BY MARIELLA FASOULA
I was born and raised in Athens, Greece—with the exception of living for four years in Memphis, Tennessee, when I was six. Basketball was a huge part of my life, especially since my father played professionally in Europe and in the U.S. I remember when I was young, it was toward the end of his career, but I was able to attend a couple of games; not that I remember any because of the age—but I just remember basketball being everywhere.
Though, one thing I will always remember is that I was never pressured or forced to start playing this game; usually people think my dad pushed me into playing basketball, but it was the other way around. I saw him playing outside with my little brother and asked what the game was and then after his explanation, I was so intrigued that he signed me up to start playing at the age of eight.
I loved the game, but I was horrible, I didn’t know the rules, the aim, nothing. And there were so many coaches telling my parents to take me out of playing basketball and “try something different” because I wasn’t one of those kids with pure talent from the jump. Thank goodness, my parents didn’t listen and kept taking me to practice and I can honestly say I enjoyed every second of growing up with basketball.
As I continued my journey with basketball, I kept improving and reaching more excelled levels and teams. I have had the opportunity to represent my country and play for my national team since 2010—from the junior levels all the way up to the women’s level.
With that being said, my parents started looking into the college experience and the opportunity for me to be able to play at a Division I college. I honestly did not think I was going to attend a college in America and be able to get a scholarship due to my athletic abilities up until my junior year of high school. I committed to Boston College and studied and played my freshman and sophomore years there, but decided for personal reasons to explore different options for my future.
During my transfer process, Coach (Stephanie) White and the staff were one of the first teams to show such intense interest in me and on my official visit it immediately felt like home. Being able to call a place home when I am that far away from home is special. Plus, I knew I wanted to have great relationships with my coaches and my team. That was very valuable to me and important, as well as having the opportunity to both compete at the highest levels academically and in the SEC.
All three years at Vandy have been completely different from one another. I knew I came here to a program with a new head coach that was trying to find its identity and create a culture. Three years later, I can tell you first-hand that we have grown so much. It really is so exciting to see.
There has been so much work put into this and being able to see the outcome—not just on the court—but between each other and between the players and the coaches is very rewarding. This doesn’t happen overnight, we had to overcome a lot of differences and adversity, but we all had the same goal.
This team right now has incredible potential moving forward. The seven freshmen that came in this year brought energy, athleticism, competitiveness, and they are so receptive to what we (the upperclassmen) explained the culture needed to be. It really is not always about how many games you win, but the process and the journey that you will remember. It wasn’t easy, but this group of people I am surrounded by now make it fun. It's exciting to see the progress we have made and even more exciting to know what this team can accomplish in the coming years.
This team has been the most family-centered team we have had. We emphasized from the jump what the culture and identity of this team was going to be and worked toward that. It’s refreshing to be able to say that you have a great relationship with your teammates on and off the court.
Because that matters.
To be able to hang out off the court is what makes the chemistry work and what makes playing together so much fun. We have all put in effort to make this team feel like a family, and work on our relationships. I definitely wish I had more time with this group. They are so special and I will miss being around them!
My relationship with Coach White is almost motherly-like. She knows my strengths and weaknesses and she knows I struggle with my confidence so she knows how to coach different players based on their attributes. She has always expressed to me how much she believes in me and we have talked about ways to turn my weaknesses into strengths. It is something that I will always appreciate even if it is just a five-minute pep talk. Needless to say, Coach White knows what she is doing.
I’m grateful to have had Coach White and the rest of the coaching staff during my years at Vanderbilt. They have definitely made the environment very family-like and trusting. Our coaching staff just knows how to win. They know how to do it. All of them. They have literally been there and done that. Being coached by all of them everyday is exciting. I’m not going to sit here and say everyday is fun and easy but everyday you learn from them, and they believe in us so much—more than we do ourselves. I know they know how grateful I am and how much they developed me as a player throughout the years and for trusting me.
After I graduate, I definitely want to continue playing basketball overseas and allow this game to take me places and open up doors for me everyday.
I want to keep working and progressing my game everyday.