When Naama Shafir takes the court for the University of Toledo, there’s an unquestionable sense of relief.
It helps that her team is on a winning and that Shafir is averaging 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists per contest. And for Shafir, a native of Hoshaya, Israel, being back on the court at all is a thrill after a knee injury wiped out her senior season.
“All the hard work and rehab all pay off,” said Shafir, who is believed to be the first Orthodox Jewish woman to earn an NCAA Division I athletic scholarship. “I feel really good, and it’s really nice to be able to play, and not just watch from the bench.”
As a three-time All-Metro Athletic Conference selection who was the MVP of the 2011 Women’s National Invitational Tournament, Shafir was already an outstanding player for Toledo and head coach Tricia Cullop. However, as Shafir gives her senior season another shot on a medical redshirt, Cullop is seeing significant improvement in her star point guard.
“She’s had a chance to really study all of her teammates and learn where they want the ball, where they’re more capable of scoring from,” Cullop said. “Not that she didn’t know it before, but I think she understands each one of the offenses that we’re running a little more because she had to watch them all last year.”
Lately, Cullop has even more reason to be impressed. With the recent hostilities in Israel, being on the opposite side of the globe from friends and family hasn’t been easy. However, Shafir has shown great poise and concentration in leading the Rockets on the court, showing few if any adverse effects from the stress.
“I’m extremely impressed,” Cullop said, “because I know it has to be something that is difficult to digest, but I do feel that she’s been very mature in how she’s handled it.”
It helps, of course, that Shafir has been able to stay in close contact with her family, who have been out of harm’s way.