I started playing basketball in the 7th grade.
I was approached at my Girl Scout graduation by my troop leader’s sister, Cathy Cranston, who was the girls basketball coach at the local elementary school, Immaculate Heart of Mary. I was a foot taller than my troop members and she clearly noticed. Coach Cathy asked me if I ever played basketball. I answered no. I was eager to try something new. I had a limited sports background, but thought my experience watching games with my dad, Trevor Scholar, would be enough.
Watching sports with my dad was our quality time together. He loved all sports. He followed the Giants, Yankees and his favorite college basketball team, the Georgetown Hoyas. Early on I knew nothing about sports, but was eager to spend time with my dad, who didn’t enter my life until I was nine years old. I was yearning to bond with him, so I cheered for his teams alongside him and occasionally was his bartender. On weekends, he would sit for hours in front of the tv and every so often ask me to retrieve a Budweiser from the fridge. I don’t know if I was more excited about the games or retrieving his adult beverage. He patiently explained the rules of each game to me. I had lots of questions…What’s a down? Why were they stealing bases? What’s a jump ball? He answered every question and we bonded.
Sharing his knowledge of sports was his contribution to my upbringing and it turned out to be one of the most influential. My mom, Lucia La-Force, was more interested in my modeling career. During the week she prepared me for pageants and focused on her dream of me becoming America’s Next Top Model. During the weekends, my dad worked with me on becoming an athlete.
Even though I was once second runner-up in the Miss Carribean USA Pageant, my passion was sports. I wasn’t really interested in becoming a model, although I did get several jobs as a runway model in New York City. I preferred wearing sneakers than heels. My interest and love for sports grew rapidly and I would soak up every bit of sports knowledge I got from my dad and Coach Cathy.
When I attended my first basketball practice I had no idea what to expect. I definitely was not dressed appropriately. I wore a pair of low-top running shoes, silk shorts and a pink shirt I received from one of my pageants. I thought I looked great until I saw what the other girls were wearing high-top basketball sneakers, basketball shorts and head-bands. I was clearly not prepared. After that practice my dad took me to the store and shopped for sports gear like I was the son he never had. He even purchased a bat, a glove and cleats. Yes..I went on to play softball as well. I guess he figured why stop at basketball. I struggled early on both sports. I had the athleticism and height, but not the talent and skill. That came along much later. I played basketball like a ballerina. I had a smile on my face the entire time like I was in a pageant. If it wasn’t for my shot blocking ability and defense I think I would have gotten discouraged. But I was resilient and wanted to make my Dad proud. I had a skill the team needed to win and I found my role.
When asked what number I wanted to wear on our game jersey I chose #14 because it was my mom’s birthday. I felt really torn between the pageants and sports, but my heart belonged on the basketball court. Wearing her number was my way of connecting her to my passion for sports. I was proud to wear #14. I continued to wear #14 throughout high school. My talent and skill grew as did my love for the game.
Since the junior high school I attended did not have a girls basketball team, in the 7th grade I was allowed to play for Coach Cathy at Immaculate Heart of Mary. Coach Cathy was a great coach. She was knowledgeable and patient. She made basketball fun and would often invite the team over her house for sleepovers. We all bonded. I was an only child and now had 10 sisters. We were extremely close and won a lot of games.
Coach Cathy was eventually offered the head coaching job at Bishop Kearney High in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, which was way across town. In an effort to keep our team together she asked our parents if they would consider sending us to Bishop Kearney. This was my first “recruiting experience.” The decision may have been an easy one for the other players, but I had to think about this decision thoroughly. Bishop Kearney was an all-white, all-girls school. Would I be the only black girl in the school? Would I fit in? Would I experience any racism? The principal of my junior high school, Sister Kathleen, suggested against it. She wanted me to attend St. Joseph’s in Brooklyn, a all-black Catholic high school. Most of the black girls from my school went on to St. Joseph’s. But I followed my coach and knew my team would help me make the adjustment to our new surroundings. In four years, not only was I a standout player on the team, but my classmates voted me class president my junior year and school president the following year as a senior. I graduated with honors in the classroom and developed a reputation of being a defensive force to reckon with on the court. I earned the interest of numerous Division I colleges and universities, including Columbia, Georgetowm, UConn and Providence. I chose to attend Georgetown University – my dad’s favorite school. I earned a full basketball scholarship and became a standout player in college. I was a member of Georgetown’s Big East Championship Team in 1993 and helped lead our team to the NCAA Sweet 16. I really believed wearing #14 was my good luck charm.
When my sons started to play sports I would make sure they wore #14. Just like I played sports to bond with my dad, my sons and I also bonded through our love of sports. We both used it as a form of communication and love.
Terance wore #14 throughout his outstanding college career at Florida State and currently wears #14 now as he begins his NBA career as an LA Clipper. I was so happy when he was given that number.
This number #14 brings my family to a full circle as it connects the love of my mother and the passion for sports my dad introduced me to.