Many athletes wish to pursue the sport they love and play at the collegiate level. For some, this is easy, while for others the process of pursuing a collegiate sport may be a bit more difficult or even impossible.
Messiah women’s basketball player, Claudia Mingora, was one of these people. She thought her dream of playing college basketball at Messiah was impossible to reach because of falling behind in the recruiting process.
Mingora attended York Suburban High School where she was a member of the girls basketball team as well as the volleyball team. She had a passion for the game of basketball since she started playing in third grade.
Mingora was a member of the junior varsity squad throughout high school, until her senior season where she started, played in every game and was a big contributor to her team as a point guard. Mingora had a great senior season and said to herself, “Maybe I could do this in college and it doesn’t have to end here.”
Mingora connected with Messiah women’s basketball head coach, Mike Miller, in March at Accepted Student Preview Day to see if there were any opportunities for her to play for the Falcons. Unfortunately, Mingora was “late in the game” with the recruiting process—there were six freshmen coming in and no open spots on the team.
However, two weeks before she moved to Messiah as a first-year student, Mingora received an unexpected email from Coach Miller asking her if she was still interested in playing basketball. Without hesitation, Mingora responded “yes.”
Miller explained to Mingora the idea of the developmental team—a team that operates like JV in order to give some players the experience they may not receive in regular games.
“My reaction to this was just tears. I went up to my mom right away and asked how this was even happening right now,” Mingora says. She understood and accepted her role, but that role would not stop her from impacting the team as much as she could.
“She brings a work ethic that a lot of people don’t have and for her to come in knowing she won’t play in any games and for her to work as hard or harder than most people on the court was honestly inspiring,” says teammate Kaitlyn Hoff.
“I was just grateful to be a part of the team, and I was willing to accept my role. I would even be a manager because I just wanted to do anything,” says Mingora.
It took time for Mingora to adjust to the team, but the girls were there to welcome her. “I felt for Claudia, and it was really hard at the beginning for her to come into a class of six girls who all already knew each other and the rest of the team. At first, there was a big disconnect, but everyone tried to incorporate her and make her feel a part of things because she is a big part of things,” says Hoff.
Mingora attended every practice, team activity and regular-season game, knowing she wouldn’t have the chance to step on the court that season. However, over two months into the season, Miller made an unexpected announcement in the locker room: “Because of her work ethic and who she is as a person and we love having her here. We wouldn’t be the same program without her and because of that she gets to dress from now on.”
“She was a visible sign that you can’t take anything for granted. It makes people see that you can’t take it for granted that you have a uniform at Messiah College,” says Miller. “She embodies everything about this program. She works hard, has a very servant heart and it was just right, and she needed to be rewarded.”
Mingora played the last few minutes of a recent game against Lycoming College and hit a jump shot to secure her first college points. While the bench went crazy with joy, Mingora smiled from ear to ear. Her first college points are just the beginning of an ongoing opportunity she embraced from the start.