ST. GEORGE — Averi Papa has been a dominant post presence for the Pine View Panthers this season. As a junior, she is the fourth leading scorer, the second leading rebounder and the leader in blocks for Region 9.
As a sophomore, Papa had similar spots among the leaders in the region for those categories as well. She already has netted offers from Dixie State University and Southern Utah University, but she still has one more year at Pine View to leave her mark.
Pine View is currently tied with Snow Canyon for third place at 5-3 in the region rankings, including two close losses to Desert Hills. Papa feels like this has been her best year, both on the court and off, but the biggest thing she brought up was the growth of her entire team.
“Obviously we have all played with each other for a few years and a lot of the girls who are my age have been playing together since fifth grade, so the team chemistry is there,” Papa said. “With a new coach, a lot of things change, but our chemistry with each other and with our coaches, I feel like it’s never been better.”
First-year head coach Ben Luce stepped into a Pine View program full of talent. With all that talent, sometimes there can be division among players, but Papa said their biggest focus has been growing closer as a team.
“Our main focus has been to play as a team, be a family and know that we have each other’s backs,” Papa said. “Not just like, ‘Oh they’re my teammates, and I only hang out with them during basketball season,’ but we actually enjoy each other’s company and we actually know that we can rely on each other.”
For Papa personally, she has seen a lot of growth since her freshman season. As a freshman, she was on the varsity roster and played a big part. Since then, her role for the Panthers has only grown.
One of her biggest advantages is her size. Region 9 doesn’t have much size to match Papa, but it was a little bit eye-opening for her when the travel ball circuit came around.
“I started playing with Las Vegas Storm last summer, and it’s been really good for me to see that there is always going to be someone who’s bigger, faster and stronger than you,” Papa said. “Knowing how I play and what my strengths are, it helps me to kind of see how I can still perform my best without having to show off.”
Papa also played on a local travel ball team with a number of players from around Region 9. Papa is someone who comes off a friendly person and considers some of the players in the region her friends, but she wants it to be all business when it comes to the basketball court.
“I want people to see that I am passionate about basketball because it’s a huge part of my life and it always has been,” Papa said. “I want people to know that I play with passion, and I play for my team, but also when I show up to a game, I mean business.”
Papa’s mom also played at Pine View under current athletic director Gary Higgins. Papa said this is something she uses to her advantage.
“A lot of it, for me especially, is that I want to uphold that legacy and I want to make sure that I don’t disappoint,” she said. “It’s kind of cool to come home and my mom knows how it is to play high school basketball. She always has the best advice.”
When it comes to her academics, Papa said school is something that isn’t hard for her, it’s all about the time she puts in. She also credited the teachers at Pine View for helping her to excel and be a better student.
Now that she has her on-court and classroom activities covered, the recruiting process comes in. The student-athlete lifestyle can be a tricky one. While trying to balance school and sports, student-athletes are also trying to pursue their dream of possibly playing collegiate basketball.
“It’s been a little crazy, actually,” Papa said. “Not super overwhelming, but I feel like it’s been a good balance.”
Papa currently has offers from Dixie State and SUU, one Division I program and one that’s soon to be.
When asked about any goals that Papa had going into the rest of the season and her senior year, she spoke about a leadership role she is looking to establish for the Panthers.
“My freshman year I played up and I was extremely blessed to have coaches who believe in me,” Papa said. “One thing that I have continued to work on is being a leader. I always want to make sure that my team knows they can come to me for anything and I am a person they can talk to.”
She wants to be someone her teammates can trust, and she also wants them to know they all have something to bring to the table.
“Everyone can be a leader in their own way,” Papa said.
Outside of school and basketball, Papa enjoys being with her family in the outdoors. She loves to camp and hike, but there’s one thing in particular she does to clear her head.
“On my own, personally, I really like to doodle,” Papa said. “It helps me relax. And sometimes there’s a lot of pressure on school and basketball, but sometimes that’s what I do to get myself into the right mindset.”
Be on the lookout for Papa to make some noise around Region 9 for the rest of this year and the next.
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