By the end of her junior year in high school, Erika Newbold had an offer from Utah Valley University to come and play basketball after coaches had observed her during post-season camps. Newbold’s performance during her freshmen and sophomore year in college looked promising.
However, last year carried one of the biggest challenges of Newbold’s basketball career when a broken foot kept her from playing during the 2010-2011 season. It was a costly loss for the team after Newbold had started in every game during her sophomore year, averaging 7.7 points with 6.2 rebound per game.
The challenges that the team faced after losing her also brought opportunity as Newbold found different ways she could help while redshirting.
“It was really hard, but it was good to have that year off because I got to help in different ways,” Newbold said. “I thought ‘I can’t help on the court, so I’m going to do everything I can on the bench and stay engaged during practice.’”
After recovering for her injury, Newbold had the summer of 2011 to get back in shape and take on her delayed junior season with goals to perform in every aspect of the game. According to her statistics, her goals are becoming a reality.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I had such high expectations after having the whole summer to get back in shape,” Newbold said. “I feel back in the rhythm now.”
Since Thursday night’s win against The University of Texas-Pan America, Newbold sits in her rhythm averaging 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She is shooting 40 percent from the field and as the team’s starting center she leads the team with 1.5 blocks per game this season.
“I am really pleased with how Erika is playing,” said head coach Cathy Nixon. “Defensively, I think she has been very good. She has been kind of the heart of the defense in the paint. She is a big part of our success.”
Coach Nixon described this season’s roster as having the best chemistry that she has ever coached, a team that is unselfish as they look out for each other. Especially notable is the support and assistance Newbold provides for UVU’s go-to scorer and rebounder Sammie Jensen.
“We have a funny relationship, we like to joke around and we have this connection,” Newbold said. “We are always shooting together at practice and I know where she’s going to be.”
That chemistry has carried the team to a 3-1 conference record as of Thursday night’s game. It’s also what coach Nixon hopes will lead to wins this week as the team faces New Jersey Institute of Technology and Chicago State University, a team UVU fell short too early during conference play.
As it has for the team, Great West play has served as a convenient restart button for Newbold after struggling early in the season.
“I kind of struggled in preseason; I had some ups and downs,” Newbold said. “I thought ‘this is conference; it’s my last chance to go all out.’ I relaxed. When I relax, I play my best. I focus on the things I could control like defense.”
Newbold says that she is now at the top of her game and will stay that way as the Wolverines continue through the season to contend for the conference championship.
“It’s been a journey this season,” Newbold said. “And now I’m feeling high on a confident note and I want to keep going up and give everything I have with no regrets.”
By Kevin Olsen