Good Sports: UC Merced's Mikayla Mabie returns to basketball after helping family

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- For UC Merced's Mikayla Mabie, basketball is a family affair.

"I was literally born on a basketball court," she said.

Well, not literally.

Mabie's mom coached at Cal Baptist while pregnant with Mikayla.

"It could've been a possibility that her water broke on the basketball court if she wanted to," Mikayla said.

Following in her mom's footsteps, Mikayla found her passion on the hardwood.

A player of the year at Ceres' Central Valley High, she didn't get a single offer to play at the next level.

She played two seasons at Fresno City before transferring to Cal State San Marcos, a move that was short-lived.

"It wasn't a good fit for me, so I ended up leaving and then my grandma got sick, so then I had to take care of her," Mikayla said.

Mabie's grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.

Without hesitation, she dropped her basketball dreams for family.

"The moment my brother said that he needed a little extra help with my grandma, I moved down there right away," she said.

In 2019, her grandmother would lose her battle to cancer.

As Mabie grieved, she stepped away from the court for two years -- until UC Merced came calling.

"She brings a lot on and off the court," says coach Sarah Hopkins-Chery. "On the court, she's a leader. She's got experience, obviously. She's played the game for a long time and taking that break brings a different level of maturity."

But it would take some time for Mabie to wipe off the rust.

"You know, there's going to be a period where you dust the cobwebs off but fortunately, for us, in some regards, COVID was a thing, so we didn't play last year and she was able to work through some of that early," Hopkins-Chery said.

With each passing day, Mikayla began to find her groove again.

As the team started to rack up wins, Mabie started to rack up the accolades: an Honorable Mention All American, All Cal-Pac First Team and All Cal-Pac Defense.

Ultimately leading the Bobcats to a championship in the conference tournament.

"An amazing feeling," Mikayla said.

If it's up to Mabie, she won't be leaving the game she loves anytime soon.

"I defnitely want to stay in basketball until the day I die," she said. "If I can, I want to go play overseas."

After two years away, Mabie is back on the court and can't imagine life without the game she loves.

"It's who I am I guess in a sense," she said. "Not just an athlete, but it's consumed my life when I needed it most."
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