Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Home Sweet House

I was born in Kentucky, and then moved to Arizona, and then to Texas, then left for school in Oklahoma, while my parents moved to Tennessee, as I currently type this in California.

Is my dad in the military?

No. My mom's a news anchor.

  

As I fly home for the holidays, I've come to a shocking realization: I'm a family girl. Bee bopping from one state to the next, I've never experienced that warm and fuzzy feeling of smelling momma's home cooking as I step foot into my childhood home for two solid reasons:

1. Momma can't cook.
2. I've had 8 childhood homes.

Hate to throw you under the bus there mom, but you & I both know the crock pot ain't cuttin' it. Although 8 homes may seem like a terribly large, foreboding number to many, I think of them as 8 spectacularly different, grand adventures.

"I call this room!"

"Luke, they have tennis courts in this neighborhood!!!"

"Wanna build a skateboard ramp from the leftover construction wood??"

Moving brought my family closer. Each time we had to leave our incredible group of family friends, God surprised us with a bucket full more.

The hardest move for my dad was leaving his old Kentucky home. Born and raised, he never moved from his childhood home where his neighbors are still his neighbors from preschool, and his best friends all attend the same 11 o'clock Sunday mass. For the first time in his life, he was uprooted from family, friends, and familiarity.

Some days, I think that would have been really cool. To grow up living in one house my whole life, to have best friends since birth, to be forced to go to my cousin's graduation because, well, that's what families do. Right?

But you know what, if that was my life I wouldn't be who I am today. Coming home for the holidays means coming home to my family of 5. Yup, that means Mom, Dad, John & Luke. My cousins may live in Kentucky, my grade school friends may live in Arizona, my high school friends may live in Texas, but you know what? My best friends live in Nashville, Tennessee.


  


  

Some days I really think this Kornet family is weird. Do other people hang out with their family this much? Do other people like their family this much? Why do I frequently think such thoughts? Because I can't get enough of them. They're so funny. I can lay on the couch and watch HGTV with my mom and dad til 2am, I can watch Luke roll his eyes all night as my mother pleads to pluck his brows and shave the unkempt beard, I can gladly suffer through yet another long-winded, older brother John spiel for a few minutes. I love these guys. It's not that I'm forced to stay home during my few days off a year, but it's that I want to.

  


  


I just finished my last pre-conference road trip before Christmas break. Luke plays Dayton tomorrow at Dayton and I get to go. 5 hours in the car with John. I plan on bringing my Bible so he can't talk the whole time. I mean who interrupts a girl trying to read her bible?

Bottom line is this- I'll do anything and everything in the world for my family. I love how close we are, how driving 10 hours to Dayton University on the few days I have off a year isn't even a question, how Christmas is Christmas in all 50 states, not just where one old childhood home awaits, how the dear Lord has given me 23 years of crazy adventure, lifelong friends, and a plethora of friends' homes I can always crash in if I end up with a bad layover.

I love this life of mine. I love my mom. I love my dad. I love my little Luke. And yes John, I love you too.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

There's Enough Pie For Everyone

She knows very little about basketball, but she paced the stands screaming the Lady Warriors on to a 4A State Championship, she videoed me with the coveted family camcorder for hours as I practiced my tap dancing in a triple XL Backstreet Boys t, she found me bawling in my bathroom over the fictional deaths of Old Dan and Little Ann, she found me practicing my kissing on my arm on the toilet and then having to sift through that very toilet to find my loose tooth that fell in (the tooth fairy wasn't going to look for it in there), she endured my wails after Dillard’s warned us the store was closing in 10 minutes and I could not think of anything worse than being trapped in a Dillard's all night at the age of 8, she taught me to seek out 5-star luxury hotel restrooms, lock myself in the stall and wait for her if I ever got lost in the unruly crowds of New York City the very first time we visited, she flew with me across the country from college campus to college campus to college campus for a basketball camp.

She’s my mom.

(Pretending to golf when we all know we're here for a sun tan & sweet tea)

 (Probably basket #3 of Roadhouse rolls)


(Posing with someone else's pint of Guinness in Ireland)


(My first day of college)

I want to take the focus away from my basketball blurbs and simply give credit where credit is due.

Ya know, my mom was the first one to start this whole blogging idea. John, Luke, & I knew it was going to take a turn for the worst as soon as we heard the news. We’ve scolded her for most of her sappy, over-exaggerated posts, but after it’s all said and done, there’s nothing I enjoy reading more.

When I was younger my mom taught me one very important lesson that resonates with me deeply today as I write 30,000 ft. above ground on my way to Cancun for, you guessed it, basketball.

“There’s enough pie for everyone.”

I can hear my mom’s voice shout it from the mountaintops.

There’s enough success for everyone. There’s no need for jealously, for stealing someone else’s joy, or for making someone else’s accomplishments inferior to your own. There’s enough pie for everyone!

Courtesy of Delta Airlines, Bad Moms is the complimentary movie of the flight. I thought it was going to be worth a two-hour nap. Contrary to popular belief, Mila Kunis stole the show. It even tug at the heart strings a little as I thought about 'ol Tracy Nicole.


My mom taught me that people matter. People’s successes matter. There’s no use for comparison. There’s no use for anger. There’s no use for tearing another woman, or man down. At the end of the day what’s that get ya? Jack squat.

I can remember it clear as day. Every Thanksgiving, my mother would get up from the kitchen table and take out this giant, silver plated fork.

“Everyone, let me introduce to you all the ‘talking fork.’ Each person take a moment with the fork and share what you’re thankful for."

A collective sigh quickly ensued. Typical Tracy antics at their best. Person by person we begrudgingly gave her what she wanted. By the end, we couldn’t stop smiling. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, isn’t it? Gathering around those people you’re biologically forced to gather around a few times a year in order to remember how good you’ve got it.


Pure bliss.

Even though my mom engrained her patented quote into my brain long ago, it’s taken me awhile to fully put it into practice. Truly being happy for someone, when someone else’s successes are just as important as your own, when you don’t have to feel inadequate about your own accomplishments because someone else’s just must be a little bit “better,” you will soon realize that people are people no matter how (tall). The dear Lord wants us to build each other up in order to build His kingdom up. Be happy for another, compliment one another, and most importantly, love one another. 

I've learned from the best. I've learned from my mom.


Slices of success never run out. There’s enough pie for everyone.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Buy A Ticket

Last Sunday the priest decided to start his homily out with a joke.

I hate jokes. 

Yet this one stuck with me. 

________

There once was a rabbi who was going through some financial trouble. He knew he needed God's help, so he asked for it.

"God, let me win the lottery," he prayed aloud.

He prayed this little line for weeks. Soon enough, weeks turned to months and months turned to years.

"GOD ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?? WHY HAVEN'T I WON?!"

God replied, "Maybe you should have bought a ticket."

________

Buy in. 

God's got jokes, but the moral of the story is... buy in. Buying in isn't the most glamous thing in the world. It sure as heck isn't the easiest thing in the world either, but it is the most gratifying.

Last year, I had no choice but to buy in. Had I not, I might have lost my mind.

Let me walk you through my "Game Day Schedule."

Let's pretend it's Sunday. We play Oregon at 2. I'm a transfer. I can't play in the game. Should be an easy day for me, right? Might as well buy myself a buttery bucket of corn and enjoy the best seat in the house.

HA.

A game at 2 in the afternoon was translation for a 6am wake up call.

6-7am - Weights
7-7:45am - Agility
8-9am - 1on1 Skill Work w/ coach
9-10am - Shootaround
10-10:30am - Pregame meal
10:30-10:45am - Chapel
10:45-11:45am - Treatment
12-1pm - Shower/make-up/dress/dancing shoes
2-4pm - Bench hype
5:30-6:30pm - Church (it's Sunday)

Here's a graphic for you visual learners:


Real-life graphic based on true events

Game days were hard. Four workouts before tip-off. If it was a late game that evening, I would usually struggle just to keep my eyes open come halftime. My body was feeeheeeelin' it.

I say all this to note that a year long absence from lacing up the shoes in front of a crowd does not mean a year off from lacing up the shoes altogether. 

As many of you know, Allen Iverson is my all-time favorite player. Sometimes I empathize with him. Practice can suck.

The funny thing is, however, practice works. I got into the best shape of my life. Just when I thought my potential as a basketball player had been capped, my coaches found a way to uncork it. 


Why? Because I bought in.

Doesn't mean it was a walk in the park, though. 

I felt like a freshman all over again. I was the new kid on the block looking at the playbook with wide eyes, hoping my little legs were going to make the next timed suicide so my teammates don't have to run another, playing on both the scout team and my actual team to alleviate reps for the girls, only to feel as if each and every day held a new obstacle I couldn't quite conquer.

But the weirdest part of it all?

I loved it.

I loved every single grueling second of it.



I was in Los Angeles, California earning my right to be here.


I was running into Claire Dunphey in Beverly Hills; I was rollerblading down the Venice Beach Boardwalk after class; I was catching flights to see my little brother play when my team had an away trip; I was doing anything and everything this city had to offer. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It was a blast and a half. I was living large. As large as a college girl's empty wallet could take her.


The M stands for dollar menu.

Needless to say, I was paying the price of admission to be a University of California, Los Angeles student-athlete. 

It may appear to be all glitz and glamour on the outside, but on the inside people saw the bucket of blood, sweat, and tears it took to simply make it through one of the plethora of "Game Days."

I had to buy in.

Prior to buying in, I had been a wanderer. At Oklahoma, I was a wonderer.

"I wonder what California is like."
"I wonder what other schools are doing right now."
"I wonder if their practices are like ours."


I never fully committed to the here and now. That's my challenge for you all today. In order to be fully happy in life, to live each day with a humble heart and happy mind, buy in.

Buy in to the process. Buy in to the bad days, the good days, the long days, the off days.

When you do, nothing else matters. It doesn't matter if you start. It doesn't matter if you're the first off the bench or the last, the captain or the water girl. When you buy in, your mindset can't be tainted. Success isn't always measured by the wins and losses. I'd say it's measured by the buy in.

The year-long 4-a-days are now over, and for the fifth and final time I am ready to get the ball rolling again.

I'm ready to play.



I bought my ticket. Have you bought yours?


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Just Because I Transferred Doesn't Mean You Should Too

Since my first blog post, several younger college players have asked me: "Should I transfer?"

Realization #1:
At some point, everyone wants to transfer.

The thought usually creeps in during your freshman year. 

After all the lovey-dovey, one-on-one recruitment praise wears off, most start to realize there are ten to twelve other teammates fighting for the spotlight, too. It's not all about you anymore, Dorothy. Suddenly the high school star who has waltzed through life now has some competition.

For many of us, after the first year starring as "role player," pride begins to sink in.

"Why doesn't coach play me more?"
"I hate it here."
"I should have gone to..."

Realization #2:
Everyone thinks they're going to be the man.

At Oklahoma I thought I was going to be the freshman phenom.

Let me tell you why.


I've already explained why my heart was never fully invested in Oklahoma's program. 

Still, I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to be the best there ever was. 

Coming from a small private high school in Texas, I could never shake a comparison to one of Liberty Christian's greatest basketball stars, Whitney Hand. Whitney had signed to play at Oklahoma four years before me. 

It's all people talked about. 



Since we were four years apart, I never got to play with her in high school. Due to the dreaded injury bug, she got a few extra years at Oklahoma. Meaning, we finally became teammates.

As much as I love, admire, and respect Whitney, during my freshman year I so badly wanted to be different than Whitney. I didn't want to follow in her footsteps; I wanted footsteps of my own. I had always wanted to "one-up" her in a way. I didn't want to go to Oklahoma like Whitney, I wanted to go to (fill in the blank) like Nicole. 

I had to come to grips that Whitney was the star here too, and I was not.

Realization #3:
All college coaches are slightly nuts.

All of them. Every single one. 

They're full of passion for this game. As nice and caring as they were to you back in high school, as soon as you sign on the dotted line and officially become a student-athlete, you belong to them. 

That's why it's so important to pick a coach who doesn't falsely recruit you. 

CAUTION: Don't fall for one-liners.

"You'll start right away."
"You will be the face of our program."
"Those other schools don't have what we have here."

Most will say whatever they can to get you to sign that National Letter of Intent. And once you're there, don't expect all those empty promises to magically come true. You have to earn your spot now.

You want a coach to like you right off the bat? Learn how to play defense.

Realization #4:
If you can find a coach who ultimately cares for your well-being at the end of the day, you're in the right hands. 

Yes, most will scream their heads off. Yes, their expectations are extremely high. But hey, that's their job.

Realization #5:
Your teammates will be different than you.

Hate to break it to ya kid, but it's hiiiiiiiighly likely you wouldn't be friends with half of your teammates if it weren't for that round rubber ball. 

Granted, you need to hold your future teammates to a certain standard.

But let's face it--there will be teammates who are just flat out not like you. In any way, shape, or form. You have to find a way to play with them anyway. They're your teammates. Someone has to pass you the ball. They have to trust you, and you have to trust them. 

This next sentence may shock you.

You don't even have to be friends with them. 

At the end of the day, what matters most is what happens on the court. You don't have to treat them to a cup of coffee off of it.

This can be hard. But just because something is hard, doesn't mean a certain someone should transfer. 

Realization #6:
Know your role. 

I know you're used to being the star. 

You're used to everyone loving you. You're a cool, hard working, natural-born athlete. However, that does not necessarily mean your college teammates are cool and hard working, too. 

Sometimes they do bad things on the weekends. Sometimes they don't even work as hard as you, yet they get all the praise. But as long as you put forth continued effort and stay true to yourself, you should never feel defeated. You'll grow from it at the end of the day, and especially at the end of the season.


For me, that took a long time to grasp. I thought I was going to be the All-American freshman who would be an immediate starter, take our team to the Final Four, and be the face of Sports Illustrated. 

I thought our team was going to be different than all of the rest, because I was on it. 

If I can tell you one thing about freshman year, it's that only about 5% of D1 athletes get to live out that pipe dream their first year. Don't get down on yourself, though. Remember, you're a freshman. (Or a 5th year senior...)

Realization #7:
Make mistakes. 

The worst thing you can do, especially as a freshman, is try to be perfect all the time. Let your coaches coach you. And trust me, you need to be coached. This ain't high school anymore, Toto.

The truth is, not many people play their freshman year. The sadder truth, not many people put their pride aside and learn from why they didn't. 

Instead, they transfer.

Realization #8:
Don't bolt too soon.

This is an opportunity of a lifetime. You're with the best of the best. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

So here's the deal:

What's more important to you? What is your heart set on? Are you escaping confrontation with teammates? Do you try to avoid certain individuals? Are you giving them a chance? Have you talked to your coaches? Do they know how you feel? Is playing time your motivating factor? Is your confidence low and that's what's causing you to have all these doubts? Are you looking for a way out, or can your issues be mended?

If you have at least one or two girls on the team who share your same morals and values, I would say trust the process and lean on them for strength and guidance. If you are truly in a tough place and there doesn't appear to be any type of safe haven, maybe you really should consider the "T" word. 

At OU I gave it time. I believe there's a lesson to be learned in waiting, in trying to tackle your issues head on instead of fleeing from them. 

Don't get me wrong, at some point you have to stick up for yourself. But until you hit your breaking point, I would strongly advise seeing where this year takes you.

Whether you play 40 minutes a game, or sit 40 minutes a game, YOU were a contributing factor. Yes, you.


How do you think your star teammates get better every day? The answer better be you. You better be pushing them each practice; you better have the mindset that one day that could be you in their shoes, and that one day could be tomorrow. Sometimes that's the role of a freshman, but that role is just as important. High-level basketball takes high-level patience.

When I think of patience, one of my best friends, Kari Korver, comes to mind. Her freshman year at UCLA was hell. I won't get into the details, but let's just say I don't think anyone else has ever had worse. Her sophomore year didn't get much better either. She tore her ACL for the second time in her playing career and had to sit out for those dreaded 7-9 months. 

Realization: #9
Ask yourself these questions:

"If I get injured this year, will I be okay here? Will I want to run away, or do the people here have my best interests at heart?"

Kari stuck it out. She wanted to be at UCLA and no one was going to stop her. She wasn't going to quit. 

And you know what, look where she is now. Kari Korver is the cornerstone of UCLA basketball. She is one of the best shooters in the country. She has broken an abundance of records. But what matters most is the leader and friend that she is to all who are lucky enough to cross her path. The lifelong respect she has gained from a multitude of teammates--and the happiness she exudes every time she dons those four letters across her chest--is immeasurable. Others radiate just by being around her. What a college career she has had so far. And she still has a final season to go.

Kari is an example of a player who stayed. A player who picked a program, because it's the place where her heart was led. She had countless hardships and learned from each and every one. 


Realization #10:
Stats, prestige, recognition, and celebrity are all crap. 

It's okay to believe you're the best in the gym. That you're All-American status. That you got game.

However, if that's all you're playing for, your play will soon show it. Your lack of respect will show it. 

What I truly care about now are relationships. I want nothing more than to see Kari have her best year yet at UCLA. And by golly, that's exactly what's going to happen. I want to see each and every one of my teammates shine this year. To see my coaches push us until our potential becomes who we really are. 

I will do whatever it takes to win; and if that's as a role player, I will be the best role player there is. If that's to put up points, you'll find me in the gym shooting until my arms fall off. 

UCLA is where I'm meant to be. I'm happy.  And let me tell you, once I let all of my pridefulness go, my anxieties left with it and fulfilling friendships came flooding in. 

When you're where you're meant to be, you'll know it. Don't run when the going gets tough. Embrace it. Embrace the suck.

Just because I transferred doesn't mean you should too.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Untold Tale of the Not-So-Typical Transfer



Teriyaki chicken salad with Asian slaw, penne pasta, and Hungarian beef goulash are my dinner options for Qantas Airlines flight #157.

Here I sit, squished in between a drink cart and a broad-shouldered Aussie in the second-to-last row. I have clear vision of my ten teammates in front of me, and I can’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

Exactly four years ago to the day, I sat on an almost identical Qantas plane, across from my two teammates Morgan Hook and Maddie Manning. We couldn’t grasp the concept of a 16-hour plane flight, but with the help of Katy Perry, Phil Dunphy, and sleep deprivation, the flight whizzed by.


       
       4 years ago                                                         4 hours ago


I remember that trip clear as day.

I remember idolizing upper-classmen Whitney Hand and Morgan Hook, hoping one day I could positively influence someone the way they did me.

                        
I remember lacing up my crimson shoes to play in my first-ever collegiate basketball game.

I remember experiencing some of the best 10 days of my life.

Much had transpired in the months leading up to that freshman trip.

____________

Let’s flashback to my junior year at Liberty Christian School in Arygle, Texas. I was in a pickle. Where the heck was I going to college?

I somehow narrowed it down to UNC, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, and Stanford.

As a kid my favorite color was baby blue; my favorite player was Ivory Latta; and a North Carolina men’s National Championship banner was the only decoration my mom hung up on my wall that I actually liked.

After being invited to elite camp my first year of high school, UNC offered me a spot on their roster.

“Dad, I’m going. Done deal. Let me sign the papers.”
“Hold on, toots. You’re only a freshman. You have some time to think about this.”

Come to find out, I couldn’t have been more thankful for a father who had years of experience with the laborious and torturous, yet invigorating and emotional process commonly referred to as college recruitment. Therefore, I took my dad's wisdom to heart, and waited.

He was right. After a few more visits and a few more years of pondering, something didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel at home in Chapel Hill. Visits to the University of Kentucky and mother and father’s alma mater, Vanderbilt University, had similar effects. As much as my dad would have loved, loved, loved for his one and only daughter to play at Vandy, my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was somewhere else.

This left me with two options. Stanford University and The University of Oklahoma.

If anyone knows me well, they know I thrist for adventure. I hunger for travel. I long for change. I didn’t want to go to a school where everyone else went. I wanted to go to a foreign land, far far away, that I had never experienced before. I wanted to be independent and figure things out on my own. I wanted to go to a school that I was proud of, that people were proud of. I wanted people to remember this decision.

All signs pointed to Stanford.

But for some reason this woman, this one woman who goes by the name of Sherri Coale, popped her blonde hair into my life. I couldn’t seem to shake her. Every time I thought I had my mind made up on where I wanted to go to school, I would look down at my phone and there was her name in my iMessages. Each time I told my dad that I had decided, that I was done with the back and forth, I spotted a letter on the counter sealed with the interlocking OU, sent from the one and only herself. And boy, were those handwritten letters powerful. Those voicemails so goofy and heart felt. (I still have them saved on my phone). I really liked this woman. She was so relatable. She was so friendly. She was so much like my mother.

Still, my heart was somewhere else. It was somewhere states away. Not a two and a half hour drive from North Texas to Norman.

____________

Fast forward to senior year. Still had no clue where I was going. I spied a camp invitation letter from Stanford under a stack of bills.

That’s when it really set in. Stanford: The Final Fours, the California sunshine, the degree.

Now that’s an institution to be remembered on graduation day.

“Nicole Kornet—Stanford University.”

That was it. That’s what I wanted. That’s what made my heart leap.

I went to elite camp and was fortunate enough to win camper MVP. I looked at my mom after my name was called, and she had that big, ‘ole “I love my children” smile she so frequently boasts. I knew it. She knew it. This was it. This is where I wanted to play college basketball.


After camp, Coach Tara pulled me aside.

“Now Nicole, Stanford is a funny place. I can’t formally offer you a scholarship until admissions accepts you.”

This little sentence changed the course of my senior year.

I had to dedicate myself to this sentence.
I had to commit to retaking the SAT & ACT.
I had to change my schedule and sign up for all AP classes.
I had to sit at my kitchen table with a private tutor for two hours of SAT tutoring every Tuesday night.
I had to get into Stanford.

But bet your bottom dollar that’s what I was going to do. I was not about to chicken out, back down, and tell my dream school “so long, sucker.” A few sacrifices weren’t going to deter me from a decision that could ultimately change the course of my life. I really wanted this.

That was, until I hopped on the plane and looked down at my phone. Another voicemail from Coach Coale.

“What is it with this woman? She is so persistent. How does she always find a way to waltz into my thoughts? And why, why do I like her so much?”

A few months later, I had given it my all. I unhappily endured my two hours of tutoring each week; I filled out my one and only college application; I retook my SAT and ACT, and I waited.

I was at a Popeye’s Fried Chicken with my dad, Luke, and John when I got the call.

Coach Tara from Stanford was on the other line.

“Hi Coach! It’s so good to hear from you!”
“Hi Nicole. Admissions contacted me this morning.”

My heart was beating out of my chest.

“Nicole, it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry to say that admissions did not accept you. I begged and pleaded with them, but there is nothing I can do. Admissions controls us here. I truly hope you find what you’re looking for. We’ll always be rooting for you.”

I didn’t get in.

I walked back into Popeye’s and made eye contact with my dad. I lost it. I started bawling. He knew these weren’t happy tears.

For the first time in my life, I felt severe disappointment. I had never really tasted the cold, dank, harsh pang of sadness like I had that day. My life had been so easy until that point. I had pretty much received everything I had always set my heart on. But this time, I came up short.

That night I walked into my dad’s room and took him by the hand, “Drive me to Norman. I know what I have to do.”

God knew what He was doing. He was taking care of me. He had a plan. I just had to trust it.

It was 10:30pm when I rang the doorbell. Coach Coale’s husband answered. He stared at me in bewilderment as if I were some crazy, obsessed psycho-fan who wanted to meet his wife. I politely told him I was a recruit and was here to commit.

Coach Coale turned the corner with her hair up in a bun, an oversized t-shirt draped down to her knees, and her house slippers sweeping across the hardwood.

“NICOLE?! What are you doing here??”

“I want to play for the University of Oklahoma, Coach.”

After hugs, kisses, and screams galore, I knew God wanted me here for a reason.

Come signing day my senior year, I remember looking up at my dad as I handed him my scholarship papers to fax in. I looked up at him, caught his eye, and couldn’t hold it in any longer. I started to tear up. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go to Oklahoma.

____________

Oklahoma is a special place. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. From the amazing donors, to the fans who brought me in at 18 and loved me like their own, to the coaches who recruited me, to each and every teammate I had over my 3 years, I had some of the best times of my life there.

Coming in as a freshman, I was teamed up with Maddie Manning, Ty Darlington, Madison Ward, Trevor Knight, Julia Doyle, Sterling Shepherd, and Eric Striker. We had each other’s backs. We were a class to be remembered. We were so close. We shared a special bond and all felt an uncanny desire to be great-- to one day make a name for ourselves.
      


During my freshman year at OU, we played UCLA in Los Angeles. I fell in love. California was my happy place. It reminded me of my dream school. It reminded me of Stanford.

I hurt my knee at the start of the second half. We lost.


If you’ve played college sports, you know the dreaded, long flight home after a loss. This one stung even deeper for me. I remember looking out the window, my knee wrapped up in ice, taking off out of LAX, feeling that similar, eerie, Popeye’s fried chicken-style sting of disappointment.

A few months later into season, we played UCLA again for the Sweet Sixteen. This time, we won.
                        

Sophomore year rolled around. I still couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness I had tried to forget ever since signing day.

I wasn’t happy. As much as I tried to mask it, as great as my coaching staff and friends were, I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t face that fact, however. I couldn’t look in the mirror and muster up enough courage to accept it. So, I stuck it out.

“Maybe it will get better as an upperclassman. Maybe junior year will be better.”

Newsflash: junior year didn’t get better. In fact, it got much worse. I completely disconnected myself. I ran away from friends, I pouted, I sulked, I caved. I wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t hide it anymore.

Two days before school started, two days before the start of my senior year, I called her. I called Coach Coale, and I asked for my release.

After toiling through the recruitment process yet again, I found myself struggling with the same thing. Kentucky and Vanderbilt offered me scholarships, but I didn’t want familiarity. I wanted to go where my heart had always wanted to go. And without a doubt, that was California.

A few weeks before I needed to make a decision, an unknown number popped up on my phone. I wasn’t able to answer it on time, but luckily a voicemail was there waiting for me. It was Cori Close, head women’s basketball coach of the University of California, Los Angeles. Right then and there I knew.

LA was the answer. LA was my answer.

With the storied background that Coach John Wooden engrained into the world-renowned university, with the significant weight that a UCLA degree carries, with the sunny & 75 picturesque hilltop upon which this campus sits, UCLA in my book is the “cooler” Stanford. It had everything I wanted and more.

God closed a door to open another. He guided my steps, taught me a lesson, proved faithful through it all, and showed me what I truly wanted.

Cori Close, I am forever indebted to you. Because of your willing heart, because you took a leap of faith, because God intervened I am here writing this right now. You made a little girl’s dream come true.

What most caught me off guard, however, were the people. They caught me off guard in the best way. Never had I felt so at home and so in touch with my spiritual life than being with these people. These people make me better. They challenge me, they steer me, they accept me; they love me.
  
That was the one thing that primarily held me back from leaving Oklahoma any sooner than I did. As much as I wanted California, I was scared of California.

               
      


Aren't there crazy people in California? What if they're bad influences on me? What if it's too good to be true?

As I soon found out, all of these preconceived notions could not be further from the truth. My best friends here will be my bridesmaids one day. These teammates of mine are some of the most stunning, athletically gifted, mature women I have ever been around. I honestly can’t believe I get to be apart of this group. As iron sharpens iron, I feel as if I am equipped to do anything and everything in this city, with these people, and at this school. And that’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long, long time.

         

As I sit in the second-to-last-row on this Qantas Airlines flight, the second time in four years, gazing up at my teammates a few rows ahead…as I let it all sink in…I can’t help but get a quick word in with God.

Thank you. Thank you for making my collegiate athlete dreams a reality. I’m finally where I pictured myself as a little girl. You took the reins, paved a way, and added a little extra flair, Nicole Kornet style, to boot. You never left me through it all. In fact, You guided my footsteps, introduced me to some incredible people along the way, and brought me home. For all of that, I just want to say thank you.