GERMANTOWN, Wis. \u2014 Music blared during pre-game warmups and Kamorea \u201cKK\u201d Arnold sang and danced inexhaustibly while dribbling through basic drills with her teammates. The first of two emotional ceremonies had concluded, with graduating members of the Germantown High School girls basketball team recognized at midcourt. More announcements and applause would soon follow for a surprise celebration of Arnold\u2019s recent individual accomplishments. Tip-off against Hamilton High would come moments later. About 500 fans were in the building, Michael Jackson was coming through the loudspeakers and Arnold was activating her vocal chords and sense of rhythm as much as anything else, a finger snap here, a shimmy there. With a clenched fist raised to her mouth as if she were holding a microphone, Arnold rocked back and forth and belted out lyrics in the layup line. \u201cThat is, literally, always how I am,\u201d she said later, sitting in empty bleachers after dominating yet another game. This was Senior Night, an emotional turnstile of sorts through which Arnold moved a little closer to the end of a chapter as one of the best players in Wisconsin history and toward the beginning of another as a UConn women\u2019s basketball freshman. At once under the bright fieldhouse lights on this rainy, windy, dark Wisconsin night, Arnold was both in something together with those around her and squarely at the center of our own fascinating world. In one sense she was just another kid distinguished by little more than the No. 1 on a white jersey trimmed in blue and yellow. In another, she was someone standing out for her approach to life as much as any success it has afforded her. Arnold, 17, is the kind of kid whose disposition might make you feel foolish for taking anything too seriously or guilty for ever allowing yourself to have a bad day. She is all joy, it seems, so animated but even more like her favorite Disney character in ways of potential and optimism. She is an amazing basketball player, a stout 5-foot-9 point guard who, like most of Geno Auriemma\u2019s recruits, is simply stronger and faster and more creative, with a more diverse skill set, than those surrounding her at the high school level. Arnold entered the game with 2,300 career points and left the gym with 2,327, having made 11 of 17 shots. Her first assist of the night was to gently wipe tears from the face of her mother, Kim, as the Arnold Family posed for photos during that second ceremony. Then she added nine more assists, and eight steals, in a 64-56 victory that was relatively close only because she played just 23 minutes and sat the final 10, allowing her five Class of 2023 teammates to stay on the court. Arnold owns just about every major Germantown record. Most points in a game, season and career. Most assists in a game, season and career. Most steals in a game, season and career. Her name is on the walls and spreading into display cases of the school\u2019s beautiful facility, part of a $50 million expansion that was finalized just before her freshman year. She plays with pizzazz. Twisting and contorting her body, Arnold moves one way and slings the ball in the opposite direction. She draws crowds in the lane and responds with bounce passes through the tightest creases for a teammate's uncontested layup. She starts fastbreaks with lead passes that fall softly into the hands of streaking players. She uses a Euro step that spins those guarding her into a helpless place. She faces, almost exclusively, zone defenses that drift toward her like a blanket but she darts to the basket, anyway, laying the ball off the glass. It\u2019s a fun show. She smiles throughout. \u201cThere's no ego,\u201d said Matt Stuve, in his 14th season as coach at Germantown High, located just northwest of Milwaukee and about 110 miles south of Green Bay. \u201cIt's amazing how she handles it all. If she was awful at basketball, you'd want her on your team. Fortunately, she's not. But just from a character standpoint, who she is as a person, she's going to make your team better.\u201d And those plays? \u201cI've never seen a kid throw 70-, 80-foot passes with such accuracy,\u201d Stuve said. \u201cBeing a Packers fan, it's kind of like watching Aaron Rodgers. You watch some of his passes and it's, \u2018How did you think that was even an option? That was a window to throw in?\u2019 Sometimes it's like, \u2018How did KK even think that would happen? And it worked?\u2019\u201d Three-time player of the year? Arnold was named the 2020-21 Gatorade Wisconsin player of the year as a sophomore after leading the Warhawks to the Division I state championship, and again last season as a junior. If honored as a senior, she would become just the second player to win the Gatorade award three times. She is often compared to the other. Arike Ogunbowale, a guard similar in build and style out of Divine Savior Holy Angels High in Milwaukee, won it every season in 2013-15 before her storied career at Notre Dame. Ogunbowale famously broke UConn\u2019s heart with an overtime buzzer-beater at the 2018 Final Four and is now a WNBA All-Star with the Dallas Wings. Arnold\u2019s own early resume is quite similar. She has played four years of varsity at Germantown, a starter from day one, and was offered nearly 40 Division I scholarships. Ranked the No. 6 overall recruit in the Class of 2023 by ESPN, she is averaging 23.4 points, 7.5 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 steals, shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 68.4 percent on free throws and 36 percent on 3-pointers. She spends summers competing in AAU with All Iowa Attack in Ames, Iowa. She was part of Team USA\u2019s gold medal-winning U-16 team at the 2021 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico. Last summer in Hungary, Arnold helped the U.S. to gold at the 2022 3x3 U-18 World Cup. These experiences have filled her heart. And they have filled her home with mementos. Those two gold medals are displayed in a dining room armoire alongside basketballs marking her Germantown milestones \u2014 1,000 points, for instance. Various awards, from Gatorade and Germantown and USA Basketball and beyond, are also behind glass. There are trophies, posters, UConn trinkets, even a certificate from the Women\u2019s Basketball Hall of Fame marking her place in its ring of honor, designated for the top high school and college players annually, for her 2020-21 accomplishments. Down in the basement, among more stacks of keepsakes, is Arnold\u2019s \u201cvision board\u201d from 2020, blank now because every entry came to fruition. Some note cards do remain pinned to it. I am confident. \u2026 I am special. \u2026 I have unlimited potential. Who knows how many medals with different colored ribbons are draped over those racks on the far wall. Maybe 50? Arnold\u2019s top-floor bedroom is like a museum. A Lakers flag is affixed to the wall over her bed because she is a fan of LeBron James, next to a framed Bel-Air Academy jersey of Will Smith\u2019s \u201cFresh Prince.\u201d Then there\u2019s her Blue Star 30 jersey from an elite camp where she first befriended Azzi Fudd. There are framed photo collages capturing the breadth of Arnold\u2019s travel and accomplishments. Her state championship ring is on display. Handwritten notes from UConn assistant coach Morgan Valley are affixed to a wall. A Bible, protected by a basketball book sleeve, sits atop a table, near a dresser decorated with sneaker decals. There is a \u201cgoal sheet\u201d that Arnold adds to frequently, erasing entries and adding new ones weekly or monthly. Becoming a McDonald\u2019s All-American was on that list. She was named to the team in late January, one of the achievements celebrated before her Senior Night game. There are dozens of shoes on display, including the pair she wore in the 2021 state championship game. Arnold wondered aloud how she would ever get all this stuff to UConn. She spun around her room and pointed and mentioned each item as if taking inventory. Then she stopped and turned excited. \u201cI have to show you,\u201d Arnold said, reaching for various items in a corner. She was wearing UConn Huskies sweatpants and a black T-shirt featuring a picture of Ralphie, from the movie \u201cA Christmas Story,\u201d with a bar of soap in his mouth, and his famous quote, \u201cOh, fudge.\u201d A gold necklace with a cross dangled around her neck as she poked around. She pulled out some prized possessions. \u201cSee, OK, look,\u201d Arnold said. \u201cTiana. Princess and the Frog.\u201d She was beaming. 'All about hard work' Tiana is the main character, the princess, in the 2009 animated musical \u201cThe Princess and the Frog.\u201d She is, in short, a waitress and gifted chef who yearns to open her own restaurant, the moral of her story essentially being that any dream can be achieved. Arnold has seen the movie dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. She talks about Tiana often, both in random living-room conversations and in discussions more specific to her life, her dreams, basketball and otherwise. Why is Tiana so awesome? \u201cI just love her character and the way she went about herself,\u201d Arnold said. \u201cI like her back story, how she went about things, how she worked for things she wanted. Her dad had told her that she needs to work for everything she wants, and her dad portrays so many characteristics of a good father \u2014 like my dad, like my family. We\u2019re all about hard work.\u201d Tiana is Disney\u2019s first Black princess. \u201cThat hits hard for me,\u201d Arnold said. In the bedroom of her early-childhood home in Columbus, Ohio, Arnold awoke every day to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV or anything Disney. That and the bouncing of a basketball \u2014 because she has three siblings, all between 10-19 years older, all former athletes who helped raise her in shifts over the years \u2014 were the first soundtracks of her life. She started attending the practices of her siblings, mostly sister MiMi, now 27, and brother Mike, now 32, while just weeks old. As soon as Arnold was walking, she was given drills by coaches and players to work on as the teams practiced. Did little KK go anywhere from that point without a ball? Hardly. She could dribble two, simultaneously, by the time she was 3. Mike Arnold and Kim Arnold, married over 30 years, grew up and met in Columbus. When Kim, who works in health care compliance, was presented with a job offer she couldn\u2019t refuse in the Milwaukee area, the family moved to West Allis, another suburb. After about a year, when Kamorea (pronounced: ka-mor-ah) was in fourth grade, the Arnolds moved to Germantown for youth basketball opportunities that did not exist elsewhere. KK always played up \u2014 against fifth and sixth graders when she was in fourth grade, against seventh and eighth graders when she was in sixth grade. The juniors and seniors on the Germantown championship team during her sophomore year were basically lifelong friends. The Arnolds live in a seemingly never-ending subdivision of intertwining streets, with so many of KK\u2019s friends just a shout, a few dribbles or a short bike ride away, Suburbia USA. Life here is grand. KK\u2019s Honda Accord, with part of the license plate reading \u201cKMAMBA,\u201d an ode to Kobe Bryant, is parked in the driveway, not far from the basketball hoop. She is heavily involved in the community, visiting local elementary schools as a mentor and often making time for families that visit from neighboring counties to see her play. Arnold is also a member of the Black Student Union at GHS, where as an honors history student a couple years ago she chose a basketball theme for a project. Arnold studied the history of African Americans in basketball before the time of integration and presented, as part of a state-wide competition, in Madison, the state capital. Through that experience, she got to know Claude Johnson, founder of The Black Fives Foundation, which preserves and honors the history of African Americans in basketball in the days before the NBA. Johnson lives in Greenwich. UConn, in collaboration with the Big East and in recognition of Black History Month, represented the Hartford Tigerettes, a women\u2019s team from the 1940\u2019s, as part of a Black Fives game Wednesday night against Creighton. Arnold has a deep, and growing, appreciation for history in general and Black history in particular. She remains involved with the Black Five Foundation as a student ambassador, learning more about a formative era of a sport that has shown her the country, even shown her the world, introduced her to different cultures, new friends from all walks of life. 'The way I grew up' Unique to her childhood in predominantly white Germantown, population about 20,000, is that Arnold was raised an area that lacks much diversity. She is the only Black player on her high school team, a roster otherwise entirely of white girls with whom she has clearly developed exceptionally tight bonds. \u201cIn Ohio, compared to Germantown, we grew up in a big old melting pot,\u201d Kim Arnold said. \u201cMe, my husband, even KK being younger, we had friends of all races. When you get here, for some of the community it's different, but for us it doesn't matter. She just gets along with everybody \u2026 and why wouldn't she? That's who we are. But you can automatically see it. Some people had said when we moved here, \u2018Why did you take her to Germantown?\u2019\u201d There has been, to Kim Arnold\u2019s recollection, only one incident of concern. KK was visiting a nursing home not long ago, greeting people as part of her volunteer work.\u00a0 \u201cThe guy was asking her name, an older white gentleman,\u201d Kim said. \u201cSo she said, \u2018KK.\u2019 He said, \u2018Oh, your name is KKK?\u2019 I was appalled. \u2026 It did impact her. If it didn't, she wouldn't have mentioned it to me. She said it was just unnecessary. It was not just that comment. He just kept looking at her.\u201d Kim Arnold said her husband was notified by an assistant coach that KK was pulled out of a class to discuss what happened. Those around KK wanted to make sure she was OK. They also followed through in making sure those in authority at the nursing home were told that KK was made to feel uncomfortable and that it was not OK for her to be treated that way or put in that position. KK let it all slide off her back. Be OK being you, is what her mother and father always told her, and that allows one to dismiss anything ugly that might shoot through the racial prism by which many still view the world. Those who know Arnold are those who love her and she has never once, in nine-plus years, been made to feel out of place by anyone with an opinion she actually values. She\u2019s thankful for the community that surrounds and supports her. She is confident and kind, in tune with who she is, so in rhythm.\u00a0 \u201cThat\u2019s KK,\u201d Kim Arnold said. \u201cShe did say, \u2018I'm not blind that people who are not me have struggled and have had challenges.\u2019\u201d\u00a0 Of being a visible, successful Black athlete surrounded by so many white faces, KK said, \u201cThis is just the way I grew up.\u201d 'Go there and earn it' She grew up dreaming, like Tiana. Not to be a chef. Arnold is learning to cook, perhaps reluctantly. She has mastered Raman Noodles. So she\u2019s dorm-room ready, at least. No, she grew up dreaming of attending UConn and playing basketball for Auriemma, who first saw her play in an Iowa AAU tournament in the summer of 2021 and has visited Germantown several times since. The entire Huskies\u2019 staff attended a Warhawks game on a Saturday in February\u00a02022, a day before the Huskies played Marquette in Milwaukee. Auriemma was also on hand months later for a team strength and conditioning session. A coach pretty much understands what type of player he is recruiting from film and an up-close look at a few segments of a game. Any additional exploration almost always has to do with personality. \u201cThey ask, 'How is she off the floor? What kind of kid is she?'\u201d Stuve said. \u201cThat's why you try to impress upon players that character matters. Really, it was eye-opening for me, too, because [Auriemma] says, 'You know, people say you're UConn and you get whoever you want.' And he said, 'First you have to be able to play at our level. Second, you have to love being in the gym.\u2019 He goes, \u2018You have to be the kind of kid that, if we say we're going to do passing and dribbling for an hour and a half, you have to be excited about that.\u2019 He says, \u2018The parents have to be the kind of people we want around our program.\u2019 He goes, \u2018You strip away all those layers, you're looking at like five people in each class.\u2019\u201d UConn\u2019s incoming recruits are Arnold, shooting guard Ashlynn Shade of Noblesville, Ind., forward Qadence Samuels of Forestville, Md., and center Jana El Alfy of Cairo, Egypt. Shade, also a McDonald's All-American, is ranked No. 15 in the Class of 2023 by ESPN, Samuels No. 41. El Alfy, who Arnold got to know at the 3x3 tournament in Hungary, is already with the Huskies, having enrolled early. Arnold was considering six other scholarship offers heading into the summer before her junior year \u2014 from South Carolina, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Kentucky and Marquette. One day in July of 2021, Auriemma called. The family huddled as KK spoke and she moved into her parents\u2019 bedroom and closed the door so as not to be distracted. Auriemma offered Arnold a scholarship and she ran back into the living room, \u201cI told you!\u201d The family had heard all about UConn from KK since the days of Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. They joked with her that \u201cCoach Geno,\u201d as they all seem to call him, would be retired by the time KK was ready for college. Years later, though, \u201cplay for UConn\u201d could be crossed off any vision boards or goal sheets. It was important to be sure, though, that the UConn reality would line up with the UConn dream. So that summer, before her junior year at Germantown, Arnold visited every school on her list, saving UConn for last. This was an important take-a-deep-breath undertaking, all on the family\u2019s dime. Because Arnold can be quite impulsive. \u201cThe first conversation we had with Coach Geno, my husband asked if he saw her being able to make an impact as part of this team,\u201d Kim Arnold said. \u201cBecause she needed to know. Michael asked point blank, \u2018How do you see her fitting in?\u2019\u201d Mike Arnold works two custodial and maintenance jobs, sometimes back-to-back from 5 a.m. to midnight. He comes across as an unflappably\u00a0chill guy. He sat on the couch on Super Bowl Sunday, often chuckling and occasionally chiming in as his wife and youngest daughter told story after story about a basketball life. KK was keeping an eye on the early-afternoon game between top-ranked South Carolina and No. 3 LSU, getting a glimpse through TV at a world she\u2019s preparing to enter. Mike Arnold continued his wife\u2019s recollections of that conversation with Auriemma. \u201cHe said, \u2018I see her playing, and I see her playing a lot,\u2019\u201d he said. \u201cWe tell Kamorea all the time, nothing is given to you. You still have to go there and earn it. When you go in, you want to let her know that if you work hard you'll be rewarded. But if you go there and work hard, you might still have to play behind somebody.\u201d That will almost certainly be the case in 2023-24. Point guards Paige Bueckers and Nika M\u00fchl\u00a0will be seniors. Assuming everyone is healthy, there won\u2019t many minutes to go around. Still, Arnold is lined up to learn from the best, a valuable development period that could help her become the post-Bueckers engineer of the UConn offense. She said she valued that framework while making her decision. She will be patient. \u201cBasketball is a life lesson,\u201d Kim Arnold said. \u201cOnce the going gets tough, you're not going to be able to just join the portal. As a family, we're not going to allow it. Because life is not just going to allow you to pick up. If the job is not going well, or if you've got a bad boss, you've got responsibilities and you can't just pick up and go. You've got to learn to stick and stay through tough times. That's outside of something going on that is really detrimental to you, physically or emotionally. But you have to learn to work through that.\u201d Disney World and the next chapter Mike and Kim Arnold lost a granddaughter in recent years. Nine-year-old Aniya had cerebral palsy. KK writes #NiyaStrong on her shoes before games. She said she had a dream, with visions of Niya and the UConn logo, at the height of the recruiting process, before officially choosing UConn. She committed while on a visit \u2014 and while wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt \u2014 in Nov. 2021. The Germantown community celebrated, and continues to. Life events start clicking off now, one after another. Senior Night has come and gone. Before the game, players gathered in a meeting room adjacent to the gym and read quotes of their choosing. \u201cIf you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else,\u201d Arnold said, reading the words of Booker T. Washington. She came off the bench, ceding the spotlight to seniors who usually don\u2019t play much. \u201cCan I coach?\u201d she had jokingly asked Stuve. \u201cCan I get a clipboard?\u201d Instead, Arnold entered three minutes into the game, without Germantown having scored a point. She quickly put up five on a drive and a 3-pointer. \u201cI know she\u2019s going to UConn, but \u2026\u201d one particularly vocal Hamilton assistant coach yelled a few times, urging players to do something, anything, limit Arnold. The regular season wrapped up Friday at Brookfield Central. Germantown (19-5) has earned one of four No. 1 sectional seeds for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division I tournament, set to open play Feb. 24. The Warhawks would need six consecutive victories \u2014 two in sectionals, two in regionals, two more at the state level \u2014 for another title. Germantown won eight Greater Metro Conference titles over nine years but finished second to Brookfield East this season. The McDonald\u2019s game is March 28 in Houston. Arnold turns 18 on May 16 and will arrive at UConn May 30, reporting for summer session and those first workouts with the rest of her new teammates. She\u2019ll return to Germantown for graduation on June 4, a Sunday. \u201cIt\u2019s all pretty exciting,\u201d Mike Arnold said, walking the court after the game against Hamilton, attended by every one of KK\u2019s siblings \u2014 MiMi, Mike and Kevin \u2014 and her three nieces and nephews. \u201cShe\u2019s earned this. She\u2019s worked for it. She's been at it for a long time. On to the next chapter.\u201d It\u2019s unclear if Mike Arnold meant the playoffs or graduation or the McDonald\u2019s game or UConn or anything specific. It seemed more to be recognition of the general transition at hand. Mike and Kim Arnold will soon be home alone for the first time in decades, wondering what to do with all the time previously spent zipping around town for practices or traveling the country for games. Of course, they will visit Connecticut as often as possible. They believe their daughter is in good hands. They get the sense that the UConn community will adopt KK like the Germantown community has. It\u2019s cool, but essentially irrelevant, that KK will soon wear a jersey with the Husky logo that was all over her bedroom walls as an elementary school kid. It\u2019s more important to understand that their daughter feels like she is joining another family, one that, despite the unmatched spotlight and platform that comes with the experience, does shelter and protect its players within the walls of Gampel Pavilion and the Werth Champions Center. There, on those courts, this basketball life could become even more rewarding and certainly will become more challenging. \u201cThe great thing about KK is, she\u2019ll do whatever they need her to do,\u201d Stuve said. Arnold doesn\u2019t have any UConn goals written down. She simply wants to show up with energy and learn. \u201cI'll say this,\u201d Arnold said when asked what she is most curious about. \u201cHow is Geno, [while] actually practicing, as a coach?. I'll make mistakes. How does he approach the situation? I\u2019ll respond as I always respond \u2014 respectfully. Harsh reality is good.\u201d Arnold wants to eventually work in sports media and plans to study broadcasting. No doubt she\u2019ll sing a lot at UConn. Dance, too. TikTok already offers a glimpse of her vibrant personality. Soon, SNY might, as well. College life is just about upon KK Arnold. She has a Princess and the Frog backpack she can bring if she chooses. There\u2019s a lot to look forward to. Including a family vacation. The entire Arnold Family \u2014 KK and her parents and all her siblings and her nieces and nephews \u2014 will spend five days at Disney World in April. KK can\u2019t stop talking about having breakfast with the characters. Tiana, primarily.