Amari Whiting fell in love with the University of Oregon at a young age.

That’s why she committed to the Ducks’ basketball program, and coach Kelly Graves, before her junior year of high school.

But her future changed dramatically when her mom, Amber, was named the head coach at BYU, replacing Jeff Judkins, last May. Amber had been Amari’s coach at Burley High School and has taught her a lot about the game. 

Since then, the Whiting family had to move from Burley, Idaho, to the Provo area and Amber had to find a new high school to attend for her senior year.

After her mom was hired by BYU, the most frequently asked question Amari received was, “Where are you going to college?”

Tuesday, she answered that question when she posted on social media that she had decommitted from Oregon and decided to commit to her mom’s new team, BYU.

Amari is currently ranked as the No. 31 prospect in the country in the class of 2023, according to ESPN. She is believed to be the highest-ranked player to commit to the Cougars in program history.

That decision to commit to BYU wasn’t made lightly. 

“When my mom got the job, I knew that I was going to be faced with a tough decision,” Amari told the Deseret News. “Oregon was so easy to fall in love with — it’s a great school in a great conference. Super successful. Their whole staff is so loving and they believed in me early on. That was very appealing to me and it showed how much trust I had in them.”

While playing for her mom is a unique opportunity, that wasn’t the only factor in her decision to commit to BYU, which is changing conferences in 2023-24 — just in time for her freshman season. 

Amari Whiting, left, and her mom, Amber, BYU’s  new women’s coach, playfully pose for a picture.
Amari Whiting, left, and her mom, Amber, BYU’s new women’s coach, playfully pose for a picture. Amari announced Tuesday that she will play her college ball in Provo for her mom. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

“If BYU wasn’t going to the Big 12, I honestly don’t think I would have switched over at all, just because I want to play in a really good conference and I want to be challenged,” Amari said. “My mom telling me that we were going to be in the Big 12 next year, I was like, ‘That’s a really good conference.’

“I knew I would definitely be pushed. It would be a challenge for me. That played a key factor in it. Also, obviously my mom has coached me my whole life. … I’ve never felt burned out from basketball or lost the love for the game because I’ve always had my family with me. I have a lot of family in Utah that would be able to come watch my games. Family is super important to me.”

Amari said she and Amber have a “well-balanced” player-coach/mom-daughter relationship.

“Just being able to create memories with my mom as my coach, I remember countless times of winning big games and giving her a hug and knowing that we did it together is just a great feeling. Having those memories that we’ve created together is something you can’t take away from us and has made us stronger.”

Certainly, making the decision to commit to BYU has been an important step as she enters her senior year at Timpview High.

“It’s kind of like a breath of fresh air. When my mom got the job and everything was kind of hectic, life got crazy,” she said. “But to be able to know that for sure I’m playing for my mom and playing for a great school gives me relief and makes me super excited to be focused on my senior year and go make some new memories. Just have fun at Timpview. The girls are super nice and I love the coaches. They welcomed me with big, open arms as soon as I got here. I think it will be fun. We’re already clicking and we have chemistry. I’m excited for this season.”

Amber Whiting is entering not only her first season at BYU, but also her first season as a college coach. Amari is confident in her mom’s abilities.

“My mom has taken on a big role. She has big shoes to fill. But my mom works extremely hard and I know that BYU is going to be in good hands,” she said. “I have no doubt in my mind that she will be able to make this a big program and be able to win lots of games. I’ve seen her consistently work hard and take in everything she needs to do. It’s been hard for her but I don’t think there’s anyone better that can do it.”

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Amari can’t wait to be part of BYU’s first season in the Big 12

“It’s super exciting. This is big for BYU athletics. This is a really good conference and I think BYU deserves to be there,” she said. “BYU will fit in and we’ll do just fine and hopefully we’ll win a couple of championships while we’re there. I’m excited.”

Another reason why Amari is looking forward to playing for BYU is that both her mom and her dad, Trent, played for the Cougars. It will be a special experience to play at her parents’ alma mater. 

“It’s being able to know my parents have been there and done that,” she said. “There’s a plaque of my dad on the players’ board (at BYU). Just passing that every day is going to be cool. I’m excited.”

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