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Skyline teen mom athlete plays for her infant son
Prep sports » Skyline’s Ta’a Tuinei balances basketball and motherhood.

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Bennett beams.

"You could almost call it ‘motherly.’ "

At a glance

Skyline’s season ends

Skyline’s quest to get to the girls 4A basketball championship game ended Friday with a 55-49 semifinal loss to Timpanogos at Salt Lake Community College. Miquelle Askew led Timpanogos with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Skyline’s Ta’a Tuinei, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help lead the Eagles past Maple Mountain to get the semifinals, was held to 2 points and 5 rebounds by the Timberwolves.

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In turn, Tereinga has a host of new "aunts" who coo at his every action. Two dozen teenage girls have adopted him in spirit; his visits are highly anticipated.

"He loves the attention," Paloma says, passing the baby around at a game. "He hates to be ignored."

Tereinga doesn’t seem to mind the buzzers, the pep band, the screams and cheers. He’s at home at a basketball game. And everywhere Tereinga goes, giggles and smiles seem to follow.

"He’s the team mascot," Ta’a says. "When I have to go home, they’re always sending the baby their love."

Difficulties remain

Though Ta’a has developed a routine that works for on and off the court, money is tight, as is living space in the apartment.

School also has been tumultuous. Since returning to Skyline full time, she is on track to graduate, but there’s little margin for slacking on academics. Her mother makes sure she doesn’t.

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Ta’a still hopes for a scholarship offer - Portland State and Sacramento State have shown interest.

But there are days when she feels overwhelmed by her responsibilities and by the judgments of others. Ta’a thinks the stigma of "teenage mother" follows her a lot of places. Her friends are understanding and protective, but they can’t always relate to her responsibilities waiting at home.

Occasionally, she’ll get worked up to the point of tears. Her Skyline teammates are the first to comfort her.

"My teammates tell me that I’m one of the strongest girls they know," she says.

And then there are those times when the game itself is too much. Basketball, like her life, is filled with daunting challenges.

Once in a while, she still just needs to cry in her mother’s arms.

But inevitably, Ta’a looks to her son in the stands.

She stands a bit straighter. Feels a bit lighter. She remembers why she has to be strong, to keep playing.

"I look at this as my biggest season," she says. "People might judge me, people might doubt me. But this is the only year I know my son can watch me play."


Twitter: @kylegoon

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