By Deshaun Hartley
Basketball is more than just a game of putting a orange ball in a round hoop. It’s more than a game of immense intensity and passion. It’s more than just a shot-clock buzzer going off to signify the end of all the prep-work that a player goes through, day in and day out, to end up with a result you may or may not want at the end of a game. This sport exemplifies the work ethic that you must have in life in order to succeed. It builds relationships and bonds that will never be broken.
For coaches, it gives them the opportunity to prepare young men and women for the world outside of basketball and that’s what red-shirt senior Zandra Emanuel has grown into. A special, talented, dedicated and strong young woman who will leave this college a better person because of the trials and tribulations she has fought through, throughout her basketball career.
We know Emanuel is a leader for this Bobcat team, but her character and leadership qualities were built off the court. Just last year the senior was a recipient of the Heart of the Champion endowment award which is awarded to a player who displays hard-work, perseverance and the heart of a champion. She also won the most spirited award presented to her by the Central Texas Region of the National Girls and Women Sports organization.
Her character is just a stepping stone into the player that she has become. She finds her passion and love for the game through Christ. Head coach Zenarae Antoine said, “She brings a loving, Christian atmosphere to the team.”
Emanuel’s favorite quote is, “All glory to God.” As a believer in Christ knows, God will put you through a test that you may feel you can’t beat, for Emanuel her test came in the shape of a season ending knee injury, nine games into her senior year. This was her tribulation.
Coach Antoine describes Emanuel’s ability to bounce back from an ACL injury as her favorite on the court moment from the senior. She said, “It was really hard when she tore her ACL…the process you go through for a player and a coach is different, it was heartbreaking for her.”
Before Emanuel arrived in San Marcos, she reminded the whole nation she was a force to be reckoned with. In her collegiate action at Coastal Bend College, Emanuel led the NJCAA Division I with 428 rebounds; 311 of them being on the defensive end. That’s not even half of the story. She also averaged 14.8 rebounds per game (second in the nation), while ranking fifth in the nation on blocked shots with 83 of them. To add on to her accolades she was selected to the Region XIV All-Conference Team during the 2015-2016 season with the Cougars. After two dominant seasons, Emanuel decided it was time push herself to a new level.
Although, she faced a season ending knee injury, this season we knew the Bobcat would come back with a chip on her shoulder. The return of the forward on Nov. 11, 2018, when the red-shirt got her first start for the Bobcats grabbing five rebounds in the season opener against New Mexico State.
She’s had some key games for the ‘Cats and they will not go unnoticed. The first game of the Sun Belt belonged to Emanuel because she had a field day on the glass grabbing more rebounds than points. The forward for the maroon and gold recorded two career-highs and a double-double against Texas State’s conference opponent Georgia Southern. She snagged 14 rebounds and shot an efficient six for seven, scoring 12 points to lead her team to a 64-52 win. She is seventh overall in offensive rebounds per-game and her efficiency is something that can’t be overlooked. The most shots she’s ever missed in a game this season is five. Not an impressive enough stat for you? How about over a seven game stretch, the leader for this team, shot 25 for 36. That’s 69 percent from the field. Her presence is felt in the paint and every team she plays knows it. She won’t be a player that is easy to replace.
Coach Antoine says the biggest moment for her will be when the players all cross that stage at graduation. Emanuel’s final message to her coach is, “Shout out Coach Z, thank you for bringing me to Texas State to be a Bobcat and giving me the opportunity to get my degree, so I can go on to be a doctor, and let me continue to play this game that I love, and inspire others to do the same.”
Emanuel wants the Bobcat nation to remember her for being, “a leader, loving, kind caring, energizer and a hard-worker.” I don’t think there is any doubt that teammates, coaches and fans will remember her for all those traits. That’s what she brings on and off the court.
The red-shirt senior will go to battle in front of Bobcat nation for the last time in Strahan Arena this Saturday against the UTA Mavericks, 2 p.m. Go support your Bobcats or catch all the action on KTSW 89.9.
Featured image courtesy of Texas State Athletics.