CHICAGO — On Monday night, Kristine Anigwe will attempt to be the first girl to win the McDonald’s All American slam dunk contest since Candace Parker in 2004. Who can blame her for feeling trepidation during tryouts?
“It’s very scary!” Anigwe, from Desert Vista (Phoenix) told USA TODAY Sports. “It was kind of awkward. All the guys are doing really cool dunks, and mine is just basic.”
Of the 24 girls on the two teams of All Americans, California-bound Anigwe is the only one trying a dunk. The JamFest event begins at 6 p.m. ET at the University of Chicago with ESPN2 coverage beginning at 8.
Unlike with the boys’ game, dunking is not a necessary part of the game. Some girls don’t even practice dunking.
“Personally, I wouldn’t. I’ve never even tried before, because I would never do it in a game,” said UConn-bound Napheesa Collier from Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis). “It’s kind of flashy for my style, so I wouldn’t practice it.”
But for the 6-3 Anigwe, she likes that the dunk can set her apart from the group of elite athletes.
“I really wanted to separate myself. Make myself different. Everyone can shoot, and make three-pointers,” she said.
It’s not the only way Anigwe is setting herself apart from her teammates. She is the only McDonald’s All American headed to Cal, but she found it was the right fit.
“The education is the main thing for me,” she said. “A lot of schools don’t emphasize the education part, getting the good grades, that stuff. I really wanted to get a good degree. Cal had everything I wanted.”
At Cal, she will join two 2014 All Americans, Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green. The Golden Bears were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the second round in 2015 and are looking forward to to the defense Anigwe can bring.
“When Kristine committed last fall, we knew we were getting an immediate-impact post player,” California coach Lindsay Gottlieb said when Anigwe signed. “She is long and incredibly athletic, with a skill set that makes her a threat in multiple facets of the game.
When she does go for that dunk, Anigwe will have plenty of supporters, most notably from the other All American girls.
“Girls get excited when other girls can dunk,” said Sophie Cunningham from Rock Bridge in Columbia, Mo., who will play for hometown school, Missouri, in the fall. “And the guys will say, ‘That’s not even a good dunk.’ But that’s impressive! Guys don’t understand because they have the huge athletic ability, but girls are athletic, too. Sometimes I think we don’t get that credit.”