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Past articles:
  • 2004 WNBA Awards
  • 'BEEF' up your shooting!
  • Gball's Players of the Year

  • UConn's two freshmen

  • Gball's 2003-04 All-Americans

  • Leslie repeats as Player of the Year

  • 2002-03 NCAA Awards

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  • Being Recruited

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  • Candace Parker dunks!

  • Michigan Playoff Results

  • WNBA Teen Advisory Board

  • St. Ann's girls' team

  • Leslie Gball's Player of the Year

  • Hitting the last-second shot

  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Scholarships,
    Part II

  • Improving Agility


  • CARDINAL FLIES TO NEW HEIGHTS

    By Dave Wohlhueter

    markisha

    Every basketball team should have a walk-on--not a scholarship person, but a player who had to make the team based on what he or she could contribute to all phases of the program.

    Texas Tech men's coach Bob Knight is certainly happy with his walk-on star, senior guard Ronald Ross, who leads the team in scoring, and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference first team.

    The Stanford women's basketball team has its own walk-on, and she didn't have to walk a great distance to earn her spot on the current roster of a team ranked No. 1 in country by Gballmag.com.

    Sophomore guard Markisha Coleman had always wanted to be a Cardinal--well, at least since her grade school days. "As a young girl, I always wanted to attend Stanford," she explained. "I wanted to go there to play basketball, and I really didn't think much about the academics.

    "When I got to high school, I talked to my teachers, and they told me if I really wanted to play basketball at Stanford, I had better get my academics up, and that's when I started focusing on my school work."

    Coleman's basketball career really began because of the influence of her mother, Sarah Dunn, who excelled in the sport in high school. Dunn, a single parent who has raised four children, would go out in the backyard and play with her oldest daughter in East Palo Alto, just a 15-minute drive from the Stanford campus. "I also watched my older brother play in high school," she said. "My family, basically, has been around basketball so long. Being a young kid growing up around basketball was extremely fulfilling because it was exciting playing with my family."

    At Eastside College Prep, Coleman played both basketball and volleyball in her sophomore year, but then decided to concentrate on the hardwood game. "Our basketball team was basically the volleyball team, so you could really work more on your basketball skills, or be a part of the volleyball squad," she said. "I decided to focus on improving my basketball skills, with that long-range goal of going to Stanford."

    Although she was named the Christian Private School Athletic League's MVP and earned first-team league honors during her freshman, junior and senior years, Stanford did not recruit her. Being named to the Division 5 all-state squad and the San Mateo All-County team during her senior year didn't cut it either. Coleman averaged 17.0 ppg., 6 rpg., 3 apg., and 4.0 spg. during her prep days.

    Stanford had a pretty good handle on Coleman's abilities, as she attended Tara VanDerveer basketball camps during her high school days. "The camps help young kids so much," Markisha explained. "You get to be around other great players. Sometimes other coaches are here, and just being around the Stanford staff is great, and you learn so much. I'm trying to get my younger sister to come to a couple of camps."

    As a freshman in high school, she began her networking with many of the Cardinal players. She also joined the Shoot for the Stars mentoring program, which was initiated by former Stanford player Jamila Wideman, who played for the school from 1994-97. Every other Sunday, Markisha and other girls from the immediate area would arrive at Maples Pavilion for both academic and athletic activities. "I really consider Maples Pavilion to be my second home," she said.

    Adding to her quality playing skills was the ability to be a leader in high school. She captained the basketball team for three years. Her role was to always be there for her teammates in a time of need. "I always enjoyed talking to my teammates when they were down," she said, "because I always believe in being positive. You need to keep encouraging them, and telling them that everything would be okay. And we had our challenges."

    After not being recruited by the Cardinal, Markisha applied to 18 schools and got accepted at 15 of them. "I looked at some of them for academics and some for basketball, but I still had my hopes on Stanford," she said. "I pretty much wanted to stay close to home. My guess is that if I hadn't gotten into Stanford, I would have attended Cal-Berkeley."

    Finally, the admissions letter arrived from Stanford, and she was accepted into a school that not only has rigorous academic standards, but is also one of the finest women's basketball programs in the country. "All through high school, I worked hard and my grades were good," she said. "When I realized I wasn't going to be recruited by Stanford, I told myself that I would keep my grades up and get into Stanford which is a great university for academics, and then when I got here I would try out for the team. If I made it, it would be an enjoyable experience like I'm having now. And if I didn't make it, I could still focus on my grades, and still come out and watch the team."

    During the summer before her freshman year, Coleman stayed in contact with the Cardinal coaches by email, and told them that she really wanted to try out for the team. When she arrived on campus, there was another player who also wanted to try out. After schedules were worked out, the two had their tryouts. "We tried out before Julie Rousseau (an assistant at the time, but now the head coach at Pepperdine), and initially she said to come back the next day and watch practice.

    "I came back the next day, and we had a meeting in Coach Rousseau's office, and she said I didn't make the team, but could try out again next year, and if I wanted to be a manager, I could do that immediately. I accepted the offer to be manager because I still wanted to be a part of the team."

    After serving in the role of manager for a couple of days, Coach VanDerveer suggested that maybe Coleman should use her freshman year to concentrate on academics, and then give it a try in her second year. "She was basically looking out for me, and when I first talked to her, I said 'I understand.'"

    Coleman went back to the dorm and called her mother. She told her mother that she really wanted to play, and she really wanted to stay involved with the program.

    The freshman left a message on VanDerveer's answering machine saying she still wanted to be involved, even if it was just as a practice player a couple days a week. A class conflict also presented a problem, and for the first quarter she would only be able to attend half the practices.

    VanDerveer okayed the decision, and Coleman became a practice player for a couple of weeks. "One night, on a Tuesday, we scrimmaged against some of our practice guys," said Coleman, "and after the scrimmage, Coach VanDerveer said I was on the team. It couldn't have been greater, and I was really excited. The team had a great year (27-7), and I even got into some games.

    "It was an awesome year for me. It was everything I could ask for."

    Her first appearance on the floor in a Stanford uniform was actually in an exhibition game. "I was scared going out before the crowd in that first game even though it was an exhibition, " she said. Coleman saw action in 15 games her freshman year and scored six points.

    As a sophomore this season, she is averaging 5.7 minutes per outing. She considers her defense to be her best asset, and she had six steals in 23 games. "I feel more comfortable this year, and my goal is to play as hard as I can, help my teammates get better, improve myself, and be as positive as possible," she said. "My goal is to see us win the national championship."

    The former walk-on has lofty goals, and they include everything she has learned at Stanford, both on the hardwood and in the classroom. "After graduation, I want to play in the WNBA if that's possible, but if that doesn't happen, I want to go to law school at Stanford," she concluded.

    Whatever the venue, the odds are great that Markisha Coleman will be a success. After all, she beat the odds of a lofty goal for a fourth-grader who knew what she wanted, and knew how to make her dreams come true.




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