Women’s Basketball: Senior Utes Reflect Back While Looking Forward


Utah Utes Wing Malia Nawahine looks to pass to Utah Utes Forward Emily Potter during the University of Utah vs. University of Colorado NCAA Women’s basketball game at the Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 4th, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

It’s that time of year again. That time when, with heavy hearts, Utah fans prepare to watch their favorite athletes for the final few times in their white and crimson uniforms.

For the Utah women’s basketball team, that means saying goodbye this Sunday (pending postseason play) to Nakia Arquette, Katie Kuklok and Dani Rodriguez.

It’s been a season marked by ups and downs for these senior Utes. After the team received an almost completely clean bill of health to start the season, the Utes were eager to sink their teeth into the preseason schedule and turn some heads. After doing just that, Utah continued to impress once conference play began, sweeping Washington and Washington State in the opening weekend of Pac-12 play and then following with an impressive win over then-No. 21 Cal.

But for the seniors, this season is one of several as student-athletes, and while they are each focused on finishing out the year on a high note, they’re appreciating the moment.

“Just looking back on my time at Utah, I’m really happy and proud to say I got to play here,” Kuklok said. “I love playing in the Huntsman Center, and I’m definitely going to miss it. Just playing in the Huntsman is special to me. Ever since I got to Utah it was stressed how much of a special place it is. Just going in there and getting shots up on your own when nobody’s in there is a surreal feeling.”

Kuklok began her career at the University of San Diego before transferring to UVU. It was there that she caught the eye of former Utah head coach Anthony Levrets.

“Being given the opportunity to play in the Pac-12 by Coach Leverets was something I can never thank him enough for,” she said. “Being able to be in this conference at this school and have all the amenities and resources they’ve given us is just amazing.”

After losing to both Oregon and Oregon State last weekend, Utah returns to Salt Lake for its final regular season homestand in which the team will face Cal and Stanford. While Utah feels it has the edge over the Golden Bears, who they’ll play Friday, having beaten them in the Haas Pavilion earlier this season, head coach Lynne Roberts understands the emotion behind the final two home games.

“It’s difficult. It doesn’t matter who your seniors are, where you’re coaching or where you’re at, it’s always the same,” Roberts said. “It’s tough for the players when you come out of the locker room with a game plan and then you have this emotional ceremony of saying goodbye to great players. It’s hard, but it’s part of it, and you just have to trust that your players are dialed in.”

While Kuklok acknowledged the weekend would be an emotional one, she left no doubt that the Utes would be ‘dialed in.’

“Being able to finish on a high note is definitely something I’m going to cherish,” she said.

Throughout her collegiate career, Kuklok carved a spot for herself wherever she went as a scorer with a silky jump shot. For Utah, she’s been the special unit, sixth man scoring in bunches off the bench. At UVU, Kuklok was more of a first option, carrying the team offensively.

As her college basketball career comes to a close, Kuklok ponders what’s next.

“I would love to play overseas — thats been a dream of mine for a long time, just to play professional basketball would be amazing at any level,” Kuklok said. “I think that if I were to stay involved with basketball [after playing], it would be from a training stand point like athletic training. I don’t really see myself as a coach, but that could change.”

An accomplished career as a high-level scorer in one of the nation’s most competitive conferences, a possible future in professional basketball — for the time being, Kuklok is just enjoying her time as a Ute, cherishing every last moment of it.

“Stepping out onto the court in front of your home fans and in front of your family for the last time … [It’s] definitely something I’m going to cherish forever,” Kuklok said.

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