Whatever you were doing in eighth grade probably pales in comparison to Zaila Avant-garde's laundry list of accomplishments.
The 14-year-old Louisiana native became Scripps National Spelling Bee's first African-American winner on Thursday night after spelling the winning word, "Murraya," a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.
However, as the owner of three Guinness World Records, holding the title of Scripps National Spelling Bee champion is just the beginning of her brilliance.
Zaila is also a basketball prodigy, so it's fitting that the aforementioned world record titles all deal with the sport. Her current records are:
- Most balls juggled in one minute with four basketball
- Most dribbles in 30 seconds with four basketballs
- Most basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously (6)
Despite her two-year prioritization of spelling, Avant-garde is still widely considered to be one of the top eighth-grade basketball prospects in the country. She doesn't plan to take her foot off the gas after her big win either, as her next big goal is to make the 2022 USA Basketball under-16 national team. She even received a few shoutouts from her hometown squads after her victory.
Zaila thinks she'd be interested in playing basketball professionally overseas, but pictures the Minnesota Lynx when she visualizes being drafted to the WNBA. James Harden, Diana Taurasi, Kevin Durant and Maya Moore all boast the title of Avant-garde's favorite players. She has also appeared in a commercial with Steph Curry, another one of her favorite players.
But wait, there's more.
Avant-garde was the silver medalist at the International Jugglers' Association 2020 championship [Juniors Division (18U)] and she's also an elite unicyclist. She can do both at the same time, by the way.
Her long-term hopes are to attend Harvard, become an NBA coach and NASA scientist.
The word "convenience" knocked me out of my middle school spelling be, so I'm feeling like a bit of an underachiever at the moment.
ESPN's Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.