NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — Grace Kinum watched from the bleachers last year as an eighth-grader as the New Providence girls basketball team dominated the competition most of the year and posted a 27-4 record that included a sectional championship.

Who knew that Kinum, whose sister Lindsay was a junior on that team, would one year later be the second-leading scorer on a New Providence varsity team that would tear through its Union County Conference schedule with an undefeated record?

"Grace stepped right in and made her mark right away to help this team achieve what we have accomplished so far," New Providence head coach Cap Pazdera said. 

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Kinum, whose sister Lindsay is a senior and still a vital member of the team, made her presence known right away as a guard who could pass, shoot and defend like a seasoned upperclassman.

She is averaging 11.7 points, 3.8 assists and more than two steals a game for the Pioneers (13-1). In her last four games, Grace Kinum has averaged 15.3 points and 4.5 assists on a New Providence team that stresses constant ball movement, frequent passes and fullcourt pressure on defense--all aspects of the game in which the freshman has shown she excels.

"Grace is definitely one of our best players," Pazdera said. "The best thing about Grace is that she is going to continue to put the work in on her game and continue to get stronger and better."

Kinum the Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week.

Grace answered some questions from TAPinto New Providence this week.

Q: How high was your confidence level that you could come in as a freshman and succeed so quickly on the varsity level?
A: I felt prepared because I worked hard in the off season and have experience playing against high level athletes. I got used to playing with the team through our summer league. 

Q: When you were still in 8th grade, what were your thoughts watching last year's team go 27-4 and win a sectional championship?
A: I was very excited to be on a competitive team and hopefully make an impact the next year. 

Q: Have you seen your game change since your last year? 
A: I think my jump shot improved the most over this year

Q: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
A: The best advice that I’ve received from a coach would have to have come from my dad who coached me during PAL. He constantly told me to be aggressive and mistakes are fine as long as they are aggressive mistakes. 

Q: What has been your most memorable game to date?
A: My most memorable game to date would have to be the second time we played Westfield. It was a challenging game that tested us and the team all pulled together and handled the pressure well.  

Q: What influence did having older sisters who played basketball have on your development in the sport?
A: Having older sisters who played basketball had a huge impact on me. I was constantly surrounded by basketball growing up. I watched my sisters play in more games than I could count, I was always dribbling or being forced to rebound. I picked up knowledge about the game, skills, and a competitive nature that I don't think I would have without my older sisters. 

Q: How far do you think this year's team could go if there were a county and state tournament to prepare for?
A: Based on our record in Union County, I think we could have gone very far in the County Tournament. And I think playing University on Saturday will be a good measure of how well we would do in the State Tournament.

Q: What do you like most about New Providence High School?
A: The thing I like most about New Providence high school would have to be the environment. It’s a small school, so you really get to form relationships with fellow classmates and teachers. 
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The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham.  Joe is an over 25-year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market.  Joe can be reached at jeberle@weichert.com or call 908-868-4800