BYU commits Amari Whiting with her AAU team, Natalie Williams Basketball Academy, during a summer 2022 game. (Courtesy of the Whiting family)
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PROVO — Amari Whiting did the piece hundreds of times, maybe thousands, when everything went horribly wrong.
The five-foot security guard entering her senior year at Timpview High was on her official recruiting visit to BYU, where her mother, Amber, had recently accepted the job as head coach on the women’s basketball program when she decided to play a casual game. to play. pick up game with some members of the team and a few other recruits.
The four-star observatory that had previously committed to BYU after turning around from Oregon jumped into a passing lane, grabbed a stem and sprinted down the track for an easy layup in the transition. That’s when she landed on another player’s foot and heard a “pop” coming from her knee.
Whiting collapsed and didn’t know what to think. She just screamed.
“I’ve never had a serious injury, so in my head I was just trying to get back up,” Whiting recalled. “But it really hurt and I screamed because I was so scared of it.”
A few feet away, her teammates—past and future alike—felt their stomachs sinking.
“When I saw it happen, I knew,” said Ali’a Matavao, the star forward at Liberty High in Las Vegas, who played on the same AAU team as Whiting and is also committed to being one of the Cougars’ recruiting classes. 2023. “I also tore my ACL and as soon as I heard the scream, I recognized the scream.
“Amari is the type that when she gets hurt she just shows up. If she didn’t, I just knew. It was the worst.”
After her father Trent and BYU’s athletic trainer Jeff Hurst helped her off the field, doctors confirmed through MRI and other tests the worst of the official diagnosis: a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, meaning the senior’s season was over before it even started. .
Whiting was crushed. Heartbreaking. She was afraid to tell her Thunderbird teammates and her coach, former BYU security guard Haley Steed, the devastating news. A few months after the Whitings uprooted their championship-winning Idaho life in Burley, Idaho, and moved to Provo, the four-star, rated No. 33 nationally by ESPN, wanted nothing more than a very good Timpview team to move to the 5A lead. state title.
Now that lead comes from behind the bench.
“When I first moved to Utah and to Timpview, I didn’t know a lot of people and I became really close to the basketball girls,” Whiting said. “I didn’t know how to tell Coach Steed or my girls. But they were very supportive and came to visit all the time. Coach has been through this before and she gave me a lot of advice. But what hurt the most was how hard it was to come here for my senior year, and then change schools (obligations), and just when i got excited this happened.
“It turned my world upside down.”
Fortunately for Whiting, the daughter of two former BYU basketball players (with older brother Jace becoming a freshman at Boise State after serving a two-year church mission) didn’t have long to feel sorry for herself. Her parents specifically gave her about 15 minutes to feel sorry for when they got home, then she had to put it aside and move on.
The family quickly made an appointment with Dr. Travis Maak, the Utah Jazz’s chief orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee sports injuries.
Whiting began her nine-month road to recovery with surgery and just a month later she was riding an electric bicycle in short sprints. Even her parents and the physical therapist she sees a few times a week were surprised.
However, her teammates do not.
BYU commits Amari Whiting with her AAU team, Natalie Williams Basketball Academy, during a game in the summer of 2022. Whiting, whose mother Amber was recently named head coach of the BYU women’s basketball team, suffered a torn ACL during a visit and will enrolling early to help her recover and join the team in the Big 12 in July 2023. (Photo: Courtesy, Whiting family)
“I think she knows she can overcome, and she’s mentally tough,” said Matavao, who described Whiting as “a positive, happy person.” “It will never be easy. But she knows she can come back.
“You always have questions and there is never a good time to get injured, but this was the best moment for it. She can fully recover and be ready for her freshman season.”
Her faith also helped. Immediately after the injury, Whiting’s father Trent and Hurst offered to give her a priesthood blessing. Moments after the worst pain she’s ever felt, the 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 26.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.7 steals per game felt on her way to a 25-1 record, a state title of 4A and Gatorade Idaho Player of the Year honors. a sense of peace and tranquility. It didn’t change the diagnosis, but it did change how she felt about attacking her recovery.
She also did something her father said to her on the day of her surgery. Just months before the state championship game, Trent Whiting gave his daughter a kiss and said, “I’m with you every step of the way.”
When the younger Whiting was operated on, he did the same.
“At first I thought my dad was just cute, but when I was praying one night I realized my heavenly dad was talking to me,” said Whiting, who posted to Instagram that night with a four-word caption: thankful for his love. “This was super hard, but I was so grateful that he had such a helping hand in my life.
“I know everything happens for a reason; I don’t know mine yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find out soon.”
Whiting plans to sit on the couch all season and support a group that sent her get well TikToks and messages while she had surgery. The injury has robbed her of finishing her final season, but she doesn’t want it to rob her of being there for her team.
She also wants to move forward.
Whiting plans to enroll at BYU in January, take a handful of freshman classes, and use the Cougars’ sports medicine staff led by Hurst to help her recover.
She will also be fully eligible to play with the Cougars once they join the Big 12 in July 2023. Whiting had no plans to leave Oregon after her mother accepted her first collegiate coaching job at BYU, but after the family moved, she realized she couldn’t let Amber Whiting go into the Big 12 alone.
A cancellation of Oregon coach Kelly Graves was one of the hardest things Amari Whiting had done. That is, of course, until the unfortunate injury she sustained in a fetch match during her official visit to BYU.
Now she knows she can overcome tough challenges both on and off the field.
“At first I didn’t know who I was without basketball,” Whiting said. “When I wasn’t playing basketball I didn’t feel important, I didn’t feel like myself. But by not playing, I learned that I can do other things; I’m still me and I’m still important.
“I’ve learned to be fearless.”
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Sean Walker, a proud graduate of Syracuse University, has been covering BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also covering preparatory sports, education, and anything else his editors instruct him to do.
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