Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah ‘15, from Rivers State, Nigeria, attended Rabun Gap as a boarding student during her sophomore through senior years. Pallas was a student-athlete on the college women’s basketball team (class of 2019) at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and has spent the past four years playing for the school and working hard at her degree. Pallas graduates on June 21 with a major in Communication Studies and a double minor in Business and Creative Writing. She won’t be heading into the business world just yet though; she hopes to play professional women’s basketball and recently had the opportunity to attend the WNBA Chicago Sky’s training camp.
What made you decide to attend Rabun Gap?
Rabun Gap is a great school. My parents researched Rabun Gap and felt it offered an extraordinary opportunity for me to develop not only as a student or an athlete but also as a responsible member of society.
What are your career goals?
My goal is to play basketball professionally for the next few years. My long term goal is ultimately to enjoy and be happy in whatever I end up doing.
Tell us about the process of being considered for the WNBA and what it felt like when you were invited to the Chicago Sky training camp.
It was a dream come true. I had always wanted to play in the league so I felt honored to have been among the few female college grads to get invited.
What are you most excited about when you think about your goal of playing for the WNBA?
I am excited about the opportunity to play alongside some of the people I grew up admiring from a young age. The likes of Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Elizabeth Cambage, etc. These are the women who have so gracefully paved the way for younger generations of female athletes.
How did the athletic program at Rabun Gap prepare you for playing for Northwestern and potentially for a professional basketball career?
What Rabun Gap did for me was invaluable because, at that age, I had little to no experience with organized sports or weightlifting or anything like that. However, after arriving on the Rabun Gap campus and being enrolled in classes, one of the first classes I took was the weightlifting class with Coach Mac and later Coach Honeycutt. It gave me an appreciation of the importance of quality resources and coaching in higher levels of basketball.
How would you say Rabun Gap has impacted your life since leaving? Did it change you as a person?
Rabun Gap had a huge impact on my life. The kinds of people I was blessed to meet and build relationships with, staff members and students alike, gave me the confidence and solid support system I needed to face the world outside. It was really a home away from home for me. Still is.
Looking back as an adult, what in your mind makes Rabun Gap a special place?
Rabun Gap is special because of the people. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was greeted with smiling faces and warm interactions, and this was so throughout my stay. People at Rabun Gap genuinely care about you and really do want to help you be the best version of yourself possible.
What was the greatest lesson being at Rabun Gap taught you?
Continue to give thanks to God for everything and appreciate the people around you. I learned that the most important takeaway in any life situation are the relationships you build.
Tell us about something you wish you had done while at Rabun Gap, but didn't.
I wish I would have kept a journal.
What's your favorite memory from Rabun Gap?
My favorite memory from Rabun Gap has got to be the time we did the Harlem Shake challenge on the girl's basketball team. We made a video of it back then and put it on Facebook, now whenever it pops up on my feed as a memory I always find myself laughing at how goofy we were. I loved those girls. They were family.
What do you miss most about Rabun Gap?
I miss the hills in Rabun Gap a lot. Mainly because when I graduated high school and moved to the Midwest for college to flat, horizontal Chicago - now don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago, it’s an amazing city - I found myself missing the breathtaking, natural beauty of the Rabun Gap hills. Plus they made me feel like Maria in the beginning of The Sound of Music (1965).
What advice do you have for current Rabun Gap students that you wish someone told you during your time at school?
Start the culture of saving and investing money (real-world advice right here).
Which teacher or coach had the greatest influence on you?
Coach Earnhardt and Coach Jerry Wright. They coached me on the girl's basketball team for three years and pretty much adopted me as family and still are family.