Historic: Former ASU hoops star Amukamara to play in 2021 Olympics

No one can say that Promise Amukamara hasn’t lived up to her name.

She’s well into a lengthy and successful sports career, but shows promise of even greater achievements to come.

The former basketball star at Apollo High School and Arizona State University will soon become the first ASU women’s basketball player to take part in the Olympics.  And that follows a successful professional career playing overseas.

Amukamara comes from a sports family that has made significant contributions to organized sports in Arizona.  It began with her older brother, Prince, who was one of the best running backs to attend Apollo HS in Glendale, selected as the Arizona Republic Big Schools Player of the Year in 2006.  .

He went on to play at Nebraska, where he was converted to cornerback and won a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award, and then went 19th overall in the 2011 NFL draft.  His NFL career spanned 10 years.

But he was just the beginning of a parade of athletes turned out by Romanus and Christy Amukamara, who left New Jersey in the mid-90s to raise their family in Arizona.

Promise, who was also a star track athlete at Apollo, was one of just five daughters, all with unique names that make their sports exploits all the more memorable.  The list: Princess, Promise, Peace, Precious, and Passionate.

It should be pointed out that the children come from royal bloodlines in Nigeria, where their grandfather was the king of Awo-Omamma, an oil-rich town in the Imo State.   Romanus emigrated to America in search of an education.  And the names he and  Christy gave to their children were a reflection of that African culture.

Peace, a 5’7″ guard from Millennium High School, followed her sister to ASU after putting in a couple of seasons at Mesa Community College.  In 2014, she helped lead MCC to a NJCAA DII national title -the school’s first – in her sophomore year by scoring a team-high 28 points in the title game.

Rather than follow her older sisters to ASU, Passionate decided to blaze her own trail at Northern Arizona University following her graduation from Millennium (three-time Defensive Player of the Year), and played two seasons for the Lumberjacks before transferring to Texas A&M, where she stayed for one season.  She finished her playing career in 2019 at Florida College.

Precious, the oldest athlete among the girls, was the sister that found more interest in running than dribbling.  She enrolled at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where she competed in the sprints for the GCU track team, wrapping up her college career in 2012.

But, back to Promise…

The 5’9″ athlete earned her reputation at ASU as one of the program’s best defenders, twice named to the All-Pac-12 defensive team.  She left the program in sixth place on the school’s all-time steals list (209) and third in career steals  in NCAA Tournament games (10).

But there was more to Promise’s game.  She came to ASU as a scorer out of high school, averaging 22 points a game as a senior at Apollo.  She played in all 131 games at ASU from 2012 to 2015, scoring in double figures 21 times in her final season and earned a couple of Pac-12 Player of the Week awards.  Her play that year was a major factor in the Sun Devils being able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.

Promise was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with their final pick in the 2015 draft, but got waived before she could contribute to the program.  Instead, she took her talents overseas, where she has played for teams in Spain, Germany, Romania, and France.

She has also been playing for the Nigerian national team and will represent Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics, which is now scheduled for summer 2021.  But she won’t be the first from the family to participate in the Olympics.  Her mother, Christy, was a sprinter on the Nigerian track team in the 1984 Olympics.

But Promise doesn’t see her basketball career ending there.  She will be 27 years old later this month and still holds out hope of getting another shot at the WNBA.

It would be nice to see her in a Phoenix Mercury uniform.  There are still plenty of people in the Valley who would like to revisit those years when she was one of the best high school and college ballers to come out of this state.

(Photo: State Press)