For ex-Stanford player Markisha Coleman, basketball is still central


In front of a sparse crowd in a hollow old gym, Markisha Coleman stands up at her seat on the bench and yells support for her teammates.

Minutes later, she is out on the court, dribbling, passing and scoring. One would have never guessed that Coleman played collegiate basketball for four years at Stanford, one of the premier women's basketball programs in the country.

The location is Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, a building so old that there are neither stairs to go up the bleachers nor actual seats; just hard, wooden benches and a slanted uphill path.

The league is the San Francisco Women's Pro-Am. It has been in existence for 21 years, and it consists of four teams and players who are either looking to jump-start their careers or have graduated college but don't want to stop playing.

Coleman, who hails from East Palo Alto, has been in the league since her freshman year of college, and hasn't stopped despite finishing her playing days at Stanford in 2007.

"I just love the league," she said. "It has a lot of young kids who are still in college, so it's an opportunity to come out and play with the best of the best college athletes. It helps me stay in shape. It's really fun."

To tell the truth, Coleman has never stopped being involved in basketball. She started in the third grade, and began playing competitively the following year before joining her school team in Menlo Oaks.

After starring at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto, Coleman received an academic scholarship from Stanford. She made the basketball team as a walk-on, and earned herself an athletic scholarship her final two seasons.

It was no easy task, impressing Tara VanDerveer and earning a spot on a perennial top-10 team in the nation, and it validated Coleman's dream growing up.

"It's every little girls' dream to go to Stanford and I definitely was one of those little girls," Coleman said. "To have the opportunity to play with wonderful teammates on a very competitive team was definitely a dream come true for me."

While primarily a bench player at Stanford, Coleman kept her basketball aspirations alive well beyond her days as a Cardinal.

After receiving her master's degree at Pepperdine, Coleman became an assistant coach at Menlo-Atherton in addition to directing and coaching the II Deep youth basketball program in East Palo Alto.

She was promoted to head coach when former Stanford teammate Morgan Clyburn left, and is entering her third season at the helm. Coleman says she tries to relay her own work ethic that earned her a spot on Stanford as a walk-on to her players.

"When you coach high school girls, you're constantly telling them to work hard in the gym and in the classroom," Coleman said. "You have to be an example. Everything that I do, I try to do it with the same passion and work ethic that I did growing up. It got me this far and I still got a long way to go."

It's paying off so far, with the team winning the Peninsula Athletic League tournament championship in her first two seasons and boasting a 51-12 overall record. To Coleman, it feels just as nice as her playing days at Stanford.

"I feel like the passion I have as a student athlete – I have that same passion as a coach." she said. "It feels the same. It's (shifting) the focus from you being successful to that student-athlete being able to have success. It all feels the same to me."

Which is why it's no surprise Coleman enjoys playing in the Pro-Am, even if the atmosphere is different from Maples Pavilion. Basketball is basketball, and the desire to compete has never left her.

"The lessons are all the same," Coleman said. "No matter where you play, you're always competing against girls who have as much passion for the game as you do. Everyone's working to be the best they can be. Whether you're playing in the pro-am or some other adult league or at Stanford, you always get that same passion."

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Like this comment
Posted by André Rivers
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Watching Markisha play now at Kezar. Having enjoyed watching her play at Stanford for four years, it is always a thrill to see her again!

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