Nkumu Emerges as Elite Point Guard for Top-Ranked City High


Jeff Yoder Photo / iagameday.smugmug.com

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

DES MOINES – The Class 5A state tournament turned into a who’s who of Iowa’s top point guards.

Nationally ranked recruits Caitlin Clark of West Des Moines Dowling and West Des Moines Valley’s Zoe Young headlined the loaded list of point guards in the 5A field.

Rose Nkumu doesn’t have the lofty stats or the recruiting pedigree of some of her point guard peers in Des Moines this week.

That doesn’t bother the City High standout who has spent her sophomore season showing she belongs in the conversation of the state’s elite point guards.

“I enjoy that kind of competition and if people hold me to that expectation I am fine with that but I don’t really worry about whether or not I have the title of the best or whatever,” Nkumu said. “With how much talent Iowa has I think this state tournament is just a really good place to go see all of that.”

Overlooking Nkumu as one of the top lead guards in the state is fairly easy.

Unlike most of her point guard counterparts Nkumu isn’t the center of the City High offense.

That distinction belongs to senior Ashley Joens who casts a pretty large shadow as the leading scorer in the state at better than 31 points per game.

Overlooking Nkumu gets much harder once you’ve seen her play.

Nkumu is averaging 13.4 points, 3.4 steals and 3.2 assists per game this season for top-ranked City High (24-0) entering Thursday’s 5A state semifinal showdown with No. 4 Johnston (21-3).

“She could play for a college right now,” City High coach Bill McTaggart said. “She is that good.”

As a freshman Nkumu showed she was capable of leading a team averaging 8.4 points and 2.7 assists per game while helping City High return to the state tournament.

This season Nkumu has taken her game to another level.

Her scoring production has gone up five points to 13.4 per game while increasing her field goal percentage to 59 percent.

Nkumu is averaging more rebounds, assists and steals per game this season for the unbeaten Little Hawks.

“It was just building up that confidence in myself,” Nkumu said. “I’m a little more at ease this year handling the ball and making sure I get it to teammates and making the right play and even sometimes taking the shot myself. Last year I never really took any outside shots but this year my coaches have been telling me if we are going to be able win I need to be able to hit those shots.”

A dynamic athlete, the 5-foot-8 Nkumu is at her best attacking the basket.

Nkumu has shot 20 more free throws this season than she did a year ago while upping her assist total to 3.2 per game.

This season she has added perimeter jumper. doubling her number of made 3-pointers from her freshman season.

“Everybody knows that I can get into the lane but adding my 3-point game that opens up the lane for Ashley (Joens),” Nkumu said. “People have to come out and guard me and also if they know that I can drive I can hit it out to my teammates and they can hit shots.”

Nkumu has also cut down her turnovers as a sophomore, committing just 35 in 24 games.

“Her assist to turnover ratio is what you want from a point guard,” McTaggart said. “Her decision making is really good. She is close to 60 percent field goal percentage and makes very few errors on the court.”

As good as Nkumu has been offensively for a City High team that ranks second in the state in scoring at 77.5 points per game she means more to the Little Hawks on the defensive end.

A rare combination of strength and speed make Nkumu a lockdown defender.

“She is our defensive stopper,” McTaggart said. “That has been a key for us.”

Nkumu leads City High with 3.4 steals per game and is the catalyst of the Little Hawks full-court pressure.

“She is more confident,” Joens said. “She is a really good defender, she gets those steals which lead to easy baskets for us on offense.”

Nkumu gets another marquee point guard matchup on Thursday when she locks up with Johnston sophomore star Maya McDermott.

The 5-foot-6 McDermott is averaging 19.4 points per game while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and had 25 points in a quarterfinal win over Waukee.

“I look forward to the challenge of playing against that type of player,” Nkumu said. “There are so many great players in Iowa and at the state tournament so it’s always a challenge.”