Standing at 5-foot-3, AJ Newton wouldn’t strike the average person as a fast-paced scoring machine on the basketball court.
In fact, many recruiters didn’t see Newton’s talent for what it truly was and CSU was able to benefit from other schools’ missteps in overlooking this point guard’s true grit.
“She was too competitive and too good of a scorer to not look at,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “I think the biggest thing that sold me on her was how mature of a kid she is. She’s a good player, she does a lot of good things on that court but she’s also a very mature, tough-minded young lady.”
When Newton joined the Rams this season, she did so with seven other new recruits who all had one goal in mind: turning the program around and coming out with a winning season.
“When they recruited me they kind of just put an image in my head and I believed in it, so I came here,” Newton said.
Newton, along with her teammates, have already achieved their goal of having a winning season. Sitting at No. 1 in the Mountain West Conference with a 16-4 record, Newton has had more than a hand in this team’s success.
On Saturday night in the Rams’ matchup against San Diego State University, Newton had a career-high of seven 3-point shots and assisted her team in setting a new school record for the most 3-pointers made in a single game.
Q: Tell me about your journey to CSU: your high school career, college career and then getting recruited to CSU.
A: I went to Valley Christian high school in San Jose, California and after graduation I wanted to rebuild my hometown college, so I went to San Jose State University and it was a really bad year. We only won like two games, which was not fun at all. So after that season, I decided to go to junior college instead of sitting out another year and transferring to schools, so I went to Foothills Junior College. We won the conference championship, all American and then I was looking at Pepperdine, Hawaii, Kent State and CSU. I just really liked the direction I heard this program was going in and decided to come to CSU.
Q: How’s the experience been here at CSU?
A: It’s been really fun. It’s kind of nice to see things change around. It just seems like it’s totally different from last year. I’m happy and we’re a really close team.
Q: What are some pregame rituals?
A: On game day I listen to certain music. So I listen to Paramore and then I’ll randomly switch it to Kanye West and I’ll kind of just go back and forth between the rock and rap. Kanye is pretty arrogant and cocky so it kind of gets me in the right mindset for the game.
Q: How do you feel after coming off of a game like Saturday’s?
A: I’m kind of thinking “Crap, now UNLV isn’t going to let me shoot,” but I’m kind of just thinking that now they know I can shoot, but coming off of a game like that they’re probably going to try to deny me really hard which is going to open up lanes for everyone else.
Q: Is there a single moment throughout this season that’s really stuck with you?
A: There’s a picture from New Mexico where Sam (Martin) and I double-teamed Brown and made her travel. Sam and I are like high fiving and you can just see Sam’s passion and you can just see how excited she is so I think that is like a novelty of us. We get excited for each other, we’re a very unselfish team.
Q:What do you do on your off days to help your mentality on the court?
A: On off days I just kind of try and be normal. Being a student athlete takes up a lot of your time so I just try to be a normal student as normal as possible. I’ll get some shots in, I usually try and do at least every day and get some threes in, but I usually just try to be normal.
Collegian Reporter Hannah Cornish can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @hmcornish.