Calvert’s hoop dreams live on

After hitting a low point in Colorado, then becoming a mother, Colfax grad thrives at William Jessup
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Rebekah Calvert had all but resigned herself to the idea that her college basketball career was over. The Colfax High graduate already had three seasons under her belt when she learned she was pregnant in 2006. After returning home to Alta and giving birth to her son Maximo, Calvert found herself working three jobs to support him. “I thought, ‘This is it. I’m not going to go back to school,’” Calvert said. “I had to find a job that would let me squeeze by. If I was going to go back to school, it was going to be later.” Depressed by the thought, Calvert found an outlet at the 24 Hour Fitness in Roseville, where she organized pickup basketball games because she missed playing. One day in December of 2007, Calvert was shooting around by herself at the gym when she was approached by John Florance, an assistant men’s basketball coach at William Jessup University in Rocklin. “He came up to me and said, ‘You look like you’ve played before. Maybe you can help William Jessup,’” Calvert said. A year later, Calvert is not only a starting senior guard for William Jessup’s women’s basketball team, she’s the Warriors’ leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game. “I don’t want to say she’s un-guardable, but she’s close,” WJU coach Melissa Triebwasser said. “She gets to the basket really easily and finishes as well as anyone in (our) conference, if not better. She’s a great ballhandler, and her defense is really solid.” More importantly, Calvert’s longtime dream of becoming a college basketball coach is back on track. “Even though she had doubts about going back to school after she had Max, when she got the opportunity at William Jessup, I told her, ‘You have to do this,’” said Calvert’s mother, Val. “‘You’ll go nowhere if you don’t do this, and this is what you’ve been dreaming about.’” “I’m really lucky,” Calvert said. “I didn’t think I would have this opportunity.” A career derailed Calvert had already decided to leave Mesa State College, an NCAA Division II school in Colorado, when she learned she was pregnant in 2006. She’d transferred to Mesa State in 2005 from Sierra College under the impression that she was receiving a full-ride scholarship. When she got to Mesa State, however, Calvert’s tuition was completely covered, but she didn’t receive any money for living expenses. Although her relationship with her parents was “shaky” during her time in Colorado, Calvert’s parents paid her rent for her first four months there and occasionally helped with other expenses. For meals, Calvert would go to the student center, which had an all-you-can-eat buffet, and “eat and eat and eat and eat.” “I didn’t buy one book while I was there,” Calvert said. She eventually got a $1,000 check from Mesa State’s financial aid department, but it was not enough to live on for the entire school year. When Calvert became unable to afford housing, she split her winter break between living in a truck and staying at a motel with her then-boyfriend — the eventual father of her child. “I skipped out on paying for the last two days at the motel,” Calvert said. “I haven’t forgotten that.” Her coach eventually arranged for her to move into a campus apartment. When Calvert tried to obtain a check for living expenses for the second semester, however, she was told she owed the school money for living in the apartment. That was the last straw for Calvert. “I told my coach that it was a struggle for me to be here every day,” said Calvert, who averaged 10.5 points a game while starting 21 of 25 games at Mesa State. “I said, ‘I don’t think the team deserves a point guard or floor general who doesn’t want to be here.’ I thanked her for the opportunity — I was sobbing, but I had to do it. Then I shook her hand and left.” A short time later, Calvert learned she was pregnant. The road back to Rocklin “When I got pregnant, I was so withdrawn,” Calvert said. “I’d just lost Mesa State, and I was up in the air. I didn’t know what to do.” Calvert returned to her parents’ home in Alta and gave birth to Maximo, who turned two on Dec. 14. With Maximo’s father completely out of the picture — “He hasn’t seen Maximo, and we don’t know where he is,” Calvert said — Calvert worked first as an administrative assistant, then as a waitress and bartender to support her son. On the side she did promotions work and cleaned houses. Then came the day Florance, William Jessup’s assistant men’s coach, approached Calvert at 24 Hour Fitness. “Literally, on Tuesday it was the same old thing with work and no school,” Calvert said, “and on Wednesday I had the potential to go to school and play basketball on a scholarship.” For Val, the opportunity was an answer to a prayer. “This was not the route my husband and I would like our daughter to have gone, obviously,” Val said. “When she told me about the opportunity at William Jessup, I told my husband, ‘I was just praying about this the other day because she needed some direction.’ I said, ‘There you go.’” Florance put Calvert in touch with Scott Pizik, whom Calvert knew from her days at Sierra College and was William Jessup’s women’s coach last season. Calvert then began showing up at the Warriors’ games, getting to know players on the team. Eventually, Calvert met with Vance Pascua, WJU’s Director of Admissions, and others responsible for approving her application. ”I had to tell them why I should be let into their school,” Calvert said. “I was honest – I said, ‘I have a baby, I had some problems at home and I did some ridiculous things.’ Vance said, ‘That’s why you’re here. There’s no reason other than God.’ “I shook my head yes because I wanted to get into the school, but then I got all hot inside and started crying because of some of the … things I’ve done. Vance said, ‘I don’t think you’re on the wrong track. God had a really big plan for you. And that plan starts here at William Jessup.’” Juggling it all Calvert’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” The strength Calvert has received has come in numbers — her family, as well as that of Maximo’s father, has helped take care of Maximo while Calvert balances schoolwork, games and practices. “It’s not as hard as a lot of people think it is when you have so much support,” Calvert said. “If I didn’t have my family around, I think it would be impossible.” “We’re going to be there when she needs it, through thick and through thin,” Val said. On occasion, Calvert has had to bring Maximo to school with her. “I’ve walked into class with Maximo on my hip and said, ‘I’m sorry I’m late — I had trouble with my babysitter,’” Calvert said. “My teachers have been very supportive — they said, ‘No problem,’ and just let him run around.” Calvert said the toughest thing about her hectic schedule is being away from her son. “Because I live so far away, even if I have a few-hour break, I can’t really go home,” Calvert said. “I don’t see him all day, which is really the hardest part. What I struggle with most is the separation.” Val tries to bring Maximo to most of his mother’s games, both home and away. Although Calvert had been off the court for more than two years when she began playing for William Jessup this season, she doesn’t seem to have lost a step. On Dec. 20, Calvert had 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals in leading WJU to its first non-exhibition victory of the season, a 95-93 thriller over Cal State East Bay in Hayward. Calvert hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 10.3 seconds left, then stole an inbounds pass and sank the game-winning shot with 1.6 remaining. Calvert did all that despite playing 30 minutes on a badly sprained ankle she suffered just two nights earlier in a loss at Simpson University in Redding. She’d scored 20 points before being injured against Simpson. “She raises the talent level of the team immensely,” said Triebwasser, William Jessup’s coach. “A lot of teams focus on stopping her.” A dream revived A psychology major, Calvert eventually hopes to transfer into William Jessup’s teacher education program. She’ll need another year to get her bachelor’s degree even after she finishes playing basketball this season, her final one of eligibility. Calvert knows she’ll need a master’s degree to become a coach at the college level. Her dream is to coach at a community college like her mentor, Sierra College legend Roz Goldenberg, who coached her from 2003-05. “The best experience I ever had was playing for Coach Roz,” Calvert said. “She held my hand my entire experience at Sierra College and helped me get through the things that I needed to get through. She had a tremendous impact on my life.” By her own admission, Calvert has never been much of a student. With a son to care for and a dream to shoot for, however, that’s changing. “Max has made her more responsible and more accountable about where to go, what to do and who she can be with,” Val said. “Sometimes the Lord puts things in our way and makes us put the brakes on a little bit and re-think things.” “Getting her education is important to her,” Triebwasser said. “Being able to provide for her son is very important to her. She’s really bought in. “She will do whatever it takes to be a great player on the court, a great player off the court and be great in the classroom.”