Mikayla Boykin was a mere child when she began her foray into basketball. She started by playing with friends and family members then moved into recreation ball and advanced to play against boys. For the past two years, the 13-year-old Sampson Middle School eight- grader has been dominating the middle school and AAU courts and garnering looks from college scouts.
“I started playing basketball when I was about four,” Boykin recalled during a recent interview. “I just really liked getting on the court and playing; I played recreation ball until I was about 11 and I am still playing AAU ball (with Team Carolina out of Raleigh-Durham). It has been a natural thing to me because I have always just loved the game.”
The Clinton native was exposed to the game by her athletic parents, Tim and Nicole, and even they admit they were a little surprised when she was first being sent college letters after her sixth-grade season. “She was getting interest from East Carolina University in the sixth grade,” Tim acknowledged. “Since then she has gotten interest from Duke, Carolina, UNC-Charlotte, Wake Forest, West Virginia …”
“It was kind of a shock for us, to be honest,” chimed in Nicole. “But on the other side of that, we go out a lot to these AAU tournaments to see her play, and when you see her play and the other girls play, there is a big difference between them.”
“We are always looking for girls who can play like her when we go out (on the road); there are a few, but the majority of them aren’t up to her level of play yet,” Tim added. “We have been everywhere, from Atlanta to New York, and I haven’t seen one to match her talent yet. She is just that special.”
Her proud parents aren’t the only ones who feel that way — two of the many players that Boykin has looked up to when she was little said they knew the Sampson Middle student was gifted early on.
“I remember seeing her come to the gym when she was about 4 or 5 years old,” said Tonya Colwell, Roseboro/Salemburg principal and former basketball standout for the Clinton Dark Horses. “I knew right away she would be something special. Over the years I have watched her and have seen how she just has a love for the game.”
Vivian “Pie” Blue-Burke, another former Clinton High School standout, now working with Wilson Parks and Recreation Department, agreed.
“I have coached Mikayla and have watched her develop into such a great player,” she said. “She has an amazing work ethic and only strives for the best. I think that she could possibly make history or change the history of the game, without a doubt.”
That work ethic was instilled in her from the moment she stepped onto the court as a child, attested Boykin’s father, Tim.
“She has always worked hard on the court. She would be at the Sampson Center playing with the boys and, at home, her brothers would play hard against her. She is the middle child and she has always worked hard to get better. It has always been in her to play and to work to play better.”
Boykin said her philosophy about basketball is simple.
“When I hit the court, I work hard and play the best that I can,” she stressed. “Was I surprised when I started receiving letters from colleges? Yes, I was. You know, I definitely want to go to college, but to be honest, I really haven’t thought that much about it. I still have a while yet.”
Although she hasn’t started her final middle school basketball season, Boykin said she is looking forward to playing high school ball, while continuing to play on her AAU team.
“We do a lot of traveling with AAU; it is all year around except for the school basketball season,” she explained. “Then we take a couple months off. But it starts right back up after. So it is a lot of traveling, but I love it because I have so much support.”
On the road, the Boykins make it a family affair. “We take everyone out and make it special,” Tim said. “The whole family.”
With no sponsors, Boykin’s parents have picked up the tab for the past couple of years, but they wouldn’t change it.
“We don’t mind,” Tim said. “We would love to have sponsors and things like that, but we pay for it because we feel like we are investing in her future.”
Nicole admitted that she is not much of a traveler, but loves watching her daughter’s work on the court.
“I don’t like the ride to get to it, but at the same time, when I get there, you never know what you are going to see,” she explained. “You learn something different from her each time she plays. It is exciting because you don’t know what to expect and that it how it has always been watching her play.”
In most of those games, Boykin puts down 20-26 points and a dozen assists and steals a game, however, she said she doesn’t feel the need to lead any of her teams each night — it just happens that way. “Because I score a lot, it doesn’t put more pressure on me, really,” she said. “I just do what I can do and go out and give 100 percent in every game. I like everything about the game, but I like going to the basket the best. So when I can, I get there.”
Although her points speak volumes about her talent, it is her unselfishness as a player that says more.
“She is skilled in all areas of the game,” pointed out Blue-Burke. “Dribbling, rebounding, passing, scoring … she is so diverse in all areas of the game. And you know what? She strives to be her best. I have known her since she was about six and she is an outstanding young lady, always has been. I have always told her to stay humble and hungry and she has done that.”
Colwell agreed. “She has always been humble. I have seen her play on many occasions, and the great thing about her is that you watch her and see that she makes efforts to get others to score. She is a true team player.
“I was at a game last year and her team was up pretty good,” she continued. “She was not only cheering for her teammates when she was on the bench, but she was sincerely happy when they scored after she passed them the ball. She plays with a lot of heart. While she is confident, she is not cocky. That is what college scouts pick up on, that is why she is getting notices …”
While basketball is where she excels the most, Boykin, who is currently on the SMS volleyball team, also played soccer last year and has plans to play softball this year for the school.
“I play them all hard,” she s asserted with a smile. “I like them all, but I am just better at playing basketball.”
In her very limited free time, Boykin said she likes to hang out with friends or go shopping, but she is always thinking basketball.
“It is really amazing, even during the off-season, she is putting in the time (with basketball),” noted Colwell. “She knows that it is going to make her a better player. She loves to be in the gym and on the court. She has so much talent, really the sky is the limit for her.”
For her part, Boykin said she does have dreams of making a career out of playing the game.
“I don’t know what I would want to study yet, but I do want to play college ball,” she said, “and hopefully, one day, if I am lucky enough, to go on to the WNBA. That is really what I want to do.”
Before she is off to play in a pick-up game with a handful of boys outside of the Sampson Center, Boykin asks for a request. “I would like to let people know how much I love my family, is that OK?” she said politely. “And all of the people who have supported me because it has really helped me out. They are: Mary and Harold Boykin; Tymir and Kaliq, John Boykin; Sunny and Christopher Yazir; Lawand and Dieara Royal; Vicky and Cliff Pitts; Angela Boykin; all of my coaches; Rik Seymore and Todd Pope. Thanks!”
“She is just very special,” added Blue-Burke. “She has a lot of talent and is so humble … I really do believe that she will always make Clinton proud, because she makes all of us proud.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.