By Atara Shields
Faatimah A’s dream that she’s had since first playing on a basketball team in Grade 5 is coming true.
Less than three months after graduating from Ryerson University with a psychology degree and playing her final game for the Rams, the five-foot-four point guard has signed her first professional contract overseas.
“I’ve worked really hard for this,” A, 25, told the Eyeopener over the phone Thursday. “I’m just glad that I have the opportunity to go out and show what I’ve got.”
The talented guard will play with the Santiago de Maria basketball club in El Salvador for two-and-a-half months, an opportunity she describes as “getting my foot in the door.”
“This is me showing what I have and trying to be a leader in one of the categories,” she said. “Whether it be points, assists … It doesn’t matter. Just that I’m leading in something so that when I do run for another team, they could see what I could offer them.”
— Faatimah A (@fatti416) September 14, 2017
Following the stint in El Salvador, A is hoping to join a league in Europe that begins in February.
“Faatimah is an incredibly hard worker who just loves the game of basketball. She puts a lot of time, energy and passion into it and brought everything she had to the court,” said Rams head coach Carly Clarke of her former point-guard. “She was very determined to continue to play … and there was no question to me that that was going to happen.”
In A’s senior year, she played a career-high 10 minutes per contest over 14 games after missing significant time with injury woes.
In the games she did play, A averaged over three points per game, but at that time, she knew that “it wasn’t 100% at what [her] body can do.”
Bronwyn Williams, a forward with the Rams who played one season with A, said her former teammate’s work ethic, leadership, grit and energy were admirable traits for any athlete.
“She really took me in as a rookie,” Williams said. “I’m definitely so proud to see what she’s accomplished and it’s just been so awesome to see her grow and succeed.”
Heading home to California after graduation, A began playing with the professional club team Oakland Rise, part of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL). The Blue Chip League has 51 teams across the U.S., making it the largest professional women’s basketball league in the country. A described it as “the D-league of the WNBA” since players returning from overseas play in this league along with former WNBA players.
“It gave me a pretty good insight into what level of a player I need to be playing at in order to get a contract overseas,” she said.
A becomes the fourth former member of Ryerson’s women’s basketball team to sign professionally overseas during Clarke’s five-year tenure at Ryerson, joining Silvana (Siki) Jez, Mariah Nunes and Kellie Ring, all three of whom signed in Europe.
“We’ve created a culture where a lot of our athletes now have the passion and desire to continue playing and explore the opportunity to play pro once they finish their eligibility or graduate,” said Clarke.
A said she’s grateful for the opportunity that Ryerson gave her to continue her collegiate playing career and that she knows more of her former teammates and future Rams players can play professionally, too.
“If you have a dream never give up on it. Just keep pushing forward,” she said.
“You just have to believe in yourself and just stay mentally strong through the process because you don’t know how close you are to accomplishing your goals.”