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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Sports

UH women’s basketball guard Eryka Sidney ‘always keeps it 100‘


UH women’s basketball guard Eryka Sidney (0) dribbles around Tulsa senior guard Rebecca Lescay inside of Fertitta Center on Jan. 13. | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH women’s basketball guard Eryka Sidney (0) dribbles around Tulsa senior guard Rebecca Lescay inside of Fertitta Center on Jan. 13. | Courtesy of UH athletics

As the game clock ticked away under the two-minute mark in the overtime period, the scoreboard images inside of Fertitta Center on Jan. 25, 2020, flashed with numbers that showed the Houston women’s basketball team holding a five-point edge over Wichita State.

Clank.

Shockers forward Raven Prince missed a 3-pointer and tracking down the rebound was forward Dorian Branch. She quickly sprinted down to the other end of the court.

A few seconds later, the basketball found her hands again. This time she fired a long-distance shot of her own.

Swish.

The 3-point basket extended the Cougars’ lead to eight. It ended up being the final field goal the team made on its way to a victory. For Branch, the shot was only her second made basket of the game. 

While she was 1 of 8 from the field prior to it, the Dallas native had the confidence to pull the trigger. 

One of the reasons why was because of guard Eryka Sidney, who was not even eligible to play due to transfer rules, had continued to motivate Branch to keep shooting throughout the contest, the former UH women’s basketball forward said.

Sidney’s impact

For Branch, it was just one example of the 5-foot-6-inch guard’s vibrant personality, or as UH women’s basketball head coach Ronald Hughey described it — infectious. 

It also showed why Branch had wanted to take Sidney under her wing and guide her as she learned about the UH program. 

Oftentimes, however, it was Sidney, who also provided support to her fellow players.

“As a teammate, she always kept it 100 with us,” Branch told The Cougar in a phone interview. “No matter if we won or we lost, she always was one of those people that would tell us ‘all you had to do was this during a game.’ She was definitely always an extra coach for the players.”

Now in her first season eligible to play for the Cougars as a redshirt senior, Sidney has gotten the opportunity to show her skills on the hardwood as well.

After Saturday’s game against ECU, she is shooting 48.3 percent from behind the arc.

Sidney even set a single-game American Athletic Conference record for best field-goal percentage when she finished perfect from behind the arc, making five long-distance shots on as many attempts in a game that was coincidentally also against Wichita State.

“It’s been a learning process,” said Sidney on her adjustment to UH.

Passing wisdom

Even though Branch graduated after last season, her lessons have not been forgotten by Sidney. In particular, the emphasis that needs to be put on the defensive side of the ball.

Being a motivational leader is something Sidney has not left behind either. This season, she has paid close attention to freshman guard Laila Blair and junior guard Ca’leyah Burrell.

Occasionally, Sidney and Blair sit down to discuss their faith. The Houston native makes sure to check in with both of them and ensure they’re doing OK from a mental standpoint in a campaign that is always covered by the blanket of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I never expected the season to be easy or anything less than hard with COVID-19 and other stuff that we had, but I don’t regret it,” Sidney said. “It really builds character and brings a lot of people closer together.”

While at times, it seems like Sidney has spent her entire collegiate career at UH based on the attention she commands on and off the court, it is her personality that enables all of it.

“They could be playing a pickup game, and Eryka could get 60 people to come and play just because people would want to be around her,” Hughey said.

As the Cougars prepare to enter the middle of its conference schedule, they sit at 7-4 overall and 4-3 against AAC opponents, and Sidney is not ready to start letting the foot off the gas. 

Instead, she is leaning on a lesson that she has picked up from the UH coaching staff, and one she hopes spreads to the entire roster.

“You always have another gear,” Sidney said. “(Do) not be satisfied with good. Don’t be satisfied at all because there is no finish line. You always have room to improve and here, you got the green light to do that.”

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