Sophomore criminal justice major Patricia Chikamba was the team manager for the University of Indianapolis women’s basketball team last year, but this year she has started all nine games of the season so far, according to UIndy Athletics. Chikamaba has been playing basketball since second grade and initially wanted to play basketball in college. After Head Coach Marc Mitchell joined the team two years ago, Chikamba heard that he did not accept walk-ons and accepted that she could not play and instead offered to be a manager.
In her position as manager, and with help from the coaches, she became a practice player for the team. She said around the beginning of December last year, Mitchell pulled her in for a meeting and told her that he wanted her to be on the team. Initially, she thought he had meant for next year, but Mitchell wanted Chikamba to start as soon as she could so once her paperwork was filled out, she was playing by the second semester of last year.
Now that Chikamba has earned her spot on the team, she said it was now time to find her role. Along with adjusting to having more on her schedule with lifts, conditioning and practice, she also set her focus on contributing to the team. She said her brother helps to push and encourage her to continually work and get better as well. As she has spent more time on the team and the court as she has found what her skill set adds to the team.
“If I’m not making layups or something,” Chikamba said. “I always just end up focusing on, ‘Ok, I’m gonna rebound. I’m gonna get the ball over this one girl.’ And so that’s kind of how it started, just getting a couple of rebounds, getting offensive putbacks and I think that kind of helps me elevate my game, help me find more confidence during the game to try more things and become a big part of that game.”
Mitchell said Chikamba was always reliable as a manager which translated on the court as well. According to Mitchell, even before she was actually on the team, she was a team player. Once Chikamba began playing in the second semester, Mitchell said she came with the same amount of positivity and encouragement she had before. She started off not getting much playing time, but slowly got more minutes.
“One thing I noticed each and every time she played no matter what was going on around us, the only thing she did was play hard,” Mitchell said. “And that, you know, I took notice.”
Mitchell said although his initial policy was not to accept walk-ons, after the success with Chikamba he will now be accepting preferred walk-ons. Even though Chikamba started as a manager, Mitchell said he did not treat her any differently than he does now. He said they have a truthful and honest relationship which has only grown since they met.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Mitchell said. “And I want to play a certain way and, I want certain types of people to play for me. And I want to be 100% clear that Patti Chikamba is exactly the type of person/player I want playing for me. I mean, [she has] no problems in the classroom, no problems in society/social, not getting in any trouble. Great attitude, works hard and very coachable.”
Chikamba said there is a lot she is looking forward to for the upcoming season and that last year the team had ups and downs, so she is excited about what the talent on the team can do this year. The positive and encouraging atmosphere on the team is something Chikamba said other teams will have trouble combating. The women’s basketball team will compete next on Dec. 30 against Ohio Dominican at home.