Basketball Player Aims High: Athletic Scholarship Opens Doors

Taneka RubinTaneka Rubin is going to leave Glendale Community College in May. And she’s going out on a high note; after playing for the GCC Lady Gauchos for the past two seasons, she will be moving to Tallahassee to attend Florida A & M basketball – on a basketball scholarship.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was three years old, dribbling around the house,” said Taneka. “My dad gave me a basketball and I was outside all the time, playing with him and the neighborhood boys.”

Taneka was five years old when her family moved to Arizona. She says she’s not very tall (five feet, nine inches), but her athletic build has boosted her natural interest in the game, which has been a life-long passion.

She joined a city league when she was seven, and has been playing on teams ever since. Though knee surgery to repair a torn ACL kept her off the court in her senior year at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, she made up for lost time when she arrived at GCC in 2011 on a basketball scholarship.

At GCC, she has focused on prerequisites – a lot of math and sciences, including biology, nutrition and exercise science – for a major in physical therapy, with a minor in business, when she transfers to Florida. Eventually, she would like to help injured athletes with rehabilitation, either as physical therapist or athletic trainer.

She liked GCC right off:  the campus layout, the small size of classes. And especially, “Teachers who try to get to know you personally, and who encourage you to come in and ask questions,” she said. “Plus, the trainers in the athletic department are really good with all the athletes.”

Competition in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference this season was a big jump from her first season with GCC. Central Arizona was the hardest opponent. “They’re athletic; all their girls are tall and quick,” Taneka said.

“It was a challenging year, but I felt like I grew a lot,” said Taneka, whose coaches put her in a leadership role, which forced her to improve. “The coaches want me to be an extension of them on the floor; the other players looked to me as a leader.”

“For someone who wasn’t so talkative at first, it was a stretch to tell teammates, ‘this is what you need to do, and this is how you need to do it,’” said Taneka. She credits head coach Timi Brown and assistant coaches Sean Brokaw and Laura Stratton for helping her to learn and grow.

Outside the gym, Taneka’s communications teacher, Michelle Jackson, helped her become more comfortable speaking in public. “Which is good, since I’m going to minor in business,” said Taneka.

“I’ve enjoyed playing here; I’m so glad I chose GCC,” said Taneka.

After college, Taneka would like to play professional basketball in Europe, following the example of her high school coach, who played at the University of Florida and then in Amsterdam.

“I think it would be great to go to Italy and learn from different coaches,” said Taneka, who noted that women’s basketball is highly regarded overseas, though the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has gotten more popular in the U.S. over the years.

Why Italy? The history and the language are appealing to Taneka, along with the culture and the warm, free-spirited people. “Oh, and I heard they have good lasagna and pasta,” she added.

Taneka remembers living in Germany, when her dad was in the service and she was very young. “It snowed a lot, and people would come up and try to touch my hair, because I have red hair,” she said. “I guess it was a novelty – a little Black girl with red hair.” She concluded they must have seen it as good luck. (Given her recent successes, maybe it was good luck.)

How will the Lady Gauchos do next fall, with Taneka moving on? “We have a lot of freshmen coming back, and we all learned a lot; they’re going to do a great job,” she said, adding that Coach Sean does a good job with recruiting and will no doubt add some good new players.

After her father retired from the service and Taneka graduated from high school, her family moved to Florida. Her older sister, who lived with Taneka during her first year of school, eventually joined them. Their little sister and brother are 12-year-old twins. “My little brother plays football, and my little sister is good at basketball, but she chose cheerleading,” she said with a laugh.

Taneka is eager to be reunited with her family, including her mother, who is one of her biggest fans, and her father. Now working for a security company in Afghanistan, he’ll return to Florida in May, just before Taneka moves there.

Taneka hasn’t played one-on-one with her father for a long time, and she’s looking forward to it. “He’s pretty athletic, and can still beat me in a race,” she said. “He’s not too old yet, so it’ll be a good competition,” she added. Like the three-year-old girl who first delighted in dribbling a basketball, she’s ready to play ball.

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3 thoughts on “Basketball Player Aims High: Athletic Scholarship Opens Doors

  1. Taneka, I really enjoyed having you in my public speaking class and doing the introduction on you. Good luck in Florida.

  2. Taneka – so proud of you! It has been a joy to watch you develop as a player and as a student these past two years! Great job!

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