Women’s basketball first-years adjust to college life, athletics and a pandemic

NUWBB's first-years Paige Mott, Anna Morris and Jasmine McWilliams are faced with starting college, defending a Big Ten title and adapting to a pandemic.

By Ally Navarrete

For first-year college athletes, the transition from high school sports to the collegiate level is always intense. But this year, the shift comes with an added challenge: navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This season, Northwestern women’s basketball welcomed three new first-years: forward Anna Morris, forward Paige Mott and guard Jasmine McWilliams. 

The first-year Wildcats have been playing with the team for a few weeks now; they were practicing for one and a half to two hours until Wednesday, when the team had its first full three-hour practice of the season. The first-years have begun getting into the daily Wildcat routine: morning lifts, classes and practices, along with occasional meetings. This new schedule — especially the lifting and longer practices — is a big change from high school.

“College is definitely a lot. It’s a lot faster-paced, and you come from being really good on your club or high school team to an institution where everybody’s good,” Mott said. “You gotta work harder than you normally do. It’s a lot of running and a lot more lifting than I’ve ever done.” 

The pandemic has posed additional challenges for the team as a whole. The Wildcats have new requirements: testing twice a week, wearing masks during lifts and limited access to their locker room. During practices, however, they’re not required to wear masks. 

Additionally, per NU policy, most non-athlete first-years are not living on campus. While this isn’t the ordinary college experience, Mott feels it’s actually making her first quarter less overwhelming; she likes that she can get a “head-start” on finding her way around campus. 

Though the intensity of college basketball has been an adjustment, especially during the pandemic, the returning players have been helpful during the transition, Morris said. 

“My older teammates have done a really good job of being inclusive, like texting and making sure everything is okay,” she said. “On the court, they’re helping us out if we don’t know what’s going on, making sure we understand everything and aren’t really left behind.” 

While the season may not look exactly the same as in years past, both Morris and Mott look forward to playing games and traveling with the team when the time comes. Overall, they’re excited to help the Cats defend their Big Ten title this season.

“There’s a commitment to wanting to be great, in everything like the facilities, how our schedule is set up, getting our food to us and making sure we have everything we need,” Morris said. “The support of everyone is really evident, and that’s probably all I could really ask for, especially during this time.”

Credit to the Northwestern women’s basketball Twitter account (@nuwbb) for the featured image.