At this time last year, Kristine Anigwe was hobbled.
An ankle injury sustained in December that forced her to miss about three weeks of action wasn’t completely right and she just wasn’t comfortable, but it was a teaching moment.
The Desert Vista junior learned how to play when she isn’t 100 percent for the team because Kristine Anigwe at 85 percent is better than most post players completely healthy.
“It’s what the team needed,” she remembered. “I was OK.”
She is more than OK now, that’s for sure, even though she is dealing with a bit of a hamstring injury as the Thunder prepare for the state tournament this week after being knocked out of the Super Sectionals in the semifinals by Mesquite on Thursday in two overtimes.
The 6-foot-4 Anigwe has had a good season, but over her last six games, entering Thursday’s action, she has been great. She has averaged 21.6 points a game and nearly chased down the school’s scoring record of 36 set by Tiffany Wells when she finished with 32 points on 14 of 22 shooting against Gilbert without playing much of the fourth quarter.
“She has been playing at a different level,” Thunder coach J’Ontar Coleman said. “Kristine was in the zone (against Gilbert). She was getting the ball in a good position and going straight up with it and everything was falling.”
Overall, Anigwe entered Thursday’s action averaging 15.9 points on 61 percent (181 of 296) shooting, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game.
Desert Vista, which is 26-2 heading into the state playoffs, use an up tempo offense predicated on its defense creating extra opportunities by forcing turnovers that lead to fast break chances.
A post player can have trouble fitting into such a system, but Anigwe is third on the team in deflections (15), has 35 steals and her long strides (her mom was a track athlete) get her up and down the court just fine.
“She’s a good fit for what we do,” Coleman said. “She has an all-around game. Kristine can do it all whether she is on the block or on the break.”
It’s why she is one of the state’s top junior recruits. She settled on Cal after considering Arizona State, Oregon, Louisville and few others.
“The campus is very pretty and I want to go out of state,” she said. “The coaches were great and I liked everything about it.”
While Coleman has been impressed with the development of her play on the court, the biggest change in Anigwe, who could get to 1,000 career points (898 currently) if Desert Vista goes on an extended postseason run, has been in her development off the court.
“You can see the determination and drive in her play, but it’s really before the game where she has matured,” he said. “She is focused and wants to win badly. You can see it in her focus before the game and she does a good job of scouting the other team and using it in the game. She understands the game.”
Anigwe also understands how special the season has been and can be if the Thunder continues its dominant ways (scoring differential of 32.6 points a game).
“We are working hard and playing well,” she said. “We’ve talked about winning state all year and we can do it.”
Especially, now that Anigwe isn’t hobbling anymore.
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