I knew who the point guard of the Cal Poly women’s basketball team was before I ever stepped foot on campus three years ago. I was interested in trying out for basketball, so I decided to check out the team online and I instantly clicked on Sparkle Anderson’s profile. Yeah, I was interested in the guards on the team but in all honesty, I liked her name.
When I got to Cal Poly, I soon realized that her name is not only unique, but it is quite fitting. The girl gleams on the court that is, if your eyes are quick enough to spot her.
I remember playing against her in a pick-up game at the Rec Center my freshman year. I was so juiced that I got one shot off on her yet my excitement quickly fizzled after she easily jetted past me toward the basket several times. She was most likely playing to about 10 percent of her capability, but I can’t be sure because I was too busy trying to catch my breath.
I’m not upset about it. Faith Mimnaugh, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said of Anderson, “She’s one of the most exciting players to ever suit up for Cal Poly. She’s easily the most electric player in the conference.”
Anderson, a recreation administration senior from San Diego with a concentration in sports management started playing basketball, among other sports, when she was 5. Her mother encouraged her to try all sports, but she soon found an interest in hoops. She said the competitiveness and the family atmosphere of the sport are the qualities she likes most. She also admires that “everybody on your team is a vital role in your success.”
Her mother is her biggest role model. Anderson stressed the fact that although her mother pushed her very hard to excel in athletics, she also made sure she was focused in school. “If I didn’t have an education I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
Along with basketball, Anderson also competes in the triple jump, long jump, 4×100 relay and the 100-meter dash for the Poly track team.
“She’s had a long history of playing against guys and holding her own on the court,” Mimnaugh said. Anderson explained that there was no recreational league for girls while she was in middle school so she played on a men’s team. “I’ve grown up playing with guys. I know how to get hit, I know contact,” she said.
Although she has been playing with men for several years now, Anderson said she still hears and experiences sexism on the court.
She said men sometimes won’t pass her the ball because she’s a woman but once they realize that she plays for the school, “they’ll play me too hard because I’m on the basketball team and they don’t want to get shown up or embarrassed.”
When asked if she gets joy from scoring on guys at the Rec Center, she said, “I’m a basketball player. I treat everybody as a basketball player, if you’re a girl, if you’re a guy, I don’t really care who you are.”
Anderson said when she started playing with girls in high school, “The level of play was totally different. I had to control myself more.” According to Anderson, women’s basketball is more team-oriented; they swing the ball more and focus on high-low post action while men are more physical and individualistic.
When asked why people don’t go to women’s games, she said, “That’s how it is. People think, there’s no dunking. It’s not as intense … People go to guys’ games so they can see somebody cross-over and then get an alley-oop dunk.”
Mimnaugh speculated that a possible reason attendance is compably low at games is that Poly students are so involved. “People are doing things all over the place,” she said. She commented on the attendance at women’s volleyball games as well. “How could Mott gym not be full (to watch) a top 20 team compete? To me, it’s craziness,” she said.
She added, “If people come out to the games, I think they’re gonna’ love it. Certainly, our style of play is fast paced and fun. We really love our student body and want them to be as involved and us being as involved with them as we can be.”
From first-hand experience, I can assure you that Anderson has a mean cross-over and she is most definitely worth your time to watch, especially since this was impossible all of last year.
Last season, Anderson redshirted after an anterior cruciate ligament injury. She said the hardest thing about the injury was the mental aspect of it and that she didn’t like babying her knee or limping on it.
Although she had some mental issues with her injury, she said, “My mom told me and my coaches told me that everything happens for a reason.
I really think (the injury) made me a better person . you can learn so much by just playing (basketball) but when you sit and watch it, it’s a different story. I think it makes you that much of a better ball player.”
Mimnaugh shared similar sentiments. She said that because Anderson was watching from the sideline and not playing, she gained a greater love for the game and learned the strengths of her teammates so this year she can set them up better.
She learned “how she could encourage people without having to have the ball in her hands,” Mimnaugh said.
Mimnaugh explained that with Anderson’s absense last season, guards Ashlee Stewart, Tamara Wells and Ardia Kelker all stepped up. “We kinda had a committee trying to replace Sparkle . Each of them did something that Sparkle does for us all the time in a combined person,” she said.
This year, Anderson said she is taking all the necessary steps in order to keep her knee healthy and to prevent another injury. “I feel really good about it. I’m doing my rehab and I’m conditioning it everyday,” she said.
“We’re expecting big things from her this year. As far as being a leader on the court, she’s certainly someone we’re counting on big-time to post some big numbers for us both in the assists category and also the scoring category,” Mimnaugh said.
“We want to be the Big West champions of course. That is our big No. 1 goal,” Anderson said. Personally, she said her goal is “to go out with a bang no matter what.”
“I try to take it one day at a time and get better on my own and whatever avenues come from basketball it’s gonna come,” Anderson said. “If the WNBA comes I’ll take it, if overseas comes I’ll take that,” she said.
If basketball doesn’t work out, she is interested in working with children. “I just want to try to make a difference in somebody’s life, like just one kid at a time,” she said.
In terms of lessening the stigma imposed on female athletes each day, especially in basketball, Anderson said, “People could just respect the game for what it is and not who’s playing it.”
She added, “Don’t judge us just because we’re women. We work just as hard, we do the same things, we just don’t dunk and stuff. We play the game, we love the game with passion, and we just have a different gender.”