Arkorful signs with Marshall
Published 2:25 pm Thursday, April 16, 2015
When she’s on the basketball court, Ama Arkorful often finds herself the target of a box-and-one defense. It’s designed to take a star player out of the game, or minimize their impact.
Away from the court, life seemed to be doing the same.
The freshman phenom sat out nearly all of her sophomore year after changing schools. She played her junior season, then missed half her senior year because of academic problems.
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All the while, the Warren Central point guard was honing her skills on the AAU circuit and garnering attention from Division I programs. Her unusual and difficult path had a successful payoff on Wednesday, when she signed a letter of intent to play at Marshall University.
“I’m beyond happy. I’m just elated and relieved. One of the best moments,” Arkorful said. “I just kept faith in God. I knew it was going to work out somewhere, I just didn’t know how.”
Arkorful burst onto the scene in 2011-12, when she averaged 17.1 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a freshman at Vicksburg High. She was selected as The Vicksburg Post’s girls basketball Player of the Year.
The promise she showed that season soon seemed to fizzle, however. She transferred to Warren Central in November 2013 and, since she’d already played seven games that season with Vicksburg, had to sit out the rest of the year under Mississippi High School Activities Association rules.
She led Warren Central in scoring with 14.1 points per game in the 2013-14 season, but her assist and steal totals dropped significantly and the Lady Vikes slumped to a 7-17 record. Poor grades forced her off the team at the holiday break this season.
While her high school career was stuck in neutral, however, her status as a college prospect was not. She emerged as a star player for the Mississippi Fire, an AAU program that plays tournaments throughout the southeast, and her stock continued to rise.
“That’s been everything, the AAU side. I didn’t really get exposure from high school basketball, just AAU and tournaments,” Arkorful said.
Mississippi Fire coach Johnathan Sanders said that as Arkorful’s game matured, so too did her personality and attitude. Some immaturity and selfishness gave way to a strong work ethic and leadership on the court.
“The roughness began to start mellowing out. When I started to see that, I saw she was going to be a good player and a good person,” Sanders said. “Without a doubt she’s matured. I can’t say that about all my players, but she has.”
By this season, Arkorful was being recruited by a half-dozen mid-major Division I programs. The list included Marshall, which began its recruitment of her last summer at an AAU tournament in Tennessee. Arkorful said the relationship she built with head coach Matt Daniel, and the faith he showed in her through her various problems, made Marshall her choice.
“Coach Daniel believed in me when everybody else doubted me and everything I went through,” Arkorful said. “He’s a great person. He’s going to push you to be your best.”
Arkorful’s goal now is to be the best she can be. While getting a scholarship is a huge accomplishment, she knows she’ll have to work hard and continue to improve to keep it. That starts now, and will certainly continue when she gets to campus this summer.
“I need to work on everything. My body, keeping it in shape, fine tuning everything,” Arkorful said. “Like I told my mother, when I get there the first night I’m going to sleep in the gym.”