Lady Tigers standout finds the perfect fit

Posted Monday, Jun. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Former Mansfield basketball player Delana Lopez can finally plan for her future. After battling through a rash of injuries that limited her senior season, the four-year letterman has signed to play college ball. Lopez recently inked her signature on a National Letter of Intent to play on full scholarship at Western Texas College.

“I’m extremely excited. It just feels good to know where I’m going and I have that weight lifted off my shoulders,” Lopez said.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Mansfield coach Natasha Stewart said. “I think that Western Texas will be a good place for Delana to transition academically and athletically and it will be a good opportunity for her to not only develop as a player but as a person for whatever comes next.”

Lopez and Western Texas are a match that almost didn’t happen. Ranger Junior College had offered her a scholarship, and she seemed ready to accept. However, her mother encouraged her to visit Western, and Lopez somewhat reluctantly capitulated. The rest, as they say, is history.

“What sold me on it was the coach [Darryl Davis],” Lopez said. “He was just a really good guy.”

Like four years ago, Lopez will once again be a freshman. But this time she feels like she’s more ready for the challenges than when she was a freshman in high school.

“Being on varsity as a freshman, I really had to pick myself up and get myself together,” Lopez said. “I had to adapt to that pretty quick. It took me a little longer than it should have, but I learned how to step up and be a leader whenever the going gets tough.”

Stewart believes it’s that learning curve that now has Lopez ready for the next level.

“The biggest area of growth for Delana was in her toughness,” Stewart said. “She came in, and even though she was fairly skilled and was talented as a basketball player, her mental toughness level wasn’t where it needed to be. She would cry at the drop of a dime as a freshman, but over the years she got tougher, and by her senior year I saw her take some of the younger kids who were having a hard time with the mental toughness part of the game, and she was able to take those types of players under her wing and just give them her experiences because she’d been through it.

“I think hard coaching won’t faze her because she knows what that entails now,” Stewart added. “She knows what it looks like and what it feels like. I think she’ll go in and right away be one of the kids that stands out, because she will respond the way that coaches like and expect players to respond … She’s a great student; she’s going to take care of business in the classroom and on the court. She’ll be a leader by example. She won’t be a player that a coach will have to worry about on or off the court.”

Lopez hopes that, also like four years ago, she can be an impact freshman.

“I missed out on so much my senior year that I’m focused on doing something next year,” she said.

All the experience she has gained in her career at Mansfield has given Lopez and early idea of what she wants to focus on at and after college – being a teacher/coach.

“Coach Stewart and my mom have been the two people that have made me want to do that,” she said. “Coach Stewart was a tough coach, but I would want to be just like her as a coach, because she’ll tell you like it is from a coaching perspective.”

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