Luana Coloma brings her game to a new level

Jan. 10, 2002

Luana Coloma couldn't stand to be away from the hardwood any longer.

After reluctantly assuming the role of spectator as a freshman while she adjusted to college life, Coloma knew that prior to her sophomore year she needed be a part of the Cal women's basketball team, no matter what it took.

It took some sacrifice-she gave up playing lacrosse-a positive attitude and a lot of hard work. Not being recruited to play for the Golden Bears meant she would have to prove her talent in an open tryout and hope for a cherished walk-on roster spot.

Turns out, the lacrosse sacrifice wasn't that significant, Coloma's positive outlook became contagious and the high school basketball standout used her skills developed at the scholastic level to impress first-year Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer.

'I walked onto the lacrosse team my freshman year but it wasn't for me,' the 5-foot-6 guard said. 'I had never played before so I thought I'd give it a try. But then I wondered why I was playing a sport that I didn't care about when I could be playing one that I'd been playing my entire life.'

Now a junior academically, Coloma is in her second full season as a Bear and has high expectations for this team. They include advancing to the NCAA Tournament and beating Stanford. But not necessarily in that order.

Coloma attended Middletown High School in Cobb Mountain, Calif., a small town about two hours north of the Bay Area, where she played tennis, volleyball and of course, basketball. During her senior season Coloma averaged 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists per game en route to earning team MVP honors.

Coming from the 400-student Middletown High in rural Lake County to the 31,000-student Cal in decidedly urban Berkeley proved quite an eye-opening experience for Coloma. 'Some classes here had more students than my entire high school did,' she said.

Class size wasn't the only difference. As her high school's valedictorian, Coloma knew about good grades, but soon learned that A's didn't come as easily in college. Even more, without a live-in mother, she now had to schedule time for tasks such as laundry and cooking dinner.

And on the basketball court, the game itself seemed monumentally grander than anything Coloma had experienced in high school.

'The band, the whole atmosphere was unbelievable,' she said of her first foray into Division I college basketball. 'In high school our parents would be there and we'd talk a few other people into going, but it was nothing like walking into Haas. I remember thinking, 'I can't believe I'm on the Cal women's basketball team'.'

Coloma saw limited playing time her first season as a sophomore, only seeing action in three games all season. But that didn't mean she wasn't an ever-present figure on the court. In fact, Coloma's perfectly happy deferring personal gratification if it means providing the team with a better chance at winning.

'My attitude about things is a little different,' she said. 'I may not play a lot of minutes, but I know that every day in practice I give everything I can for the team. If someone's better than me, it's better for them to go in than for me to go in just so I can play a few minutes.'

That attitude, along with unwavering support of her team, earned Coloma the co-most inspirational player award (with former Bear Becky Staubes) last year, which was voted on by the team.

'As someone who doesn't get as much playing time, you want to know that what you're doing on the bench and off the court is important,' she said. '(The award) made me realize that everything I am doing is making a difference.'

Majoring in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on child development, Coloma is building her own curriculum that includes classes in sociology, psychology and education. This is after starting pre-med at Cal, but deciding during a difficult freshman year that she didn't want to enroll in another science class.

Coloma's future plans are still murky-she's only a junior-but definitely include two things: 'I know I want to travel and I want to work with kids,' she said.

That could lead her to Italy, which is a place she fell in love with after a high school visit, or to graduate school for a teaching credential that would allow her the opportunity to 'teach elementary school while thinking about what I want to do,' Coloma said.

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