Making Plays and Making Grades

California Baptist commit, Nicole Avila-Ambrosi, works hard on the court and in the classroom

Senior+Nicole+Avila-Ambrosi+takes+the+ball+down+the+court+while+defending+against+a+Millard+South+Patriot.+the+Mustangs+took+on+their+rivals%2C+the+Patriots%2C+at+the+Stable+on+Jan.+31st.+

Jeffrey Zimmerly

Senior Nicole Avila-Ambrosi takes the ball down the court while defending against a Millard South Patriot. the Mustangs took on their rivals, the Patriots, at the Stable on Jan. 31st.

Gracie Schweers, Staff Writer

In the world of sports, young athletes often play and work hard with the goal of playing in college and beyond. However, the stats of going Division I for basketball is 2.1% for boys and even lower at  1.1% for girls. 

But MN’s own senior point guard Nicole Avila-Ambrosi is in that 1.1%. Highly regarded as one of the top girls basketball players in the state, she has already signed her letter of intent to California Baptist University.

“I went on a visit there in June. I met the coach and I really liked him. Then the players and I, we just really clicked, and I liked their style of play,” she said. “[Also], the campus is beautiful, I mean it’s in California, there’s palm trees everywhere.”

Avila-Ambrosi has been playing basketball since she was five years old, and her pure athleticism makes her a standout player to her teammates, her coaches, and the college recruiters that were watching her. 

“Her rare combination of speed, hand—eye coordination, vision, anticipation—she just does things that are amazing, reactionary, reflexive, a catch or a pass or a throw, you’re like, ‘That’s crazy’,” girls basketball head coach David Diehl said. “She can do things with a basketball that I’ve never seen a kid do.”

In addition to her raw talent, Avila-Ambrosi is one of just three players in MN girls basketball history to pass the 1,000 career points mark. 

“It felt really good being able to become part of that club and be considered one of the top players,” Avila-Ambrosi said.

While achieving 1,000 points is a huge accomplishment, she is also a state champion, and a spinning layup move she pulled in the 2019 state tournament got her featured on Hudl and ESPN top 10.

Avila-Ambrosi was shocked that she was featured, and was glad she had the opportunity to represent her school and her team.

“Usually guys are the ones who get featured on all of these platforms, so it felt nice to be ranked up there with them and show them what girls basketball is about,” she said.

Avila-Ambrosi doesn’t just win the awards. She brings her work ethic and leadership skills to the table.

“Practice with Nicole [is] just like any practice with a good leader. She helps us get through the tougher practices, which is nice. She is very energetic and always has a positive attitude [and it’s] very encouraging,” sophomore teammate Megan Chambers said.

In addition to her crazy plays and seemingly endless accomplishments, she is a strong student and works hard off the court too. Taking multiple Advanced Placement classes, she’s learned to stay balanced. 

“It definitely is [hard to balance], because there’s a lot of practices, we have games all the time, and there’s just so many extra things that you have to handle. It’s definitely hard, but I make it work; it’s all about time management,” Avila-Ambrosi said.

Diehl makes sure the team stays on top of their academic standing, but he says her dedication to her own grades makes it easier for him. 

“We make sure kids pass their classes, and we’re always checking their grades, but with Nicole and her like, 4.95 GPA, we don’t worry too much about Nicole,” Diehl joked. “She’s going to be a doctor, and Nicole very much cares about her grades.”

Besides playing basketball in college, she plans on studying health science and coming back to Omaha for medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to become a radiologist. 

As exciting as her future in collegiate basketball may be, she reflects on her high school career.

“It’s going to [be rough] that we’re all going somewhere different, so hopefully we’ll still keep in touch,” Avila-Ambrosi said.

This year, she’s considered a top player in Nebraska and was nominated to the Metro All-Tournament Team and winning MaxPreps/WBCA Player of the week . She says it’s humbling, but it’s not everything. 

“It feels good, you know. It’s humbling, but you know the job’s not done yet. [I’ve got to] still keep pushing, that’s not the final goal,” she said.

Last year’s state championship is still fresh in her mind, and she leads the team pushing them back to that final game in Pinnacle Bank Arena.

“[The] goal is to win state again. Everyone thinks that we’re not going to  be as good as last year since we lost three seniors,” Avila Ambrosi said.