It was just practice, but Dana Harrold, Grinnell College’s women’s basketball coach, had had enough. She stepped in and singled out Aliya Singleton.
“If I can get everybody going as hard as Aliya, that would be great,” Harrold chimed.
Harrold was using Singleton as an example of how hard the Clear Creek alum works and how excited she is about the game. Sure, Singleton has a fairly laid-back personality and, according to Harrold, that slowed her transition from high school to college basketball last season, but her work ethic is second to none.
“I think Aliya is hungry and wants to stay hungry,” Harrold said of the rising sophomore. “There’s space within the team where we need a player who can rebound and that can defend.”
That’s all Singleton can ask for after a freshman season that saw her playing time limited at best at the rural Division III Iowa school about an hour east of Des Moines down Interstate 80. During her senior year at Clear Creek, she led the team in points per game (12.3), rebounds per game (14.5), steals per game (3.5) and blocked shots per game (2.2). She had 11 double-doubles during the 2018-19 season for the Golddiggers, including a career-high 19 points in a 55-28 win over Front Range Christian, and 20 or more rebounds six times, including a career-best 23 at Longmont Christian. She was named the 2019 Clear Creek High School Female Athlete of the Year.
At Grinnell, however, Singleton saw action in just eight games as a freshman with 34 total minutes. The 5-foot-11 forward scored four points and had 10 total rebounds. It was quite different than what she was used to but also a good first step.
“I got less playing time than I did in high school, but that’s to be expected going from being a senior to a freshman again,” said the former three-sport athlete, who also ran cross country and track in high school. “I felt pretty happy with it. There’s always stuff to strive for. I enjoyed even the bench culture of the team.”
Singleton first came on Grinnell College’s not because of her basketball skill set, but her academics. Harrold discovered the Clear Creek High School alum via a recruiting database because of her high academics and high standards. Basketball was secondary, but, as evident of her play in her final season with the Golddiggers, Singleton could be a benefit on the hardwood as much as she is in the classroom.
“We were excited,” Harrold said. “We saw a little more than we thought we would. We were excited knowing she was becoming a better player through her senior year.”
A National Honor Society member and class president her senior year at CCHS, Singleton is working on a double major at Grinnell in biochemistry and classics with the hopes of attending graduate school and becoming a pediatrician.
“The medical field has always been kind of interesting,” said Singleton, who first gravitated toward that because of her mother’s own interest in the field. “As far as being a pediatrician, I really love kids. My sister (Kaylee) is just 8 years old. I’ve babysat a bunch of other kids. … They brighten my day.”
Better than the current situation that is athletics. Grinnell College has canceled fall and winter athletics because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singleton said. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“It’s obviously disappointing. I’d love to be back on campus with the team and everything so close, but I’m trying to put a positive on it,” Singleton said. “This will give us another year to practice.”
Classes will remain remote for the first quarter of the fall semester, but Singleton is taking a gap semester to join some teammates in Pennsylvania to work out and develop their game.
“There’s a lot more time that gets put into it, (but) it doesn’t feel like work,” Singleton said. “Everyone that is there is enthusiastic about being there.”
Maybe nobody more so than Aliya Singleton herself.