Picture is going to venture into where some former East Bay Athletic League athletes are now -- be it in college athletics, the professional ranks or even the business world.
I recently had a chance to talk with former Amador Valley High girls’ basketball player Isabella Mauricio, now playing as a freshman for Brown University.
Mauricio had an accomplished high school career, earning All-EBAL honors in leading the Dons to three EBAL Valley division titles. In her junior year, Mauricio averaged 21.1 points and game and shot an amazing 44 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
In my 35 years of covering high school basketball in the Tri-Valley, Mauricio is easily in the top 10 girls’ players I had the honor to watch.
But due to the COVID pandemic times, colleges were slow to act when it came to recruiting and Mauricio was unsure where she was going to play in college.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen with college,” said Mauricio. “I was thinking D-III – I just didn’t get a lot of exposure because of COVID.”
In fact, only one D-I school showed interest –- Brown. Mauricio visited the Ivy League school during her sophomore year but wasn’t sold on going from California to Rhode Island.
“I didn’t think I would come here,” said Mauricio not knowing everything would change in the next two years.
Even though COVID hindered her exposure, Mauricio embraced the time to work hard on her game.
“It gave me a chance to be in the gym and workout,” said Mauricio. “My dad built a little court for me, and I trained hard.”
Videos of these workouts sold Brown and first-year coach Monique LeBlanc.
“Brown recruited me off those training videos,” explained Mauricio.
It was a win-win for both. Mauricio got her chance to play D-I ball and get a top-notch education.
“I got the best of both worlds,” said Mauricio. “I always felt I could play Division I.”
Following COVID-shortened senior season and graduation from Amador, off went Mauricio to Providence, Rhode Island.
As is the case for any high school athlete, there’s an adjustment period when moving on to the next level. When it is an Ivy League school, especially on the academic side, the adjustment is greatly intensified.
“The first few weeks I was exhausted,” said Mauricio.
Just the task of selecting classes was nearly overwhelming but Mauricio relied on her new teammates for help.
“The upper-classmen were so helpful,” said Mauricio. “I wouldn’t have known what to take. They were huge in helping me. We also have a lot of academic support.”
With her classes set, Mauricio turned to the hardcourt and proving she belongs – and has she ever.
Though the Bears have gotten out to a rough start (5-13 overall and 0-6) in Ivy League play, Mauricio has made an impact. The 5-foot, 4-inch player has started in all 18 games, and has averaged 32 minutes a game, second best on the team.
Mauricio is averaging 13.7 points a game, leading the team in scoring. She is also hitting 34 percent of her 3-point attempts.
“I feel so fortunate to be getting so much time on the floor as a freshman,” said Mauricio. “I have friends at other schools that hardly seeing any time.”
I had a chance to catch her game on ESPN+ -- all Brown games are streamed on the network – against Cornell, and the Bears started four sophomores and Mauricio, so the future appears bright.
In fact, none of the starters for Brown in their first game of the season had any college playing experience due to either COVID, which canceled last season, or because they are freshmen.
Mauricio finished with a career-high 24 points and kept Brown in the game, but they fell 61-55 to Cornell.
It’s been hard work that has gotten her to where she is, but there were adjustments for Mauricio when Brown started with “open gym” the second week of school.
“Size – definitely the size,” said the Mauricio of adjusting to playing with and against bigger players. “I had to learn to work out harder every day. There are high standards for everything.”
Something else new to Mauricio is how much support students at Brown give their athletic teams, or rather lack of support.
“It’s definitely not like Alabama football,” said Mauricio with a laugh, then pointed out that community support is good. “The athletes all support each other, and we will occasionally get a professor that wants to see what we are doing.”
You don’t get to be a D-I basketball player and Ivy League student without discipline. Just managing her daily schedule is impressive.
Up at 7 a.m. each day, Mauricio’s in the gym by 8 a.m., followed by lifting and then class time. Lunch comes around 12:30 p.m., then more class time. Up next is 2-3 hours of practice, with dinner around 7:30 p.m.
After that it’s time to hit the books until lights out at 10:30 p.m. What about breakfast?
“I eat breakfast sometimes,” said Mauricio with another laugh. “It could just be a protein bar on the run.”
While Mauricio is living her dream, at the end of the day, she is still a long way from California.
“I miss my family and my support system,” said Mauricio. “I miss home – I miss the weather. But there is basketball, which I live for.”
The weather? Just a slight difference.
“It’s so cold out here,” said Mauricio. “It’s like 5-7 degrees – it chills you to the core. I wear three layers of clothes out here.”
Then there’s tradeoff of fall in New England.
“The leaves are so pretty in the fall,” said Mauricio.