Well-Read Recruit Nadia Fingall Prepares For Next Chapter
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nadia Fingall was 9 when she was awarded her first basketball uniform, a red and blue jersey with shorts to match. She accessorized with a black and white headband.
"I was decked out to the max," Fingall said. "The first day I got it, I stood in front of the mirror for 30 minutes, dancing around. I was elated."
That's exactly how coaches feel these days when they know Fingall will wear their uniforms.
That goes for the coaches at Choctawhatchee (Fort Walton Beach, Florida), where Fingall, 17, finished her high school career at the state Final Four last weekend, leading the Indians to an 83-11 record in her three years.
And that's also true at Stanford, where Fingall, a 6-foot-3 forward, will play her college ball.
Fingall, the No. 26 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100, had 21 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 62-51 Class 6A state semifinal loss to Fort Myers last Friday in her final high school game.
A voracious reader with an extensive vocabulary, Fingall analyzed the defeat in her typical astute fashion.
"We had too many turnovers," Fingall said. "We were handling the pressure effectively at the start. But we succumbed to their pressure late in the game."
Indeed, Fort Myers, the eventual state champion, outscored the Indians 20-6 to close the game.
But the loss doesn't take away from Fingall's excellent season, during which she averaged 18.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
"She's the full package," Indians coach Don Brown said. "She's all business on and off the court. There are times she stays up to 3 or 4 in the morning doing homework. She's going to be a great leader for Stanford."
Taught by dad
Fingall is the oldest of five siblings. Her parents are Andrew, who was born in Grenada, and Sydonne, who is from Jamaica.
Andrew, a captain in the U.S. Air Force who has been deployed to Afghanistan twice within the past few years, taught his daughter the finer points of basketball.
It wasn't an easy undertaking at first.
"I wasn't the most athletic kid," Fingall said. "I was awful. I was so bad -- you don't understand."
Fingall admits her first motivation with basketball was social. Making friends was important to the daughter of a military man who moved the family a good bit as he got assigned to different posts.
After a while, though, Fingall wanted more out of basketball than just hanging out with her buddies, and she joined the Cal Storm travel team at age 11.
When Andrew, who stands 6-feet-7 and played forward at George Mason before a two-year pro career in China and Luxembourg, saw she was serious about the sport, he jumped in, too. Juggling his busy schedule with the Air Force, Andrew started what soon became a tradition with his daughter: 5 a.m. basketball workouts at whatever gym they could find.
"5 a.m. was a magical time for us," Andrew said of the father-daughter bonding. "Later in the day was hectic. But that was our little block of time."
Nadia said the early wake-up calls were difficult.
"Even if I didn't want to go, I knew it would make me better," she said. "Those 5 a.m. workouts are what helped me the most in my career -- just having that routine and bringing my weaknesses to the table."
When the Fingalls moved from California to Florida, Nadia, who was entering ninth grade at the time, joined the Florida Essence club team.
Essence coach Kim Davis, who had been alerted to Fingall by George Quintero of the Cal Storm, was taken by the freshman's try-harder attitude.
"I saw a young lady with a craving to get better," Davis said. "She never thought she was any good, and she still works like she's the underdog. That's a good thing."
Given her size, skills and 4.58 GPA, Fingall was a popular recruiting target before narrowing her list to Stanford, Florida, Penn State, Oklahoma and Florida State.
Harvard, Vanderbilt and Tennessee also called last summer, but by that time, Fingall had lined up her visits to those five finalists.
Davis said she was with Fingall this past September at a showcase in Daytona Beach, Florida. As the story goes, there were about 150 college coaches and 250 high school prospects at the showcase, and many of the observers came away in awe of Fingall.
"In between sessions, Nadia was studying her physics book," Davis said. "A couple of coaches told me Nadia was their favorite player for that reason alone.
"Nadia is always stressing about a test. Then she gets an 'A' on her exam."
One month after the showcase, Fingall committed to Stanford.
The stellar Cardinal class includes 5-8 guard Anna Wilson from Bellevue, Washington; 6-0 guard DiJonai Carrington from Horizon (San Diego, California) and 5-10 guard Mikaela Brewer from Barrie, Ontario (Canada). Wilson, whose brother Russell is the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, and Carrington, the daughter of a former NFL defensive back, will team with Fingall on the West squad at the March 30 McDonald's All American Game in Chicago.
"When we found out we would be playing together, we were stoked," Fingall said of the McDonald's game. "It will be great to play together before we are officially teammates.
"Anna is a cerebral point guard who is a confident leader and an amazing passer. DiJonai is a big guard who rebounds well and has good range and accuracy. Mikaela is long, quick and athletic -- she can shoot the 3 and attack the basket.
She never thought she was any good, and she still works like she's the underdog. That's a good thing.Kim Davis on Nadia Fingall
"I think I fit in as an anchor in the post. I am working on my perimeter game to be as versatile as possible."
Stanford is known for its academic excellence, but Fingall figures to handle the rigors of the school just fine.
"Academics is my first love," said Fingall, who is interested in studying anthropology. "Aside from what we have to do for school, I try to read two or three books a month on my own."
One summer, Fingall read the entire "Hunger Games" trilogy in less than 48 hours.
"A book leaves more to the imagination than a movie," Fingall said. "It draws you in more."
As a lover of books, Fingall knows the final chapter of her high school career has now been written, and her tears "really flowed" in the locker room after her final game.
"I was disappointed we lost," Fingall said. "But I don't think I could be disappointed with the season we had. We didn't have a deep squad, and we had some internal dynamics that didn't go our way. But I'm at peace with it. ..."
Ready to try on that next uniform.