Oct. 22, 2013
By: R.J. Layton, Media Relations Student Assistant
Norm Stewart Court is familiar territory for freshman Sierra Michaelis. Last season, the Mercer, Mo., native led her high school basketball team to the state semifinals at Mizzou Arena for the first time in school history. A year later, the 5-foot-10 guard is back in Columbia and this time, it's as a member of the Missouri women's basketball team.
Michaelis' road to Division I basketball has always been defined by a great support system. The first time she played the sport competitively was at Mercer's annual "diaper derby" event, which showcases preschoolers scrimmaging against one another. Michaelis says the entire town showed up to watch.
In the third grade, she started playing travel ball with the help of Dan Owens. Owens, whose daughter was a close friend and classmate of Michaelis, coached her from that point on.
"(Owens) put together a team for us because we liked basketball so much," Michaelis said. "Then he coached us from third grade through my senior year. He and pretty much my whole family who played basketball were big influences. I looked up to everyone that was older than me."
The heavy dose of family and basketball set the stage for Michaelis to put together one of the best careers in Missouri high school basketball history. She racked up 3,170 points over four years, good enough for second all-time in the state.
The gaudy numbers were a big reason her squad posted a 122-5 record in those four years and a third place finish in the 2013 state tournament. At season's end, she was named Miss Show-Me Basketball, which recognizes the top girls high school basketball player in Missouri. For Michaelis, however, none of the stats or accolades matter.
"The records are such a big deal to everyone else, but not to me," Michaelis said. "I just wanted to win."
Michaelis will now take that competitive and humble attitude to the next level when she suits up for the Tigers this season. She says she knew Mizzou was the place for her when she first visited.
"It felt like home when I came here," Michaelis said. "You go on all these visits and then you come to the one place and you get the feeling that this where I'm going."
Now that she's here to stay, Michaelis has her sights set on the NCAA tournament and putting the Mizzou women's basketball program on the map alongside national powers like Tennessee and UCONN. In the meantime, she says taking advantage of a good education is what's most important. Michaelis is currently a speech pathology major, hoping to aid children with hearing disorders one day.
No matter what the future holds, Michaelis' support system never wavers. Columbia is only a short 3-hour trip south from Mercer, which is close enough for her family to be at as many games as possible when the team opens up exhibition play Oct. 29. The unselfish approach she learned from them growing up will continue to influence her when the season opener rolls around.
"I'll do anything for this team, it's not about me," Michaelis said. "I don't care if I'm on the bench as long we're winning."
Michaelis' basketball career began with humble beginnings in a small town of just over 300 people. Now, with her family and friends behind her, she's ready to face the challenge of transitioning to the college level head on.
"It doesn't matter where you come from," Michaelis said. "(Your success) is based off your talent."