They say that one of the best things about having a sister is that you will have a friend forever. Those rules don’t apply once you step on the hardwood. When real ballplayers hoop, they don’t have friends on the court.
Siblings Breonna Blakley, Ma’kayla Blakley, and Nakya Blakley put all of their feelings aside when the game tips-off. In this game, you play to compete, you can be friends when the game is over.
AMID HER BUSY SCHEDULE I was able to catch up with Breonna on a school night while she planned for prom, graduation, and starting college in the fall. A lot has changed since then. No prom. No graduation. While her senior year didn’t end how she expected it to due to COVID-19, she received an Honorable Mention from the All-Green Country Conference.
We had a girl talk about her celebrity crush, Justin Beiber, this comes as a total surprise to me. The conversation drifts to sneakers before we get to the one thing that has truly changed her life: the game of basketball.
When I ask her what she has learned as her high school career comes to an end, she falls silent. I can tell she’s taking it all in but she manages to find the words to push out. “I faced a lot of challenges but they prepared me for my future. I learned that nothing is handed to you. If you want something you have to work for it,” Blakley said.
She knows all too well what it means to work for something. If you’ve ever played ball, you know that every minute on the floor is earned. Last year she started varsity, this year she came off of the bench which affected her confidence.
Blakley says, “Talking to my father helped me stay motivated. I started to focus on how I could help my team and contribute instead of why I wasn’t playing as much.”
You’ve heard the saying before, “Defense wins the game.” So, that’s exactly what she focused on. Her hard-nosed defense made her a key component to her team’s roster at East Central High School, where her father once played ball. And like her father, she’ll continue to hoop on the next level. She’s committed to Barclay College.
I had a chance to watch her compete against her two younger sisters, Ma’kayla and Nakya who both attend Memorial High School. Everything that they’re coming up against, she’s been there and done that. As her high school career comes to an end she offers advice to her sisters. “Don’t think you have time, it goes by fast. Stay focused and go to the gym,” said Blakley.
One thing that she is grateful for is looking out at the bleachers and always seeing her father cheer her on. “He made a lot of sacrifices for me and my sisters. He’s a great father figure and never gives up on me,” said Blakley.
Her mother has also been influential in her life. Says Blakley, “ My mother’s strength and effort encourages me.”
SHE’S PASSING THE TORCH to Ma’kayla Blakley, a junior point guard who was also an All-Green Country Conference Honorable Mention. When the season comes to an end, basketball has a way of making you think about every turnover, missed free throw and bad pass that could have given your team a win.
As she reflects on the season she says she wants to improve the way she handles the ball and become an offensive threat by scoring more. While her attention this summer will be focused on her offensive game, she has defense on lock.
“I want to be the best defensive player in the state. I believe if I work hard I can do anything,” said Blakley.
It’s Sunday afternoon, her team’s season just ended a few days ago and she’s in the gym working on her game. While she is her worst critic, it is her work ethic that impresses me. What sets her apart from other ballplayers is her dedication to becoming a better player.
I watch as she goes through drills. She’s a humble player, one who lets her game speak for itself. No wonder Kawhi Leonard is her favorite player, her demeanor is just as calm as his.
In between drills, I’m able to ask a few questions, snap some photos and watch her go to work with a group of other girls working on their game, including her younger sister Nakya.
“Playing sports makes girls have more confidence. It helped me meet new people and get to know others,” said Blakley.
Playing on the same team as her sister Nakya can be fun and weird at times. Naturally, she wants to dish the ball to her sister but she tries to get all of her teammates involved. When she plays against her older sister it’s a different story. “I have something to prove when I play against Breonna,” said Blakely.
She has game off the court too. When she’s not in the gym she’s in her books. Her 3.7 GPA isn’t easy to maintain but she finds the time to balance basketball and academics.
NAKYA BLAKLEY GOT NEXT. The freshman guard played varsity this season which contributed to her game maturing. The quick tempo of high school hoops in comparison to middle school forced her to learn quickly and gave her a better understanding of the game. And that led her to All-Green Country Conference Freshman of the Year. She averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and 7 steals per game all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA.
After completing her first high school season she walked away with a plethora of knowledge. “I learned that you have to fight every game and leave it all on the floor,” said Blakley.
Being the youngest of the three sisters comes with a lot of pressure, but she’s not one to back down from challenges and she’s not intimidated by her older sister –she plays harder when the two of them face off. “I know everything she can do and she knows my game so I try to bring out a different player in the both of us so that we can both excel,” said Blakley.
This summer she plans on working on her defense and speed. It’s also important for her to have the ability to understand every position on the floor to contribute however her coach needs her to. She prides herself on investing time to improve her game. Says Blakely, “ I don’t like to lose and I will do anything in my power to win.”
Her love for the game started at an early age. I caught up with her father, Antonio Blakley, who played collegiate basketball at Western New Mexico University.
“Their mother introduced them to the game. I didn’t want them to play because I knew the hard work that would have to go into it if you’re serious about playing,” said Blakley.
His mind has changed since then. He pushes them to be proficient on and off the court. Blakley wants his daughters to know that ball is life, but education is equally important.