Baylor's Mosby making most of second chance
The last minute wasn't going well for Baylor or forward Bernice Mosby on Wednesday. They were clinging to a narrow lead over Missouri, and Mosby missed a free throw and a jumper and another free throw.
The Tigers have had Edsel-like success playing in the state of Texas since the Big 12 began and yet, they were looking at possession of the ball with 12 seconds left and a one-point deficit.
No. 11 Baylor was in peril. But Missouri missed a 3-pointer, and who grabbed the rebound, securing the 71-70 victory? Mosby.
It wasn't her greatest game thus far in a Baylor uniform, but she still made the big plays. She hit the basket that put Baylor ahead for good with just less than five minutes left, capping a rally after Missouri had taken the lead by as much as nine. Then she got the rebound that ended the Tigers' hopes. She finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
Just another good turn in Mosby's overall performance this season, which has been worthy of the Golden Globe, SAG, People's Choice and Oscar honors for Best Impersonation of the Star Who Just Graduated.
It's nearly impossible to watch Mosby and not think, "Wow, how fortunate for Baylor she was there to fill in when Sophia Young left."
Indeed, they are both 6-foot-1 with similar lanky/willowy body types and even resemble each other facially a bit. More than one Big 12 coach has said, "Wait a minute didn't that kid who always killed us leave Baylor last season?"
The thing is, for all the ways they seem the same, Mosby and Young -- the 2006 Big 12 Player of the Year -- are different.
"Sophia is more laid-back; I'm more outgoing." said Mosby, who of course got to know Young last year when she was at Baylor sitting out a transfer season after leaving Florida. "I laugh a lot. Sophia would, too, but she was a little more serious. I like making other people smile.
"And on the court, Sophia could just leap over players inside. I'm more comfortable facing the basket."
In fact, though, Mosby can get up there pretty well, too. She said going against Young and Abiola Wabara, who also was part of Baylor's 2005 NCAA title team, in practice last year was critical to her improvement. As were coach Kim Mulkey's high expectations.
"I let her know it was going to be a year she couldn't coast," Mulkey said of last season, as Mosby adjusted to her new setting. "I told her to step off the court and watch sometimes, because she wouldn't give 100 percent when fatigue set in. Everybody can play when you're fresh. The great players find a way to play even when they're tired.
"She got used to the intensity of practice. And the year away [from games] gave her a sense of respect for basketball."
Mosby was a junior when she was suspended and dismissed by Florida coach Carolyn Peck in 2005. It has never been made public exactly what happened, but Mosby says she's the one who made the mistake and she has learned from it.
Baylor beat Florida 91-76 in the 2004 NCAA Tournament's second round, and Mosby had seen things she liked about her opponent in that game. The up-tempo style, the way the posts ran the floor and could use their range, the confidence that everyone played with.
Mosby got to know a couple of Baylor's players and began exchanging e-mails with them. Then, in 2005, she found herself looking for a new home and one season left to salvage her college career. She's a Florida native but had to leave with a lot of baggage.
"I think it was Abi [Wabara] who mentioned to us coaches that [Mosby] had been dismissed, and would we be interested in her," Mulkey said. "And we said, 'No.'"
But then Mulkey reconsidered.
"I still wasn't sold that I should take her, because she was dismissed by a coach," Mulkey said. "Who wants to invite trouble to your program? But I talked to her, and she said all the right things. That it was her fault, what happened, and that she was totally in the wrong. She wished she could go back and undo it."
OK, but people sometimes say the right things and don't really do them. Mulkey is not a softy, and no kid is going to fool her. But she's also a pragmatist who needed a veteran post to help Baylor stay strong while its younger posts had time to develop.
I asked her what convinced her beyond just what Mosby said. Mulkey was characteristically blunt.
"She wasn't in trouble with the law; that's something you make sure of from the start," Mulkey said. "You do your homework as a coach. You talk to all the people who were around the situation, make sure you're getting the right story.
"Transfers are transfers for a reason. You know that. But I've found that they've been nothing but a positive in my experience, because they know this is their last chance."
Even so, Mulkey did not think Mosby was in any kind of desperation mode when she decided on Baylor.
"She had options to go to a lot of schools," Mulkey said. "But she knew the level she wanted to play at. Something in our playing against them [in 2004] impressed her.
"She's been nothing but good for our program. She's lived up to what she said. She would tell you herself that she's never played this hard before. I think if people watched her at Florida and now, they couldn't help but notice it."
Mosby is averaging 19.0 points and 9.3 rebounds for Baylor, which travels for what should be a challenging game Saturday at No. 22 Nebraska (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net). She should be picked high in April's WNBA draft. She has the skills to be effective at the next level, and now she has developed the work ethic and mind-set to be a success there, too.
"I'm going to tell you: She is one of the top 10 players in the country, and she should be a Kodak All-American," Mulkey said, hitting the campaign trail. "She can score with people in her face, with her back to the basket."
But this is also about more than that. At some point, not even that long from now, Mosby won't be asked much anymore about what happened at Florida or why she ended up at Baylor she will just be another pro trying to make it work at that level.
However, what she learned can always help her. She doesn't need to remind herself all of the time of what went wrong, just what she has done since.
"As a person, it's made me humble myself, and say, 'This is your last go-around, you have a second chance. Get beyond the stuff in your past,' "Mosby said. "It made me be thankful for everything I have. Maturity-wise, being away from home was hard, but it's made me grow as a person."
Mosby is a creative type off court, interested in art, fashion design and choreography. Pro hoops is the next dream, but she knows there are other things in which she can succeed whenever basketball ends.
What might Mosby say to another young person who made a mistake and was facing tough consequences?
"My message would be, 'There will be times in your life when you struggle, when you regret something,'" Mosby said. "But you still have a lot of people who will help you. What you do as a person is push through it and work your hardest. Not to prove people wrong, but to prove to yourself you can do it.
"As for how other people treat you sometimes you have to say, 'I am a different person now, and maybe they don't realize it.' You apologize, you accept your mistake, then you have to go on and work hard. You have to keep believing in yourself. And that's what I would tell them."Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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