Photo courtesy of Courtney Cecere
From the moment NUIG Mystics utility player, Courtney Cecere, sunk her third three-point shot in the third quarter en route a 68-35 win against Griffith College Templeogue, spectators knew they were witnessing a mystical performance from the 22-year-old athlete.
This superwoman’s journey to basketball started in the United States of America. Born in Sidman, Pennsylvania, Cecere’s love and passion for the game of basketball was evident from the age of three.
“I grew up with basketball. My mum has been a high school coach for over 30 years at the states where I schooled at,” referring to her stint at Forest Hills High School.
“I would go for practices with her from when I clocked three. I just grew up in the atmosphere in the gym, which really sparked my interest,” said Cecere.
It was through her passion and dedication to the sports from her formative years that Cecere was able to secure a basketball scholarship in her home country, before going on to secure a full scholarship in sports at NUI Galway for a Master’s programme in digital marketing.
“I actually came over to Ireland on an external scholarship opportunity called ‘sport changes life’. I am a victory scholar.
“I get to pursue my Master’s degree and I get to play either the National League or Super League women basketball team and the NUIG Mystics or national league in exchange for volunteering in the community with the younger children through sport development and other life skills.”
Despite her commitment to playing basketball, mentoring young players and studies, Cecere is not your typical 22-year-old student. She finds time for other passions that include the graphic design of her team’s Facebook and Instagram page.
“I really like to do some graphic designs, I’m currently the coordinator and content creator of the NUIG Mystics Facebook and Instagram pages, where I hone my graphic design skills.”
Despite the plethora of talents from the United States NBA and WNBA, Cecere’s heroes growing up were players she watched from up close, the late Kobe Bryant the only exception.
“I honestly never had an NBA or WNBA role model that I always wanted to be like. I always looked up to the high school players that my mum coached, I always wanted to be like them, and I idolized them
“I took the numbers of two girls that wore the same number and I just liked them as players. Those were the girls I idolized because I knew them on a personal level.
“But I would say Kobe Bryant was a big one for me, the way he played, his mentality and his mental focus into the game was unbelievable and I just wanted to be like that.”
Coincidentally, Cecere’s basketball idols, Teddi Burkett and Marlee Zubek from her mum’s team and NBA legend late Kobe Bryant all donned the number 24, a jersey number the American prodigy would go on to wear before switching to 12 when she joined the NUIG Mystics.
“Teddi Burkett and Marlee Zubek both wore number 24, and I took number 24 because of them, unfortunately we don’t have that number here, so I wear number 12 because it’s my brother’s number. I try to take my sibling number because it’s meaningful.”
Just like one of her basketball heroes Kobe, the 5ft 9 guard relishes the pressure, using various coping mechanisms to deal with it on the way to a resounding win against Griffith College Templeogue at the women’s basketball final on 23 January.
“I listened to music and audiobooks on the way to Dublin where we play the championship, and then the one thing that lets the nerves out every time is the star-spangled banner,” said Cecere, in reference to the United States national anthem.
“I sang the national anthem before I played in the final. It’s so weird but when I hear the anthem, I feel the nerves flying out of me.”
The American’s ruthless display against Griffith College Templeogue on both offence and defence saw her score 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Women National Division 1 final, securing the MVP award in the process.
With the MVP and the women’s Division 1 National League Cup title secured, the American basketball sensation will be looking to add to the trophies in her cabinet in the months ahead.