Angelica Ariola: Love and Basketball
It is a bittersweet time of the year. March madness mixed with March sadness. Amidst the excitement of league and tournament titles and state tournament anticipation on the high school level and post-season mania of college basketball come the gnawing realization of an ending. For seniors in many cases a final ending.
On the high school level some careers will continue, most will not. On the college level for the guys it’s off to the recreation leagues, the love of the game enough of a draw to fill the void of uniforms, people willing to watch and support, community and campus support. For the women it’s tougher, few leagues if any available, for the most part playing days painfully gone.
Angelica Ariola knows the feeling, the relentless mix of emotions. I first met Ariola as one of the mainstays of coach Frank Lombardo’s proud program at Holy Cross (2008-2012). She was the blond-haired point guard with the big heart and the big game.
The little Crusader that could caught my attention right away. There was an elegant efficiency to her game. I often referred to her in print as Holy Cross `heady point guard’. She knew what to do and when to do it. There was a maturity to her and her game. There was a oneness with her and the game that stole her heart. She was an extra treat when watching the Crusaders play.
After a great career at Holy Cross, Ariola went on to Roger Williams College in Rhode Island. And she continued to be superb, scoring more than 1,300 points. She loved the game and the game loved her back.
The dreaded final day came for Ariola last week when Roger Williams was eliminated from its league tournament by Western New England. There is much to Ariola with a ball in her hands and a court in play, the shot, the dribble, the proud precision of her play.
And there is much soul to her. She posted her thoughts on the ending of a basketball career that started when the year 2000 was still in the future on social media. They are her thoughts but I think they echo the feelings of so many going through the same bittersweet withdrawal right now.
Like her game, there is an elegance here. She gets it like she has always seem to have gotten it. I saw her post and asked her if I could share it. It deserves to be shared. It speaks of her and a special love, a time that is over but that will never be over.
Another swish for the `heady’ point guard.
Love and Basketball, Angelica Ariola style
I fell in love for the first time at the age of 4, to the greatest sport in the world, basketball. From that day on, there was nothing more important. I never thought the day would come where my career would be over. It is said that we don’t appreciate the things in life as they are happening, and that is true. I wish I could thank basketball for all that it has done for me. This sport shaped me, created me and saved me.
To the coaches I had had who pushed me to be the player that I have become, thank-you.
To the players I met along the way who turned into best friends, roommates, sisters and family, thank-you.
To the teams that I will always hate, thank-you. I will never forget the effect you have had on me.
To the opposing players who I have formed a respectful relationship with, thank-you. I will always remember not only your greatness and talent on the court, but your respectability.
Lastly, to the three most important things in my life – my mom, my dad and my sister, thank-you. Thank-you for being my biggest fans. The countless AAU tournaments, the countless arguments, the countless times rebounding for me in the driveway, the countless times that I have given you all attitude, the countless tears, the countless laughs, will be something that I will never forget.
You have truly showed me what it means to be passionate about something and to truly give your all to something. The advice that you have given me over the past 17 years, not only in terms of basketball but in terms of leadership and integrity, are something I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Mom and dad you are both the reason I am where I am right now in terms of basketball and in terms of life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank you enough. Nothing will ever take the place of basketball – my first love, my best friend, my worst enemy, my everything.