Friday, February 18, 2011

Richmond's Crystal Goring: player, student and mom, too

 All in the family - Shurland Reid (left), Crystal Goring and Jabari Reid.

Her high school credentials jumped off the page. Crystal Goring, a 6-3 forward from Morvant, Trinidad, earned First Team All-American honors from USA Today her senior year at the Peddie School, where she averaged 14.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 4.6 bpg. Her high school career concluded with 1,201 points, 936 rebounds and 356 blocks. The Parade All-American competed in the McDonald's and WBCA All-American games and was considered a Top 10 recruit in 2005.

After a semester of summer school at Richmond prior to her freshman year, Goring went back home, but by spring had returned to the school to the delight of Spiders coach Michael Shafer. Only one thing.

She was pregnant.

"I cried when I found out honestly, because I had no clue what I was going to do. I had just come back to school after I had left for my own little reasons. I didn’t know what to tell the coach."

So Goring didn't tell him.

"I actually had someone else tell him for me because I had no clue how to break it to him. Literally, I was bawling, crying. I couldn’t even speak."

Shafer wasn't angry. Instead, he offered his full support.

He is amazing. I wasn’t expecting him to take me back a second time at all. The fact that he did that shows you the type of person he is. 

Jabari Reid, dividing his time between hot dogs and popcorn in the bleachers, is 4 years old now. His energy level is what you'd expect. Before Goring is done shaking hands after the final whistle, Jabari is whizzing around the floor, offering high fives to fans and keeping Krystal's husband, Shurland Reid, guessing about which way he'll head next. Did Richmond win? Who knows?

"He is more concerned about seeing (mascot) Spidey right now."

But Jabari loves cheering for Mom, too, and after struggling to return to a satisfactory fitness level and plowing through injuries, Goring is playing the best basketball of her career. She averages 10.2 ppg, ranks third in the Atlantic 10 with 8.8 rpg and shoots 49 percent from the field heading into Saturday's game against George Washington at 2 p.m. at the Robins Center. Last Saturday she poured in a season-best 22 points along with eight assists against St. Joseph's. Her 37 blocks is tops on the team.

There were days, many of them actually, when she didn't think she'd be able to play at this level again. After Jabari was born, she took eight months off. It felt like eight years.

The first time she returned to the court, "I felt like I had been out years. Not months. Years. Lord knows I had a lot of rust on me. The fact that I wasn’t in shape like everybody else was hard for me."

Goring assessed herself at 20 percent of what she wanted to be. Injuries slowed her progress.

"I felt like I was never going to get where I need to go. It felt like I was fighting a losing battle and there were times I said,'I can’t do this anymore.' Then I thought about my son and there was no way I could quit."

Parenting added a whole new twist to her life as well. Jabari was a good baby and an excellent sleeper who still will sleep in on Sunday mornings, giving Crystal a good night's rest after typical Saturday games. But the early days of motherhood didn't come easy. She turned to the authority.

"I was calling my mom all the time. I had no clue what to do. He’s my first child. My mom had six. I figured she had all the answers, so anything that came up, I spoke to my mom about it, even though she told me her last kid was 24." 

Her family has supported her so that she can thrive in the classroom as well as on the court. Sister Gillian, a former N.C. State star who also played for the Washington Mystics, moved to town to help with Jabari.

Even with the help, it has been hard to be away from her son so frequently. She missed his first steps and wasn't there for his first words. That leaves her reluctant to commit to playing after her collegiate career ends.

"I’ve missed so much time away from my son, I want to get back some of it."

She loves to wrestle with him, his favorite diversion. They run. They play soccer. She tickles him and he tickles back.

"Everything that has to do with my son is the highlight of my life, honestly. He gets me going at times when I’m down or I’m sad."

She has a life unlike that of her teammates, many of them freshmen without the responsibilities that she shoulders every day. She loves to cook dinner when the schedule allows, specializing in curry, one of Jabari's favorites.

"I don’t go out.  I don’t hang out after basketball. I go home and whatever is at home, I do it and do the same thing the next day. It’s different because I have a routine."

She is not just a mom at home, either. Ask the Spiders.

"If something is not right, I’m going to tell you about it. You need to be doing something and you’re not doing it. I’m going to tell you about it. I’m like the mom of the team in the sense that I’ll speak my mind and I won’t shy away from anything."

We couldn't agree more.

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