Erica Covile remembers the long days and nights playing basketball as a child in front of her Detroit home.
The neighbors would join Covile and her five brothers at their hoop for a game of street ball. Covile, a junior guard for the women’s basketball team, would spend hours working on her game during these periods, through sweat and tears.
One of her brothers helped her with her shooting form. Another helped her with her dribbling. When they played, Covile was treated like she was a boy. Hard fouls and no mercy encompassed the nature of her childhood games. But looking back on it, she said she would have it no other way.
“They would be hitting me and I would be crying and saying ‘I don’t want to play with you all any more,’” Covile said. “But they would be like ‘Stop crying and man up’ and that is all I could do.”
Even though the six siblings have gone separate ways in time, Covile said the rivalry between them is still strong. When the siblings do get a chance to get together, there is no shortage of trash talk.
“When we are together they are like ‘Oh Erica I could beat you’ or they will be like ‘No, she can’t beat me, she’s a girl,’” Covile said. “But I know I can beat them.”
The Covile family lives and breathes basketball. All five of her brothers played the game at some level. Three of her brothers, Lewis, Ryvon and Kawaun, played collegiate basketball and Ryvon has had a journeyman career overseas since graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2007.
“They just helped me get better,” Covile said of her brothers. “They always had me in the gym, working out when I didn’t want to.”
Covile formed a special bond with her father, Lewis Covile Jr., who coached her as a youth.
While being recruited as a senior in high school, Covile was able to visit Temple with her father. This would be the last college visit the two would spend together, as he died in August 2012.
It was a trying time for the soon-to-be freshman. She was 600 miles away from home and had just lost her father. But it was then she knew she had to carry on with her playing career at Temple.
“Before my dad passed, it was the only visit he came on so I feel like I should stay here,” Covile said. “He would be happy for me.”
Now Covile, who averaged 8.1 points per game and nearly six rebounds per game last season, hopes to help stabilize the team after a tumultuous past couple seasons. Since the 2012-13 season, seven student-athletes have left the university with outstanding eligibility, including four last season. But, Covile believes this year’s team is different and ready to move on.
“Going through all these changes, I feel now this is the best team I’ve been on,” Covile said. “No drama, no nothing.”
Covile also said this year’s team is closer than in previous years. The team shares the same goals and mindsets. Prior to this season, the team sentiment was not shared, Covile said.
“Everybody gets along, it is just a family now,” Covile said. “Everybody would only hang out with certain people, we were never together and no we are always together, hanging out.”
Now a junior, Covile will be called upon to take on a larger leadership role on a team with seven underclassmen. With her shy and quiet demeanor, the transition into the leadership role has been a challenge for Covile.
“On the court I’m starting to be more vocal,” Covile said. “According to my coaches, I need to be more vocal and more of a lead, which I’m working on.”
Coach Tonya Cardoza insists on Covile taking a leadership position with such a young team. But Cardoza also realizes that it is a challenge for Covile to go outside of her comfort zone.
“It is hard for her because she is naturally a soft-spoken person and right now we need her to be a little more vocal,” Cardoza said. “It is hard for her and we understand but we are trying to get her to go outside of herself.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter at @Michael_Guise