Bigger than hoops
Te’onna Campbell’s AAU coach during high school pulled her to the side to give her a challenge, making her nervous.
Campbell was asked to guard the men’s best defensive player, a task her coach knew she was more than capable of because of her quickness and desire to play defense.
“I didn’t want to look stupid in front of the boys. I wanted to prove myself that a girl can play as hard as boys,” Campbell said.
“It really speeded up my footwork. My speed and anticipation is quicker and, against girls, I can anticipate the ball better. I was known for defense, and it’s been a habit that I grew up with.”
Now, as she looks back, she has noticed that her play with the men has paid off — wreaking havoc against opponents, and she has been the focal point to Cougars’ energy on the floor
“She comes in and brings intensity to the floor; always hustling for the ball out of bounds and putting pressure on the ball,” said sophomore forward Marche Amerson.
“She’s a sparkplug to this team.”
Campbell may be the Cougars’ most energetic player on the court, but she is also one of the most humble, as she is playing for more than just herself.
Campbell has a tiger tattoo on her right arm that includes the names of her nephew Amar, her mother Kathy, and Chancey, her 15-year-old sister who has cerebral palsy and is the motivation behind her play.
“She’s my soft spot,” Te’onna said.
“She’s wasn’t supposed to be in this world or even live that long. She’s my motivation that every day on this world is a chance.”
Te’onna has a mutual feeling toward Kathy, who has been through hardships and also serves as an inspiration for Te’onna.
“She’s done a lot for our family. Both of them are the reason why I do what I do and hustle the way I hustle,” Te’onna said.
Interim head coach Wade Scott has watched Campbell play since she was a freshman at New Mexico Junior College. And he liked what he saw — a player who provides athleticism and is a match-up problem for opponents.
“She gets us those extra possessions, deflections and steals that really put pressure on the offensive player, causing turnovers,” Scott said.
Te’onna has been everything for the Cougars this season, as she leads the team in scoring with almost 10 points per game, minutes played (33.4), steals with two, including four in the team’s win against Cincinnati and is the only American Athletic Conference player ranked in the top-10 shorter than 6 feet who averages three offensive rebounds a game.
Against Rutgers tonight at Hofheinz Pavilion, Te’onna will not be fighting only for her teammates, but also for the people who are tattooed on her arm.