While the entire world deals with the challenges of the Coronovirus and the importance of staying informed with the latest news and information, we here at WeloveAnnArbor.com will present a series of feature stories highlighting the successes, accomplishments and dreams of our neighbors right here in Ann Arbor. We hope these stories are not only a pleasant diversion, but also entertaining, informative and even inspiring.
After Khady Ba barely made the Huron girls’ junior varsity team as a sophomore, she figured her days of playing basketball were dribbling to an end. In fact, she wasn’t even going to try out for the varsity team in the fall.
But while she may have lacked the confidence in herself, a few of her teammates and coaches didn’t. In fact, they believed enough in her to convince her into going out for the team.
“I told myself after my sophomore season I wasn’t going to play my junior year because if I could barely make the JV team there’s no way I’d make the varsity team,” Ba said. “As the season approached junior year, I still didn’t want to try out, however, my teammates Brooklynn Cooper and Mi’Lisa Curtis, alongside the assistant coach Mike Lewis on the boys’ varsity team encouraged me to give it a go because if I didn’t, it would be something I’d regret in the future.”
And regret can eat away at you for a long time.
“I was happy to be on the team, but my whole junior season basically consisted of me cheering on my teammates from the bench,” she said. “I knew something had to change if I wanted to be on the court and contribute the next year.”
Suddenly, just being on the team wasn’t enough. She wanted more. So she went back to work – again.
“After the season was over I told myself that I’m going to come to all of the off-season and summer workouts that I can to better myself and develop for senior year,” she said. “I lifted which made me way stronger. I also developed more skill, and was better conditioned than I was in my junior year.”
Fast forward to today and Ba has no regrets, only fond memories of how she turned hard work into not only a spot on the roster but as a key player on one of the best basketball teams in the area. She led the River Rats in rebounding this past season and was named Honorable Mention All-SEC as a senior.
Sports teaches a lot of lessons and Ba clearly learned that through hard work and perseverance she changed her place in the Huron basketball program – the same way she can use hard work to improve her lot in life.
“As soon as senior year started I felt more comfortable and was excited to see what the season was going to bring,” she says. “Our first game was against River Rouge and I was given the nod to start and ended with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals. After this game, it was kind of an eye-opener to what it is that I can do and that the preseason work wasn’t for nothing.”
Ba settled into the first player off coach Scott Hunter’s bench and embraced her new role.
“My role was to rebound, play solid defense and take the opportunities I get during offense,” she said.
She had some outstanding games during the River Rats’ outstanding season. She had 10 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Arbor Prep and scored 16 points with seven rebounds in a win over Skyline.
Ba played herself into the starting lineup on Jan. 17 in a game against Bedford and stayed there until she injured her ankle in a game against Saline.
“Getting to start the games that I did was really great because it just meant that the coaches saw something in me and all the hard work I put in was paying off,” said Ba, who was among the league leaders in rebounds per game.
Huron had a great season in 2019-20. The River Rats went 19-4 overall including 9-1 in the SEC Red Division to land in first place. Their 7-2 non-conference record included wins over Wayne Memorial, Muskegon, Flat Rock and Chandler Park.
They also were a hard-working group that played team basketball and supported each other.
“Our team had a fun personality,” Ba said. “The team consisted of nine seniors and one junior. Being that it was the last year of playing high school basketball for the majority of the team we didn’t want to take that for granted. We loved seeing and playing with each other every day. We even had loads of fun hanging out outside of basketball.
“Being that we are all upperclassman and playing with each other for the second season in a row I feel that we built a bond and learned what each person could do and their roles which translated onto the court throughout the season. Overall, we were a fun bunch that loved to play together.”
Khady, the daughter of Rama Dieng (mom) and Limale Ba (dad), is headed to college after this year to “study some area in the medical field.”
“I have not decided if I will continue to play basketball or hang my shoes up to focus on my future career,” she says. “That is something I’ll need to decide pretty soon but whatever path I end up going I know I’ll be pretty happy regardless.”
Happy, unlike regret, is a good thing. Another lesson not only learned but executed.
“Looking back at my high school career I’m just proud that I kept getting a little better each year to the point where I was set up for a great senior season,” Ba says. “I also wouldn’t have built the relationships I have with my teammates who are also my best friends and I thank them for all the love and support they showed because nothing that happened this season would be possible without them and I just love them a lot. That is what I’m proud of!”