Pitt is it for Aislin Malcolm because the Chartiers Valley High School junior is the embodiment of Pittsburgh. The 5-11 forward recently committed to the university where she will play basketball for the Panthers.
Malcolm said she was “adamant” about Pitt because she was born here and was looking for a “city feel” for a college. She selected the University of Pittsburgh over Penn State, Princeton, Yale, Purdue, West Virginia and Duke among others.
“I love Pittsburgh,” said Malcolm, whose brother, Olan, also attends Pitt. “I enjoy going downtown and walking around. I love it all.”
Though she has been unable to officially visit the school because of the coronavirus pandemic, Malcolm met head coach Lance White and his players previously through her AAU play.
Malcolm gained nationwide attention as a member of the Western PA Bruins. She said although AAU basketball afforded her connections to other schools, Pitt’s coaches proved most attentive.
“The staff and players were so welcoming. Always talking or texting me,” Malcolm said. “They really cared. It seemed they knew me. That was really important to me.”
Malcolm is planning to pursue an engineering degree. She is a 4.7 honors student, enrolled in advanced placement classes like calculus and mathematics. She learned through a Zoom meeting with academic advisors that balancing athletics and classes was doable.
“That made me feel so much better,” she said. “They even factored in breaks like lunch. Go with Olan was one of the options in the outline.”
Family has always factored into Malcolm’s career.
Her parents, Marla and Bob, played sports at Carlynton High School. Marla later competed on the woman’s basketball team at California University of Pennsylvania while Bob headed to college in pursuit of a degree from Robert Morris University.
Meanhwile, Malcolm embarked on her playing career at the Carnegie Boys and Girls Club. Lou Trombetta, ran the organization until his retirement. His former protege, Marla Malcolm, who ran the little dribblers’ program, took charge.
“Since I was born, I went to that club. That’s where we grew up,” Malcolm said. “I’d spend all my nights there. That’s how much I truly loved basketball and wanted to play. Just being around it all the time enabled me to get better.”
In two seasons, she blossomed into the best player in the state. Malcolm is undefeated in her scholastic career (58-0). She has scored 711 points and converted 132 3-pointers so far in her career.
As a freshman, she averaged 11.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as the Colts rolled up a 30-0 record that included section, WPIAL and PIAA championships.
As a sophomore, she gained all-state acclaim by averaging 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game as the Colts won a section and WPIAL title as well as set a new WPIAL record for consecutive victories before COVID-19 stopped their bid for a second straight crown. The PIAA canceled its tournament after two rounds had been completed in mid-March.
“Winning states has been the highlight in my career so far,” said Malcolm. “We were two games away from doing it again last year. So that was disappointing not being able to repeat.
“Winning a gold medal is so special because it truly shows how much hard work you put into something,” she added. “It’s fun to make dreams come true and seeing what you have wanted and wished for work out because of everything you put into it.”
Malcolm is wishing that in the new year the Colts have a season. She is one of a half dozen juniors on a tight-knit team. Malcolm would rather her legacy be that of helping the Colts win three state titles than being the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“Being on a winning team means more to me and having fun with my friends,” she said. “Most of us have been together since third grade. We have grown up together and we all do want to be the best we can be. We may yell at each other but we use that as motivation. We never get mad at one another because we just want to be the best we can be.”
According to CV head coach Tim McConnell, Malcolm is “one of the best shooters” he has ever coached but that is not what makes her a special player.
“She is a joy to coach. A great team player,” he said. “Her work ethic is second to none and her attitude is tremendous. She always puts the team before any personal goals.”
While surpassing 1,000 career points this winter is one objective, Malcolm maps out only four goals for 2021.
“First to have a season,” she said, adding that she hopes to win a section title to go along with another WPIAL and PIAA crown.
“I’m focused on that,” she said, adding her college commitment has taken pressure off of her. “I can now go out and honestly have fun and not worry about anything except helping my team win.”
At Pitt, the focus will also be on winning championships. Having a school in her hometown that competes in the ACC factored into Malcolm’s decision to attend Pitt.
“That is huge,” she said. “Meant I could stay home.”
Malcolm’s decision did not surprise McConnell. His daughter, Megan, is a freshman setting records at Duquesne University this winter.
“Aislin is really close to her family so I think that played a part in her staying in town,” McConnell said. “I totally understand that because we went through it last year with Megan.
“I am really excited for Aislin,” McConnell continued. “She is going to be a great college player. Pitt is really lucky to be getting her.”
According to McConnell, the Panthers are getting more than just a great player.
“As a person, she is a very happy person that everyone loves being around,” McConnell said. “Her smile lights up the room.”