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Draper Journal

Senior newcomer huge reason for Alta girls basketball team’s turnaround

Jan 05, 2024 09:06AM ● By Josh McFadden

Alta’s Fuifuilupe (Fui) Niumeitolu (with the ball in white) drives to the hoop against Park City defenders in a game from earlier this season. Fui is leading Class 5A in scoring, averaging more than 21 points an outing. (Photo courtesy of Julie Larsen)

There’s still lots of time left in the season, but non-region play went well for the Alta girls basketball team, as the Hawks have already made vast improvements on the court. 

Last season was a struggle for Alta. The Hawks lost all 12 of their Region 8 games and all 21 games overall in 2022-23. This season, Alta has turned heads by winning six of its first eight games. Five of those victories were by at least 18 points, four were by at least 24 points, and three were by at least 39 points. 

Though the eye-opening turnaround has been a true team effort, there have been some standout individual performances. In particular, senior Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu has been a force for the Hawks. Fui, as Alta coaches and players call her, averaged 21.4 points per game in the first eight contests to lead the team. During that stretch, she was ranked ninth in the state in scoring and first among all Class 5A players. She also pulled down 3.9 rebounds and dished out 1.3 assists in the first eight games. 

It didn’t take her long to make her mark on the team. 

Fui poured in 42 points in the season opener against Green Canyon on Nov. 17 in a 76-66 loss. She also had 24 against Granger on Nov. 28, 22 at home against Hunter on Dec. 5, 20 at West Jordan on Dec. 5 and 21 against Juan Diego on Dec. 12. Keep in mind that many of these games have been blowouts where Fui has not been on the court late into the game. 

Head coach Julie Larsen has nothing but praise for Fui and what she does for the team.

“I love what Fui brings to the team on and off the court,” she said. “She is a dynamic player on both ends of the floor. She is a great teammate. She responds to the needs of the team and does what it takes to win games. Fui has all-around skills needed to be successful. We want the ball in her hands and want her to make plays. She continues to work hard and gain confidence. She will provide our team with good leadership skills throughout the season.”

Fui started playing in elementary school. Her earliest experience was playing with her siblings and cousins at her local church building. On the weekends, she would play with her dad and “scrimmage for hours,” as she said. Laughing, she said, “It was always competitive and aggressive and usually ended in crying or fights.” 

The competitive aspect of the game is what Fui loves most about playing basketball. 

“I enjoy competing against good competition and players,” she said. “Playing smart and competitive teams keeps me humble and always reminds me what I need to work on. I also enjoy meeting new people and building new relationships with them.”

It’s notable that the Alta girls basketball team consists of many new players and team members that have little to no previous varsity experience. Still, the team has gelled and played as a cohesive unit since game one. Fui loves this aspect of playing for the Hawks. 

“The best thing about playing for Alta is the bond we have,” she said. “This is a fairly new team from last year, but we all connected immediately. You’ll always see us laughing in practice or in the games. They’re just a fun group to be around. I also love that we talk things out. When we struggle in games or practices, we come together as a team and figure out what to do to be better.” 

Fui’s prolific scoring is due to her multifaceted skills of being able to get to basket or pull up for mid-range sots. She is also confident and is not shy about taking difficult shots.

Though she has been one of the top players in 5A so far this season, Fui knows she can get even better. She want to improve the way she communicates with her teammates during the games. 

“The things I’m working to improve on are being more vocal on the court,” she said. “Communication is definitely a big part in success, so trying to talk on the court while getting my teammates involved as well has been helping us in our latest games.”

After having gone winless last season, Alta looks poised to not only pick up some Region 6 victories this season but contend for the top spot. Fui said her goal is to win the region and get to the state tournament. 

“I think this season will continue to be successful if me and my team just remember our goals and stay patient,” she said. “We still have a lot to work on, but I think if we just continue to work on our weaknesses and remember our strengths, we’ll accomplish our goals this year.” 

After high school, Fui plans to attend college and major in something in the medical field. She also hopes to play basketball at the next level. 

“That’s been a big goal for me as a kid and still is,” she said. 

Fui and the Hawks hosted Kearns on Dec. 19 and then closed out December with a game at Taylorsville Dec. 28. The first Region 6 game is Jan. 3 at home against East. Alta faces some new opponents in league play this season after moving from Region 8. λ