This past weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Birmingham, Alabama for the SEC Leadership Council meetings. One male and one female basketball representative from each school attend these meetings. During these meetings we as student athletes learn more about the rules and regulations that are set forth for teams and universities to abide by. We also have guest speakers that come in and talk to us. For instance, we had a top official come talk to us about new changes dealing with on the court rules. We also had a WNBA player operations lady speak to us about going above the standard to be the best on your team and leadership qualities that us as individuals should try to obtain. It was a very neat experience because not only did we get to learn about structures behind our sport but we were also able to connect with the other student athletes from around the conference and listen to their inputs about these topics. I’m blessed to have been able to go to the SEC headquarters and meet the people that work under the SEC because as an individual understanding that basketball will run out soon, these people are good connections that are still in the sport and could potentially be options when I do decide to settle down and get a real job. The next meeting is schedule for July 2018 and hopefully I can attend that one as well.
By Khaalia Hillsman
With all of the expected and required obligations to our sports, being a student-athlete can sometimes limit our opportunity to partake in certain activities and traditions – one of those traditions being Fish Camp. Usually when Fish Camp is happening we are either bound to school, our sport or we are taking extra time we have to see our family. This year, in large part because of the work of Coach Blair, our athletic department found a way to work around all the athlete’s schedules and gave us the opportunity to experience Fish Camp. And it is definitely something I won’t forget!
What is Fish Camp? Generally Fish Camp welcomes the Freshman class to Texas A&M each year by giving them the opportunity to have fun, make friends, and learn more about Texas A&M. When we get there, they split us into “camp” groups that includes upperclassmen counselors. The goal is that your camp share a special bond as you spend time getting to know one another, attending programs that highlight the opportunities and services available on campus and participating in Aggie Traditions such as Yell Practice, Aggie Muster, and Silver Taps.
When we first arrived, the different sports that were there had their team members split into two groups, green and yellow. I was part of the yellow group and our name changed from “Yellow Group” to “Yellow Squad” in a matter of minutes. Everyday when the groups would be together in the assembly hall, we would go back and forth representing our colors in yell and dance battles. This was one of the funniest (and loudest) parts of Fish Camp that brought us together and made people more comfortable with our new groups.
During our 3 day adventure at Fish Camp, we had the opportunity to really get familiarized with our school’s traditions, stories and basically everything that makes Texas A&M one of the best schools in the nation. As a senior, I was already very familiar with our school’s history and traditions; but the way our camp counselors represented themselves and showed the younger athletes how our school has created and celebrated all of our traditions was amazing to me. The counselors truly bleed Maroon and are so proud to be Aggies. I could literally see their positive energy towards our university trickling down to us as each day passed. It was truly special for me when our team would participate in school traditions such as the Aggie War Hymn, Yells and even learning the Spirit of Aggieland.
Particularly with the newbies, they were so attentive and engaged with learning about each of the traditions. I think when the focus was on our more sacred traditions like Bonfire, Aggie Muster and Silver Taps, it really hit home for them. I didn’t see a dry eye in the room when those traditions were honored and I feel like that represented a transition from the perspective of just old traditions to holding a special place in their hearts and a new respect for our dedication to honoring the lives of our fallen Aggies. They hadn’t had a chance to be able to experience first-hand what we do here yet since they’ve only been here during the summer so I think being able to come to Fish Camp got them acquainted to our history and all the fun things we do here will be beneficial to them in the school environment.
For me, my favorite Aggie tradition is the Aggie Ring. As a student athlete at a premier university that A&M is, it is so hard to juggle sports and academics. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the degree of commitment it takes to excel in the classroom because I’m already heavily committed to my sport and I feel like one can’t excel without me holding back from the other. But the Aggie Ring is a physical representation of all the hard work, struggles and dedication that I’ve been able to balance along with being on an elite team. Yes, we get a degree which is also a physical representation of being able to complete college, but the Aggie ring isn’t just a symbol in regards to education, but it represents the unity of our family as well. Anyone who sees someone wearing that beautiful golden ring around their right ring finger, or on a chain around their neck, or anywhere else, knows they have come from a place of respect, selfless-service, integrity, loyalty, leadership and excellence. A place where our core values aren’t just implemented, but carried through during and long after you’re at Texas A&M.
Throughout our days at Fish Camp, it made me so grateful to be with such a great group of athletes. When we would participate we would do so with pride and joy for our university. We all sang, whooped and laughed together and were exposed to all the things that make Texas A&M so special. I could tell that everyone on our team was exposed to something new and loved learning about the traditions through the skits our counselors organized and performed. Even though we were divided into two groups (green and yellow), we still had the opportunity to come together, meet new people and just have fun as an Aggie Family.
By Curtyce Knox
How Do I Say Goodbye….
The hardest thing for me to do this year is to say goodbye to the team we’ve built this year because more than a team we have been and will continue to be a family. Each of you young ladies I consider my sisters. We have lifted one another up and been there for each other. My team has made parenting so easy for me and I truly appreciate each one of “Haven’s aunties” for remaining by my side and helping me through this year and a half with her. I really don’t know what I would do without your love and support of my daughter. With the assistance of this team, our coaches and the staff I have had the opportunity to be successful on and off the court. The support and strength of this team (my sisters) is second to none and I wouldn’t trade any of you for anyone else. Haven is the luckiest little girl to have so many beautiful, strong, athletic, funny, and ………very tall aunties!
Because of you I have a legacy that I can share with my daughter, with you guys (my sisters) we have proved that Texas A&M Women’s Basketball is truly a contender and that with good coaches, dedication and teamwork we could be just as successful as any other team. And now, without my sisters, I will build on what I learned this year. I will remember the hard work we put in and the adversity we overcame as a team and use that knowledge to assist me in achieving my goals on the next level knowing one day I will play with or against each of them…..so what I want to say to my sisters is GOODBYE FOR NOW………
P. S. It was so good to have you there this weekend during the WNBA Combine, what you ladies do for me means the world to me! I Love You All!!!
By Taylor Cooper
I remember getting my first phone call from Coach Blair. There was something in his voice when he talked about the game of basketball that drew me in. He understood the X’s and O’s. We talked about his time at Arkansas and coaching my high school coach Wendi Willits, who he says is “the best pure shooter” he has ever coached. He talked about the game with passion, reminding me of a version of myself. I was so star-struck after I hung up the phone. Here I was getting a phone call from Gary Blair, a man who had just been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and won a National Championship in 2011. This man wanted me to play for him at Texas A&M University. The history and tradition behind the 12th man and everything Aggies stand for was something I wanted to be a part of. I always knew I wanted to be a basketball coach, so why not learn from the best?
My first year at A&M was a redshirt year for me. I was a transfer so I was only allowed to practice and go through 6 AM preseason workouts. I could not participate in games. This was a hard year for me but I embraced the opportunity to see the game from a different perspective. I spent most of that time playing with our men’s practice squad against my teammates helping them prepare for games.
My next two years, I battled two major shoulder injuries. The first year I dislocated my right shoulder and tore my labrum midway through the season during a practice. I decided to keep playing and put off surgery until after the season was over. The next year I dislocated my left shoulder — same exact injury, just different arm and different location. The recovery for these surgeries lasted about 6 months each, so I got to spend majority of my time with Radar. What would I have done without him? Everyone knows who Radar is, I mean they should… he and Jesus went to school together. He took me to all of my medical appointments, where he and Dr. Bramhal would always joke about how I have the second highest amount of anchors (18 screws) in my shoulders than any other athlete he’s ever done, including the football team.
During my red shirt year and while I was recovering through my injuries, I also spent a lot of time with Coach Jen Jones, who is our strength and conditioning coach. My first year here I literally thought she was going to kill me…LOL. The conditioning and weights were on a different level than what I was used too, but she was always positive and pushing us to be the best that we could be. It’s easy to say that now. What she put our team and I through was grueling. I did not realize how much I appreciated her until now. She was someone I could go to if I felt like I was ever struggling with my faith, and she also set up our community service. She emphasized and showed us how important it was to give back and to put others before ourselves.
Someone else who doesn’t get enough credit is Coach Wright. Everyone always loves reading about us signing top recruits but they don’t understand how much hard work and time is put into those moments. She is a work horse behind the scenes. The phone calls, letters, emails, time on the road, flying to watch kids play, and the amount of hours she spends in the gym as well as watching film. I’m convinced that she stays busy 24/7. She cares about this program and does everything she can to try to bring in the best, year in and year out. If I could take away one thing that learned one thing from her, it wouldn’t be anything that she has said to me over the years even though a lot of that has helped me become better as a player; it would be through her actions. She showed me that it’s ok to do all the dirty work and not necessarily get the credit or be in the spotlight for all of it.
The next one I want to talk about is Coach Bond. She has always been someone that I have admired. On the basketball court Coach Bond is an offensive genius. She picks apart and exploits mismatches against every team that we face; the woman knows what she is doing. However, off the court she is a wife and a mother to her beautiful baby girl Lauryn. She treated me like I was her own daughter. If I was sick she would always make some of her chicken noodle soup and bring it to me. If I was home sick, needed to talk about school or relationship advice she was always there for me, no matter what it was. To understand her background and see the strong successful woman that she has made herself into makes me want to do the same. She knows how to balance being one of the top assistant coaches in the country and having a family by doing things the right way, the Aggie Way.
The next one is Coach Blair, one of my favorite people in the game of basketball. I’m not going to lie and say that my years of playing here were perfect. Anyone who has played for Coach Blair knows that he is a hard person to play for. He knows so much about the game and he expects us to know it too. One of his biggest pet peeves is what he calls “dumb dumb plays”. These are plays in practice or games that show your lack of basketball IQ. He has so much respect for the game that stuff like that gets under his skin. He knows how to have fun with it though. He’s an old school guy so some of our girls don’t get his jokes but believe me, he is hilarious. One of the things that I have always respected him for is how involved he is in the community and working with special needs kids. Those are things that aren’t in his job description but he does it anyway because he cares — just like he cares about every kid he coaches. He is also really big on academics, which is why every player he has coached that finished school at Texas A&M has graduated. One of the biggest takeaways that I have learned from him is to not take any shortcuts if you want to be successful.
Everyone knows who I saved for last, Coach Starkey. He and his wife Mrs. Sherie were my second set of parents away from home. I actually have my own room at their house – LOL (for my rehab stints or when I wasn’t feeling well). Although I am probably the favorite now instead of him in his own house, I was blessed to have such an amazing role model and mentor at the same time. He cared about my life outside of basketball while simultaneously oozing out information and cool stories of past players and coaches he’s worked with on a daily basis. One of the things that stood out to me was how important his relationships are with people. Coach Starkey showed me what it means to truly care about your players and is one of the main reasons that I am going to get into coaching. He doesn’t just talk the talk he walks the walk. One of his favorite quotes he would put on our scouting reports was “It’s not the will to win; it’s the will to prepare to win that is important.” I have learned so much about the game of basketball and how to prepare for games by just being around him. He is a detail-orientated guy and it’s the little things that make a difference. He has been a father figure to me and will always hold a special place in my heart.
My time at Texas A&M has been the best four years of my life. I not only became a better basketball player but more importantly a better woman. Nothing came easy to me and for that I am grateful. I was taught patience and hard work while at the same time having to earn everything that I was given. Now I feel like I am prepared for life after basketball. Thank you to the fans, the 12th Man, my teammates/sisters, and a big thanks to my coaches. They have been role models to me, through the good and the bad, and I have learned every step along the way.
By Alyssa Michalke
Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, and it’s challenging for a number of reasons. I’ve never been great with words, so I find it difficult to string together a group of words and phrases that accurately describe the emotions I’ve felt, the experiences I’ve had, the memories I’ve made, and the impact a certain person or place has had on my life. That short, two-syllable word serves as the closing statement in a chapter of my life, and as I abruptly realize the end is just around the corner, a wave of emotions hit me hard. Couple all of that with the uncertainty of entering a new phase in my life as I leave the comfortable familiarity of College Station and Aggieland, and it’s easier to understand why I dread saying goodbye.
Bidding farewell to a place that means so much to me is much more difficult than I ever anticipated. Aggieland has become a second home to me over the past five years, although it took the better part of two years for me to think of College Station in that way. Texas A&M was not at the top of my “dream college” list, and although my mom convinced me to don the maroon and white, I spent the summer leading up to my first fall semester questioning my decision. After school began and the stress from multiple areas of my college life began to mount, I wondered whether I had made the right decision. Although College Station was only ninety-odd miles from my hometown, those ninety miles felt more like a thousand. On the rare occasion I was able to go home for a weekend during my freshman year, I dreaded the hour and forty-five minute drive back to Aggieland. I left at the last possible minute every Sunday afternoon, reluctant to leave the quiet, relaxing town of Schulenburg to return to exams, stress, and demands from various sources.
There were multiple times I considered dropping out of the Corps and transferring to another college within the Texas A&M system. However, I always ended up putting off the paperwork to the next week, and inevitably, something would go well during that week, so I would shove the paperwork to the bottom of my to-do list as I survived another week in College Station. Ever so slowly, Aggieland was growing on me.
As I began my sophomore year, I had a different outlook on life as a whole, and more specifically, on my time in college. During my freshman year, I took each day for granted, and lamented when I was assigned more homework or my upperclassmen in the Corps held me to a higher standard than I thought was fair. With a year of college behind me and a little more maturity, I now approached each day as a privilege, an opportunity that relatively few people in this world have. I challenged myself to improve physically, mentally, and spiritually each and every day, not just for my own personal benefit, but in the hopes that my personal development would positively impact my fellow cadets and classmates. My love for Aggieland grew exponentially throughout my sophomore, junior, senior, and fifth year here at Texas A&M as I developed a greater understanding of what immense impact this university has on the world, and an appreciation for all that it has done for so many people.
Although I have a few short weeks left here in Aggieland, it’s time to start saying goodbye and thank you to a place that has given me more than I could have ever imagined.
First and foremost, goodbye to The Quad, a place that served as my home for arguably the most challenging, yet rewarding, four years of my life. I saw The Quad at 5:45 every morning as we began the day with physical training or military inspections, at 6:30 every evening as we rendered honors to our nation’s colors before eating dinner, and at 10:30 at night on the rare occasion we held Echo Taps to honor a fallen cadet. I’ve run around The Quad with a rifle in my hands and boots on my feet, I’ve marched around it with my fellow cadets as we first learned, and then taught, proper marching procedures, and I’ve met some outstanding individuals while walking to and from class. I’ve had many late-night and early-morning meetings with some of the hardest-working and passionate people I have ever met, and despite the lack of sleep and their busy schedules, their commitment to excellence and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy to further develop those around them never ceased to amaze me. The Quad will always hold a special place in my heart.
Goodbye to all the campus landmarks that have come to hold special meanings for me. There’s Duncan Field where our sophomores awarded us freshmen our Corps Brass at the end of a rigorous training session. There’s Blocker and the Mitchel Physics Building, where I often questioned my decision to become an engineer after a long, complicated lecture or grueling exam. There’s Simpson Drill Field where we played sports on Friday afternoons, and where I walked my Final Review in a cadet uniform. There’s the tunnel by West Campus Garage and the tunnel by Albritton Bell Tower where we conducted numerous physical training sessions, and where I came to truly hate those small hills and the sprint workouts devised by our upperclassmen. There’s Wehner on West Campus, where the Squad Platoon within the Ross Volunteer Company would practice rifle drill, spinning and tossing those practice rifles until our hands were bruised and numb. There’s Academic Plaza where I stood on multiple Tuesday nights to honor a fellow Aggie who left us too soon, where cadets hold a salute during the 21-gun salute and rendition of “Taps,” and Albritton Bell Tower tolls in memory of those Aggies we lost. There’s Reed Arena, where I took numerous physical fitness tests while in the Corps, attended four campus Musters, and had the privilege to practice and play alongside a group of amazing young ladies as a member of the Aggie basketball team. And finally, there’s Bonfire Memorial and an engraving of “The Last Corps Trip,” where I would go late at night to clear my head when something was troubling me. Whenever I pass these places on campus, these landmarks bring to mind all the incredible experiences I’ve had during my time as a student.
Goodbye to all the friends and mentors I’ve had while in Aggieland. I could write a short novel with the names of all that have helped and supported me over these past five years. You have challenged me to reach my full potential; you have taught me the tough lessons that I needed to learn, even though there were times I thought I knew it all; you have been a source of wisdom and advice when I was unsure where to go or what to do; you have shown me what true leadership, selfless service, commitment, and hard work look like; you helped me grow and develop from an anxious, quiet freshman into a strong, confident young woman that I never knew had the potential to exist. I can’t thank all of you enough for all that you have done for me, as my time in Aggieland wouldn’t have been near as special without you. As much as certain organizations and places on campus mean to me, it’s truly the people, and the Aggie spirit within them, that makes those other things so special.
And finally, Aggieland, thank you.
Thank you for all of the love you have shown me, even when I wasn’t sure College Station was the place I needed to be.
Thank you for introducing me to a group of people so special, so selfless, and so passionate, all of whom left a profound impact on my life.
Thank you for giving me another place to call home and blessing me with a huge extended family that I know I can call upon in the future if I’m ever in need.
Thank you for providing me five years’ worth of memories and experiences that I will look back on with fondness as I recall the people and events that made my time here so amazing.
Thank you for the best five years I could have asked for. I pray every night that I have worked hard enough and given back to Texas A&M, Aggieland, and all of those people I’ve come to know during my time here in return for all that this university and community has given me. Although I may be saying goodbye to my time in Aggieland as a student, I know that many more chapters in my life will still contain Aggieland, at the very least in remembrance and gratitude for all this amazing community has done for and meant to me.
Goodbye, Aggieland…and thank you. For everything.
By Taylor Cooper
There are two reasons why I wear the jersey number #3.
The first reason is because of Candace Parker. She was my favorite women’s basketball player growing up. She was who I idolized. She was the complete player and that’s how I’ve always wanted to be looked at as a basketball player. After two years of high school I decided that I wanted to change my number, to kind of define my own identity. But I ended up keeping #3 to honor one of my good friends Kyle Lewis.
Kyle and I were good friends all throughout middle school and high school. His dad coached my dad throughout high school and so we had always been close. Kyle wore number #3 in basketball also and I was always inspired by the way he played. He was the type of player that was always on the floor diving for loose balls, taking charges, and he could shoot the 3. He was the heart and soul of the team just because of how hard he played and the attitude and mindset he brought each and every day. Before my junior year of high school Kyle was killed in a car accident coming back from a golf tournament. He had committed to play golf at the University of Oklahoma and was coming back from one of his last tournaments for the summer. So the reason why I kept the number three as my jersey number is to honor him.
By Alyssa Michalke
“Why?” A short, simple question that often calls for a long, involved answer. When someone has accomplished something significant or made a life-changing decision, people aren’t just interested in what or how. They want to know why it happened. What was the person’s mindset while pursuing this goal? What inspired or motivated? Why?
The answer, carefully crafted, can leave the reader in awe of the person’s drive, determination, intelligence, wisdom, maturity, perseverance, and/or work ethic – believing that he or she was blessed with these attributes to such an extent that others could find it difficult to achieve this level.
This past two years, I have been asked numerous “why” questions. Why did I choose to come to Texas A&M? Why did I major in engineering? Why did I join the Corps of Cadets and then, apply to be the Corps Commander? Why did I try out for the Texas A&M women’s basketball team? I gave the answers the reporters wanted to hear. A&M provides a quality education both inside and outside the classroom. An engineering major leads to a challenging career that impacts the world in a positive way. The Corps strives to grow and develop students into better individuals and more effective leaders. The Corps Commander leads an organization I had come to love and works alongside exceptional student leaders on a daily basis. The women’s basketball team loves the sport and the privilege to represent Texas A&M as student-athletes.
While those last two answers are completely true, there’s actually a much simpler, and shorter, answer, one that better explains my mindset when applying to lead the Corps and try out for the basketball team. It’s two simple words: “Why not?”
“Why not?” is much more than a question or even the answer to a question. It’s a mindset, one that I embraced in my sophomore year in the Corps with the help of an incredible mentor. I was planning to apply for a leadership position, but was content with staying within my Corps unit instead of applying for the Corps Sergeant Major position. I mentioned that to one of my upperclassman mentors whom I had come to respect, and he asked me why I was content to stay with the unit instead of applying for the top junior-level spot in the Corps? I told him that I was unsure if I was capable of filling the position and I didn’t want to take a job that I couldn’t do. He told me that the selection committee wouldn’t put me in a leadership position if they weren’t confident I could perform the job’s duties.
“Why not?” he said. “What’s the worst they could tell you? ‘No, you didn’t get the position’? If they do, you just work even harder next year and prove they made the wrong decision.”
As I walked away from that conversation, I had a new outlook on life and the goals I had set for myself. Using that mentality, I applied for the Corps Sergeant Major position and underwent multiple mock interviews with my peers and upperclassmen to prepare for the real interview coming up in a few weeks. Even though I kept having doubts about my qualifications for the position, I continued to prepare for the interview. Why not? Was I really that afraid of the word “no” that I wouldn’t apply for the position?
Although the interview was more difficult than I had imagined, I received word a few days later that I would be serving as the Corps Sergeant Major for the 2014-2015 school year. I would work directly with the Corps Commander, Deputy Corps Commander, and Corps Chief of Staff. My primary goal would be to develop and review training plans that would help cadets accomplish the vision and goals set forth by the senior leadership of the Corps. I knew the year would be difficult, as I would be juggling challenging engineering classes and my responsibilities in the Corps. However, my parents did an exceptional job of instilling a blue-collar work ethic in me, and I used that to my advantage throughout the year. There were a few moments when a challenge made me pause and evaluate my ability to overcome it, but my newfound “Why not?” mindset took over, and I overcame those obstacles more often than not.
In January of my junior year, the time came again to apply for leadership positions within the Corps. The option to apply for Corps Commander was there, but I hesitated to check the application box. I had seen how well the current Corps Commander had led the Corps, developed a great vision for the Corps, implemented policies to help accomplish those goals, and worked with cadets across the Corps to improve our organization. I was doubtful of my ability to perform all of those duties as well as he had. However, a small voice in the back of my mind kept whispering “Why not?”, so I decided to check the box, prepare for the interview, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
A week after the interview, I was informed that I would have the privilege to serve as the Corps Commander for the 2015-2016 school year. I was honored, but also anxious. I knew I had quite a bit of work ahead of me, and I placed pressure on myself to be the best Corps Commander I could possibly be.
Thankfully, I was blessed to work with incredible leaders on a daily basis, all of whom shared my love for the Corps and the cadets within it. We worked tirelessly to improve the organization, trying new training styles and plans that differed from the previous years. There was often some skepticism before trying something new, but I did my best to inspire my peers with my “Why not?” attitude. I often reminded them that the worst thing that could happen would be a dressing-down from one of our military advisors, after which we would explain what we had intended to happen and improve the process in the future. I wish I could say that every new operation we attempted went smoothly, but that wasn’t the case. However, we learned substantially more than expected from those faulty training sessions, and were able to better improve future training which benefited cadets substantially more.
My “Why not?” attitude carried over when I decided to try out for the women’s basketball team. I attended multiple home games throughout my senior year, and really enjoyed the energy, passion, enthusiasm, and love for basketball that I saw in all the Aggie players and coaches. I knew the team had hosted walk-on tryouts in the past, and also knew that I would have a substantial amount of free time over the summer to train for the tryouts. I remember mentioning this to my parents, and while they were both extremely supportive of my decision, they both asked why I was planning to tryout.
My answer: Why not?
I applied that same workmanlike attitude to my workouts over the summer. I was in the weight room and gym six days a week, working on getting stronger, faster, and becoming a better basketball player. I watched WNBA games on my laptop, trying to improve my knowledge of the game. After watching those games, I often shook my head in disbelief. Was I crazy for wanting to try out for a well-known, highly-respected Division I program headed by a Hall of Fame coach? How could I possibly compete with these amazing athletes and highly-talented basketball players? Was I sure about this decision? These questions continued to bombard me after every training session. Eventually, I grew tired of the self-doubt, so I bought a roll of duct tape and a sharpie. I wrote “Why not?” on numerous pieces of tape and placed them above my bathroom mirror, the doors into and out of my apartment and bedroom, and the steering wheel of my truck. I also changed the background of my phone, and wrote “Why not?” on the sides of my shoes and my wrists during training sessions. It served as a constant reminder to pursue this goal, no matter how difficult it became.
Once I came back to Texas A&M and started school again, I had less free time than I had over the summer, but still made it a point to get into the gym and weight room on a consistent basis. Weeks passed with no mention of walk-on tryouts from the basketball team. Every morning when I woke up and every evening before I went to bed, I poured over all of the basketball team’s social media accounts and official web page in hopes of an announcement. I grew a little frustrated as time went by, but tried to maintain a positive attitude. On September 23, I finally saw what I had been hoping and praying for — an announcement regarding walk-on tryouts. Although tryouts wouldn’t be held for another week and a half, I grew extremely nervous and anxious. All of my hard work over the past few months would come down to a 45-minute tryout. Over those next few days leading up to the tryouts, I spent even more time in the gym than before, going both in the morning and evening to lift weights, run, and play basketball.
The tryout day was upon me, and I honestly felt extremely underprepared. I was anxious in class throughout the day, and my focus continuously drifted from the professor’s lecture to the upcoming tryout. I had the time to drive home for a quick bite to eat before the tryout, and as my hand gripped the steering wheel, I felt the adhesive still stuck to the wheel from the numerous strips of duct tape I had utilized over the summer to keep me motivated during difficult training sessions. I reminded myself of the reason why I had chosen to try out for the team: Why not?
Although the tryout itself didn’t go as well as I had hoped, I was blessed to receive a text message a few days later informing me that I would be placed on the practice squad for a few weeks so the coaching staff could further evaluate my skills and ability to play on the team. After a week or two of practice, Coach Blair called me into his office and offered to place me on the team’s roster as a walk-on. He asked me to stay for the entire season, not just the fall semester, even though I was scheduled to graduate in December and start my career in January. “Why not?” I replied with a huge grin on my face.
These past few months with the team have blessed me with a wealth of incredible experiences and memories with an amazing group of people. My teammates have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, and I’ve done my best to return the favor in practice and during our games. Our coaching staff is one of the most experienced and intelligent staffs in the college game, and they have taught us an incredible amount about the game throughout the season, all while pushing us and demanding our best every single day. We’re also blessed with a great group of trainers and managers who sacrifice their time to assist with practice and during road trips.
Even though there have been plenty of tough practices and conditioning sessions throughout the season, ones that left me completely exhausted and made my summer workouts look easy, I constantly remind myself of the incredible privilege I have to be a member of this basketball program at an amazing university. I wholeheartedly believe that it was my “Why not?” mentality, coupled with a great work ethic and character instilled in me by my parents, that allowed me to accomplish these feats. I know life will continue to throw challenges and obstacles in my path, but I look forward to meeting those with the right mindset, a strong work ethic, and a solid foundation in my faith and myself. I will continue to set lofty, challenging goals for myself in both my personal and professional life, and I’m excited to see where the pursuit and accomplishment of those goals will take me. If anybody ever questions why I continue to challenge and push myself to be the best I can be, I know exactly what my response will be…