Becoming a standout player takes hard work, commitment and dedication — all of which describes Pima sophomore forward Nikya Orange.
The Aztecs go through a strict weekly regimen to stay in shape under strength and conditioning coach Carla Garrett, and Orange has a long, detailed schedule that includes lifting on Mondays and Thursdays, watching film and having long practices.
All the while, she is expected to maintain high grades in the classroom.
She gets the job done.
Ever since joining Pima in May 2020, Orange has made an impact, averaging 8.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She was also a key part in helping the Aztecs make it to the NJCAA Division II tournament last season.
This year, Orange, a Tanque Verde alum, is averaging 9.6 points a game to go along with 9.4 rebounds.
She is a significant reason why her team is 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the ACCAC.
It is her commitment to the game, matched with a dominant month that has helped her team to a No. 8 ranking.
Orange also earned the ACCAC’s Player of the Week honors for Nov. 22-28.
“I was grateful that I got it, but I just try not to let the award get to me because I know that was last week’s award,” said Orange, “I have to keep pushing myself to get better every game.”
Last weekend at Chandler-Gilbert, she had eight points with an impressive 13 rebounds. She had 19 points against Arizona Christian’s JV team this week.
Crashing the boards is a big part of her game.
“Rebounding is a big part of my game. that’s probably the most consistent thing that I do, or that I’m comfortable with doing,” she said. “It’s just a very natural feeling for me to rebound, and then scoring comes second. I just know that once I start a game and I rebound consistently, I know I’m gonna have a good game.”
Orange decided to join the Aztecs after first attending Cochise College, following the news that former head coach Laura Hughes was going to step down to take an administrative job at Cochise’s Douglas campus last year.
Pima’s women’s basketball coach Todd Holthaus scouted Orange since her freshman year of high school, when she first started playing for the Rattlers, a club team in Tucson.
When the time came for her to make her decision on transferring, it was a clear-cut choice for her.
“I knew him from when I played club ball at Rattlers because we used to practice in the gyms,” Orange said. “I knew him. I know his vibes, I know what he expected from me and what he thought of me as a player. As soon as she (Hughes) said she was leaving, I knew that I wanted to play for him.”
Orange began playing basketball during her freshman year while she was at Sabino High School. She then moved to Tanque Verde. She played for the Hawks under coach Michael Edwards, who she says she learned from the most.
Tanque Verde unfortunately disbanded its girls basketball program after Edwards’ departure.
“He was very big on teaching us to be a good person, on the court and outside of basketball,” Orange said. “So just being a good person and always trying to expand my basketball IQ is something that he taught me and really stuck with me. I appreciate coach Edwards.”
Although she is just a sophomore, Orange brings a veteran leadership presence with her, both on and off the court. She has plenty of advice to share with her underclassmen.
“You gotta be really open-minded to the new drills, the new players, that you might not get that much playing time,” Orange said. “You gotta work for everything, you gotta push till you cant push anymore because it does get noticed.”
Pima next plays Saturday at Mesa at 2:00 p.m.
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Nathaniel Martinez is an aspiring sports journalist who is a Sahuaro High School graduate and Pima Community College student. He has written for the Aztec Press at Pima. While at Sahuaro, he played football for longtime coach Scott McKee and he wrestled for the Cougars.