Tacoya Allen could’ve given up, but she refused.
The Ellison sharpshooter spent just one year at the varsity level for the Lady Eagles, but she shined when the opportunity was given to her.
Allen recently parlayed her intensive effort and signed with Johnston Community College in Smithfield, N.C., to continue her basketball career.
“I get the chance to play at a high level, which is what I’ve been wanting to do for a while,” Allen said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and it takes a lot of trust put in your teammates and coaches. You’ve just got to want it.”
Allen thought about giving up basketball in both her sophomore and junior years, but she stayed diligent.
“You can’t give up, that’s the main factor,” Allen said. “I love the game, so I just kept pushing through it.”
Lady Eagles head coach Sherry McKinnon has seen a litany of her players sign collegiate letters in her 11 years at the helm of the program, and she was happy to see a student-athlete of Allen’s ilk be rewarded for her commitment to the sport.
“Hard work pays off,” McKinnon said. “I think she’s a prime example of that. She didn’t give up on her dream. She wanted to play at the next level, and she did everything she needed to do in order to make that happen just by not giving up.
“She wasn’t a starter, but she still worked hard and was a team player, and I’m very happy that she’s getting this opportunity.”
Allen was a role player for Ellison this past season, and those types of players are invaluable.
McKinnon believed Allen was team first, at all times, and she could always rely on her to keep things loose.
“Her demeanor, 99 percent of the time, she was smiling,” McKinnon said. “She was kind of our jokester. She always had something funny to say, and she was very well liked by her other teammates, and she was just a good kid.
“She worked really hard on and off the court — and in the classroom. She’s just an outstanding kid, honestly.”
In order to perfect her craft as a dead-eye shooter, however, Allen had to put the time in to continue getting better.
“My role was to get a quick shot up,” Allen said. “I would stay after practice every day — me and Gemma Alhambra, we’d stay after practice and get some shots up. That was my goal and that’s what I wanted to do.
“Every game, I had the green light to shoot it. So every time I had the opportunity, I took it.”
And now she’s taken another opportunity and will transition her prep career to the collegiate level.
“I just want to play basketball,” Allen said. “This is my chance, this is my shot — and I’m going with it.”
Allen felt the push McKinnon gave her helped make her the player she is today, but the belief in herself pushed her forward.
“You have to believe in yourself before someone else can believe in you,” Allen said. “If you don’t care, they’re not going to care, either.”