MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — In high school, Kyarrah Grant played in Native American basketball tournaments as a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. That’s where she met Skyla Osceola and struck up a friendship with her fellow guard.

The two kept in touch when Kyarrah joined her twin sister Kyannah in signing with UT Martin, while Osceola, a member of the Seminole Tribe, signed with Nova Southeastern University to continue her basketball career. During the coronavirus shutdowns this spring, Grant decided to transfer from UT Martin, and Osceola suggested Grant join her at NSU in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Grant ultimately listened to her friend, and NSU announced Wednesday her transfer to the Sharks’ team. The two had lightheartedly talked about playing together in college for a while, and this week that suggestion finally became a reality.

“When I made the decision to transfer, I told her about it, and she said I should come to Nova,” said Grant, a 2018 graduate of Choctaw Central. “In a way, it just came about as a joke but also as an option, so I said, ‘Why not try?’ I contacted (head) coach (Leann) Freeland, and she liked me, and that’s how I ended up at Nova.”

After playing her freshman season at UT Martin, Grant redshirted this past winter and will be a redshirted sophomore this coming season at NSU. Although Osceola is a year older than her, Grant said the two formed good chemistry playing together in the Native American tournaments, and their friendship felt natural.

“There’s always that first awkwardness when you’re playing with new people, but it went away quickly with her,” Grant recalled. “It was like we had been playing with each other for a while. She’s easy to get along with — she’s so easygoing on and off the court, and that made it easier to be her friend and her teammate.”

It’s a bittersweet decision, though, as transferring to NSU means no longer playing on the same team as Kyannah, who is staying at UT Martin.

“This will be a first for us,” Grant said. “It’s going to be very hard mentally. We’ve been at each other’s hip all our lives and haven’t gone a day without talking to each other. Now I’m going to be 15 hours away from her. We know it’ll be hard for each other, but we think it’s the best for each other. We’ve come so far and always talked about how we would have to separate at some point. I thought it would be after college with medical school, but it’s happening now.”

In light of that, Grant said having a close bond with Osceola was even more important.

“Just knowing I’m not going to be by myself and that her family is around that area, too, it gives me a lot of assurance,” Grant said. “My sister feels the same way. She’s glad I have someone else, that it’s not just me in an unknown area.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grant has yet to be able to visit the NSU campus, though she was able to take part in a virtual tour. As of right now, she’s planning to report there this fall. In the meantime, Grant has tried to stay in playing shape, though she admits it’s been difficult.

“I run outside sometimes,” Grant said. “Sadly, I haven’t been able to get in a gym because all the gyms have been closed. I’ve been doing ball handling workouts and shooting at a little goal outside of our house, so I do as much as I can. One of the weight rooms is open, and I’m lifting there, so that’s a good thing.”

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