As is the case with many young women across the world, I spent most of my childhood searching for my niche.
I loved being active and participated in various activities at the local community center in my hometown of Memphis.
It wasn’t until I was in the fourth or fifth grade, however, that I experienced a game that would, undoubtedly, change my life forever.
I joined the Memphis Future Stars and competed in my first-ever official basketball game.
While the game came very instinctively to me, and I, seemingly, had a lot of natural talent, it was the way that I felt when I played that really sparked something inside of me.
Up until that point in my life, I had never experienced such joy, passion, and exuberance.
I knew instantly that this was about far more than just basketball.
Just for fun
While I held my own on the court in those early years and competed hard, I never felt like an overly talented player.
I just did it for the love and joy of the game.
For me, basketball was about having fun.
One day, though, I was approached by a former WNBA player, Helen Darling, who sponsored her own AAU team in my region. She wanted me to join that team and play on a more competitive level.
I was in complete shock.
How could a former WNBA player, who scored over 1,000 points in her career, want someone like me to compete on her AAU team?
It didn’t seem possible.
So far, I had never dreamed of doing anything other than playing this game locally.
Because of the instant connection that my family and I made with Helen, however, I took a chance and joined the team.
And so I traveled all over the region and competed against some of the most talented players in the area during those middle and high-school years.
This entire journey made me realize that I want to take this even further.
I worked extremely hard to master the fundamentals.
I fixated on my shooting ability and put up hundreds, if not thousands of shots each week in an effort to be one of the most dominant scorers in the game.
The blood, sweat, and tears ultimately paid off.
During my junior and senior years of high school, college scholarships began to pour in from across the country.
I was faced with one of the most exciting and difficult decisions of my life.
My family has always been at the center of my world.
I have one of the strongest support systems of anyone I know and have an incredible sense of gratitude for all that my family has done to help me be where I am today.
So, when the time came to decide where I would spend my college career, the decision came down to them.
I had a scholarship offer to play college basketball right here in my hometown at the University of Memphis.
I knew that they had a strong basketball program as well as a wonderful coaching staff, and just as importantly, I knew that I had a chance to contribute to the team very early on.
Those integral factors, combined with the chance to play in front of my family and friends, were an opportunity that was too good to be true.
The decision was made.
Home would stay home.
Memphis basketball has now been my constant for the last four years and quite honestly, it has been everything that I could have ever asked for and so much more.
I never entered college with the expectation of breaking records.
I came in with the mindset that I wanted to be the best teammate I could be and make those around me better — on and off the floor.
Here I stand, as a senior leader on the basketball team, continuing to do just that.
Navigating the physical and mental demands of this sport and doing all I can to guide my teammates through the challenges that the game throws our way.
But I guess some of those records ended up on my resume, too.
And I’m proud of my accomplishments, including breaking three-point records, sitting fourth all-time in three-pointers made, and even for highlights such as finishing perfect from the foul line on numerous occasions.
More so than the physical awards and verbal recognition, though, I am so proud of the hard work that has led to these accomplishments. The countless hours that I spent in the gym trying to perfect this art of shooting have paid off.
While the future remains largely unknown, I know a few things for certain.
I will continue to give back to this wonderful community of Memphis which has done everything in its power to support a hometown kid just living out her dream.
I long to one day play professional basketball in the WNBA and would love nothing more than to be able to give back and support other cities all across the country, just as I have always tried to actively engage with my community right here at home.
I know that basketball, regardless of the level of competition, will remain a central focus in my life.
I truly love this game and play for the exhilaration that it gives me each and every single day.
After all, that’s what the game is all about.
It’s more than basketball.