After ACL injury, SCC point guard back to old self
By Barbara Boxleitner
Special to the Times
A knee injury behind her, Malia Ukestine is optimistic about the women’s basketball season.
The Miyamura High School graduate was an occasional starter for Scottsdale Community College last year, when she was still recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
“My knee wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” the 5-foot- 6 sophomore point guard said.
She averaged 5.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in starting eight of the 25 games she played.
So this summer she did more weight training to strengthen the knee. Ukestine trained and practiced four times a week with teammates because she was at campus enrolled in a class.
“I feel like I’m back to my old self,” she said. “I feel a lot more confident.”
As a second-year player, she has a bigger role this season. “Helping out the freshmen, I’m more like a leader,” she said.
She averaged 12.9 minutes per game a season ago, seventh among the 12 Fighting Artichokes who played. Scottsdale head coach Tasha Washington said Ukestine will play more this season.
“She’s healthy. She’s the kid we recruited,” the coach said. “So far she’s been very comfortable.”
Ukestine scored in double figures six times. She had a high of 16 points against Cochise, when she led the team in scoring and converted a season-high four three-pointers in seven attempts. She added five assists and three steals, each tying for the team high, and three rebounds in the loss.
The coach said Ukestine is able to score from the perimeter, mid-range and drives. “She’s always been a natural scorer,” she said. “She’s just been exactly what we expected.”
Scottsdale employs a fast-paced offense. “She (coach) wants us to score as quickly as possible,” Ukestine said. “She’s confident in me taking drives to the basket and creating for my teammates as well.”
She said the team mainly played man defense and that she typically guards the shooting or point guard. She had a season-high five steals once and a season-best six rebounds once.
“She’s a very good defender,” Washington said. “Defense is a priority.”
The team presses a lot, so being aggressive on the ball is a key for her. “Our defense creates for our offense,” she said. “Getting pressure. Making sure she (opponent) doesn’t drive to the middle, keeping her in front.”
She graduates in May and said she is open to completing her two years of playing eligibility if the opportunity arises.