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Emma Newton had options after finishing high school at Asheville Christian Academy.

She was the goalkeeper on a state champion soccer team and an explosive presence on the volleyball court for the Lions. She was also impressive on the basketball court, where she was the captain of a Lions team that went 25-2 last season. 

What she wanted to do after graduation wasn't an easy choice for the versatile athlete until she decided to attend Appalachian State University, where she'll play NCAA Division I basketball for the Mountaineers. 

"I've always played multiple sports," Newton said. "I played volleyball at a young age, I swam, I played softball and my coaches always told me if I'd focus on one I'd have a good chance of playing the Division I level."

She was never able to choose one.

"I could never pick a favorite sport," she said. "I always enjoyed them all equally."

Coming out of high school she had opportunities to continue being a multi-sport athlete, she said, with offers from Division II and Division III schools to play soccer and basketball. 

But Newton had her eyes on Appalachian State for different reasons. 

"I applied to the school for academic reasons," said Newton, who plans to major in both biology and exercise. "I figured it couldn't hurt to reach out to the team to see if they had any positions available."

Her interest in continuing her basketball career at a Division I program was music to the ears of John Williams, who took over as the coach of the ACA program Newton's freshman year. 

"She earned a starting spot for us as a freshman," said Williams, who is the program director for the Team Carolina-Asheville and owner of John Williams Basketball Elite Training. "The following year she was the focal point of our offense."

Newton credits Williams and ACA assistant coach Joey Harrell with her development as a basketball player. 

"John is one of the best coaches I've ever had in any sport," she said. "I've never had a coach like him; he made the game so enjoyable for me."

Williams and Harrell believed Newton could play at the highest collegiate level. 

"She's competitive and fearless," Williams said. "She hates to lose and she gives everything when nobody else will."

She's also an "excellent teammate," her former coach said, who has helped build a winning culture within the girls basketball program at ACA. She's one of four seniors on last year's roster who will go on to play basketball in college. 

"We reached out to Appalachian State and they were interested in taking a look at her," Williams said. "They did an individual workout with her, a character test and a film session test to look at her basketball IQ. They were blown away by how polished she was."

Newton embraced the chance to compete for a spot on the team. 

"I love having a challenge in front of me and pushing myself to get better," she said. "I don't want things to be easy for me, I want to push myself and earn my spot."

It's that competitive edge that Williams believes will make Newton an asset to the program at Appalachian State, which is led by head coach Angel Elderkin. 

"Emma's ceiling is high," Williams said. "Her skills translate well to the college game and her game will continue to develop at a program like Appalachian State."

While Newton will miss playing multiple sports she's already embracing her role as a dedicated basketball player. 

"I'm looking forward to proving myself," she said. "It's exciting to be part of this team."

 

 

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