Unselfishness key for women’s basketball success

Point guard vital in best season ever


Tam V. Duong Jr.

Photo by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Veronica Sanchez,

Shannon Bland, a Cal State East Bay senior, fell in love with basketball at a young age.

“I remember playing on those short basketball hoops when I was in second grade,” she said. “That’s where it all started.”

Bland is shooting guard on the CSUEB women’s basketball team, which just had a phenomenal season. They advanced to the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in Stockton on March 1, where they won and advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regionals, where they lost in the first round in Azusa on March 11. No previous East Bay athletic team had ever accomplished this in the school’s history.

Sports have always played a crucial role in Bland’s life. It helped her find a competitive drive at the age of seven that has stayed with her. She and her older sister would play around one minute and fight the next because they were both so competitive.

Basketball was the one sport that stood out to her because she admired and appreciated everything it brought to the table. It takes athleticism and agility to play the sport, but it can also be rough and physical, which made it more appealing than other sports. Her older sister played the sport and Bland wanted to follow in her footsteps.

“I leaned more towards pursuing basketball because it has an element the other sports I played don’t provide,” said Bland.

What was that element? Contact. She tried other sports like track and field, but craved the aggressive atmosphere and contact that comes with basketball. “When I say the aggression and physicality of the sport was more my style because it was the only contact sport I played in high school and I liked having that challenge added to the sport,” Bland said.

So what made the women’s basketball team so good this season? According to Bland, diversity. “We have overall great players,” said Bland. “We have girls who can shoot the ball, defend and are very intelligent when running and recognizing plays. Our team can do it all.”

Other teams who face the Pioneers don’t have to worry about one or two standout players, instead they have to worry about the whole team because they have so many players who know how to play the game at a high level. Also, they all want to see each other succeed.

“We play for each other,” said Bland. “We’re not selfish players and we don’t care who scores or gets the glory as long as we win the game.”

On a normal day, the team practices for about two hours, but they basically go there whenever they can get access to the gym, said Bland. They usually start off with individual work like footwork, free throws and game situation shots. From then, they move on to four-on-four defensive work. They end their practices with five-on-five games where they focus on offensive and defensive plays.

Before game-time, the team gathers in the locker room to do their cheer, which helps them get ready for the game mentally and in a winning mindset. “It pumps us up and we feel ready to play,” said Bland. “The cheer becomes a trigger for us to know its time to step on the floor and the only thing that matters is walking off the court with a win. It’s difficult to explain what we do, however we just get together say our goals and then have our “cheer” then ate on the floor.”

The Pioneers’ historic season came to an end on March 11 when they lost 74-59 to UC San Diego in the first round of the regional tournament. Now that Bland is done playing competitive basketball, she faces a new journey ahead of her.

Bland will graduate in the spring of with a major in biochemistry. She plans to attend dental school at the University of Washington.

Throughout her experiences and career in basketball, Bland has learned many things, but the biggest life lesson she learned from basketball is respect.

“I learned that everyone is different and that every person has their own opinion,” said Bland. “I learned that it was okay if their opinion was different than mine. I had to learn to be open to it and that was a challenge that I had to overcome.”