Roots that run deep

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Never underestimate the importance of family. So many people are influenced by what their parents, siblings or other family members do for them. Some of us go into the family business so to speak, but for Malia Nawahine, basketball is a family affair.

When asked why she wanted to play basketball, Nawahine felt that her family pushed her in that direction.

“They all play,” Nawahine said. “My mom and dad, as well as my older siblings, have all played basketball, and it was something that I just grew up wanting to do.”

But it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to play ball at the collegiate level. Nawahine’s coach, Lynne Roberts, has seen the effort she puts in and the results she produces. Whether she starts or comes off the bench, Roberts feels that Nawahine goes hard, speaking highly of her athleticism, toughness and defensive prowess.

“She has played a lot of minutes and a lot of games, and she knows what it takes to win games,” Roberts said. “She brings that toughness out there. The value that she brings is that it doesn’t matter if she has scored zero or fifty, her effort never changes. She is going to play her tail off. She wants to compete and win. She’s as competitive a player as anyone I’ve ever coached.”

Nawahine thinks her best skill is her defense, and she takes a lot of pride in it, helping her team and telling her teammates where to go on defense.

As far as connections go, Nawahine’s roots run deep with the University of Utah. Her grandfather Bill Cravens played football for the Utes from 1960-1962. More recently, her sister played on the team from 2013 to 2015, and her cousin, Wendy Anae, is a current teammate. But for Nawahine, her family extends to not only her biological family but also her teammates.

“We all genuinely get along with each other,” Nawahine said. “We all like playing with each other. We get along. We’re all friends, not just because we’re teammates, but because we genuinely care about each other.”

Nawahine also spoke about how close the team is off the court, as teammates will spend hours hanging out with each other, playing games or talking. Nawahine’s chemistry with her teammates comes out well on the court, as she is one of three Utes to average double figures in scoring. Anyone who has watched Nawahine play can attest to her tenacity and effort on the court.

For Nawahine, her current path started when she was in the third grade, marking the beginning of her career in her favorite sport. A lifetime of basketball has generated many memories, but Nawahine says there are two memories that stand out above all others.

“When I was in high school, winning the State Championship was a pretty great memory,” Nawahine said with a smile. “That, and beating BYU this year was pretty great as well.”

In that BYU game earlier in the season, Nawahine posted an impressive 16 point, five rebound, three assist effort.

Although the season might not have gone as smoothly as players and fans may have wanted, Nawahine is still staying optimistic about what lies ahead.

“We’ve had some good parts and some bad parts this season,” Nawahine said. “We just got a win against Colorado so that will help us in the rest of the season. We just have to keep getting better and playing our game. But overall it’s been fun.”

j.walch@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JaredWalch

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