Editor’s note: This week, staff writer Chloe Bartz had the opportunity to do a Q&A with seniors Arika Tolbert and Kayla Russell, two members of the Hope women’s basketball team. Tolbert is originally from Lathrup Village, MI, and is a double major in business and economics, while Clarkston, MI is the hometown of Russell, a biology major. Special thanks to both of these women for their time and energy, both on and off the court.
Q: What initially drew you to the Hope basketball program?
Tolbert: Kayla Russell and I played AAU basketball together, and she told me about Hope College and their basketball program.
Russell: I loved the community feel of Hope College. When I visited Hope and arrived on campus, I literally couldn’t stop smiling.
Q: How do you think being a member of this team has impacted you as a student/athlete/individual?
Tolbert: Being a part of any team, specifically this team, has taught me that no matter how big or small we may think our role is, every member of the team is essential. Many times we assume if we are not getting the time that we feel we deserve or scoring the most points that we aren’t necessary. But the truth is if everybody had the same role, we wouldn’t be successful; we wouldn’t be much of a team at all. I learned that I must embrace my role and be the best at it because no one can be better at my role than me.
Russell: I think being a member of this team has taught me a ton of life lessons. I have learned a lot about patience and adversity, and I truly learned how to embrace every step of the grind that comes with being on a team.
Q: What is a favorite memory of yours from your four years playing basketball?
Tolbert: Beating Thomas Moore, who hadn’t lost in over 90 games, my freshman year in the NCAA Tournament.
Q: What will you miss most about the team or the game?
Tolbert: I will really miss the game of basketball as a whole because it has always been a love of mine. More importantly, I will miss the people and the connections I have made with my teammates and coaches. We spend so much time together every day that we become a family, and knowing I won’t be able to see this family every day after I graduate is something I have to get used to.
Russell: I will miss everything about being on this team, I have never been closer to a group of individuals in my life. We are truly like a huge family. What I will miss about the game is the intensity of the entire thing. I will miss celebrating with my teammates for sure, as we are always so hyped up during the game.
Q: What is your greatest success as a player/team that you have accomplished throughout your career?
Tolbert: My sophomore year, we were down by 1 point against Calvin with 1.4 seconds left, and we had the ball on the sideline. I threw a lob to Frankie Buchanan on the block, and she scored. We beat Calvin 70-69.
Q: What is one take away from being a college athlete that you would say will help you later in life?
Tolbert: The biggest take away from being a college athlete is time management. Being a student-athlete means having a hectic schedule, so we quickly realize that we have to be productive every moment while also finding time for ourselves.
Russell: Being a college athlete has taught me so much, but I definitely think that time management is a big thing that I will take from it. Being a student-athlete is definitely hard with balancing school and sports, but 100% worth it. Also, it has taught me how to be a team player on many different levels, and I’m better because of it!
Q: What are your plans for the future?
Tolbert: I plan to go to law school and become a lawyer.
Q: How would you like to finish this last season?
Tolbert: I would like to be undefeated and win a National Championship.
Tolbert: I want to finish my last season with winning a National Championship!