Attending college as a an athlete can be exhausting and taxing for any average collegiate athlete. Balancing school work, practices, games and long bus trips on the road are enough to break anyone, but not Rock women’s basketball guard Ciara Patterson. She’s learned how to find the perfect balance with a little bit of extra responsibility. She’s a mother.
Patterson thrived as a point guard at West Mifflin High School, drawing attention from a number of Division I colleges such as Drexel, N.C. State and St. Francis College. Just before her junior year, Patterson signed her letter of intent to play at Memphis, and she was ready to become a Tiger. Shortly after signing her letter of intent, Patterson learned of her pregnancy, temporarily sidelining her plans of playing basketball during her junior year at Memphis.
After learning of her pregnancy, Patterson was forced to sit out for the majority of her junior season at West Mifflin. As stressful as it was, she remained an active member on the Titan bench, providing input during team huddles and motivating them from the sidelines.
On Jan. 1, 2013, Patterson gave birth to her 5-pound, 9-ounce baby girl, Camryn. Just 14 days after her labor, Patterson returned to the basketball court for the final five games of the regular season for West Mifflin. The team would make it the semi-finals of the playoffs that year, making Patterson’s total game count for her junior year seven.
“No one expected me to be back,” Patterson said.
Patterson returned for her senior and led her team to the playoffs once again and was named to the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette’s Fabulous Five for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholactic Atletic League (WPIAL) Class AAA section. Following high school, Patterson made the difficult choice to attend Division I Wright State University for basketball, moving her four hours away from her daughter and family.
Patterson appeared in 28 games for Wright State, averaging 4.3 points in 12.7 minutes per game.
Eventually, the stress of being so far away from her family caught up to her and she made the decision to transfer to a school closer to home.
When looking to make the transfer, Patterson was still looking to play at the Division I level, and local D-I school’s such as Duquesne came knocking. However, due to NCAA restrictions, transferring from a Division I school to another Division I school meant that she would have to sit out for an entire season. Remembering her junior year of basketball and being forced to watch from the sidelines, the idea of missing an entire of year of basketball did not bode well with Patterson. Instead, she decided to seek out Division II schools in the area, and that’s when Rock head coach Bobby McGraw came in contact with her and convinced her to join his reclamation project of the SRU women’s basketball program.
“I just had to take some time to really think about my daughter and my family,” Patterson said. “I didn’t want to sit out that year, I just wanted to play for my final three years and get those three years out of the way so I could then focus on my family and figure out the next thing in my life.”
According to Patterson, McGraw, along with assistant coach Ryenn Micaletti, made her feel extremely welcomed when she made her visit to SRU. Also, they were extremely understanding and supportive of Patterson’s responsibilities as a mother which is something that was extremely important to her.
“The support I get from the coaches and players here are awesome,” Patterson said. “They all welcome her and it’s just home. They accepted my daughter and that was a big plus. They told me she could be up here with me whenever and if we ever had to work around something then we could work it out. They were so comforting and made me feel comfortable with being here.”
Patterson’s first year at SRU came with some growing pains, having to learn how to mesh with a whole new set of players and other girls who transferred in to the program from Division I universities, but overall could have been considered a personal success. She averaged 12.6 points per game in 2015-2016, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and led the team in steals with a 1.7 average.
“We had a lot of talent but we just had to get in to the gym during the off season and build chemistry,” Patterson said. “It’s just about being able to play together and everybody clicking. Knowing who you can make passes to. Chemistry played a big role for us this season and it’s starting to flow.”
Along with being closer to her family while being at SRU, Patterson thanks her mother, grandmother and brother who help take care of Camryn so she can focus on her studies and basketball.
Patterson insists she would not be able to do what she’s doing without them, and loves being able to see them at a majority of home games. Her family can be found at games sitting behind the Slippery Rock bench, and Patterson loves being able to look up from the court and seeing her biggest fan, Camryn, cheering on her mom.