When Kiana Chew verbally committed to play basketball at Arizona last month, it seemed odd that someone from Palm Harbor University High would want to be so far from home. But dig a little deeper and her decision makes more sense.
She is already thousands of miles from home.
Chew, a 6-foot-3 senior center for the Hurricanes, was born in Bavaria, Germany. She moved to Nashville in her middle school years when her mother, Nadine Dixon, got a civilian job with the Army. Fluent in both German and English, Chew briefly returned to Germany to play in a Division II women’s basketball league as an amateur.
When her mother got a job offer in the Tampa Bay area, they decided to return to the United States before the start of her junior year.
“I really wanted to go to college in the U.S.,” Chew said. “And we chose Palm Harbor University because of the school.”
Germany’s loss was the Hurricanes’ gain. Chew fit in right away as a shot-blocking center. She averaged 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game. Coupled with dynamic scoring guard Julia Ingram, PHU was a dangerous offensive team that finished the season 24-8.
But Chew had a penchant for getting into early foul trouble.
“I told her that if she gets a foul in the first quarter (this season) then I’m taking her out,” PHU coach Darian Dublin said. “We can’t have her in early foul trouble. What she did last year is she would jump forward to block a shot. She’s 6-3. She doesn’t even have to jump. But if she does, she needs to jump straight up to stay out of foul trouble. She’s been working on that.”
Chew said she has been working on her defensive skills during the summer club season. She also expects to pick up her offensive production. None of those deficiencies kept college coaches away.
She said she has received letters, texts and calls from numerous schools. She was set on going to a school on the East Coast, and she was in contact with state schools such as Central Florida, North Florida and Jacksonville.
Then came her visit to Arizona.
“My initial intent was not to be on the West Coast,” Chew said. “I was definitely thinking East Coast. The decision was made just because of the love of the school. I was interested in schools over here, like James Madison, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, schools like that.
“It was nice having interest from so many schools but at times it was overwhelming. There was a lot of calling and texting daily. I was pretty happy with my decision and it was pretty relaxing after I made it.”
Now she said her focus is getting ready for her final high school season. The Hurricanes are talented again this season. And Chew will once again be teamed with senior point guard Ingram, who averaged 22.4 points last season. Ingram is ecstatic to have Chew back this season.
“Kiana is a great teammate,” Ingram said. “Not only is she very talented on the court but she is also a great friend off the court. Easy to get along with, great sense of humor, and a great work ethic. She is so fun to play with and I can always count on her to take care of the basket on the defensive end with her awesome blocks.”
Chew just wants to prove that Arizona made the right choice.
“So excited to have a really good season,” she said. “I want to dominate.”