Nakai makes headlines as a star freshman

Story and photo by ARMANDO HARMON

This season is a special one for the Pima Community College women’s basketball team, with an overall record of 21-6 the Aztecs look to finish the season strong.

The team is filled with many returning players, but freshman Jacqulynn Nakai is making a name for herself in her debut with the Aztecs.

“I have grown a lot from last year,” Nakai said. “It’s not where I want to be, but I can always get better and that’s what I’m working on.”

The standout player grew up in Flagstaff. She attended Coconino High School, where she excelled on the basketball team. During her time at Coconino, she averaged 20 points a game and 7.1 assists.

In high school, she also won such awards like Girls’ Basketball Athlete of the Year for the Arizona Daily Sun and Player of the Year for the Navajo Times.

A liberal arts major, Nakai signed to Pima because of the welcoming visit she had experienced before she committed. Head coach Todd Holthaus welcomed her with a game plan on how she would improve as a player and how she would contribute her skills on the court.

The season so far has been a slam dunk for Nakai. She has played and started in all 25 games, averaging 16.9 points, 6.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. She is second in the ACCAC conference in scoring and leads the conference in assists.

Nakai has been named ACCAC Division II Player of the Week three times this season. Nakai earned her first honor as Player of the Week for Nov. 20-26 and had her second nod the week of Jan. 15-21.

“It’s nice, but I can’t settle,” Nakai said. “We still have three or four weeks left, and I am trying to go for that fourth one.”

Throughout her young career, Nakai has been faced with some adversity, but with a strong mentality she has been able to focus on what is important to her. She hopes to continue the run with her team and hopefully win in the postseason. Nakai has a vision and she is going to follow it all the way.

She plans only to get better and she hopes to transfer to a Division I school after her second year.

Outside of basketball, Nakai attends auto races when her friend comes down to visit and she enjoys to listen to music and work on her game.

“She’s a pleasure to coach,” Todd Holthaus said. “She comes to the gym early every day and her work shows out here on the court.”

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