Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-When Shauqunna Collins was a little girl, she battled her 6-3 older brother in grueling, one-on-one matchups. A decade later, those physical games that left her black-and blue, served its purpose and helped land her in a dream scenario.
The sophomore guard, who transferred to Garden City from Jackson Community College, signed a national letter-of-intent to play basketball next fall at Fresno State University. It’s Something even the supposedly vertically challenged Collins was told would never happen.
“When I was in eighth grade, my coach told me I would never play high school basketball,” she said. “I was told I wouldn’t even make the freshman team. He was right because I made varsity.”
The latter statement was pronounced with a such a feverish grin, that all the doubters that saw the 5’4 Collins as no more than a pushover and not a Division-I prospect, could only bow their heads.
“I’ve always been motivated,” Collins said. “My brother picked on me a lot. But it taught me to put a little english on the ball.”
If you didn’t get a chance to watch Collins play, you missed the 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game that landed her second-team All-Jayhawk honors.
“People that saw her play know she was without a doubt the best point guard in the conference,” Busters Head Coach Nick Salazar said. “With that, she was probably the third or fourth best player in the Jayhawk.”
Still schools weren’t beating down her door. There was Robert Morris, a small D-I who’s known more for it’s men’s team that knocked off Kentucky in the first round of the NIT two years ago. Then there was Northern Colorado, and though she didn’t sign there, the connection sure helped.
Bulldogs Head Coach Jaimie White is the former Bears Head Coach. And during her time in Greeley, she pursued Collins. The problem was the school couldn’t offer the point guard a scholarship. So when White headed west and needed a No. 1, she knew exactly where to go to find one.
Chinasa Ekweariri’s path to the Division-I ranks has been a little more trying than most.
The sophomore middle was told her career could be over after tearing her ACL back in high school. But she fought through that and continued playing. Then during her freshman season at Garden City Community College, Ekweariri was lost for the season after just eight matches.
“I told myself I wasn’t finished,” she said. “I was going to keep going.”
And that she did, having one of her bests seasons under first-year Head Coach Harvey Sanders.
“She was definitely our most improved player this past year,” Sanders said. “She came back pretty strong.”
But before Ekweariri could return to the floor, she had to learn the basics of staying healthy.
“He (Coach Sanders) taught me things to reduce injury,” she said. “I accepted that, and it really helped me.”
And although Garden City won only five matches last season, it gave the sophomore a chance to resurrect her career.
“I didn’t have any film from my freshman season,” she said. “So once this past season wrapped up, I had something to show coaches.”
The coach that took a chance was Venessa Jacobs at Southern University.
“She (Jacobs) wasn’t scared off from a girl wearing two ACL braces,” Ekweariri said. “That made my decision much easier.”