The shot was as routine as they come for Jacqulynn Nakai. It was a 3-point jumper with 3:55 left in the second quarter that gave Nakai the women’s basketball scoring record at Pima Community College.
That may have been the only thing routine about Nakai – rhymes with sigh – who hit jumper after jumper, layup after layup, and free throw after free throw for a game-high 32 points in Pima’s 81-62 win over Chandler.
“It’s a big accomplishment because not many will do something like this,” said Nakai, a sophomore, when asked what it all meant to have the record. “It’s for all the hard work I’ve been putting in and everything I’m doing is in my favor.”
Oddly, when she hit the 3-pointer – soon came a fist pump and a big smile to celebrate the shot – she said she wasn’t aware of how many points she had, but she heard the crowd “cheering really loud” giving her an indication what she accomplished. She needed just 14 points to surpass Tia Morrison’s record set in 2010. Nakai did that and 18 more.
You see, nothing is routine about JJ’s game. She shoots (and scores), passes (and connects) and sees the court (very well).
“That’s probably part of her game – she averages 25 points a game and seven assists – that’s overlooked,” said her coach Todd Holthaus of her passing game. “She’s scoring all the time (so that overshadows her assists0. She plays the game at a different level. A lot of times when she gets a turnover, they aren’t ready to catch it. It’s a pass that will get her to the next level.”
Said Nakai: “Being able to see the court and get the ball to people and creating plays for people is the way I play.”
Indeed it is.
Once you see her you know you’re seeing someone special. She handles the ball well, she helps run the offense and she gets everyone involved. Holthaus has already said she’s the best player he’s ever coached. No one was prouder than Holthaus on Wednesday night in the victory.
“As a coach you always want to have the kid who comes into the gym and wants to work all the time,” he said. “You don’t want to have to beg them to work. JJ, for the last two years, has been that kid … I read something today that ‘people who are great shooters practice it’ and that’s what she does. She practices all the time. I’m nothing but proud.
“Basketball is a team sport but it’s important to recognize kids who do that at at that (high) level.”
And she does. Who would have thought this 5-foot-7 guard from Flagstaff would have put up these types of numbers? Few, actually.
“I don’t know if I would have expected it, but it doesn’t surprise me because of how hard she works,” said Holthaus. “When she came in as a freshman all she did was come into (the gym) and shoot. She’s was very quiet which was different. Now she is more open and a great communicator.”
And, that too, will get her far. Where that is is still unknown in as much as there are more games to be played and a tournament to look forward to. Her future can wait, she said.
“Honestly, I wasn’t not expecting to accomplish as much as I have,” she said. “I just thought I was just going to keep playing ball and see how far I get with this. I didn’t think I’d be breaking records. I thought Pima was going to be the end of the road.”
Not with that jumper – and eye for the court.