Grace Mashore makes most of a tough role
Tara VanDerveer called timeout with 1:35 to go, her team leading Utah 64-41. Grace Mashore peeled off her warm-up shirt and hustled over to the scorer's table to check in to the final Pac-12 home game of her college career.
In the 37.5 minutes she had spent on the floor this season coming into this game, Mashore had not scored from the field. She had one point from the free throw line.
Mashore ran the Stanford offense from the point, moved the ball around the perimeter, made a nice pass into the post to Joslyn Tinkle, and grabbed a rebound at the other end.
With less than 30 seconds left, Mashore worked herself free to the left wing, took a pass from Sara James and buried a 3-pointer. The crowd of more than 4,500 erupted. Her teammates jumped up and down on the floor in front of the bench, their arms raised above their heads.
"I think that was one of the happiest moments I've had all year," Chiney Ogwumike said after the game.
Moments later, Mashore was standing in the wings under the bleachers, getting ready to be honored as part of the Cardinal's senior day celebration. She walked onto the court, arms locked with her parents, Paula and Derrick Mashore.
The public address announcer called Mashore "one of the most popular players in the locker room" and praised her for her resilience and perseverance. She smiled and looked as if she were fighting her emotions as the crowd cheered her for four years of hard work, hustle and heart.
Mashore will leave Stanford with four conference titles, an unblemished record at Maples Pavilion and at least three trips to the Final Four.
But her experience will not be everything she wanted it to be, her view from the end of the bench not the one she would have chosen.
Mashore has spent four years at Stanford as a reserve, playing a role that can best be described as "limited." She is typically the final player to enter a game for Stanford, usually in the last moments of a lopsided victory.
Minutes have been precious. In four years, she has played in 74 of 139 games. She has averaged 2.5 minutes a game, scoring a total of 46 points.
Yet Mashore works just as hard, spends just as much time in the weight room and practices with just as much intensity as her teammates. The coaches' expectations of her are certainly no less than for anyone else on the team.
But the payoff has been different than for most of her teammates. It's fair to say she's not exactly at peace with it. It's equally fair to say no one would expect her to be.
"I don't think my playing time has defined me as a basketball player, nor, obviously, as a person," Mashore said. "There's a work ethic I've always had that doesn't go away. And a competitive nature that I've always had that doesn't stop here."
Mashore typically is the point guard for the scout team in practice, running the opponents' plays to give the starters a look.
"The bottom line is that I think my teammates are ready to go," Mashore said. "They are prepared. I hope the success we've had is a testament to the work we've put in in practice. Not just me, but everybody."
Mashore arrived for practice Tuesday with her mother in tow. Paula Mashore, a former producer for NBC News, was in town for nine days, spending some "girl time" with her daughter. She sat on the ledge outside the locker room and hugged Mashore's teammates as they walked past to the training room.
During practice, Paula Mashore sat on a folding chair in the corner of the gym and watched her daughter run through another grueling practice with her teammates.
Mashore's father sells commercial real estate and usually gets to California a handful of times during the season to see his daughter.
Derrick Mashore was a college athlete, playing football at Duke. He understands there is value at every end of the athletic spectrum. But he also understands what a struggle it has been for his daughter some days.
"As a dad, all I can do is rebound and answer the phone at 1 a.m. when there are tears," Derrick Mashore said. "I have told her, if you think you can play basketball, then just play. ... There is an old saying that God does not make mistakes. She's had an opportunity here, and she's made the most of it. In a way, I think she's lucky to have had this experience. I think it will be a valuable asset for her in her life."
Mashore was an under-the-radar recruit for Stanford. She attended the National Cathedral School, a small high school in Washington, D.C., and got most of her playing experience in the AAU ranks, considering herself a "pass-first" guard. Her AAU coach contacted Stanford to let them know she wanted to come out to their summer camp. Two days after she arrived, she was invited by the coaches to apply for admission.
Eventually, she was offered a scholarship. But playing time never followed. It is a reality that has been painful at times.
"It's a constant process. We are all fighting for minutes," Mashore said. "Why do we train? We train to play in games. That's part of growing up. I work on it every day. Yeah, of course, I want to be out there. But I keep doing what I do, I believe in hard work and I believe in the process and it's just..."
She trailed off, not quite finishing the thought.
"She doesn't play in a lot of games," VanDerveer said. "But when she goes into the game, she knows what we are doing. She takes pride in running the other team's stuff, and she can knock down shots. I just think some of it is who has been in front of her."
VanDerveer said she knows Mashore wants to play.
"You don't want kids on your team who think they should not be playing," she said. "I don't think it's an easy situation. The coaches and I have been very honest and direct with her about what we need. But she's handled it very well."
Derrick Mashore acknowledged there have been moments when his daughter wasn't sure she was at the right place.
But Grace Mashore said she never seriously considered leaving Stanford, where VanDerveer has had only a handful of players transfer in 26 years.
"Maybe I'm stubborn, but I never woke up one day and thought I wasn't going to get on the court," Mashore said. "And a degree from Stanford is what I have worked for my whole life."
She will graduate in June with a degree in American studies, with an emphasis on race relations. She hasn't decided whether she will stay in California, but she likely won't return to Washington right away. She hopes she might even be able to continue her basketball career overseas.
"I am keeping my options open," Mashore said. "I would love to keep playing, and if this is the end of that, that's one thing. But I'm not exactly ready to put that aside. I have a lot of basketball energy left."
Mashore went to dinner with her parents Friday night to celebrate the weekend's senior day ceremonies.
"I told her that as your parents, we never would have chosen for you a situation where you didn't get to play," Derrick Mashore said. "And we have died a thousand deaths watching the way things have turned out, perhaps even more than she has.
"As a parent, you want your kids to get what they want. And had she gotten what she wanted, we should have been thrilled. But I think her experience is so much bigger than it would have been if that had happened, and we are so proud of the young woman she has become."