Julia Aryault is the No. 2 ranked basketball player in the state, a top 100 player in the country and a 4-star recruit who has signed with Michigan State.
The Grosse Pointe North senior has a twin who also starts for North, but the two no longer play one-on-one because Julia can’t beat her twin, who doesn’t have a college offer. But he did help shape the player Julia is today.
“We used to play against each other all of the time, but not recently,” Julia said. “Once high school kind of rolled around and size-wise he could dominate me it became a lot harder for me to compete with him. But it was still always fun.”
Joe Aryault is her twin brother. They are fraternal twins, which helps explain why Joe is 6-feet-5 and Julia is 6-2.
Their parents were also basketball stars in high school. Kim Reiter, 5-11, was a standout at North in the late 1980s and met her husband, Andy, 6-7, a Grosse Pointe South grad, at Wayne State where they both played basketball.
“We’ve been around basketball forever,” said Joe, a 3.8 student who scored a 32 on the ACT. “We probably started playing when we started walking.”
And that is when they became competitors, especially on the basketball court.
“I would usually drive to the basket because I was probably stronger,” Joe said. “I invited her to drive every single possession. She would just stand out there from mid-range or 3-point range and just make it so the games were pretty close.”
Back then, playing one-on-one was something to occupy the youngsters’ time. But those games may be the reason why Julia has become one of the best players in the country.
Since Joe was so much stronger, Julia, a 3.7 student, had to find a way to score against him. As a result she has an effortless, not to mention accurate, shot from 3-point range.
Hey, she wasn’t going to be shutout by her brother.
“Growing up I could never go into the post because No. 1, I wasn’t strong enough and No. 2, I would get blocked every time because I was smaller,” Julia said. “That definitely helped for my outside game because I had to work on something to beat him off the dribble or just shooting it because if I tried to go down low it wouldn’t work out for me.”
At times the games between the two were contentious, but there was only so far Joe would push it against his sister.
“She was always pretty tough,” said their father. “There were instances where she would elbow him in the face and he’s a gentlemen. He was told never hit a girl. So she probably got away with a little more than she should have as his sister.”
Because she grew up playing with her brother, that is what she continued to do when she hit first grade.
“At the elementary school where she went,” her mother said, “the first-grade teacher would write me notes and call me all the time and say: ‘She’s playing with the boys at recess! What’s she doing? She’s always playing basketball.’”
The twins became teammates when they played in a boys league in Grosse Pointe’s Neighborhood Club as third and fourth graders.
That is when Joe figured out his sister was pretty darn special. He remembers an instance where a player on the other team committed a hard foul against one of their teammates and Julia became furious.
“The next three possessions in a row she blocked his shot and then hit a 3,” Joe said. “You just knew.”
In sixth grade, the pair began playing CYO ball for Star of the Sea and Julia dominated the girls team.
“You could really tell she was the best player on the court no matter who they were playing,” said Joe.
Andy also coached AAU ball and Julia participated in all of Joe’s team’s practices. Not only did she hold her own, it allowed her to develop as a genuine perimeter player.
“If she would have been playing with girls they would have thrown her in the post and she would have been a post player,” Andy said. “She ended up having to be a guard, which changed what she was.”
Each year Julia has improved, but last season she made a quantum leap. She earned a spot on the Free Press Dream Team after helping a ridiculously young North team reach Class A’s final four.
North coach Gary Bennett, who also coached her mother, saw a couple of dramatic improvements in Julia a year ago when she simply took over games.
“She made a big jump over that summer and I think she really made a big jump after Christmas last year,” he said. “She really got better then and she took it up another whole level during the tournament where she just said: ‘I’m going to be the best player on the floor.’ ”
This winter she is the best player on the floor because she can do so much more than just score, averaging 21.5 points per game for the No. 7 team in Division 1.
She is truly a complete player with an amazing basketball I.Q.
In a win over Sterling Heights Stevenson last week, she received an inbound pass in the backcourt, took two dribbles before rifling a perfect 55-feet bounce pass to a teammate, who laid the ball in the basket.
Later, a teammate threw her a pass that appeared to be going out of bounds. Julia leaped and stuck up her right hand. In one motion she caught the ball and directed it to a teammate for a layup.
Her feel for the game is off the charts and reminds you of former Michigan State All-American Kalisha Keane, one of the smartest players in MSU history.
Read the rest of the story at the Detroit Free Press.