March 12, 2004
By Elizabeth Schaeffer
The people of her past had already decided that Stephanie Singer would never join the ranks of a Division I basketball team. Several people told her that she wasn't good enough, and that she was better off playing for a junior college.
But the negative reinforcements constantly being fed were not enough to break Singer's spirit or her passion for the game.
"A lot of coaches doubted [whether I was able to play Division I basketball], and then I had the ones -- people that know me and my love for the game -- tell me I just had to work," Singer said.
As a senior at Marist High School in Eugene, Ore., Singer averaged 15.5 points, nine assists, and six steals per game. Her honors included, but were not limited to: First Team All-State and All-Sky-Em League, All-Oregon 3A Tournament First Team, Eugene Register-Guard Winter Player of the Year, and First Team All-State by the Oregonian.
Singer's transition to college basketball was a rocky road, and despite her big dreams, she often wondered where that road would take her.
After her final and less than desirable summer basketball tour, she almost fell victim to the lies of her skeptics. She had been seriously considering the junior college route and later transfer up to a Division I school.
That was until Sherri Murrell, the Washington State University Women's Basketball Head Coach, brought her quickly fading dreams back to life.
"Coach Murrell kind of grabbed me, and I was stuck on the school when I came for [an official] visit," Singer said. "I was shocked, and I knew that I wanted to come here."
Murrell took a different approach in dealing with her weaknesses than did her former skeptics. Singer was inspired by Murrell's comments on her play and she didn't find any objections following the suggestions of a coach who showed so much faith in her abilities.
"Coach told me I needed to get quicker and I needed to get stronger," Singer said. "So I got into the weight room and I did exactly that. Now I'll come out and challenge anyone to a foot race."
Considering the speed of her fellow point guard Jessica Perry, a challenge of this magnitude is not to be taken lightly. Singer has begun to own the confidence that Murrell has shown toward her.
"Now that I have that confidence, I can play my game out there [on the court]," Singer explained. "I am not being restricted and I am not as scared to make mistakes."
"She has deceptive speed," Murrell said of Singer. "She doesn't look very fast but I thought when we played against Arizona State and how she went by (Kylan) Loney and some of the other top point guards in our conference it showed that she has deceptive speed."
Murrell has also helped Singer settle into student life. Coaching Division I basketball is one more dream that Singer has clung to since high school. Again, guidance from Murrell has reinforced her desire to coach Division I athletes, and Murrell's advice was instrumental in her choosing to major in sports management.
"It was nice to have somebody help me get on the right track to what I want to do," Singer said.
Singer says her first option after college is to play in the Women's National Basketball Association, or to play professionally overseas. Her plans to coach will not fade, regardless of whether it comes directly after college, or after professional competition.
Singer began her freshman season hoping to contribute and focusing on her task as a student. She says her goals have changed tremendously since she began playing for the Cougars.
"I came in and wondered what I was doing here in the Pac-10," she said. "In college, everyone is faster, stronger, and smarter. Now that I've played I am so ready to take my game to a whole [new] level, and just keep doing it every year until I am unstoppable at the point guard."
Singer has learned much about basketball this season. Mostly, she has become more competitive, and has realized that in high school she had only adapted to the level of performance she was surrounded with.
"Stephanie has the ability to make other people around her better," Murrell said. "She sees the floor well and she makes good decisions. I thought one of the things that stood out was that she can score and at key times. I am very pleased with her progress."
That progress is reflected in the fact that Singer started 10 of the team's final 14 games. She concluded the season with three consecutive double-digit point efforts including a season-high 17 points in the 75-72 win over Arizona State, Feb. 28.
Singer has made a career out of accomplishing the impossible. She and her parents have always believed in accordance to their faith that with God nothing shall be impossible.
Singer likes the fact that she has proven a lot of people wrong and is learning how important leadership and relationship is as a point guard.
"She progressed really well," Murrell said of Singer's play throughout the season. "She had to learn by experience and she got a lot of experience. The fact that she got in the starting line-up showed what an impact she made on our team. Her play elevated our team."