March 3, 2011
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Lobo Amanda Best, there was never any crossroad to face. There was never a decision to make between soccer or softball or this or that. It was always the round ball, the itch of hoops that scratched deeply into Best's competitive psyche and drove her future.
Don Flanagan remembers when Best showed up to take a tour of The Pit and New Mexico basketball. He knew then what he had on his hands -- a gym rat, a baller.
"She flew in here from Seattle in the wintertime wearing Nike shorts, a headband, and carrying a basketball," said Flanagan. "You knew right then she was a basketball junkie."
It was that way from the beginning for Best. Oh, she dabbled in the other sports, as most kids do, but growing up in Seattle, she formed a link to the Supersonics, a link to Nike shoes, and a bond with the game of basketball.
She probably brought a basketball on her visit to New Mexico because she wasn't sure there were enough to go around down here in the boondocks. "I had never heard of New Mexico before my dad starting talking about it," said Best, referring to the program not our nation's 47th state.
Best didn't exactly find New Mexico basketball by accident. Her father, Karl Best, played pro baseball from 1977 to 1990 and was savvy about Lobo hoops. When he took Best to check out the basketball digs at Arizona, he pointed her in the direction of The Pit to see if his talented daughter would nibble at the alluring bait.
She did. A huge selling point for Lobo basketball has always been The Pit. When a recruit sees a UNM game in that vibrant arena, a Lobo often is born. Best was sold on New Mexico for a lot of other reasons.
"My dad told me they had a lot of fans and a good tradition and that my style would fit in there," said Best. "I came and I liked it right away and I wasn't even here during a game."
Best's bio on GoLobos.com tells you a lot about her passion for the sport. She lists her hobbies as watching basketball, practicing basketball and collecting Michael Jordan Nike shoes.
Yes, Best is a "Sneakerhead" She has spent her hours outside Nike outlets waiting to latch onto a certain release of that famous footwear.
"They would have release days and I would go down at four in the morning to get in line," said Best. "It's kind of a culture. They call them Sneakerheads.
"You get in line and they give you wristbands to wear because it can get pretty rough when they get ready to open the doors. People start cutting (in line). But I always got my shoe."
Said Flanagan: "She might purchase a new pair of Nikes every week."
Best collects Jordan Nikes, but she also calls herself a "fashionista," -- a term for a woman who likes to style and mix unique clothes while avoiding the stereotype trendy look.
Best also is a point guard and that wasn't really her plan when she came to be a Lobo. Best likes to work from the wings, like to dribble penetrate and shoot jumpers. By nature, she is an off-guard, a scorer. By necessity, she runs the point for Coach Flanagan.
When the Lobos lost Sara Halasz and Nikki Nelson to knee injuries, the only upperclassman capable of running the point was Best. She has been solid in that position with a 10.6 scoring average in 27 starts. She tops the Lobo charts in rebounding at 7.6 per game, averaging 32.6 minutes a game. She scored a season/career-high 22 points vs. UNLV and pulled down a season/career-high 15 rebounds at New Mexico State.
Best played the point in high school, but it was still a demanding move to return to the point at the D-I level in your senior year.
"I've grown to like it," said the 6-foot Best, who recently was named to the Capital One Academic All-American team. "It's challenging to lead a team. I'm having fun at it and we might not have the wins, but I don't feel like we are a bad team and it doesn't feel like we are losing. We our competitive with the other teams in our conference and our goal now is to be focused for the conference championships."
Best like basketball, likes sneakers, likes clothes and likes to hit the books, too. She is a 4.0 student in biology with plans to go to medical school.
Best finally has reached a crossroad.
"I've always wanted to play professional, but I also want to go to medical school," said Best. "I guess we'll see."