WOODSTOCK - Mariam Traore wants to play Division 1 college basketball and get an education and her path to that dream has led her to Massanutten Military Academy.
The 5-foot-10 point guard is from Mali in Africa and this season she is making some big noise for MMA's girls varsity basketball team.
"She's definitely been a great asset," MMA girls basketball coach Bria Bryant said. "She has a great attitude. Anything you want her to do she's never going to say no. She's dedicated to the game. She's super excited to go to school and be in America to continue to get ready to fulfill her dream of playing high level basketball."
Traore played for Mali's international team when she was 14. She said it was a great learning experience for her.
"The other girls were older than me," Traore said. "And I got selected to go to Spain for the (FIBA World Championships). And we played there. It was really fun and hard because I was the youngest player."
She played for Mali in the FIBA U17 World Championships on June 22-July 2, 2016, in Zaragoza, Spain. She averaged 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. She scored 21 points against Spain in one of the games.
In the summer of 2017, she and her family decided they wanted her to come to America to try and improve her game and eventually go to college to play basketball.
Traore was given a scholarship to play at New Hope Academy in Landover, Maryland. The team was ranked in the preseason as one of the top 25 prep school teams in the country.
Traore said that she enjoyed playing there, but they didn't have all the classes that she wanted to take. She suffered an injury toward the end of the season and decided she wanted to look for another school.
Traore's guardian was also the guardian for Mahamadou Diawara and for Touba Traore (no relation to Mariam), both of whom were also from Mali. Daiwara chose to join MMA's post grad basketball team and so both Mariam Traore and Touba Traore decided to attend there and were given scholarships as well. Touba Traore is a junior on the boys varsity basketball team.
Mariam Traore said that she and Touba Traore and Daiwara are close and have formed a bond. She said they are like brothers to her.
On the court this season, Mariam Traore has made a big impact on the Colonels.
She is averaging 36.2 points per game for the Colonels. On Feb. 8, Traore had 62 of her team's 64 points in a 76-64 loss to Quantico High School.
The Colonels, who played their last game of the season on Tuesday at St. John's Academy in Front Royal are 5-7 on the season.
Bryant said Traore has helped elevate the play of the players around her. MMA's girls basketball program has struggled for many years now.
"Some of my girls who have never scored before are scoring 10 points in a game," Bryant said. "Which is a huge deal to them and to me as a coach, because (Traore) has definitely boosted their confidence whether it's her assisting with the ball or her giving them pointers when we're in practice. She definitely has taken a mentor-type leadership to the team and helped the girls out."
Traore said she enjoys being a leader and it's part of why she loves playing point guard.
"I like being a point guard because the point guard is like another coach on the court," Traore said. "You have to lead your teammates on the court and tell them what to do."
Traore said that she enjoys being in the U.S., but it's still tough being so far away from her family.
"I'm an only child, so I miss my mom a lot," she said.
Traore said she plans to fly back home to Mali once the summer Amateur Athletic Union basketball season is over.
Traore will be playing for the Winchester Assault, coached by Strasburg graduate Dalice Payton during the spring. But she plans on playing AAU basketball over the summer for a bigger AAU program, although she is undecided as to which one.
There should be plenty of college coaches looking at Traore this summer. Bryant said Traore already has offers to play college basketball at West Virginia University, the University of Kansas and Iowa State University, which is a Top 25 ranked team. Bryant said that there are many other schools, including Top 25 schools such as the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University who have shown interest in Traore.
Bryant said that MMA is hoping to recruit more talented basketball players to come to the school next year to play with Traore and try to build the program up.
"We definitely want to have more athletes like her that stand out," Bryant said. "And that have a successful future that this military aspect with the discipline and the conditioning are going to help set them apart from standard athletes."
Traore said that she's glad that she came to MMA.
"MMA has helped me a lot to speak better English and to be a better leader," she said.
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