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‘This game has made me a better person’: Basketball helped Ty Pate develop as a student, player

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

The long road to the girls varsity basketball team for Natija ”Ty” Pate was rewarding for her in more ways than one.

The unfortunate conclusion of her varsity career being cut short because of a torn anterior-cruciate ligament midway through the season may have hampered her spirit briefly, but the senior has managed to put her injury — and her career — in perspective.

“The things that this game can teach you, you can’t measure that,” Pate said. “Things I’ve learned both on and off the court I’ll take with me when I’m done playing. I’m very thankful for that. This game has made me a better person.”

After spending her first three seasons playing for the junior varsity team, Pate was thrilled when she learned she made the varsity team for her senior year. She was even more thrilled when she found out she was selected as one of the team captains after a vote by her teammates.

“I didn’t take the same path that a lot of my teammates did to get here,” Pate said. “And to be recognized by them for being a leader meant a lot to me. It really boosted my confidence and made me feel like a big sister to everyone. That’s kind of the role I have taken. I might not be able to play any more this season, but that won’t stop me from being with my teammates.”

Pate’s circuitous route to playing basketball at West is rooted in some challenges during her freshman year.

“I’m not going to lie; I was a troublemaker in ninth grade,” Pate said. “I was going to the office a lot for my behavior. My grades were bad, and I just didn’t care about them too much. I was getting in lots of fights. It was getting to the point that something had to happen. One day, I guess they had kind of had enough of me being there so much and they referred me to Coach (Brittany) Cox (Hudson). That’s when things started to change for me. Coach has really gotten me through a lot.”

Cox Hudson took Pate under her wing and introduced her to basketball.

“I had never touched a ball before ninth grade,” Pate said. “I had to learn everything. How to dribble. How to condition myself. Where I needed to be on the floor. How to conduct myself. It really opened my eyes.”

Pate said that a lot of her behavior issues stemmed from having an ill grandfather, who was in and out of hospitals in Atlanta, and her parents splitting up, all of which was going on around the same time.

“I was just angry that I couldn’t be around for my grandfather because I felt like I couldn’t help him,” she said. “And when my parents split up, I had to take on more responsibility with my younger sister. I was just acting out because I was angry.”

Pate used basketball and her newfound passion for it to help ease her burdens. She started to develop enough confidence that her playing time increased as a sophomore, and she joined an AAU team after her sophomore season to continue her development.

“Coach Cox (Hudson) worked me out a lot after my freshman year and then when I started playing AAU, that’s when I could really tell my skills were coming along,” Pate said. “Then my junior year, I had my best year yet. I think I averaged about 12 points a game.”

Coming into her senior season, Pate’s main goal was to make the varsity team.

Once she found out she made the team, there was an understandable sense of excitement.

“I’m a very religious person,” Pate said. “I had a lot of faith in myself and I did all I knew how to do in tryouts. I let God take over and it all worked out for me. That was a great feeling when I found out I would get to play varsity.”

Pate, a 6-0 post player, would be counted on for her defense, rebounding, and controlling the lane. And suddenly, her season came to an end.

“I came down during a game and heard my knee pop,” Pate said. “Originally, I was told it just a hyperextension. A few days later, I still had some pain, so we went to get an MRI. That showed the ACL tear. That was hard news to hear. They told me I was out for the season and that tore me up. I had worked so hard for this chance and it was taken away. I took about a week to get myself together before I came back to be around my coaches and my teammates. I’m good now. I didn’t want to let them down.”

Pate is determined that her injury won’t be the last of her playing days.

“It’s definitely not over for me,” she said. “I want to play in college. I’m going to visit a few community colleges because I want to keep playing. I feel like I was just getting started and I have a lot left to do.”