Q&A With Khadijah Coakley

Jan. 5, 2005

BERKELEY, Calif. - Senior center Khadijah Coakley is enjoying her best year at Cal this season. The product of San Diego, Calif., is averaging 3.2 ppg and 2.5 rpg and is second on the team with eight blocks. As a junior, Coakley earned Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention. CalBears.com recently sat down with Coakley to discuss her improvement this year, her interests, academics, skipping the fifth grade and her plans for the future.

What is the big difference for you this season?
'During the summer and going into this year, I knew that there would be more of a leadership role for me. Losing Olga (Volkova) and the previous year losing some posts and us having two new younger posts coming in, I knew there was going to be some openings for playing time especially with me having been here the last three years. Working with the coaches and communicating with the coaches and my teammates, I tried to put myself in a position to get out on the court.'

How have you been able to overcome the frustration of limited playing time the first three years?
'There's definitely been times of ups and downs. The stronghold has been my teammates. They've helped keep me positive and driven. When Alisa (Lewis) was here, she definitely kept me focused. She was an inspiration for me to keep going. Even if I was feeling a certain way, I tried to stay positive and do the best that I could do. I tried to focus on self motivation and tried to concentrate on basketball and the focus of the team rather than just myself and what was going on with me personally.'

What do you try to bring the team every time you step on the court?
'Stepping on the court, it's important for me to bring energy to the team, to bring a defensive edge and rebounding. Those are my strengths as a player. When I'm able to communicate with my teammates, and they are able to generate communication on the court, it intensifies the play and allows them to become more energetic and more enthusiastic.'

How did you get to be such a good jumper?
'I think it's just athletic ability. I never lifted weights in high school. My mom was pretty athletic when she was young. I think having a nose for the ball and knowing where to go and having a good sense of anticipation (for a rebound) is important. I've always liked to rebound because I have a good anticipation for it.'

Where does your reputation on the team for being 'the thinker' stem from?
'When people get to know me, they understand that I'm a very academically-focused person. Not only being a good basketball player but being a well-rounded person both culturally and intellectually is very important to me. I like to stimulate myself all the time, whether it be reading books, newspapers, articles, learning about different cultures, everything in that sense. A lot of different things interest me. I'm very into school and what's going on in the business world, technology and the things that are around me. People might think of me as a thinker or someone who is very academically sound or in tune. That stems directly from my parents. They've both pushed that very hard. That's one of the reasons I'm here at Cal.'

Any other interests?
'I'm very interested in music, business and economics as I'm an econ major. I'm always interested in what's going on in the financial markets and around me. I love movies. I go to movies all of the time. Cinema, film, music, art. I love to go to museums to check out art. A lot of times when you're in school and in the daily grind and you're working, everything kind of passes you by and you forget that there's all of these cool and different things out there. I try to take the time and find those things.'

You came to Cal when you were 17. Did you skip a grade?
'I skipped the fifth grade. When I was younger, I was in different educational programs for students who display above average talent. I was in combination classes up until the fourth grade. In combination classes, you would have first and second-grade students and third and fourth-grade students. I was never in one actual grade. Going into the fourth grade, they talked about possibly skipping me up to the sixth grade. I was doing well, and I was tall. There were no issues as to whether I would fit in with higher classmates. I took the fifth-grade proficiency test and passed it with flying colors.'

What are your plans after graduation?
'Very much up in the air. I'm the type of person who is very future oriented. I sometimes plan things out too much. Coming into Cal, I wanted to do a joint law and business program at Columbia. Two uncles went to Columbia, and I've heard very good things about the university. I always wanted to pursue graduate studies there. I changed my major from a mass communication emphasis to econ and business. I did a few internships during the last two summers (SBC, Wells Fargo), and it seemed like the skills that a business major and computer science classes provide you with would be much more practical and transferable to the job market. After this year, I would like to get a good summer internship, be offered a job hopefully. I'll still be at Cal next year because I have three more classes to take. I would like to spread it out for the year because I'd like to do a business and economics program in Holland. I haven't been able to do it before because I'm a scholarship athlete.'

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