Balancing school, basketball and motherhood

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LEE COUNTY, Fla.- As a senior at Fort Pierce Westwood High School, Kaneisha Atwater averaged 29.2 points, 6.2 assists, 7.9 steals and 7.5 rebounds per game. Basketball was going to be her ticket to a college education until a doctor’s visit revealed something that at the time filled her with shame but now is her motivation.

“A lot of people doubted me or didn’t think that I was going to amount to anything after the pregnancy,” said Atwater.

The girl who practiced jump shots on the night of her prom had to turn down a basketball scholarship to Old Dominion after getting pregnant at the end of her senior year of high school.

“I heard ‘what are you thinking,’ I heard ‘you’re crazy,’ I heard ‘what do your parents have to say about this,’ ‘why did you keep it,'” said Atwater.

After a year away Atwater got a chance to return to basketball, the young mother accepted a scholarship to play at Virginia Commonwealth while her son Andarious stayed with her mom in Florida.

“It was stressful, not only that but I had to get in shape. I was litterally just getting out of my pregnancy. Getting in shape was the most difficult part for me,” said Atwater.

Atwater worked liked she never had before, dropping 35 pounds to get back in basketball shape. She started 12 games and played in 30 overall for the Rams while averaging 6.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

She was too far from home though and after the season told her coach, she couldn’t stay.

“I couldn’t handle being away from home, being away from my son, it was just too much for me. It was just to stressful, very stressful, I was depressed in areas so it affected me on and off the court. So I just thought it was best to leave,” said Atwater.

Atwater was going to transfer to a Junior College close to her home and her son in Fort Pierce, until FGCU head coach Karl Smesko offered a different plan.

“I got a call from Smesko and literally I had no idea what this school was before he called me,” said Atwater.

After a visit to campus, Atwater decided to become an Eagle. Lured by the prospect of a four year education and the promise made by Coach Smesko, the team comes second to her son.

“A child doesn’t stop anything, actually a child is more motivation because you want to be able to provide for that child and you want your child to think you’re special,” said Atwater.

NCAA rules mandated that Atwater sit out a season because she had transferred but just weeks before the season’s first game she was granted a waiver to play immediately. She averaged 7.9 points with 3.6 rebounds in 26 minutes per game as a sophomore while helping the Eagles to Atlantic Sun regular and postseason titles.

Through 20 games this season Atwater is averaging 14 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2 assists per game. The 18-2 Eagles are 5-0 in the A-sun.

Atwater drives home to see Andarious every chance she gets and the now 3-year-old makes the 140 mile trip with his grandmother for weekend games.

“I want him to go back and Google his mom and say my mom did this and my mom did that. I think I’m a pretty cool mom and I want him to feel the same way.”

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