PHOENIX, Ariz. (BVM) – Desert Vista senior point guard Shay Ijiwoye is used to facing difficult competition thanks to her team’s high standing in Arizona and her play at national powerhouse Arizona Elite Prep. Playing against the best on the basketball court was ingrained early in Ijiwoye’s basketball career as the young hooper was thrust into the sport playing alongside boys.
“I played with the boys in the fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth-grade summer so for two and a half years I played with the boys,” Ijiwoye said. They’re bigger, faster and stronger so you have to bring your game up to another level. At the time, I was actually one of the tallest on the team so I played the post so you can imagine me, a girl playing boys, battling down there and rebounding and stuff. I think it helped with my overall toughness which obviously has translated to the girls side with being aggressive.”
That toughness helped the 5-foot-6 point guard blossom into a star on the girls side of things at the high school level, being ranked as the No. 44 player in the nation by ESPN, and with that came the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. On Sept. 1, Ijiwoye committed to the Stanford Cardinal program, keeping one of the best female basketball players in the West.
“It’s a world-class education and people come from all over the world to get that education so it’s kind of an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often,” Ijiwoye said. “Not only that, but basketball too. Everyone there is super serious, whether it’s getting to the next level or winning a national championship, they’re just winners. The whole coaching staff knows how to win, they’ve won many years in a row, they’ve had great careers themselves too so just a lot of learning on and off the court.”
With the Cardinal, Ijiwoye feels she will have the opportunity to contribute early.
“If you watched them this past year, they didn’t really have a point guard, Talana [Lepolo] was their point guard but she was a freshman and kind of got thrown into the fire and the 2023 class they didn’t get a true point guard,” Ijiwoye said. “I know I am coming in and I will have the opportunity to definitely make an impact my freshman year at the point guard position. I think what Talana and I do is pretty similar as far as how well we pass the ball, get people involved and push tempo and things like that.”
As a leader for her Thunder squad last year, Ijiwoye averaged 13.3 points, 3.1 steals, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 73% from the field and 44.3% from three-point range as Desert Vista finished 28-3 and as the inaugural Arizona Interscholastic Association Open Division girls’ state champions.
“Ending up being ranked No. 12 in the country, competing at nationals and obviously winning the first-ever open division championship in Arizona we kind of turned a lot of heads and I’m grateful that I got to do it with such great people,” Ijiwoye said. “I’m just excited for this last year and continuing that winning tradition.”
While Ijiwoye made a name for herself on the basketball court, she did get support from an unlikely source–her godsister, WNBA veteran Kristine Anigwe. Growing up in Arizona, Ijiwoye’s parents befriended the Anigwe family and once she started playing basketball, she immediately knew where to go for help.
“Before I even started playing we all would hang out together and I knew she played at Cal and was playing well and I think that kind of sparked my interest a little bit,” Ijiwoye said. “Having an inspiring figure to look up to that you know is really great, especially to answer your questions like shooting questions or about the recruiting process.”
Even though Ijowye signed with Cal’s rival, Stanford, the two are still close.
“She was just happy for me and happy for my family,” Ijiwoye said. “She was proud of me.”
But before Ijiwoye makes her way to Stanford, she will have one final season with the Thunder. Her goal is to ultimately leave an impact beyond the basketball court.
“Obviously I want to win a state championship again, compete on a national level and it would be cool to get those end-of-the-year accolades, but I think the biggest thing is leaving an impact on the program,” Ijiwoye said. “I want to make an impact on the others around me and for people to remember me for the person I was more than the player. I just want to continue to build the culture we’ve been building for generations to come.”