A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: SHA-KIYLA FINNEY
Jan. 4, 2013
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - A team is like a family.
And no one knows that more than University of Maryland Eastern Shore senior guard, Sha-Kiyla Finney.
The Portsmouth, Va., native was raised as one of six children by her mother, Desiree. The group was raised upon strict rules, as everyone had to play sports and concentrate on their studies. Those in the community have described the family as nice, kind and genuine.
The Finney family has seen four children sign Division I basketball scholarships. Her oldest brother, Benjamin, scored 1,211 points as a four-year starter at Old Dominion. After Sha-Kiyla signed with UMES in 2009, Dorian followed suit at Virginia Tech, where he registered three double-doubles and was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team last season. The fourth was seen when Finney's sister, Monnazjea, signed with Virginia Commonwealth in 2012.
To what does she attribute the family success?
"My mother," said Finney. "She has loved us no matter what. She is the one that all of us have counted on. We didn't have fathers in our lives growing up and my mom had to take care of us all on her own. She is my biggest role model."
Although not playing Division I basketball, the other two siblings, Ra-Shawn and Da-Shawn, were successful in their own rights. Da-Shawn works a full-time job and lives in his own apartment, all the while serving as his mother's protector when they travel to the others' athletic contests. Ra-Shawn was a captain on his high school football team, honor student and member of ROTC.
The family faced bouts of adversity growing up, but it was the death of Ra-Shawn in 2008 that rocked Sha-Kiyla and her family the hardest.
"His death brought us closer," said Finney. "It was a shock, but we had to stick together. He was the rock of the family."
Her brother's death was seen right before the start of her senior year. The tragedy did not stop Finney from making the record books at Woodrow Wilson High School as she went on to tally 1,000 points in her career. She was named to the All-District Second-Team in both her senior and junior years, while also playing AAU basketball for Boo Williams. Finney competed in track and cross country as well.
Her outstanding high school career sparked the attention of head women's basketball coach, Fred Batchelor. She had interest from several other schools, but upon visiting UMES, there was one concept that sold her on the maroon and gray.
"When I first came on a visit I knew it was the place for me," said Finney. "The university welcomed me like family. This was just the best fit for me."
The criminal justice major began her career as a reserve guard for the Hawks in 2009. In the season opener against UMBC, she tallied five points in 11 minutes. Finney would play sporadically over the next month, before notching three points and one assist in seven minutes against Winston-Salem State. The game would prove to be her last of her freshman campaign, as she would set her sails for home to handle another family matter.
She had found out that she was pregnant. It was now her time to become a mother.
"I really didn't know what to think at first," said Finney. "Coach Batchelor was really supportive of me. He looked at me and told me that we are all a family and that if I have to go home to take care of what I need to. He was ok with it. I felt very comfortable after having that conversation with him."
Finney would return home and deliver birth to a healthy baby girl. She immediately found joy in bringing a child into the world, but her mother did not want her to leave school permanently.
"My mom wanted me to come back to school and finish," said Finney. "She has picked up a lot of the slack while I have been gone. She wanted me here. I owe her so much."
Finney returned to UMES and enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign. She came off the bench to lead the team in steal with 27 altogether. She totaled five steals in one game against American and made one start. As a junior, she was named to the 2012 MEAC Commissioner's All-Academic Team. She played in 28 games, starting nine, and had three three-steal games.
The defensive star came into college wanting to make a mark on the program and was given a real chance this year. As a senior, she was named a team captain.
For those who have followed the UMES women's basketball team this year, being captain of the 2012-13 team is much different than in years past. The squad began the season with nine freshmen, so Finney had a daunting task ahead of her.
"We have a pretty young group," said Finney. "I feel like I'm a mom with them. The girls sometimes call me mom after we do different things. It's a fun team."
It has certainly paid off.
Under her watch, the Hawks are leading the MEAC in Rookie of the Week honors (three). Freshman Alexis Udoji is ranked second in the conference in blocks and as a whole, the team stands fourth in offensive and defensive rebounds.
On the court, Finney has put together the best season of her collegiate career. She has played in 12 games with four starts. She stands second in points-per-game (7.8), minutes-per-game (26.3), assists (23) and three-pointers made (14). She is also fourth on the team in steals with 12. Her best game this season was an 18-point effort against Campbell and she has scored in every game this year.
It is no easy chore to lead nine freshmen, parent a daughter and be there for your brothers and sisters all at once.
But Finney does it without hesitation.
It's in her roots.
And it's all about taking care of your family.