By Madisen Carter
Basketball has been in Makena Mastora’s life since she was in kindergarten, and the game has always had family ties as her father played basketball as well as all of her siblings. In the eighth grade, Mastora decided that basketball was going to be her main sport and she would focus and dedicate her time specifically to the game. Soon after that, she realized college basketball was something she could attain in the future.
“I just love the competitiveness of basketball and [there is] something really unique to the sport just because you can better your game in so many ways,” Mastora said.
At St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, Mastora played varsity basketball all four years. Her last full season of high school ball was her junior year as she helped lead the team to a North Coast Section Open Division Championship. She was also named All-Metro First Team by the San Francisco Chronicle and All-NorCal First Team by NorCalPreps. Due to a short senior season, Mastora played in only two games, and in one of them she finished with a high school career-high 42 points.
Now at Saint Mary’s College playing D1 basketball, Mastora’s hard work and dedication throughout the years paid off. On November 11th, she finally got to step foot and play the game on a college basketball court when the Gaels traveled to Nevada and defeated the Wolf Pack 66-61.
“It was honestly really surreal just because it's something I've been working on for a while,” Mastora said. “My basketball journey has just been such a long one I feel, and it's definitely taken a lot to come to this point to get here. Now that I'm here, I'm ready and excited for what else is yet to come.”
Mastora committed to Saint Mary’s in May of 2020. She explained that she chose Saint Mary’s because it was the perfect fit for her. The school is close to her home, the coaching staff was extremely welcoming throughout the recruiting process, and she knew some of her teammates on the team already. She said all of those factors made the decision of where she wanted to commit to easy for her.
To help prepare for college ball, Mastora worked out at the Unlimited Potential Basketball training facility. She worked with many of the player development coaches including Coach Ashley Hawkins and Coach Packie Turner, putting in as much work as she could. With the coaches, she was able to work on post moves, shooting, ball handling and transition plays.
At Saint Mary’s, Mastora is more of a pure point guard, so she has been working especially on her shooting and ball handling skills. She is working hard to be dependable with good passes and being someone her teammates can rely on.
With almost a full semester of college under her belt, Mastora said the relationships with her teammates and coaches has strengthened since she arrived at the school.
“I think we've already had a special relationship just because St. Mary's is kind of in my backyard. Every summer for my high school team we went to the St. Mary's basketball camps,” Mastora said. “I've already been familiar with the campus and seeing the girls around campus because [they would work the camps,] so it's just definitely strengthened over time and getting to work with the coaches [and getting to know them on] a personal and deeper level has just been awesome.”
So far, Mastora and the Gaels are 2-1 on the season. In three games, Mastora has nine points, five rebounds and four assists. She said through those three games she has learned to remember player personnel and she will apply that towards the rest of the games in the season.
“Just knowing who I'm guarding, what their tendencies are, and being able to play to that and just also playing to our team strengths as a whole [is what will be applied],” Mastora said. “You know, helping each other find the open man, knowing who our shooters are, and getting the ball to them. I think [that] is really going to help us be successful this year.”
Mastora has big goals for the team and for herself this season. For the team, she said she wants to win the West Coast Conference Title and make it to the NCAA Tournament. Personally, she would like to play her part on the team as a team player and contribute as much as she can to make a name for the team.
The Gaels and Mastora continue to put in work daily to prepare them for the rest of the season and to better themselves as a team. Mastora said they will lift in the morning and have practices in the afternoon. When they have upcoming games, they are watching film and setting up individual practices with their coaches to work on specific skills.
The team’s next game is this Saturday against Western Michigan in their season opener. For the rest of the week, Mastora and her teammates will be in the gym working on their skills and preparing for their first matchup ever against the Broncos.