On the court, Quidara Russell is an in your face, rebound grabbing, ball chasing forward.
A player who can light up the scoreboard on any given night.
Off the court, she’s a daughter, friend and student who puts the same handles on life that she does in the game.
“When I came (to FAMU) my main goal was to get on scholarship so I could get an education and continue to play basketball,” said the 22-year-old senior from Rahway, N.J.
Russell said she didn’t decide to play basketball until the fifth grade.
“I never had an interest in basketball,” she said. “I was just tall, and everyone kept telling me ‘you should play basketball,’ ” Russell said. “I started playing and I was good so I kept on playing.”
She hasn’t looked back since.
Raised solely by her father, Russell was never short of the support and encouragement necessary to thrive on the court.
“My dad always pushed me to play basketball,” Russell said. “He would come to all my high school games. He was really supportive athletically, always pushing me to do well.”
According http://www.thefamurattlers.com, Russell scored more than 1,800 points during her high school career. Russell collected all-state and all-county honors, and was twice an honorable mention All-American selection by Street & Smith’s Magazine.
During high school, Russell found a friend and basketball mentor in Kyle Chapman. He took her under his wing and helped her develop on and off the court.
“I practically raised her on the basketball court,” Chapman said.
“She coached me on my jump shot, and I taught her how to drive to the basket. We helped each other.”
After high school, Russell went on to play at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
As a freshman, Russell averaged 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 21 games.
Early in her second season she tore her ACL against the Jackson State Tigers. The injury required season ending surgery.
Russell’s resilience, pride and first-class work ethic didn’t allow her to give up.
While rehabilitating, Russel searched for a new school and found FAMU.
Given a second chance to shine, Russell has capitalized on the opportunity, becoming what Chapman predicted she would be
Averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds a game, Russell’s tenacity on the court ranks her near the top of almost all MEAC statistics week after week.
Russell credits much of her success to her teammates.
“Everybody’s real helpful, real cool with each other,” she said.
This year’s team has seven seniors, and according to Russell, they serve as a support system for each other.
“The seniors, we’re real tight because we’ve been through a lot together over the past couple of years,” she said.
One Lady Rattler Russell leans on in particular is Ariel Towns, a senior journalism student from Altadena, Calif.
“She’s, like, my other half,” Russell said of Towns.
“She’s one of the reasons I’m still on the team because when I had hard times, she was the one telling me to be strong.”
The two have been friends since Towns first visited FAMU and have been roommates for two years.
“That’s my running partner,” Towns said.
“It’s easy for us to flow on the court because we have such a good relationship outside of basketball.
A self-described headstrong and hard working player, Russell always plays with great intensity.
“Even if I wasn’t shooting well or I missed a lay-up, I would still work hard in the game or work hard in practice,” Russell said.
“She practices how she plays,” Chapman said. “While most ball players play around in practice, she gives it everything. If you play her too close (on the court) she’ll go right past you, and she definitely will score.”
In a recent game against Norfolk State, the many faces of Quidara Russell were on display.
Pensive with the neck of her jersey over her mouth, chewing gum while driving past an opponent, and playfully joking with teammates while on the sidelines.
What you couldn’t see was the exceptional basketball player who bounced back from four knee surgeries.
After she hangs up her Lady Rattler jersey for the last time at the end of this season, she said, “I want to be remembered as somebody that worked hard, was good to my teammates, and was a good player.”
Contact Raina Mcleod at firstname.lastname@example.org.