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Female athlete of the year: Mia Lakstigala

Riddhi Andurkar, Online Managing Editor, Features Columnist

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Four years ago, senior Mia Lakstigala, the only freshman on the varsity team, was on the court during a varsity basketball match against Wheaton North High School. She aimed, shot and scored the game-winning basket, a moment her coach Andy Nussbaum cannon forget.

“When she made that game-winning shot as a freshman, [there were] 12 players sprinting off the bench to get to her and congratulate her,” Nussbaum said. “It was hilarious to watch. I’ve never seen 12 girls move that fast in my life. That’s a physical example of how much [the team] really liked her.”

Lakstigala had always loved sports. But after trying all her options, she realized that basketball was for her. She started her basketball career when she joined the Naperville Park District team at the age of eight.

“I really liked sports in general so I thought I would give basketball a try and it just stuck,” Lakstigala said. “Basketball was definitely my favorite.”

Having been on the court since she was eight, Lakstigala intended to continue playing the sport she loved in high school. After being a successful athlete for four years, Lakstigala’s athletic skills and personality have left an impact on her coaches and teammates.

“[Lakstigala] is always smiling,” Nussbaum said. “She as a freshman […] would just play and not seem to be affected by the surroundings at all. Her improvement [over the past four years] might be as dramatic of an improvement as the top players we’ve had.”

As a junior last year, Lakstigala scored 1,000 career points and at the end of her last season as a senior, she had scored a total of 1,873 career points, the highest point total scored after WNBA player Candace Parker, who scored 2,753 points.

Because of this achievement, Lakstigala was named the 2017-2018 Naperville Sun Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

According to Nussbaum, Central has only had 12 basketball players score 1,000+ career points and of those 12, 11 started as freshmen. However, Lakstigala did not.

“I was the sixth or seventh person off the bench as a freshman,” Lakstigala said in an interview with the Naperville Sun. “I played maybe five minutes each game. No, I definitely never expected to score as many points as I did, but it’s been a fun four years.”

Senior and teammate Abby Kincaide believes that Lakstigala is a valuable team member and looks forward to seeing her further her career in college.

“I would describe [Lakstigala] as an outstanding and versatile basketball player,” Kincaide said. “I think [she] will do great as a college basketball player because she’s going to an amazing school where she will have the ability to grow even more as a player.”

This fall, Lakstigala will attend to the University of Pennsylvania, where she will continue to play basketball. She believes that Central’s basketball program has helped her build skills for the rest of her career.

“Basketball has helped me make friends as well as learning how to become a leader by helping out my teammates on and off the court,” Lakstigala said. “I’m looking forward to playing basketball in general at a higher level because I know it will be a challenge but will be a fun experience.”

Nussbaum believes that she will continue to improve her game and become a better, stronger player.

“I’m really excited to see how much she improves,” Nussbaum said. “I think she’s going to be capable of dominating the game at that level. I’m confident she’s going to get to that point. It might take a couple of [years], she’s going to be similar to [the way she played] in high school, in control of the game.”

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