Sports Women's Sports

Admiring those who came before them: Sierra Canyon’s trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame 

By Carley Crain

When looking at the display case of clipboards used by legendary coaches – a Sierra Canyon School (CA) player turned to Blazers head coach Alicia Komaki and proudly said; “Coach they should put you in there!” 

Komaki chuckled in admiration and jokingly agreed that her coaching clipboard would be a nice addition to the glass display. 

“As basketball players, this is obviously a special place, and it is really cool to see the history,” Komaki said of the team’s visit to the Hall of Fame. “It’s also very interactive. I have been fortunate to be here before, but you still come in and feel the love for basketball.”

The team rolled up in similar attire – black hooded sweatshirts and joggers to combat the cold, windy Sunday afternoon in Springfield. Being from California, the team is used to the Los Angeles weather that hardly falls under 60 degrees during its winter months. 

But before heading back to the sunshine, visiting the Basketball Hall of Fame was a must – something that the whole team was looking forward to. Although Komaki has visited the Hall of Fame before, it was most of the players’ first time. As some of the best athletes in the country, going back to the roots of their favorite sport – and finding inspiration from the game’s best – keeps them humbled and hungry.

The players were quick to test out their wing spans compared to basketball greats like Brittney Griner and Giannis Antetokounmpo. As each Sierra Canyon athlete spread out their long arms against the backdrops of Griner and Anteokounmpo, some players weren’t far off with their own personal wing spans – like freshman Emila Krstevski, who is already 6-foot-3 at just 14 years old. 

The team couldn’t move far throughout the Hall of Fame, however, without Juju Watkins – the No. 1 ranked player in the country right now – getting asked for photos or autographs. 

At the rate of Watkins’ ascension in women’s basketball, she could be looking at her own name on the Hall of Fame wall someday.

Watkins even had her own film crew for the visit. At just 17 years old, she has and continues to grasp the attention of those around her no matter where she is.

“We’ve been to a few different states this year, and everywhere we go, it has been sold-out arenas and quite the mob that swarms her after games,” Komaki said. 

At the facility where basketball is celebrated the most, Watkins was being recognized alongside those she has looked up to her entire life. Fans couldn’t believe that she was really there – strolling the Hall of Fame with her team after a dominant performance at the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic at Springfield College, one where she scored 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and tallied five assists.  

“One of the best things about this event is that it is at such a small gym, and the people from the town seem to come to support the event and the best players in the country,” Komaki said.. “Of course, we will come back if invited again.”

Two exhibits stood out in particular to Sierra Canyon. The new section dedicated to the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant, and the wall with the names of everyone who’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Multiple Sierra Canyon girls took pictures of a Kobe quote that spoke to them, one they will keep in the back of their minds as elite players: “Winning takes precedence overall. There’s no gray area. No almosts.”

Photo: Ty Coney / The Springfield Student

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