In the second quarter of George Washington girls basketball’s matchup against Salem last December, GW senior Amara Harrell launched a jump shot that fell through the net.
GW head coach Mancino Craighead immediately called a timeout and walked onto the court and over to his player. He didn’t offer words of criticism or advice, but words of congratulations as Harrell had just reached 1,000 career points and entered rarified air.
She came into the Eagles’ matchup needing only nine points to reach the mark but ended up scoring 29 to put her at 1,029 career points over her four-year career — three of which were spent at Carlisle School in Martinsville.
While it would’ve been easy, almost understandable, for Harrell to be a bit full of herself, it was just the opposite as she had no idea, she had accomplished the feat. Not knowing she had reached the milestone left her wondering why her longtime skipper and second father had called a timeout and was approaching her on the court.
“I honestly didn’t know what was going on when he came on the court,” Harrell said laughing. “I don’t really know what I was thinking when he came out but once I realized I had reached it, I felt really good. I was proud. I was excited.”
Harrell finished her senior season with 536 points, giving her 1,415 for her career. While the milestone is hard enough to reach in four years, Harrell reached it without having the benefit of four full seasons after her junior season at Carlisle was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many would be surprised over Harrell reaching the feat in that amount of time, but Harrell isn’t one as she feels she would’ve reached the mark her junior year if she’d been given the chance.
“Not really, I feel like I could’ve hit it last year if we got to play our full season but unfortunately, we didn’t,” Harrell said.
But hold on. We’re getting too far ahead of ourselves. Like Captain America: The First Avenger, we’re going to go origin story from this part, then work our way back to the beginning.
Late one night back when Harrell was in elementary school, her father, Marcus, walked into the living room and saw his daughter watching TV. While many parents would be upset at their young child being up so late, Marcus couldn’t be. Harrell was watching basketball tutorials from a hoops legend.
“I went into the living room to see what she was watching, and she was watching a Michael Jordan tutorial, like a skills tutorial. I didn’t even know he did those kind of videos,” Marcus recalled laughing. “So, she took it upon herself to Google it using my PlayStation and I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ That’s when I knew basketball was her thing.”
Harrell’s mom, Kisha, knew her daughter’s destiny while watching Harrell play in one of the recreational league games she and her husband were coaching.
“It was a game where her dad and I saw her on the court in rec league, scoring a couple of threes. I think back-to-back, and to see her, at that young age, leading the team on the court, we definitely knew she was going to be a basketball player,” she recalled laughing.
For Harrell, it all began one fateful day in elementary school.
“I think I was in fourth grade. We were playing around in gym, and I just started liking the game. Then, one day they started passing out the forms for rec league. I brought it home to my dad and asked if I could play.”
Harrell took the normal progression from recreational league to travel league to AAU to jayvee to varsity at Carlisle School in Martinsville where the love for the game grew.
“I would say my eighth grade year, playing jayvee at Carlisle, getting that experience, having that success, I realized I wanted to compete at a high level,” Harrell added.
As a freshman at Carlisle, Harrell was a wunderkind, leading the team in scoring while having multiple 20-plus points games, including a 27-point performance against Eastern Mennonite.
Harrell’s success spilled over into her sophomore season as she once again led the Chiefs in scoring and average. She tallied 32 against Virginia Episcopal School.
History repeated itself her junior season as she once again led the squad in overall scoring and points per game after missing the opening two games due to injury.
Craighead coached Harrell all three seasons and the two developed a tight relationship over the span. They thought their relationship would continue into Harrell’s senior season, but life had other plans as she moved to Danville and enrolled in GW last fall, bringing an apparent end to the journey the two had shared. In an ironic twist of fate, however, the two picked up right where they left off as Craighead was hired as the Eagles’ next coach not long after.
Harrell started the season needing only 33 points to reach the 1,000-point mark and reached the milestone quickly, as she scored 24 in GW’s season opener against Chatham. Four days later, she reached the mark against Salem.
“We’ve always been proud of her and excited to see her grow each year, each game,” Kisha said. “There was something different, something big she was doing so to watch her, being her parent, being her coaches, we were just really proud.”
While Marcus, who was in attendance at the Salem game, was proud to see his daughter reach the milestone, he wasn’t exactly surprised.
“I told Kisha at one game when Amara was younger after first seeing her play, ‘You know she’s gone, right?’” Marcus said laughing. “What I meant was that she going off somewhere to play basketball.”
His words proved to be prophetic as Harrell will attend college in the fall where she will continue her basketball career. While she hasn’t made her final decision, High Point University and Guilford College are a few of the schools interested. It’s also worth noting, Harrell sports a 3.78 GPA.
With her high school basketball career is over, Harrell’s only a few months from graduating and beginning a new journey. She’s been looking back on her journey and has found the perfect way to describe the ride.
“It’s been surreal. It’s pretty crazy, but once I started playing, actually getting into it, I knew I would actually go off to college. But now that it’s actually here, it’s shocking.”
Marcus added, “I’m proud. It’s crazy, because to us she is still our baby, and it’s tough. We’re going to miss her but hopefully she’s going to somewhere where I can watch it on TV when I can’t be there.”
For Kisha, the moment will be bittersweet.
“To see the generation we’re in now, to see this beautiful young lady blossom like she did and have the grades and GPA, it’s just amazing. Not every parent can say that in this day and time. I’m grateful. It’s going to be hard to see her leave, but it feels good at the same time because we know she’s going to succeed.”