By I'mani Davis
My journey at Tennessee State was filled with many ups and downs to say the least. Each and every year brought forth new challenges and obstacles.
But I pushed through until the end and I think that says a lot about my character.
I will never forget my freshman year when myself, Diamond Beatty and Jayda Johnson were on the basketball court talking about how excited we were to be playing college basketball and how we were ecstatic to be a part of a group of seven freshmen!
At the time, we came up with a few names to call ourselves; 'Fantastic 7', 'Magnificent 7' and I even think we came up with 'The Fab 7'. Looking back, that was so corny, but we were so excited and thrilled!
Then someone comes over and says to us "you know all seven of you freshmen aren't going to make it to senior night right?" At the time, we laughed it off and just thought she was “hating”.
But little did we know, she was right.
Fast forward to November 8, 2013.
This was the day I played my first college game vs K-State. We lost. By about 30 points or so, but it was a great experience. I didn't know that was pretty much how the rest of our season was going to go.
We won some, but lost more.
Freshman year was tough. We were a good team but we weren't good enough. We beat teams but we lost to teams we should have beat.
At times, I felt like I underperformed; other times I had great performances. I know I was only a freshman, but I held myself to high expectations and I did not like using the excuse of 'I'm just a freshman'.
It was tough and I had a lot of learning to do.
It was tough adjusting to life not being at home, it was tough adjusting to this new speed of basketball. I wasn't in high school anymore, I was in college. I was playing with grown women and I was just this little freshman with a lot of potential from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
After a long season, my freshman year was over faster than I could remember. We made the playoffs but lost in the first round. Shortly after the loss, two out of the seven freshman transferred to different schools.
We were down to five.
Myself and the remaining freshmen, soon to be sophomores, were starting to realize what the college game was about.
Everyone doesn't make it. Everyone isn't meant to make it.
We were truly starting to understand what people meant when they said "basketball is a business and the ones who don't want to work won't make it".
So here I am.
It is the start of my sophomore year, which had to be the best year ever. There was drama, but we overcame the drama to accomplish a great feat.
We came together to win the OVC championship and go to the NCAA tournament. Prior to our championship in the 2014 -15 season, TSU women's basketball had not won the OVC in 20 years. So long in fact, that a player on the team that year, Briana Morrow… her mother was on the last championship team that won 20 years prior!
This was also the same year I won the OVC in high jump, as well as a team championship with the Tigerbelles!
I really did it! I won two rings in one year and made school history by becoming the first athlete to win two championships in the same year, in two different sports.
This was one of the happiest times in my life, let alone my time at TSU up to that point. I enjoyed every moment.
By the end of my sophomore year, the 'Fantastic 7' was down to three.
Junior year is here. I'm not an underclassman anymore and I'm expected to make less mistakes and step up as leader.
We were the reigning champs and had a lot of expectations.
But we also graduated four seniors... Three of them who were starters. This year was like trying not to fall off, but we also knew we weren't the same team from the year before.
I had to step up. I had to rise to the forefront and be everything my team needed and more. And I tried my very best.
I'm a very hard critic. Especially of myself. People are always watching but it seems as though they don't miss a thing when you're not playing well or have a bad game.
I heard all the critics. I am very confident in who I am and what I can do. I tried not to pay any attention to it but for some reason, it was getting to me.
"She can't shoot that good. She can't dribble. She's not strong"
I was putting in the work… I was in the gym so I knew what I could do but it seemed liked it just wasn't showing all the time... And it irritated me.
I JUST WANTED TO WIN. Win together, lose together. Even though I had to perform well and do my part it wasn't just about me. Never was and never will be. So I never got too caught up in the scoring to the point where I was like "it's all about me. As long as I score and get mine".
I'm so selfless. I'd rather the team have success than it just be all about me.
Junior year was absolutely trying.
But finally, my senior year has arrived!
I wanted to go out my senior year the way my former teammates Rachel Allen, Chelsea Hudson, Briana Morrow, and LaTeasha Hill went out.
WITH A BANG!
I wanted to win another ring.
And I believed we really could have. But I don't think the whole collective unit believed.
We didn’t make the playoffs.
I was embarrassed. What was supposed to be a good season was not.
For a couple weeks after the season, I was upset. Like many other college athletes, watching the tournament games on TV just irritated me.
Because all I could do was watch. Watch and think to myself "we should be here". But we didn't handle business. It's as simple as that....So I had to move on.
It's been a little over four months since I played my last game for Tennessee State.
Since then, I have graduated and I feel very blessed that I was able to be a STUDENT ATHLETE and earn my degree because that is most important.
I can't do anything but thank Tennessee State University because throughout my four years, I often asked myself "why am I here?" "Why did GOD bring me to this school and put me through all of this?" and the answer is simple.
HE WAS PREPARING ME.
There was a point that I wanted to transfer and give up. But he kept me here. He kept me here even when it seemed as though things weren't getting any easier.
He kept me here even through the blood, sweat, tears, and PAIN. Because He knew I could handle it. He used me, shaped me and molded me into the women I am today and I am stronger because of it.
And now, as I prepare to go overseas and play professional basketball I KNOW there isn't a thing that can ever make me feel like I can't handle the pressure.
I have worked hard to get where I am today. But I am still working hard to become even better.
So as I look back to my freshman year when I was told "all of you freshman aren't going to make it"....it puts no doubt in my mind that I ended up where I was supposed to.
Because I did make it.
Out of seven, I was one of the last two to finish the race.
Who knows where basketball will take me, but wherever I end up, I know I am ready.
BECAUSE I AM BUILT FOR THIS