Naples’ travels lead her to 1,000 points

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Niles senior Dakota Naples (3) recently reached the 1,000-point mark for her career.

Niles girls basketball player Dakota Naples has been well-traveled throughout her high school playing career. Those travels recently brought the senior point guard to a career milestone — 1,000 points.

Naples, who accomplished the feat on the road against Jefferson, needed 14 points for the mark. However, she struggled in the first half, as she totaled just seven points and her Red Dragons held a slim lead.

However, she exploded for double-digits in the third quarter and finished with 29 points for the game, in a 70-46 Red Dragon victory.

“It was a big relief,” Naples said. “At the beginning of the game, I didn’t play my best. But once I got it, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Naples, who started her career at New Wilmington High School in Pennsylvania as a freshman, found her way to Girard as a sophomore. However, her family relocated to Florida for her junior year, and she was unable to play that season.

Eventually, she transferred to Niles during that very same junior year, and has certainly made an impact since arriving at the school. After a 1-4 start to the season, Niles won 12 of its last 17 games to finish the regular season at 13-9. The turnaround was due largely to the prolific scoring of Naples and fellow senior Amanda Blank.

Naples herself is averaging more than 23 points per game, and she has had several 30-plus point outings this season. Anyone who has seen Naples play in person will be quick to point out her shooting ability.

In fact, one local coach went as far as saying that Naples had the nicest shot of any girls basketball player he had ever seen. Naples’ current coach, Niles’ Doug Foster, has known Dakota since she was a youngster and was quick to agree with the sentiments shared by that coach.

“I’ve never seen a girl shoot the ball like Dakota,” Foster said. ‘She has a 15 footer that she shoots better than most guys. She works at it in the gym constantly. Even in her days off, she’ll go the (Ralph Infante) Wellness Center (in Niles) and train.”

Foster said that Naples has emerged as a more well-rounded player this year, and not just the shooter that everyone perceives her to be. According to the coach, Naples has also brought a strong chemistry to the Red Dragon program, which has, in part, helped Niles to such a successful run in the past several weeks.

While Naples herself attributes her greatest improvement to her leadership, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Naples has had basketball in her blood from the beginning, as the daughter of Denise Naples — a standout at Warren Western Reserve, and later, a professional basketball player.

Dakota, who started playing the game in first grade and has also been involved in AAU basketball since fifth grade, certainly characterizes the motto “first one in the gym and the last one to leave.”

For her, that love for the game comes from the uniqueness that the sport of basketball presents, in her eyes.

“It’s like no other sport,” Dakota said. “It’s fast-paced — the fans, the players, the coaches, all of them. It doesn’t really compare to any other sport. You have to run, jump, shoot, dribble. But, you’ve just got to push yourself to do the best you can.”