Mariah has walked a challenging path with university sport and it was really interesting to hear about her experience of being scouted at a young age and being recruited to a school in the US.
Mariah grew up in Ajax, Ontario. She has three older sisters and a younger brother. Her brother also plays basketball at Seneca College. Mariah originally wanted to play volleyball…she played both sports at first but was identified at a young age for a national basketball development program and decided to focus on basketball. She started playing basketball in grade 4 because it was cold outside and if she made the basketball team she would be able to stay inside for recess. She also saw how into basketball her little brother was and wanted to play too. After watching Mariah and her brother playing at home in the driveway, a neighbor who was a basketball coach asked her to join a girls competitive team he was starting. In the beginning of her first year on that team she rarely played – she was second last off the bench – but by the end of that year she was a starter. She said it just kind of came naturally and although she can’t pinpoint when and how it clicked for her it did. She had discovered her natural athletic ability and she got better quickly.
She played for a rep team and her school team at a high school in Whitby where she started out and then she transferred to a high school in Markham that focused on the development of athletes. She had the chance there to play with other elite players and really enjoyed it. She was scouted at a tournament before she even went to high school – she was first contacted by Princeton and it was her dream to go there. In the end it was not financially viable for her to attend Princeton even with the financial aid they were able to offer. She had interest from many US schools – she described a shoebox full of letters. The school that expressed the most initial interest was Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and she and her family were invited for an official visit to the school all expenses paid. At the end of the visit she was told she had two weeks to decide whether she wanted to sign with them. She had just finished grade 10. Although she did not feel ready to make such a big decision she had twisted her ankle before a big tournament and some of the other schools who were interested in her started to back off. She and her family recognized that they might not get another opportunity like this so she signed with FDU.
She moved to New Jersey after high school and she enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at FDU. She said for the first month all she wanted to do was leave. She felt that as an athlete she was overworked to the point of dreading going to practice. In her first conditioning session at 6 am. they had to do timed sprints over and over and she ended up passing out – when she came to they made her run more. She realized that there were going to be days where she would be pushed to extreme exhaustion or she would be throwing up. They also had her squatting more weight than was appropriate for her size and she sustained a back injury that she is still dealing with now. She felt mistreated, over trained and pushed too far beyond her limits. She felt bullied as well by some of her teammates. She ended up staying there for a year and a half and then came home. Despite the fact that going to the US to play basketball provided her with the opportunity to pay for her education she was just not happy and decided to leave.
She connected with her former rep coach who knew Carly Clarke, head coach at Ryerson and was advised that she should consider Ryerson because Carly was a good coach. She also wanted to be close to home because of some health issues in her family. She transferred to Ryerson and entered into the Criminology program. It was the right decision for her – she says she loves her teammates and the fact that there is no drama. The first year was hard at Ryerson because she was only able to practice and could not play until the second year at Ryerson.
Mariah carries a full course load, plays basketball and works two jobs. There isn’t much time for other hobbies or interests. She will graduate after this year and hasn’t made any concrete plans for next year – she is considering applying for a masters program. She might want to try and play pro if her back is feeling strong enough. She might travel or start working full-time. After playing pro or working she might also apply to law school. As a 22 year old she has plenty of time to map out the road ahead of her. She is open to whatever presents itself.
I asked Mariah what people would be surprised to know about her and she said that she gets stage fright and gets super nervous to speak in front of a group or make a class presentation. She is not at all nervous to perform on the court in front of hundreds of people probably because it is the place where she is most comfortable and confident.
Mariah is hard working and organized – she said she has really learned time management from her basketball commitments. She said she has also learned when to lead and when to follow by playing basketball – when to step up, when to hang back. Mariah has a really great spirit and I have loved getting to know her over the course of this year. She has been lovely to me and I appreciate her kindness. I can’t wait to know what is next for her.
Thanks to Alex D’Addese for the amazing game photos…check out more of his work here.