It’s my junior year and yet I feel as though I just graduated from North Brunswick high. My freshman year at Monmouth University went by quickly and was a big learning experience. I learned things weren’t going to come easy for me and that no matter how successful I was in high school I needed to work three times as hard in order to make a statement in college. So that’s what I intended to do my sophomore year. I worked hard enough to earn a starting spot and I was voted captain. However, our season did not go as expected and we only won 8 games. As captain it was my job to find a way to keep the team’s spirit high and continue to work hard regardless of what the outcome may be.
Going into the summer following my sophomore year, I wanted to become more independent. I started working two summer jobs, on top of having two summer classes and having summer workouts. It was extremely hard to balancing the three. I found myself burning myself out, which affected my summer training. But I managed to stick it out till August. On August 10th my team and I embarked on our foreign tour. We took a 9-hour (yes 9 hours!) flight to Rome and from there we took a small plane to Serbia. Our first game in Serbia was against the Serbian National Team who destroyed us. These women were no joke and we learned later on that some of them played with the best in the WNBA. Hopefully some of guys watched the FIBA women’s basketball games last week and saw just how amazing these women were. The second game we played was against the Serbian Club Team. This was a team that had a mixed of high school seniors and college players. It was still a challenged, but we pulled out a win.
After Serbia we landed in Montenegro. It was so beautiful and we had a hotel right by the water. The food was amazing, mostly seafood, which was my favorite. I also went parasailing. And our coach let us enjoy the nightlife, but we still had a curfew, unfortunately. We played our final game of the tour in Montenegro, which we were winning in the beginning, but lost our lead and couldn’t recover. After Montenegro, we left for Rome. Unfortunately, I came down with a fever and a headache in Rome and was not able to fully enjoy it. One of the funniest and most memorable moments of the trip was when the natives would just be in awe of seeing the African American girls on our team, myself included. Some people would just stare and point. Others wanted to take a picture with us lol. In the whole duration of the trip I think we took about 6 or 7 pictures with the natives because it was just so rare for them to see people of color. One of the most annoying parts of the trip was not being able to contact anyone, or that it was blazing hot everyday, but dealing with the currency exchange. I am so cheap that it was hard for me to even want to exchange money knowing that I was going to lose half of it. Exchanging $ 100 would equal only about 55 Euros. Lol so for those who wanted a souvenir from me… I’m sorry. Overall, this trip was remarkable! I feel like I became so much more open to things that I am not used to. I even tried so many different types of food including CHEESE! For those of you who know me I hated cheese. Ultimately, once you travel abroad you begin to understand that not everyone lives like you or has the opportunity to. And the things that you take for granted everyday is essential to someone else. Hopefully, my team can use our experiences from last year and from this trip to create a better opportunity for us to succeed this upcoming season.
Being apart of the Defenders has taught me that success does not come to those who are the most skilled, but to those who work the hardest. Throughout my AAU career, no player on my team had a phenomenal skill set. We didn’t have players who were All Americans. What set us apart was our effort on the court and playing with heart. I now apply this lesson in college. I know that there will also be players who can dribble and shoot better than me, but I take pride my effort especially on the defensive end. I’ve done this so well that my teammates and coaches describe me as the hardest worker on the floor and best defender on the team.
My advice for players in the program is to instead of writing down goals, write down commitments. Write down things that you are going to commit to everyday in order to reach your goals. For example, one commit may be to make 100 three pointers everyday or work on ball handling for thirty minutes. And this does not only apply to basketball, you can write down commits for school also. By writing down your commitments it allows you to focus on the things that you can control rather than what you can’t. We can’t control if we get playing time and we can’t control the grades we get in class, but we can control the work we put in. Lastly, there will come a point in time where you are tired of basketball and no longer think it’s fun. I know I hit that point and it’s frustrating because you do not know how to get back to enjoying the sport you love. I recommend talking to one someone, especially a coach in the program. I reached out to Coach Stone when I was feeling this way and he helped me understand that I just needed a break. So don’t be afraid to reach out when you feeling down and just know that the Defenders program is always there for you.