Patton Finally Gets
Because of potential conflicts with NCAA regulations, The
Gazette was unable to run Stacey Patton's first-person column,
which this week reflected on her first basketball practice. So,
we just asked her about this most important moment of her
Gazette: The heavily recruited high school basketball star finally reached the moment of truth: stepping onto the court for your first practice, running with the big dogs. What was it like?
Patton: It was awesome, really. It wasn't high school, I'll tell you that.
Gazette: When did your day begin?
Patton: Last Saturday [Oct. 26] at 6:15 in the morning! Practice was scheduled for 7.
Gazette: Was it easy getting up for it, literally?
Patton: I live with five other freshmen. The coach [Nancy Blank] put us all together, and we're all trying to make the team. When my one roommate's alarm clock kept beeping we all finally realized that the noise was not a part of our dreams. My other roommate flipped on the light switch and yelled "Get up" and that kind of forced us out of bed. I felt like I was preparing for the ROTC program or studying for a test at the last minute. Our whole suite seemed to sit still and yawn and stare at the clock. We couldn't believe that we were up at that hour of the morning to go play basketball. This was a true test of our love for the sport.
Gazette: How did you all manage to get ready on time?
Patton: "We always manage. We just have to adjust ourselves and be very flexible. We try not to get in each other's way. Part of the past six weeks has been filled with compromise. That morning our bathroom sounded like some kind of symphony. All you could hear was the toilet spinning, whirling and sighing. The faucets sounded like sprinklers and fire hydrants. Every space in the mirror was taken up. We all seemed to just stare and glance at each other's tired faces, uncombed heads and disheveled night clothes. In some ways it seemed like our regular morning ritual with the sounds of sniffing, coughing, yawning, vibrating toothbrushes and gargling. The funny thing is that at one point we all looked at each other, shook our heads in disbelief and cracked a smile.
Gazette: What was going through your mind when you finally realized that you were about to participate in your first college practice?
Patton: I dreamed of this as a small girl. But it's so amazing how time seems to fly so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was 11 years old, four-foot-something and barely making my foul shots during gym practice. And suddenly there I was sitting in my room staring at all the Michael Jordan posters on our walls and doors. I think my roommates were all thinking the same things too, even though we didn't say much to each other.
Gazette: Did it make you feel tougher knowing that probably every other student on campus was most likely still asleep at that hour?
Patton: Well, in boarding school I went to school on Saturdays, so it wasn't totally weird. I just never got up that early to go to practice. We didn't complain. We just thought it was crazy that we were up that time of morning. It was like some kind of basketball mania. When we walked down the hallway of our dorm it was dark and desolate. Outside the sky was still dark and a few of the campus lights were still on. I think the fresh morning air made us feel good and kind of woke us up.
Gazette: What was it like when you joined up with the rest of the team?
Patton: When we arrived in the locker room there was juice, bagels and fruit waiting for us. But it was just a little too early for me to eat breakfast. So I just sat there in front of my locker staring at my teammates and the inspirational decorations that my coach did the night before. There was this large banner affixed to the wall. It said "No turning back." Somehow those three words stuck with me. I thought about my life, my work, my trials, my injuries, my successes and failures, my triumphs and defeats, and I realized that I had come too far to turn back. That first basketball practice was going to be another step, another journey I would begin, and I knew I would never turn back."
Gazette: Can you tell if it will be a big adjustment to a new, college system?
Patton: Oh yeah. When I went through the drills I made a lot of mistakes, missed some shots, and felt confused and overwhelmed at times. I was so serious, so nervous, so tense and so scared.
Gazette: Were you under a lot of pressure?
Patton: Well, no one else was putting the pressure on me. I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. In high school I always felt in control, and I never had to keep up. I was always way ahead of the game. But the level of intensity and the fast pace were difficult at first, but I knew that if I kept moving forward I could keep up.
Gazette: How did it feel to be one of the new kids on the block, considering you were such a high school hot-shot? What is it like to be a freshman joining a new team?
Patton: Humbling. During that first practice I felt what it was like to be a freshman all over again. In high school I was the only freshman on the basketball team my first year. I was the smallest so most people took advantage of me. Here, we go through rituals where have to get the balls, the water and the other equipment. But I look forward to taking advantage of that privilege next year!
Gazette: Any highlights of your basketball experience so far?
Patton: I think the best thing about this experience is being a part of a team that supports you and encourages you even when you mess up. Most of all I have been having fun. The other day I was jogging in the warm-up line and having a conversation with one of the captains. We had just gotten our new practice uniforms so we were looking spiffy and fitting into them. Suddenly, a rush of cool air hit me from the waistline down, and I realized that my shorts were down to my ankles. I tripped over them with my exposed underwear and legs showing. I had been pantsed by one of my teammates. Everyone laughed and held their shorts for the rest of the warm-up jog. It was fun. It's being part of a team.
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