April – Pflugerville High School
Posted by Marcial Guajardo at 5/13/2016 8:00:00 AM
Back in the Game
Former PHS star looking to shine again in WNBA
PHS grad Nneka Enemkpali (in pink headband) poses with campers at the end of her first basketball camp. Photo by Mercedes Ezeji
Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared in the April edition of the Pflugerville High School newspaper, the Panther Prowler.
By Jeremy Garcia and Aeris Broaders
PHS grad Nneka Enemkpali was in the middle of her senior, and most productive, season as the star of the University of Texas women’s basketball team. The team had won its first 13 games, and was climbing the national rankings leading up to a key matchup with Baylor on Jan. 19, 2015.
It was on that night that Enemkpali tore the ACL in her left knee, ending her stellar college career and putting a hold on her professional career.
“Most importantly, it took away from the opportunity for my team to finish what we started,” Enemkpali said. “I am positive that had I finished my senior season, we would have made it to the Final Four. But this year that I’ve had away from the game has opened my eyes to other avenues. It also revealed to me how impactful the game has been in molding me and my character.”
On Feb. 16, Enemkpali was cleared to once again step onto a basketball court and start training with the Seattle Storm, the team that drafted her 26th overall in the 2015 WNBA draft. The Storm begins their season on May 15 in Los Angeles.
Enemkpali is one of Pflugerville High School’s most decorated athletes. The 2011 graduate lettered in volleyball, track, and basketball, but found her greatest success on the basketball court under Hall of Fame coach Nancy Walling.
At UT, Enemkpali was on pace to become the fifth player in program history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds when she tore her ACL. She finished ninth in total rebounds and 30th in total points. Having only played 17 games in her final season, she was still named a third team All-American.
Coach April Hundl, who took over the Panthers’ basketball program last season, was a part of Enemkpali’s growth, coaching her all four years of high school as an assistant to Walling.
“It was fun to watch her play,” Hundl said, “and fun to try to push her limits to see what she could do.”
The playoffs were a regular expectation while Enemkpali was in school, and the team’s deepest run came her sophomore year.
“My favorite memory was my sophomore year when we made it to the state tournament,” Enemkpali said. “There is no greater feeling than to see a goal you set come full circle.”
During the state semi-final game that year, Enemkpali suffered her first major knee injury, tearing the ACL in her right knee.
“I came back to play my junior season,” Enemkpali said, “but I was not fully myself I would say until my freshman year in college. After I tore my ACL I was offered a full ride to UT Austin. That showed me that they truly believed in me as an individual and that I would be a valuable addition to the program. It didn’t take me long to commit after that.”
Despite her successful college career and budding WNBA career, Enemkpali hasn’t forgotten her high school or her hometown. On March 5, she hosted a basketball camp at PHS through the Hope4Girls Africa organization.
“The mission of this organization is to use basketball as a vehicle to aid in the development of young girls who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Enemkpali said. “I chose this organization because of the ties I have to my parents’ home country of Nigeria and my love to make sure that every girl knows that they are powerful beyond measure and that their dreams and aspirations are valid. It is always important to give back to those who took part in helping you become who you are today.
“I love the city of Pflugerville, I love my high school.”