Nov. 19, 2013
By Jordan Cook, Media Relations Student Assistant
Forward Darian Saunders returns to the 2013-2014 Mizzou Women's Basketball team ready for round two of SEC play. Saunders came to Mizzou last year from Palo Verde Magnet in Tucson, Arizona where she holds a record of 453 career blocks, the state's best.
Making her mark as a Tiger, she appeared in 29 games last season averaging almost nine minutes per game. She grabbed a career high of eight rebounds in just her first match and scored a career-high nine points in one of the last non-conference games.
Adjusting from the high school to college level is not always easy, and with Mizzou's move to the SEC, the entire team had some adjusting to do. Saunders has made quite the transition between her freshman and sophomore years so far.
"The difference is that I feel more comfortable, ready to play those games, and more ready to go up against the bigger, tougher, and stronger competition."
While she is more comfortable on the court, she still strives to be the best she can be.
"It's still tough, you're still learning new things, learning new ways to defend, offense, and things like that. It's a process, I should say."
Saunders feels more comfortable with college life off the court as well.
"I've gotten better at not being so homesick. We're [the team] all so close that if I have problems and I can talk to any of my teammates, it's a `homey' feel, and now that I have Face Time I can talk to my dad and brother, so it's gotten easier. It's better than last year when it was just a phone call and I couldn't see their faces as much as I wanted to."
Saunders could not have adjusted so well without the help of those whom she calls her heroes. Her father and godfather have both served in the U.S. military. Saunders feels these two men have been heroes in her life as well as in the lives of others whom they serve.
"If anyone my dad works with has trouble or needs help, they call on him and he's there for them. He's the first person they would call and he would be on his way immediately. It's the same with my godfather."
As for her, Saunders shared that if she needs help with anything she can call her dad, and even if he's at work he will try to get out of meetings telling his commander he needs to be there for his daughter.
There is another hero's legacy, in particular, that lives on in the life of Saunders. In 2009, Saunders lost her mother to breast cancer.
"She was super mom. She went to school, worked and still made time to come to my practices and go to my games. She would go to chemotherapy on Friday, recover and still go back to work on Monday. Through it all she was still a mom."
Saunders hopes she can be there for her teammates on the court in the same way that her heroes have been there for her throughout her life.
"I want to be the big man down low, not letting players get inside to make those easy shots. I want to be that strong force in the middle."
Saunders is looking forward to making it to postseason play again this year, playing harder and smarter with her team, all while having fun.