At 18 years old and 5 feet 5 inches tall, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Monique “Mo” Newton sits shyly and fidgets as she plays with her iPod. As the daughter of Ana Fulwilder and James Newton, you would have never guessed that Newton was famous, as her late grandmother Eula Goodwin had predicted she would be, or, like her cousin Chuvak Montiel says, “Rez famous.”
Earlier this year, the Salt River High School (SRHS) girls basketball team won the Arizona 1A state championship. What some people don’t realize is that Newton, who played point guard for the team, was an important part of that success.
SRHS Coach Shawn Lytle said, “Monique was the driving force that propelled our team to the championship.”
Selected for the Arizona Republic All-Star team, Newton will play at the US Airways Arena for that team sometime later this month. It will be a much-deserved showcase for Newton, who also has broken state records for her basketball skills.
“Being a kid on the rez is hard to do,” Newton says about growing up in the Community. “Doing the right thing is kinda hard, because nobody really does it.” Born to a teenage mother, Newton had some rough times. When her mother tried to enroll her in the SRPMIC, the enrollment officer needed a signature from Yuma, but her mom never got the chance to make it there. Time went on, and Newton never did get enrolled in the Community. Although, her aunt Juana Fulwilder said, “She is a rez girl.”
Newton found an outlet to get away from some of the bad influences: basketball. Since fifth grade, she has had a basketball in her hand, and often could be found playing with her cousin, Ezekiel Mendoza.
For her first year of high school, she attended Westwood High in Mesa. She said, “Westwood wasn’t working for me.” Her family pushed her to attend SRHS, where eventually she would excel in basketball.
When she sees kids going down the wrong path, Newton said, “It is like I can already tell what their life is going to be like, I’ve already seen it before.” She tries to keep friends from going down the wrong path and stays close to influences who are big inspirations for her to succeed, especially her brothers and sisters.
A High School All-Star
At SRHS, Newton became involved in sports and one thing led to another. Her love of basketball took over, and Newton became an all-star in her own right.
During her senior year, Newton broke the state single-season record and a combo of last year and this year of steals. This year she averaged 14 points a game and had a season of 217 steals.
When asked about her biggest fan, she laughed at the thought of even having fans, but then said, “Kelsey Manuel.” Manuel is one of her teammates, and Newton said, “Not only is she that, she is also my best friend.”
This year was a big deal for Newton. She was surprised when she was selected as an Arizona All-Star by the Arizona Republic.
“It feels crazy to watch myself on tape. I don’t remember doing half the stuff on there. When I see myself play, it’s crazy. It’s like, dang, I did that,” said Newton.
Basketball gave Newton a different persona, she said. When people are around, she is quiet, but on the basketball court, she said, “I scream, get loud and sometimes get mad at the young players. But they all know I am just trying to help them out.”
Early Basketball Memories
After coming back from a tournament in California when she was in junior high, Newton remembered stopping by to see her grandma, Eula Goodwin. As she walked into the house, Goodwin was reading in Au-Authm Action News about Newton’s success playing basketball at Powell Junior High. Goodwin said to her granddaughter, “How come you didn’t tell me you were famous?” Newton laughed, remembering her grandma retelling this story.
Newton praises her old coach, Robert Johnston, for teaching her everything she needed to know about basketball.
Today her favorite player is former Phoenix Suns guard Joe Johnson, who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks. Newton’s favorite position to play is point guard. Her proudest moments were “winning state championships.”
Continuing to Play
Newton has always given basketball everything she had. She remembered during the championship game accidentally breaking another player’s ankle.
Newton said about the incident, “She (the girl) fell in front of me, and I was amped up (pumped up) bad. It was tight, and I will never forget it.”
Newton cannot envision a life without basketball. She will continue to play in college and says her future will involve “playing, or being involved in, basketball or sports.” She plans to attend a community college and has even had teams approach her, although she didn’t give names.
This year her theme for basketball is, “Basketball doesn’t build character; it rebuilds it.”
But all in all, Newton said, “I just want to live a good life, not having to worry about struggles as long as I am happy.”