise finished her college career this year after being a major contributor all four years at ASU.  She played in all 131 games during that span and started 97 of those.  The Sun Devils made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament in her senior season, and Promise finished the year first on the team in steals, third in scoring and field-goal percentage, and fourth in rebounds to make her the team’s top rebounding guard.  She was picked by the Phoenix Mercury in this month’s WNBA draft.

Peace also played in every game for the Devils last season, finishing third in assists, and has one more year of eligibility to give head coach Charli Turner-Thorne.

But little sister is just getting started on her road through college sports, and is one of three in-state recruits NAU head coach Sue Darling just added to the roster.  But Passionate is the only one of the three coming into the program directly from high school.

She was a four-year starter at Millennium and was named Defensive Player of the Year three times. Her scoring stats were not nearly as impressive as those of her sisters; she averaged nine points a game as a senior.  But she made a big impact on the defensive side, where she averaged 2.9 steals a game as the Tigers ran up a 28-5 record and finished as runner-up for this year’s Division I state title.

It’s safe to say Passionate will likely make a bigger impact next season in Flagstaff than either of the other two locals, simply because they will be sitting out the season after transferring in from other D-I programs, per NCAA rules.

Olivia Lucero attended Highland High School in Gilbert where she was a two-time All-State selection and during her senior season led the Hawks to a 32-2 record and No. 3 ranking in the state.  But the 5’9″ guard opted to play at Loyola Marymount for two years before returning to the state to join the Lumberjack program.

Lucero, who had a total of 12 starts during her two years at LMU, has some previous experience with the program she is joining.  She logged 32 minutes during the two games the Lions played NAU over the last two years.  While not a prolific scorer (3.7 ppg this past season), she evidently impressed Darling enough to get an offer to transfer to Flag.

The other recent announcement was for Kenna McDavis, who played on three state championship teams at Pinnacle High School in north Phoenix, and picked up two years of college playing experience at Boise State. Although she played in 32 games, her primary roles was as a reserve.  The 6’1″ forward averaged just 3.9 points last season, but shot 35.3 per cent from behind the arc and was deadly at the free-throw line, with 92.3 per cent accuracy.

Amukamara is the third incoming freshman for the Jacks, who also signed Alyssa Rader and Kaleigh Paplo, both from Colorado, in the fall.

“This class, built on top of the classes we’ve had so far, really puts us at a different level,” said Darling, who just wrapped her third season as head coach after coming up the hill from University of Arizona, where she was an assistant for four years.  It has been a slow rebuilding process, but the Jacks earned a berth in this year’s Big Sky Conference – the first time that’s happened in six years.

“The players that we have right now have given us the work ethic, grit, and determination we’ve looked for, and they’ve propelled this program to where it is now.

“This new class will only help take it to a higher level.”