caption: Nikki Stevens (#20) playing post during a high school game. Photo courtesy of Nikki Stevens
From not having much playing time in high school, to now being a part of one of the most prestigious women’s basketball teams in the state, Nikki Stevens is now living an unexpected dream. Describing her high school career as a learning experience, Stevens is now ready to learn some more from the woman who was her deciding factor in choosing MSU, Karin Harvey.
Playing basketball in college was never a set plan for the freshman. She did not scout out schools based on their teams, statistics, or school mascot. Stevens knew that she would only play basketball if she came to Montclair and got to play under Harvey. After a tour, and seeing the school, which she describes as amazing, she found a love for the Women’s team and the coach. When asked if it was an easy choice, Stevens had no hesitation in answering, “Definitely an easy choice. I knew right when I met Coach Harvey that I wanted to play for her.”
It hasn’t been an easy transition for the college freshman though. During her Manasquan High School career, due to her being one of the taller players, Stevens always played the post (also referred to as the number 5.) That was all she knew during her time playing, it was unlikely and rare that she would play any different position.
Things are different now for the former post. During practices, she is finding herself playing every position but 5. “Everything I’m doing right now is 100% new to me,” Stevens said when asked about the skills she plans on bring to the team this upcoming season. Stevens is finding it hard for herself to perfect one of her new positions, the 3-point shooter. “It’s so new to me, I just get frustrated,” Stevens said.
When talking about the position she mentions Katie Sire, a senior on the team who has developed great 3-point shooting skills. Stevens often uses Sire as a role model when trying to perfect the position. When asked about Stevens, Sire said, “She reminds me of myself when I was a freshman. I couldn’t shoot the 3-point either, but she works really hard. I think she sees where I am now as her end point.”
A unique aspect of friendship that this team offers, is a basketball version of the typical sorority “big & little.” Stevens big is senior Taylor Harmon, and she credits her with helping her work out, and calming her down when she is hit with the frustration of the 3-point shot. “Nikki and I are super close, we spend our days talking to each other,” Harmon said “ Even if we’re not with each other we are always texting or Snapchatting.”
That support from Sire, and the entire team is what helps motivate the freshman player. Stevens says that the friendship with her teammates is a friendship that she never had before. Stevens talks about the team’s bond more as if they are family rather than friends. “If I see them on campus it’s kind of like seeing a family member, I just get really excited.”
It’s a mutual feeling between Stevens and her teammates. “She never fails to make me laugh, she’s the funniest person.,” said Senior Kate Tobie. Compare this to her high school experiences and it is totally different. She went from barely knowing the names of teammates then, to now having a family that communicates and practices with each other every day.
With a team that is so young and an entirely new program, Stevens can feel the nerves start to 3-point shoot their way into her head. But with a team behind her that is more of a supportive family, she should have nothing to worry about.
Montclair State | New Jersey