Brought Together by Fate


Ethan Anderson

Daisha Abdelkder (below) and Sierra Smith (above) have become close friends, and even closer teammates. (Ethan Anderson/The Inquirer).

Isabel Villalobos, Senior staff member

The Diablo Valley College women’s basketball team made history, winning its first California Community College Athletic Association state championship. The team’s overall record was 32-1, including 15-1 in the Big 8 Conference. Without a doubt this group is talented, but what made it different than any other team?

“The chemistry and work ethic from the team was unbelievable,” said head coach Ramaundo Vaughn. “They wanted to win for themselves, but more importantly for each other. The dynamic of the team was just great.”

Specifically, two women on the team known as the dynamic duo kept everyone together, on their toes, and pushed their peers every second they could.

“Their energy just gets the whole team going. They’re our feisty little energy rabbits that never stop going,” said teammate Jahnay Anderson.

  Sierra Smith and Daisha Abdelkader come from different backgrounds, but pushed each other every day to be motivated, build a support system and to better themselves as players.

“The team wouldn’t be the same without our dynamic duo, said teammate Zahria Hendrix. “Their energy on and off the court is just so contagious that everyone feeds off it and makes us better.”

Abdelkader, 21, is the sophomore point guard for the Vikings and half of the “dynamic duo”.

She has always been involved in sports, yet they were all boring to her until she tried basketball in third grade. She started on a travel team called West Coast Extreme, which was successful for a young team, she said, but basketball wasn’t serious for her until she was in eighth grade. She started traveling further, to places like Reno and Las Vegas, and that’s when Abdelkader decided to transfer to the team Mission Wreck in San Francisco.

“I’ve always been on pretty successful teams, but I’ve never experienced something as crazy and amazing as this (state championship),” she said.

Abdelkader is originally from Mountain View, where she attended St. Francis High School. She didn’t know much about DVC academically, but saw it was a competitive school and the basketball team was a successful.

Once at DVC, she realized that Pleasant Hill was very different from Mountain View.

“Out here it’s just a different lifestyle than where I live. They didn’t breed competitive and talented players in Mountain View, so going to a school out there would be purposeless for me,” said Abdelkader.

Abdelkader connected with Vaughn, who recruited her to play for DVC. As a result, Abdelkader commutes every day from Mountain View to school in Pleasant Hill. Though it is a long drive, she has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so happy I made this decision,” she said.

The second half of the dynamic duo is Sierra Smith, 18, another point guard for DVC. According to Smith has had basketball in her life since before she could walk. Her family has always been a basketball-oriented family, with Smith’s mom playing when she was younger. This made it easy for Smith to get into the game. Her first memories of being on a team are when she was just six. She has only grown to love it more ever since.

Smith has been on many teams over the years, but Saint Mary’s High School, Salesian High School, and the Oakland Soldiers travel team were her most memorable and successful. When she was a freshman at Saint Mary’s, Smith’s team was the no. 3 team in the nation; it was no. 1 by the time she was a junior.

She transferred to Salesian High School halfway through her junior year. While the team won the section championships her senior year, Smith was unable to participate. She tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus ligaments during the season, unable to finish the year.

“Practically, I just messed up my entire knee. It really sucked. I had to sit out half of my senior year and first year of college,” said Smith. “But in that time sitting out and healing I became a different kind of teammate. One who was more inspirational and supportive through words since I couldn’t show it on the court. It taught me how to be a better player overall.”

Despite her injury, she was still recruited to play Division I basketball at the University of Utah. Smith had to redshirt her first year due to her injury, but decided not to come back a second year because she was homesick.

After returning home, Smith thought playing junior college was a good way to slowly get back in the game. Upon hearing about DVC and their successful basketball program, she decided her next move.

With such a major knee injury, Smith was unsure how she would play upon returning.

Weeks pass of practices and games, she realized she wasn’t physically the same player. This gave Smith a negative outlook on the future of her career.

“It was just hard, coming back from such a major injury and not being the same player…it was just depressing,” she said. “I thought maybe it would be better if I just stopped playing all together. I didn’t want to hold the team back.”

Despite Smith’s doubts, her other half, Abdelkader, wasn’t going to let her teammate give up.

“I called and just had a real talk with her. Like I would understand and respect any decision she made, but I had to let her know that we were all here for her through this whole experience of her recovery,” Abdelkader said. “(I told her) she was a great player and helped build our team. That we were a family and weren’t going to give up on her.”

That conversation had a serious impact on Smith, she said, when she realized her teammates weren’t giving up on her. The consistent support from the team really motivated her and made her confident that she could and would recover.

“Honestly, I couldn’t thank my team enough, they were there when I was at my lowest and they really believed in me,” Smith said. “If I would’ve quit, then I wouldn’t have got to experience this whole historical moment in life and never have got to be a part of a whole new family.”

The dynamic duo knew each other casually for years, since they both grew up around the basketball community. They used to say a friendly hi to each other at tournaments and sometimes even play against each other. But each remained just a familiar face on the other side of the gym until recently. Smith and Abdelkader both said it was fate that brought them together after being mutual strangers for so long. When they first started practices at DVC, the coach would always put them on opposite teams, which caused friction.

The two would guard each other, thinking things like “damn she’s fast” or “damn she’s aggressive.”

After playing against one another, they both realized the talent in each other, and that guarding each other in practice made them better players.

The dynamic duo aren’t just a great pair on the court; off the court, they call each other “sisters.”

“I remember that Daisha woke me up at 7 a.m. one day and just started screaming ‘It’s game day! It’s game day! Let’s go!’ At first, I was mad cause it was early,” Smith said. “How could I get mad when she’s just so passionate and wants to share her excitement?”

Abdelkader agreed with Smith’s sentiments about their team dynamic.

“We are just a family, yes we saw each other everyday because of practice but that didn’t stop us from seeing each other and hanging out outside of practice,” Abdelkader said. “It’s like a 25/8 kind of thing with these girls. Season is over and we all still hang out like everyday. We made a family and I know it will carry on past DVC.”

Smith and Abdelkader both believe the team’s chemistry led to their success during the season.

“I know people never believe it, but we really had no drama on our team. Not even a little or once. Just all our personalities matched,” said Abdelkader. “We could get up in each other’s faces and it would be okay, because we all understand that at the end of the day, it’s just a game and we’re a family.”

Smith still has another year to play at DVC, and is looking at the next season with hopeful eyes.

“It’ll be different losing our sophomores, but they left us something great to lead into the next season with,” she said. “Hopefully the returners can just show and pass on the knowledge we obtained this season to the future incoming freshman. To show them how much hard work and dedication it takes to get to the top.”

Abdelkader has concluded her career playing at DVC, but wants to play at the four-year college level. She leaves this season thanking her teammates.

“It’s been a hell of a physical, mental and emotional roller coaster ride,” she said. “From being yelled at, to school, to recovering from just playing and injuries. I am extremely proud of you all and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to leave this season than like this. So, truly I am thankful to have made a new family and lifelong sisters.”

When it comes to future team members, Smith and Abdelkader share the same advice.

“The people are going to expect and want you to fail, but don’t listen to them, keep going,” said Smith.

Smith and Abdelkader both agree that what truly made their team different than the others and successful is the chemistry they all had together.

Abdelkader continued with Smith’s statement.

“When adversity hits you just keeping moving forward and trust yourself and family. No one thought we could do what we have accomplished and we did it. Proving that no matter what people say if you want it, you can take it if you work,” said Abdelkader.