It’s not a coincidence. Just ask Khadijah Sayyid’s coach.
Sayyid isn’t the most notable player on the ultra-successful Emory University women’s basketball team. The former Peak to Peak athlete isn’t yet a starter for the Eagles.
Yet, Emory has gone 37-4 since the speedy guard’s arrival and currently is ranked No. 8 in Division III with a gaudy 13-0 record entering Sunday. Sayyid, also a former track standout at Peak to Peak, serves the role as first reserve off the bench, an athletic sparkplug that instantly changes the flow.
“She’s such a energy player for us and it’s a great luxury for us to have someone like her who is willing to come off the bench,” Emory coach Christy Thomaskutty said. “I always say she could be starting – she probably deserves to – but what she does off the bench is just so valuable to us.”
Emory, based in suburban Atlanta, finished 24-4 last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997. The 5-foot-3 Sayyid averaged 4.3 points off the bench last season, and has upped that 5.6 this season. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though.
“Easily, she could be scoring double what she is right now on average if our system wasn’t so defensive-predicated,” Thomaskutty said. “We run players in and out to keep them fresh.”
Sayyid, or “KJ” as she is nicknamed, disrupts teams so thoroughly that opponents often resort to letting post players bring the ball up the court so point guards don’t have to deal with Sayyid’s swarming pressure.
Thomaskutty also noted that the sophomore’s 3-point range and ability to score off the pull-up jumper have greatly improved this season. The coach insists that Sayyid’s arrival is a major reason Emory has been able to elevate into a Top 10 squad.
“It’s interesting, because with a successful program like Emory, everyone’s really good,” Sayyid said. “So you have to find that one thing that you’re good at that becomes your specialty. I’m pretty comfortable and I’m glad I have this energizer role with this team.”
A point guard in high school, Sayyid has exclusively shifted to the off-guard in the Eagles’ offense. While she has flourished in her current role the past two seasons, her hopes are to eventually crack the starting lineup.
“I definitely hope to get better and transition into that role where I’m more of a starter type,” she said. “I mean, whatever is best for the team, but I definitely hope to grow into a role that’s not only a defensive specialist, but one where I’m more well-rounded on both ends of the court.”
Sayyid averaged 20.7 points for coach Chad Rathbun’s Peak to Peak squad in 2011-12, a Pumas squad that finished 16-8. During that school year, she and her Peak to Peak counselor sought out a school that offered basketball opportunities as well as a chance to study in the medical field.
She hopes to get into sports therapy and eventually go to physical therapy school, and Emory was a solid fit for her ambitions.
There aren’t many locales in the country farther away than Atlanta, but Sayyid has been busy enough to avoid becoming homesick.
“It’s quite a ways, but I definitely still keep in touch with a lot of people back home,” Sayyid said. “I mean, it’s hard being so far away, because with breaks during basketball you only get limited time.
“Unfortunately I haven’t got to stop by and see the old Peak to Peak team play. I still keep up to date with social media.”
Peak to Peak athletes, both current and former, follow Sayyid the same way. And so far, most tweets or posts have had something to do with winning.
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