As a freshman, Donnaizha Fountain walked through the main campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta during the summer of 2013, looking for assistant coaches Sam Purcell and Sytia Messer.
As the now-sophomore guard walked through campus, she couldn’t find them.
Purcell accepted an assistant coaching job at the University of Louisville, and Messer became an assistant coach at Baylor University, leaving Fountain at Georgia Tech without the two coaches who recruited her.
“I didn’t know they left until I got there,” Fountain said. “[Georgia Tech] thought they pulled one over our eyes. No one notified me.”
In her 2013-14 season at Georgia Tech, the Roxbury, Massachusetts native played 216 minutes in 21 games, averaging 3.3 points per game.
After losing trust in Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph because of Purcell’s and Messer’s unannounced exits, Fountain transferred to Temple.
Coach Tonya Cardoza also grew up in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston.
She played for Boston English High before making it to four NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball tournaments and appeared in the 1991 Final Four with the University of Virginia.
With the connection, Fountain now has more confidence in the second coaching staff she chose.
“I felt like [Joseph] didn’t know what to do to reach my full potential,” Fountain said. “And I look right now, watching their games and I’m like, …‘One, I’m glad I got out of there. Two, if I was still there I would be running the show. But not just that, I wouldn’t have gotten better.’”
“In Roxbury, it’s almost like we are family,” Cardoza added. “Not because it is close-knit, but because it’s relatively small, especially if you are into sports and are pretty good.”
As a senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Fountain considered playing for Cardoza.
When it came time to choose which school she would transfer to after leaving Georgia Tech, Fountain decided on Temple because it was closer to home and fellow Roxbury native Cardoza was someone she could trust.
“She is a legend back there, and I told her I want to be like her,” Fountain said. “I want to be the 21st-century Tonya Cardoza, or even better.”
In summer 2012, Cardoza first saw Fountain play at the AAU in Orlando tournament in Orlando, Florida.
The Owls’ coach never met Fountain until she became interested in recruiting the 6-foot guard due to a breakout senior season at Cambridge Rindge and Latin in 2013, when Fountain averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds and was named to the ESPN Boston Super Team.
“I didn’t know her back then,” Cardoza said of the 2012 tournament in Orlando. “I just knew her when she was a stud.”
Fountain arrived at Temple on July 5, 2014, but she missed every game due to NCAA transfer rules. While the Owls traveled to away games, Fountain and Hofstra University transfer, Ruth Sherrill stayed behind.
As Temple played, Sherrill and Fountain sat together and watched on a television or computer.
“We both came from a place where we weren’t very happy and were uncomfortable,” Sherrill said. “Then you find a home and it makes you open up not only as a basketball player, but as a person.”
This season, Fountain has started in 12 out of 18 games, averaging 8.8 PPG. Fountain is second on the team in rebounds with 110.
After sitting out the 2014-15 campaign, she is treating this season like her first year of college basketball.
“I found myself questioning if this is what I want to do multiple times because I was so stuck on ‘basketball is my life,’” Fountain said. “I never thought about life without the ball.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org