Lynnwood junior Amayah Kirkman (left) drives to the hoop during practice on Jan. 31, 2019, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lynnwood junior Amayah Kirkman (left) drives to the hoop during practice on Jan. 31, 2019, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lynnwood junior proud of Royals’ tradition, native heritage

Amayah Kirkman was recently selected to play in the national Inter-Tribal Athletics All-Star Game.

Amayah Kirkman takes pride in many different aspects of life.

Whether it’s maintaining the 4.0 grade-point average she sports in the classroom at Lynnwood High School or carrying on the legacies of her native heritage and the Royals’ girls basketball program, the 5-foot-8 junior guard strives to continue the traditions established by her predecessors.

Kirkman is in the midst of a breakout junior campaign. She’s averaging 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.5 assists per game, which earned her a spot in the third annual Inter-Tribal Athletics All-Star Game at Everett Community College on March 23.

“It was something new,” Kirkman said of finding out about being selected to the game. “I had known there were games like that. When I first heard I was selected, I didn’t know at all (I was going to be selected). So it came as a cool surprise.”

The ITA All-Star Game is matchup that features some of the top Native American basketball players from around the country. Kirkman was named to the game’s Black Team, where she will team with players from Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Arizona and Oklahoma.

“It’s definitely something I identify with,” Kirkman said of heritage. “I’m proud to be Pueblo of Acoma. Being selected for (the game) definitely makes me proud to be Native American.”

Kirkman inherits her native roots from her mother, who was the first person to find out Kirkman had been named to the team.

“When she found out, she screamed down to me, ‘Amayah! You need to look at this!’” Kirkman said. “So it was a really great feeling.”

Kirkman has earned her spot on the team this season for her stellar play on a young Lynnwood squad. She is one of 10 juniors on a team that features no seniors.

“This year she’s just really taken off and had a very consistent season,” Royals coach Brandon Newby said. “That’s what we talked about last year. She’d have some good games, then she’d have some games that were kind of average and some games that weren’t so good. This year’s been consistent throughout the whole season.

Lynnwood junior Amayah Kirkman makes a jump shot during practice on Jan. 31, 2019, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lynnwood junior Amayah Kirkman makes a jump shot during practice on Jan. 31, 2019, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“That’s the growth we were looking for from sophomore to junior year — just showing consistency game in and game out.”

Newby said that Kirkman started to put things together during the second half of her sophomore campaign, eventually earning a second-team All-Wesco 3A/2A selection.

“The first half of the season she was really trying to figure out where or what her place on the team was, per se,” Newby said. “Then, by about the halfway point last year, it just became second nature to her. You started to see those leadership skills. She really can direct a team.”

Newby also praised Kirkman’s play through last season’s Class 3A district tournament, when the seventh-seeded Royals made an unlikely run to the 3A state tournament by claiming the district’s third and final state berth. In the district tournament Lynnwood twice beat rival Edmonds-Woodway, which had lost only one conference game en route to a second-place finish in Wesco 3A/2A.

In the Royals’ 77-64 victory over the Warriors in the first round, Kirkman bounced two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year Mikayla Pivec from one of her spots in the Lynnwood record book. Kirkman poured in 36 points that evening, breaking the program’s single-game scoring record previously held by Pivec, who now plays at Oregon State.

“She has an innate ability to score,” Newby said of Kirkman. “… That’s very hard to find in basketball. That’s a skill that has to come from within. You can put in repetitions, you can put in the extra practice, but where you find yourself on the court at certain times in the game, that’s what separates her from some of the others in the league. She knows how to score when we put her in certain situations.”

Kirkman didn’t know what she had accomplished until being asked about the feat in a postgame interview. She said that Pivec has been a “mentor” to her and that the two talk from time to time.

Kirkman has been watching the Lynnwood girls team since she was in fourth grade and has had the luxury of seeing and playing with many other standouts from the program who went on to play NCAA Division-I and II basketball.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Kirkman said. “My freshman year I was really able to learn the culture of Lynnwood.”

Kirkman’s goal now is to carry on what those before her started.

“Coming into the program there was already kind of set expectations made by some great people,” she said. “… That’s been my goal — keep it going. I really couldn’t be here without my teammates. We couldn’t have been winning those games early and even now without working together and working hard in practice. That’s where it really comes from, hard work and dedication. It just feels good to be apart of the Lynnwood program.”

That tradition includes seven straight state-tournament trips, and the Royals enter this week’s district tournament needing a similar run to last season’s to make it eight.

Kirkman and fellow varsity returners Nakia Boston, Emily Whybark, Marika Canda and Katelyn Kessinger will need to thrive in the underdog role once more.

“There’s no stress on you really,” Newby said of being an underdog. “The stress is on the other teams and coaches that expect to get (to state). Last year we played that role so successfully. There’s no reason to change it now.”

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