EAST LANSING – Aaliyah Nye wasn’t too thrilled initially.
The freshman didn’t want to move with her twin sister Aashawnti to East Lansing from Meridianville, Alabama, last summer.
“I was afraid to move from family and friends,” Aaliyah said. “I’m just afraid to meet new people sometimes. I was scared.”
But the Nye twins have gradually gotten used to life in East Lansing the last few months.
And that transition has been aided by them being part of a family atmosphere surrounding the East Lansing girls basketball team.
Things have been unique this year for veteran Trojan coach Rob Smith with three groups of sisters that have contributed to the program’s 13th league title in the last 15 seasons.
Aaliyah and Aashawnti Nye are joined by older sister Aazh on the varsity roster, while Jaida and Kalaia Hampton form the other sister connection on the court. And Amelia McNutt and assistant coach Tori Klewicki-McNutt are also sisters that add to the family combinations that have helped East Lansing (18-2, 14-0 CAAC Blue) spend a good portion of the season ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press Class A state poll. The Trojans enter the postseason among the teams just outside the top 10 of the state rankings.
“We’re all like sisters,” Aashawnti said. “Last names don’t mean anything to us. It’s like a family. We’re all together. We like playing with each other. It’s fun. Playing with sisters is even better.”
Amelia McNutt said she learned plenty from watching her sister’s high school playing career nearly a decade ago. And she now values having Tori’s voice around the program to help her improve and be at her best for the Trojans.
Amelia McNutt, Jaida Hampton and Aazh Nye – all juniors – have been the driving forces on the court for East Lansing. Hampton and McNutt are third-year varsity players for the Trojans, while Nye is in her second season after spending her sophomore year in Alabama. The trio have been the top scorers for the Trojans and contributed in numerous other ways.
Most importantly, their leadership has been vital for the Trojans, who don’t have a senior on their roster.
Jaida Hampton and Aazh Nye have served as mentors on the court for their younger siblings, which has been vital to Smith and made things easier.
“I think it helps us because we all have an understanding of each other,” Jaida Hampton said. “Aazh knows how to talk to her sisters, I know how to talk to my sister. (Amelia) knows how to get along with her sister being a coach. I just think it really helps that we’re all together.”
Kalaia Hampton, who has learned the ropes this season as a freshman on varsity, says having the older sisters around has been a positive experience.
“Sometimes it’s annoying because they think they are our mom, but they are just trying to help us with the process because they’ve been on varsity three years and they know what it takes,” she said. “They know what you have to put in.”
The Trojans hope more success is in store this season behind their sister tandems. Aaliyah Nye has come on in the late stages of the season and adds another dimension for East Lansing as it attempts to make a deep run in the Class A state tournament the next few weeks.
Regardless of how things turn out this March, Smith is excited about what looms for his program.
“The best part about the whole thing is they are all coming back,” Smith said. “We have the four juniors that are in the playing group right now and then we have the five freshmen. Hopefully if we can do the right things and mold this thing together, everything will be coming back next year and that should be the year if we’re going to do this thing (and win a title), we should be able to really get going.”
Aazh Nye is also excited to think of what could be for the Trojans with another year of experience and more time to mesh.
“I think it’s really scary to just think how good we can be,” she said. “We have hopes of winning a state championship and just having another summer, a year of AAU, fall workouts and everyone just getting better (will be big). We all love to work. No one here is lazy and no one here has bad work ethic. We’re all getting on each other to stay in the gym. I feel like with another year under our belt, at this time next year our team is going to evolve.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.