La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Country Day sophomore selected to Junior NBA Court of Leaders
In one way or another, La Jolla Country Day School sophomore basketball player Sumayah Sugapong believes she is NBA-bound. And at just 15, she already has her foot on the court.
The Torreys guard was recently named to the inaugural Junior NBA Court of Leaders, an 18-member youth leadership council featuring 15- and 16-year-old boys and girls from across the United States.
The members will hone their leadership skills, participate in programming focused on personal and career development and broaden their understanding of social justice issues and gender inequality, according to the National Basketball Association.
As part of the program’s social impact component, they also will take part in a social responsibility project in their own communities and provide feedback to enhance future Junior NBA events.
“The Junior NBA Court of Leaders was born out of that commitment to holistic development,” Adam Harper, NBA associate vice president of youth basketball development, said in a statement. “We wanted to establish a platform that recognizes the force of young people to drive change and empowers them to find and develop their voice — and for us to amplify their voice as leaders both within the youth basketball community and their broader communities across the country.”
Sumayah called her selection to the court “an honor” because it is part of the NBA organization. “It’s been really fun so far. I feel blessed to be part of this group.”
This isn’t Sumayah’s first foray into the NBA.
In eighth grade, she was part of a team that participated in a Junior NBA tournament. Her team defeated other qualifying teams at the regional level, then climbed to the championship round in Florida before losing.
Sumayah called it “the most fun basketball experience I have ever had. We had NBA treatment, we had a media day, buses that took us everywhere. It was awesome.”
Having played basketball since she was 5, Sumayah said she appreciates the competitive nature of the sport.
“It just brings me so much joy,” she said. And that’s important because Sumayah considers her attitude to be a factor in her performance.
“I give myself a pep talk before a game,” she said. “Typically, I try to remember the games I played well in, and bring my mental state back to how I was feeling at that moment. If my attitude is good, I play a lot better.”
For her teammates and coaches, that positive attitude is contagious.
“She’s one of our leaders, even as a sophomore,” said LJCDS basketball coach Terri Bamford. “She leads by example, she works hard, does the right thing and is not afraid to talk to her team when they aren’t doing the right thing.”
Bamford said Sumayah is “coachable” with a “high IQ for the game.”
“She’s a combo guard [shooting guard and point guard], has really good three-point [basket] range, is a consistent shooter and is super crafty with the ball,” Bamford said. “And she can set others on her team up for easy baskets.”
Sumayah said her relationship with her fellow Torreys is precious. “They are like sisters to me. When the older ones go off to college, I can call them or text them. During games, if we are having a really good game, the energy is so high. It’s always fun.”
Outside of basketball, Sumayah spends time with her family, including her four siblings. “There is never a dull moment for me in our house,” she said. “I have a 4-year-old brother and 6-year-old sister, so they are always running around. And I have a 12-year-old sister who shares my hobbies, so there is always something going on.”
As for how far she plans to take her basketball career, she said: “I hope to play in college, and if I get to play in the WNBA, that would be awesome. But if not, just working with the NBA, since I’m now connected to them, would be a really cool job.”
La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at firstname.lastname@example.org. ◆
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