Journey for the Jersey

Journey for the Jersey

Tyrell Walden-Martin

[media-credit name=”Caitlin Cryan/Chronicle” align=”alignright” width=”315″]Shahara (1)[/media-credit]

When all hope seems to be lost, Shahara Ingram finds comfort in faith and basketball.

She’s played basketball for as long as she can remember–until she had it taken away.

So she turned to her faith. She learned to rely on God. She kept one specific Psalm in mind: 27:14.

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say, on the Lord.”

And after waiting for three long years, she’s finally a member of the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team.

“I feel like leaning on God is what definitely helped me,” she said.

Ingram hails from Yonkers, New York, where she played point guard for Roosevelt High School.

“My high school team sucked. We had no shine… it was bad,” Ingram said. “We didn’t have much talent. It was only two of us and we scored all of the points.”

Despite being a high volume scorer, Ingram didn’t receive much interest from any colleges. She didn’t have enough exposure, she says. She lacked opportunities that most other athletes had, like playing AAU basketball or participating in recruiting camps.

“My high school coach should’ve put that in my face more,” Ingram said. “I feel like he should’ve introduced me to more because I didn’t really know much.”

After high school, Shahara never lost her passion for the game of basketball and decided she would try out for the Quinnipiac team during the fall of 2012, which was her freshman year.

“Just like any other eager young lady that wanted to have an opportunity to play for the basketball team, she did her homework and was figuring out where the tryouts were,” Tricia Fabbri, Quinnipiac women’s basketball head coach said.

On the Quinnipiac Athletics website, it lists all the sports at the university, the coaches with their contact information and the tryout dates. Women’s basketball doesn’t hold tryouts, the website says, yet that didn’t stop Shahara from contacting Fabbri and wanting a chance to go through the process.

“There is a form that every person who is interested in trying out for any sport has to fill out. You have to meet with NCAA compliance, meet with the trainers, meet with the coach and get signatures,” Fabbri said. “It takes a little bit of time and she was diligent. It showed the perseverance in her that this is what she wanted and that she was going to make it happen.”

After seeing how serious Ingram was, Fabbri decided to give her a tryout. Unfortunately, Shahara did not make the roster.

“We don’t have a spot for you this year, but if you want we will keep you on the practice squad,” Fabbri told Ingram.

It wasn’t exactly what Ingram wanted, but she would go on to make the most of it after Fabbri explained how important being a practice player was.

“It is huge in terms of preparation and challenging our players,” Fabbri said. “It is something that we recruit yearly to put together a practice squad that comes in and makes us better. That was Shahara’s introduction to the program, by being on the practice squad.”

It was also Ingram’s only way to stay close to the game that she loved.

Even though Ingram was a practice player, she had her own agenda.

“My whole mentality was to be a good practice player, show them my skills and talent and let it go from there,” Ingram said. “But I needed to work on a lot of different areas and that’s understandable, so I kept training behind the scenes.”

Ingram would even observe the drills in practice and add them to her own regimen. It was her own way of staying fit and keeping up with the team, since she could not be part of the roster and was mainly behind the scenes.

“It’s very humbling,” Ingram said. “It’s like you want to be out there, you say ‘I can do this, I should be out there.’ That’s what would be going through my mind.”

During her sophomore year, Ingram had to give up her role as a practice player because she did not have her physical in time. However, Fabbri allowed her to return as a team manager, a position that Ingram would hold for two seasons.

“For her sophomore and junior year she worked even harder behind the scenes,” Fabbri said. “Setting up the gym, setting up the clock, getting the water out, practice gear, whatever was needed behind the scenes. Loading up the bus with Gatorades, carrying bags and crutches through the airports, so many little details that are done on a daily basis that get done for years and years.”

“And she was doing it just because she wanted to be part of the team for two years.”

But being a team manager does not grant the same privileges as being a practice player. With being a team manager, Ingram didn’t get to compete against the team every day at practice. So she had to find another way to stay in shape.

Whenever she could, Ingram would go into the Mount Carmel fitness center and play pick-up with the boys in the gym. She credits some of her improvements to those times.

“I’ve always played with guys so that was the norm,” Ingram said. “But it definitely prepared me more. You know guys are just naturally faster, their first step is quicker, but because of it, I’m now stronger.”

Over the summer, Ingram kept working on her game. She played in the competitive Dyckman League in New York over the summer, where her team lost in the finals. But that loss wasn’t her focus. She was focused on developing her game for fall.

Coming into the school year, Ingram had one goal: to make the women’s basketball team. It was her senior year. She had one last shot.

“She came in the first week of school and had a long talk with assistant coach Mountain [MacGillivray],” Fabbri said. “Mountain came and told me that Shahara wants another crack at being on the roster.”

This put Fabbri in a bind. She could allow Shahara to try out and if she was good enough to make the team then she would join. But what if she didn’t perform well?

And if she did, what about the chemistry of the team? Would the girls accept Ingram as a teammate?

“For me, we sat and talked about it,” Fabbri said. “You have to think about the team you have coming back. You have 14 girls getting to know each other right off the bat and you have a great young lady in Shahara, who you have as a manager, so how does that stir the pot?”

After much deliberation with the other coaches, Fabbri decided to let Ingram get one more chance.

“She was unwavered in her opportunity to try out for the team. So we put her through the paces. We put her right in with the team,” Fabbri said.

Fabbri told Ingram that she would have a week to workout with the team. She would have her own temporary locker, but would not receive any team-issued apparel during the workouts.

Shahara accepted the challenge.

Less than a week into the workouts she had impressed the coaches, including Fabbri.

“I knew two or three days into her workouts with the team,” Fabbri said. “Seeing her out on the floor and getting some feedback from members on the team that I trust… I just let it play out naturally and I saw that it was going to work.”

“She earned it. It was not hard, if it was hard then it wasn’t going to happen.”

Fabbri had made the decision to run a team workout and at the end, present Ingram with her team-issued apparel, revealing that she made the team.

At the end of each practice, members of the women’s basketball team would gather in a circle to say “team” in unison. But on this day, Ingram saw something different. MacGillivray was walking over to her with team gear.

“Is this happening right now?” Ingram remembers thinking to herself.

“Shahara, welcome to the team,” Fabbri said.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnLRvXZ99FU[/youtube]

If you asked Ingram, she would tell you that transitioning from team manager to teammate will go off without a hitch.

“You have to become a good server before you can be a good leader,” Ingram said. “It’s humbling because like its just such a beautiful thing to learn to serve first and then to actually step on a platform.”

Fabbri expressed to Ingram that if she made the team, she would have to expect to never play a single minute. But Ingram has different thoughts on the idea of playing time this season.

“I just want to get on the court,” Ingram said. “So I have to continue to work hard behind the scenes and we will see what happens.”

Ingram expressed that it hasn’t quite hit her yet because it is still the preseason, but knows once the season starts it will feel real.

“She fits right in,” Fabbri said. “She is doing well out on the court, learning a ton and getting yelled at just like everyone else.”

And if Shahara Ingram ever graces Lender Court at the TD Bank Sports Center, the point guard will be donning No. 34.

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