Author: Tim O’Donnell
As a young competitor and aspiring basketball player, senior and now 6-foot-3-inch Elizabeth “Bisty” Messick discovered that hoops is a way of life on Native American reservations in Nevada.
“Basketball is a really big thing on reservations; it’s just what they do,” Messick said. “They kind of took me under their wing and taught me everything.”
Prior to attending an all-indigenous middle school where she was encouraged to start playing the sport, Messick had never touched a basketball. Soon after committing herself to hard work in the gym each day, she realized she possessed a rare talent.
Now the leading returning scorer, rebounder and shot blocker for the Tigers, Messick is expected to serve as the team’s primary threat on both ends of the floor.
She will look to improve upon her junior campaign during which she averaged a double-double per game (10.5 points, 10.6 rebounds) and finished third in the nation in blocked shots (101) en route to a spot on the All-SCIAC First Team.
“I think she has steadily improved from the time she got here,” head coach Anahit Aladzhanyan said. “Last year was her break out year. She became a dominant force.”
But Messick and the program received a scare this preseason when she dislocated her ankle. Her return date was up in the air but after seeing an ankle specialist, she decided to play out the year and undergo surgery after the season is over.
“[Messick] is a huge asset to our team on and off the court, and we are all excited to have her fully back from her injury,” forward Kristen Treat (senior) said.
Though still banged up, Messick competed in the squad’s opening contest against Division-I opponent UC Santa Barbara, logging four points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. The game provided a chance for Messick to reestablish herself on the court and continue her steady incline produced over the last three seasons.
A decorated veteran, Messick’s numerous awards and accomplishments are a result of years of the hard work and dedication that began in seventh grade.
She played in the Nevada Basketball Academy of the Amateur Athletic
Union (AAU) and then for Reno High School, a perennial powerhouse on the Nevada
high school basketball circuit.
Duringher career at Reno High, her team reached the
state tournament three times, while Messick collected numerous individual
honors that included Second Team All-State as a sophomore and junior and First
Team as a senior.
But despite her natural ability, Messick still went through growing pains during her transition from high school to collegiate basketball.
“It was a very different style of play,” she said. “I was used to being the biggest person. The pace of the game is a lot faster, and I was going from a leadership role [in high school] to trying to catch up to the older players.”
As a first-year at Occidental, Messick came off the bench and ranked seventh in blocked shots in the conference. She improved her sophomore year and was named Second Team All-SCIAC before emerging as one of the stars on the team last year.
Messick’s leadership abilities stood out to Aladzhanyan, who named the post player a co-captain along with Michelle Lo (senior). Messick demands the respect and attention of the younger players through her dedication to the sport and her ability to enjoy herself.
“I’m one of the team leaders; people look up to me,” Messick said. “But they also see me as the comic relief sometimes.”
Aladzhanyan described Messick as fun and energetic, but also as a very driven individual who always puts in the necessary work to reach goals in all aspects of her life. A dedicated student majoring in kinesiology, she works hard to maintain the difficult balance of her rigorous academic course load in addition to being an athlete.
“School is hard,” Messick said. “But during the season it’s actually easier to manage time, because everything is much more structured.”
Even on a questionably stable ankle, Messick seeks to continue her rise as one of the most talented and multifaceted players in recent Occidental history.
“We’re expecting big things [from Messick] this year,” Aladzhanyan said.
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