Being a basketball player at Occidental requires dedication and hard work, but the seniors on the men’s and women’s basketball teams emphasize that the biggest reward has been the community they’ve been a part of over their last four years.
Coach Anahit Aladzhanyan, the head coach for Occidental’s women’s basketball team, said that both Maylene Hughes (senior) and Kiarra Young (senior) have been leaders as point guards and have helped the team improve. According to Aladzhanyan, the time commitment of being a basketball player requires a high level of consistency, which Hughes and Young have demonstrated.
“It’s definitely a sacrifice. With practices, yoga, reviewing film from games, generally, it’s a three-hour commitment per day,” Aladzhanyan said. “It’s something that you have to love to do.”
Sydney Shipp (senior), who played point guard for Occidental, said one of the highlights of his basketball career was beating Pomona College in a home game in his first year.
“I had a really good game highlight, 25 points,” Shipp said. “[It was] my best game for my freshman year, and they were the best team in our conference.”
Shipp is planning on continuing to play basketball next year while he is in graduate school.
“I still have a year left of eligibility for basketball,” Shipp said. “I plan on using that to go DI, and right now I’m in the process of talking to coaches, just trying to figure out the right spot to land for next year.”
One of the main improvements Shipp said he would like to see the basketball program make is letting the players on the development team (DT) have equal playing time. The development team is made up of players who don’t get a lot of playing time on the varsity team, and they play separate games to get experience.
“If everyone’s [not] getting equal playing time on DT, then how are you supposed to develop other players?” Shipp said. “For DT, the focus is not to win games, the focus is to get better as basketball players.”
The main advice Shipp said he would give to the team is to keep going to the gym over the summer and to try and foster a strong community during the year.
“I feel like being together and everyone coming together is a way for them to win next year,” Shipp said.
Maylene Hughes was the captain of the women’s basketball team from their sophomore to senior year at Occidental. They said that all of their best memories of playing basketball are about their teammates.
“Those are my best friends, my family, forever since my first year,” Hughes said. “They made my time here at Oxy.”
Hughes said that they hope to see the program recruit a wider variety of types of players, specifically players of different heights and skill sets, in order to craft a more even makeup of the team.
According to Hughes, the skills they have learned and developed playing basketball at Occidental will be integral to their future, and they said that they are applying to be a basketball mentor over the summer in Costa Rica.
“I want to give back to the community in some way and be able to play the sport whether it’s training kids or coaching,” Hughes said. “I want to be involved in the game in a way that’s making an impact and changing people’s lives.”
Anthony Hollerich (senior) said that he chose Occidental because it offers an opportune balance of being a student and an athlete. He said his biggest takeaways include leadership and teamwork skills that he hopes to take with him as he begins a master’s program in financial engineering.
Hollerich also said he has become very close with his teammates over the past four years and that their positive and negative experiences have strengthened their bond. His favorite memory of playing basketball was a game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in which Occidental won 79-66.
“When I was a junior, we beat Claremont, and they’re really, really good and we were only okay,” Hollerich said. “Everyone on our team played well, and then we came home, and it was super fun on the bus, and we walked around together after the game.”
According to Hollerich, teammates can get on each other’s nerves because it’s a long season, but at the end of the day, they all love and respect each other.
Kiarra Young said that the main improvement she would like to see be made in the basketball program is encouraging more support at the women’s games.
“When I think back on my time, it’s been awesome, but there could be more pride or effort really in advocating for ourselves and getting people to come out,” Young said.
Young said that the main thing she’s taking away from her experience is the relationships that she’s made with her teammates.
“The community here was so nurturing and genuine and fun, and so I thought it’d be a good fit,” Young said.
Young is currently applying to graduate programs in music production and coach Aladzhanyan said that she is excited to see Young come out of her shell and enter her singing career.
Kyle Dosa (senior) said that the COVID-19 pandemic not only affected the team dynamic and the way the team could develop chemistry but that it also had a large impact on Dosa’s personal journey at Occidental and his decision to stay for a fifth year.
“I lost a year of playing basketball with COVID and the NCAA granted everyone an extra year of eligibility,” Dosa said. “There’s only so many people that get to play a sport in college, so being able to fulfill each year I had was a goal of mine. The other part of it was that I needed to fulfill more prerequisites for graduate school.”
Dosa said he will be attending the University of Southern California (USC) in the fall to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy and was influenced mainly by Occidental’s kinesiology department. Dosa said major takeaways he will bring with him from playing basketball at Occidental include lifelong friends and being able to deal with adversity.
Dosa also said that he hopes the team will continue to travel and play higher-level opponents in order to both bond the team and prepare them for league play.
“Being an athlete here was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Dosa said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the team does next year. I’ll be close around, and I’ll definitely come up for some games and cheer them on.”
Contact Ava LaLonde email@example.com.