With only a few weeks remaining until she makes her debut with the women’s basketball team, junior guard Fatima Maddox is calmly awaiting the moment when coach Dawn Staley calls her number, because it has been nearly a year since she last got the call.
A transfer from New Mexico, Maddox said deciding to leave a place she called home for a year and a half was one of the toughest decisions she ever made.
“I had so many friendships in New Mexico, and with it being close to home, it was hard to leave,” said Maddox, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native. “But adapting has been easy for me, thanks to the support from the team.”
Yet leaving was virtually the only option for Maddox, she said. After New Mexico’s game with San Diego last Dec. 11, Maddox quit the team after being benched by coach Don Flanagan. The coach said Maddox lost her starting spot because of “her attitude and effort the two practices prior to the game,” according to the Daily Lobo, the University of New Mexico’s student newspaper.
Maddox said she was treated differently than the non-black players on the team by Flanagan. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People got involved in the dispute, Maddox said she knew it was time to depart.
After the Owls’ 58-55 loss to Florida on Saturday, Maddox cited Staley as one of the main reasons for choosing Temple as the place to recreate herself.
“I wanted to start over,” Maddox said. “Where else would I [better] be able to learn and get insight about the point guard position than from Dawn Staley?”
Maddox will be a huge boost upon returning to the court, Staley said after the Owls’ win at Penn on Nov. 22.
“We need Fatima and we need her game experience,” Staley said. “We can’t wait. If you’re scouting us for these first nine games … we’re going to be a different basketball team when she gets to play.”
Due to NCAA Division I transfer rules, Maddox is not eligible until Jan. 1, 2006.
A freshman starting point guard and key contributor to the Lobos’ 2003-04 NCAA Tournament team, Maddox should be able to find a role on a team whose biggest weakness is the lack of consistent play from the point guard position.
Against Florida, the Owls had 26 turnovers as a team, including 10 by the backcourt.
Staley said she believes Fatima’s presence won’t completely eliminate the number of Temple turnovers, but it could give the Owls a chance to capitalize on transition opportunities.
Despite not having suited up for a game since last December, Maddox said she won’t be rusty.
“I’m a gym rat,” Maddox said. “I have been practicing with the team every day and participate in everything they do.”
The target date for her debut with the Owls is Jan. 6 against Charlotte. Her return is, interestingly enough, scheduled for Dawn Staley Day.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org</a. Assistant sports editor Christopher A. Vito contributed to this report.