By Samantha Petersen
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet up with one of Riverton High School’s star basketball players, Tiena Afu. Coincidentally, when I went to speak with Afu, I ended up interrupting one of her practices (though that isn’t much of a surprise, considering that she dedicates the majority of her time to the sport).
After I received permission to steal her away from the court, we retreated to the alcove of the girl’s locker room. After quickly grabbing a drink, Afu turned her attention to me and we jumped right into the interview.
I first asked Afu what position she is playing this year. She explained that she isn’t necessarily playing any position in particular.
“It’s kind of hard to say,” She said. “I move around depending on the day, but I go between forward and guard.”
After considering the question for a moment more, she gestured to my notebook, saying, “Mostly forward, I guess. You can put me down as forward.”
Afu, now a senior, has been playing basketball for Riverton ever since she was a freshman. When it comes to talented players, it’s easy to assume that they became passionate about their sport of choice at an early age, but for Afu, that wasn’t exactly the case.
“I think I really started to play when I was around 10,” she said.
As for how she formed an interest in the sport, she explained that basketball was in the family.
“My dad played, so I grew up around it, and I learned a lot about it that way,” she said.
Though Afu may have started “late” in terms of sports, she doesn’t plan to give up basketball any time soon. She says she’ll keep playing after high school, and mentioned that she would love to play in college if that opportunity arises.
“I love how intense it is, and the amount of control that you have as a player,” Afu said. “In other sports, it’s just not… the same.”
She pauses after saying that, searching to find the right words.
“I know that basketball is a team sport and everything, but one player really can make a difference,” she continued. “I love that I’m able to help uplift my team.”
As dedicated as Afu is to basketball, she is equally dedicated to her academics. It’s no small task to manage being a student and a player, and when asked about the balancing act, she acknowledged that it can certainly be difficult at times.
“For me, I took a lot of my harder classes when I was younger, but from what I remember, I was always just reminding myself that school was what was most important. I knew that I couldn’t slack,” Afu said. “To be on the team, you have to have a certain GPA and everything, so I kept my grades up. I’ve always known that playing basketball is a privilege, and that school is what comes first.”
High school athletes are no strangers to sacrifice, and Afu is no exception. This year, she gave up playing volleyball at Riverton in order to focus on basketball, and she admits that she spends most of her time on the court. However, when she isn’t playing, she’s with family.
“I spend a lot of time with my family,” she said, and then she laughed as an afterthought occurs, “That’s really all I do.”
On and off of the court, Afu exemplifies commitment, thoughtfulness and discipline. After finishing second in Region 4, the Silverwolves moved on to the state tournament to chase that championship.
Riverton High junior Samantha Petersen wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.