By John "Woods" Armwood III
The New Jersey native and Rutgers Prep rising senior star PG Mikayla Blakes will have her hands filled this upcoming season. This past season, Blakes transitioned from a significant role player to the main contributor for the Argonauts. That said, she help elevate the Argonauts to the Non-Public B state championship, however they ultimately fell short to Morris Catholic. It’s safe to say, Blakes will have enough motivation and fuel to focus ahead of her upcoming senior season.
“This season, was one of the most special seasons I’ve had,” Blakes emphasized. “Moving from an underclassman to an upperclassman and finding ways to win 25 games on a national schedule was a huge accomplishment. Not to mention, the two championships (counties and sectionals) we did win.”
Throughout Blakes's career, she’s been fortunate to play with immense talent that compliments her game. Prior to this season, in the AAU circuit, Blakes joined forces with former Sh3gotgame features and McDonald All-Americans Hannah Hidalgo and Zoe Brooks. Now, that these two are graduating and moving on to college this gives ample opportunity for Blakes to the reigns and she’s embracing this new opportunity.
“Any role player you just play a role and get good at things that will help at the role, however when you become the No.1 option you’re responsible for helping other teammates as well,” Blakes explains in great detail. “You can’t be afraid of the big matchups and having that confidence to understand and embrace the role and challenges that come with that.”
Where did it all Start for Mikayla Blakes?
Blakes is from Princeton, New Jersey, and grew up in a very competitive basketball-natured family. Prior to Blakes’ stardom, she grew up in the shadows of her talented brother, Jaylen Blakes. Currently, Jaylen is a contributing guard for the Duke Blue Devils and averages 13 minutes per game. That said, growing up Blakes commented on how intense workouts and exhibitions between them were.
“He’s my biggest critic, while also being my biggest supporter,” Blakes states. “ Seeing him grind, made me have to live up to a standard.”
Blakes continues to go into great detail about the advantages of being related to a former top 100 player in the country, according to ESPN. She believes the amount of time and energy her family puts into watching films, truly helps her separate herself from the opposition. Blakes thinks there’s nobody better to break down film with than her brother Jaylen. Therefore, having two high-level IQ players combing over hours of the film helps find tendencies and opportunities Blakes may be able to exploit.
Growing up, Blakes admits that while it’s one of her many strengths now, shooting the basketball was initially a real struggle for her. However, she’s managed to improve her three-point shooting every season, in fact she connected on 75 three-pointers this past season.
What was Blakes’s “Sh3GotGame Moment”
This may come as a surprise to some, however one of Blakes's most meaningful moments has almost nothing to do with the game of basketball itself. In fact, it’s more about the impact she has on others off the court. There are so many people who follow her story, and she didn’t necessarily realize it until after this moment. Ultimately, it altered her perspective and made her play for a much higher purpose than previously. Blakes admits it helps elevate her as a person as well as on the court.
“After a game, A little girl came up and asked me for my autograph,” Blakes stated. “Oftentimes, when I go to training parents will stop me and have me talk to their children as well. Honestly, it only reminds me how blessed I am to be a role model and inspiration to so many people.”
Blakes credits a lot of her development and understanding of life to not only her family but her legendary head coach Mary Klinger. Klinger has helped her game by simply just putting trust in her. Blakes admits since seventh grade Klinger has had an influence on her mentally and physically. She believes their relationship being so close, will play a big factor in who she chooses to play for at the next level.
“I have so much respect for her, she’s been with me since the 7th grade and the trust is mutual,” Blakes describes her relationship with Klinger. “It’s going to play a huge effect on wherever I play next. The communication, trust, and family atmosphere will play a huge role in my decision next year.”
Mikayla Blakes Continues to Grow her Legacy
Although Blakes's legacy is far from over, she insists she wants to be remembered as someone who played a pivotal part in growing women's basketball. Now, that she has an idea of how much her game speaks to people, she also wishes to continue to grow as a role model and inspire people to play basketball. That said, a few things she often works on to improve herself and the people around her are loving herself, being spiritually grounded, and being mentally strong.
In conclusion, Blakes has plans to do big things this upcoming season and she’ll either prove some right or wrong. Fortunately for Blakes, history proves that she’s done nothing but exceed expectations and get better each season. In fact, as a junior managing to become a 1,000 point scorer is quite unique. Therefore, Blakes is in good shape and is surrounded by immense talent and a stable support group, all the ingredients for success. When asked about any advice she’d be willing to offer to anyone who’s following her story, Blakes responded:
“Definitely, embrace the work. The work will pay off down the line, it is what separates the good from the great. No matter what, never stop believing in yourself and your voice matters.”