Mariama Keita

Despite being a 5-foot-8 forward, you have a knack for grabbing rebounds. How come?

Ever since I was younger, my AAU coaches have always told me it doesn’t matter about height, boxing out (matters). We don’t need to be tall to box out. It all depends on who’s hungrier for the rebound. I feel like with (St. John’s) coach (Brian) Martin coming back, he brought that monster back into me, I guess. He always told me, “Be hungry for the ball and always go for it,” so whenever a ball’s in my way, someone’s not going to get it over me without a fight.

Talk about your team’s successful season.

We got some reinforcements along with what we already had. And I feel like now this year we have 12, 13 players who all want to play basketball and who all strive for the same goal. When you have 12 or 13 people who all have the same goal, we’re all hungry for the ball, we all want these wins, we all want championships, that’s what we came here for.

Did your team jell right away or was it a process that took awhile?

It was a process but it wasn’t a long process. We took a team trip this summer to West Virginia. We won three games and lost four games, but I feel like that was the turning point. When you have these people who hadn’t played together before, and to go up there, you could see the potential there, but it just wasn’t all quite there yet. And since we were all motivated, we all came to workouts over the summer and fall. And by the season, everything just started coming together and it jelled really fast.

One of your biggest wins this year came against Annapolis Area Christian School. Talk about that.

That was a huge game. Taylor Murray (the AACS star will play at Kentucky), she’s a really tough player. We played blizzard against them, where we had a runner on her, our two defenders, Taylor Hill and Taylor Stafford did really well on her. We knew it was a big game. We knew we could beat that team. We all just came together and got the job done.

What are team goals this year?

We’re looking to win the IAAM B championship this February. Last year we went 14-9 and we came up short in the IPSL championship and we lost to St. Mary’s in the (IAAM) B quarterfinals. But we’re a much better and different team than we were last year, so I have higher expectations for us this year.

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