Some 700 miles away from Millennium High School, the University of Nevada’s head women’s basketball coach texted one of her incoming freshmen recruits.
“Hey,” Amanda Levens, head coach of the Wolf Pack, messaged Millennium star senior Dominique Phillips. “Congrats on winning Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year.”
It was through Levens, a seemingly unforeseen source to break the news, that Phillips was informed she had won the award on March 8. The award is given to the best high school girls’ basketball player in the state.
And at the time she received the text, she was in Courtland Rojeck’s classroom, the head girls’ basketball coach at Millennium whom she played under during her four-year career with the Tigers.
The timing of it all was poetic justice for Phillips.
“I didn’t know I had (won) it,” the 6-foot guard said. “So, I was like, ‘I got it?’”
Levens learned of Phillips’ selection because Gatorade ran a daily countdown until the final winner was announced. It was a good thing Levens spotted the countdown, because Phillips had no clue one even existed.
“I thought Rojeck would tell me, but he didn’t even know, so (coach Levens) texted me and I was so surprised. But I was so glad. It was really great that I got to share it with Rojeck in his class, as soon as I found out,” Phillips said.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award honors “outstanding athletic excellence,” according to the press release, “but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.”
Phillips is a member of Millennium’s Student Council. She owns a weighted grade point average of 4.04.
A marketing platform of Gatorade’s called “Play it Forward” also awards the winner with “a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization,” per the press release.
Phillips will donate the grant to Up2Us Sports, an organization “engaging, training and supporting sports coaches to serve as mentors and role models to youth living in some of America’s most underserved communities,” its website reads.
Tabbed the best high school girls’ player in the state, no other player possesses skills as polished as Phillips’. She was a four-year starter, a lethal scorer and an active presence on the glass, totaling 14.8 points per game and six rebounds in 117 career games at Millennium.
She was the Tigers’ leading scorer in each of the last three seasons. She averaged 15.6 points per night her senior campaign, en route to delivering Millennium’s first 5A state championship title in school history.
Entering high school, Phillips and her father penned a list of goals they deemed achievable during her Tigers career.
First on the list was to receive a scholarship to advance her basketball career. Phillips checked that off last July when she announced her commitment to the University of Nevada.
Second: Win a state championship.
Another check off the list.
The No. 1-ranked Tigers defeated Gilbert in the 5A state final, 66-40. Phillips chimed in with 16 points of her own.
“This year was the year to get it, and I get to cross that off my list of goals,” she said. “The third one was to just have fun and have one of the most memorable four years of high school.”
A state championship was a must, but Gatorade Player of the Year honors? Not even Phillips saw that one coming.
“I see all the things I’m getting and I see how everyone’s talking about it, but I feel like I’m just playing basketball,” she said. “I didn’t feel like it was a competition to win it because it was like, ‘Oh, my name’s on there. Cool! I hope I win.’ It was never a goal for me to do that.”
Phillips has been a mainstay in Rojeck’s varsity rotation dating back to her freshman season. There were several chances to win a state championship, but none looked as prime as the one this winter.
The Tigers owned a roster replete with talent, top to bottom. They were ranked the No. 1 team in the 5A conference in the preseason, a year removed from losing in the state semifinals.
The thought of graduating from Millennium without a state championship would’ve really disturbed the self-anointed “stubborn and competitive” Phillips.
After a long, lingering sigh: “It would’ve been shocking (graduating from MHS without winning a title).
“We’ve had so many chances to do it, and if we couldn’t finish it out, it would’ve been an empty hole in my basketball career,” she said. “That would stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Rest assured, Phillips got the state championship for which she so desperately longed. She got the scholarship and paired it with one of the most prestigious honors in the state, too.
Had you have let Phillips in on a little time-traveling secret that entering her freshman year – just as she and her father began to chart their goals – she’d capture both a state title and a Gatorade Player of the Year before she’d graduate, Phillips would be quick to debunk the delirium.
“I would tell that person that they’re crazy,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t think I was going to do that.”
She did, though.
And the checklist she constructed years ago no longer serves as a dose of motivation, but more of a reminiscent of the masterful four-year high school career she engineered.