Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament Feature: Making Basketball Uncomplicated
Feb. 18, 2010
By Lara Boyko
The first in a series of features leading into the 2010 State Farm Women's Basketball Tournament, California's freshman F/C DeNesha Stallworth talks about how she started playing basketball, why she chose Cal and what adjustments she has had to make on and off the court since arriving on campus. Stallworth has started every game for the Golden Bears, averaging 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. She is one of a number of underclassmen in the Pac-10 who are making an impact.
Basketball is a pretty simple game of fundamentals. From defensive stances to rebounding, scoring and just making life for the opponent uncomfortable for two halves, there isn't anything terribly complex about the game.
However, if you are 6-foot-3 freshman forward/center DeNesha Stallworth at the University of California in Berkeley, basketball hasn't always been this simple.
'I'm not your typical kid who had a basketball in my hands since I was three,' said Stallworth, who is from nearby Richmond, Calif. 'I didn't start playing until I was 7-years old. In the spring, my dad was looking through the newspaper and saw an ad about a tryout when he called me from my room and asked me if I wanted to try out for the team. I said `why not. Sounds like it would be fun to go play basketball since I am tall.' I went and made the `A' team. Then in eighth grade, I started to take it more seriously and started to get better.
'At first basketball was complicated and hard. I had no idea what I was doing, what traveling was or how to shoot the ball. I was horrible. The coaches worked with me which really helped me to get better.'
Making basketball uncomplicated has helped Stallworth a lot. After being ranked the No. 12 prospect in the country last year by The Blue Star Report, Stallworth has continued to shine in her first year in the Pac-10. This late bloomer is ranked 20th in scoring in the Conference with 11.4 points per game, and 19th in rebounding with 5.4 rebounds per game.
While basketball may have been complex in the beginning, it has helped her make some simple choices.
'I liked the coaches and felt like they had the best interest in me,' said Stallworth on her decision to play at Cal. 'It wasn't just all about basketball as coach [Joanne] Boyle cares about you both on and off the court. You need that because when you are away from home, you can't always think about basketball. You need to have folks who you can talk to about anything. Also, the academics here are great. I like the diverse environment here.'
Even with as easy as Stallworth is making it look game after game, she recognized early on in this first season at the Division I level that it takes a lot of work.
'My reality check of playing at this level came during the Texas A&M game (December 6),' said Stallworth. 'It was a fast-paced game. When you look at it from off the court, you think you can play with these girls, but it's really fast out there and you have to be in good shape.'
'Expecting to be good every night is tough. I need to work on being consistent and giving it my all. It is intimidating and hard at times to know I have a lot on my plate during every game, but I am up for the challenge.'
Just like how her
learning curve of taking care of the fundamentals on the court is going well, Stallworth's learning curve of how to handle life off the court also seems to be under control.
'College is so complicated,' said Stallworth. 'You think that in college you don't have to do that much work, but we have study hall every day! Without study hall I don't know where I would be.'
'I go home probably once every three weeks to once a month, but I am always so busy as there is always something to do for my classes. I never have time to just go home to relax. I always have to read or something.'
Every once in a while, when the complications of basketball and school seem to be too much, there are a few ways to make everything okay.
'For road trips, you should get a lot of rest and always make sure you are ready to get into it,' said Stallworth. 'If you do that you will be fine. I don't have any lucky charms, but I make it a point to talk to my dad before every single game. He is like my coach on the sidelines.'
'If I had to pick something to indulge in, it would be eating at McDonald's. That something I treat myself to every once in a while.'