By Sara Ridgway | Published March 3, 2016
Her name has been all over the KeanUniversity Athletics website, as well as
social media including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A Fairly new member to the Kean community, freshman Marajiah Bacon has had quite the impact on the women’s basketball team, as well as the conference and on a national level.
Leading not only the New Jersey Athletic Conference, but all division three schools in the NCAA in points scored per game, Bacon has helped lead the Cougars to success in the 2015-2016 season. She also picked up 8 consecutive NJAC Rookie of the Week recognitions, out of a total 12 she received this season, leading to her selection as NJAC Rookie of the Year. Teammate Jaquetta Owens, who is a junior in the program, also earned NJAC recognition as a member of the honorable mention team.
A four-year player and 1000+ point-scorer at Neptune High School, Bacon’s basketball career started long before that. Starting off playing recreational basketball in elementary
school, and continuing on to middle and high school, she also participated on many different AAU teams including Shore Shock, Jersey Cardinals, and The Hawks.
But the ladies ended their season with a record of 15-11, after an overtime loss to William Paterson on Feb. 20 in the first round of the conference championship tournament. This was Kean’s second consecutive season hosting in the post season.
Mandy King, the head coach of the women’s basketball team just concluded her fourth season at Kean. With 18 years of experience coaching basketball at the collegiate level after being a division three athlete herself for four years, King has high aspirations and goals for her own players.
“I had the opportunity to play for one of the most successful D3 programs in the country at the University of Southern Maine, that’s sort of where everything started,” King said. “We went to the sweet 16 three times and lost in the national championship my senior year. And that sort of drives everything that I do, for my players is to give them that opportunity that I had.”
This seasons squad consisted of one senior, two juniors, and nine freshmen. Although the team is young, King along with her assistant coaches had big dreams for the season. She commented on the team’s strong work ethic and characteras they went from strangers to friends to ultimately becoming a family very quickly. King has referred to this season and team as one of her favorites.
“You knew even in the summertime when they were meeting each other for the first
time that there was something really special about them and as we went through our strength and conditioning workouts, their work ethic really matched their character,” King said. “And we thought during that time that if every cliché they said about teams were true, then this was going to be a very, very special group because they did everything that you dream about for a team.”
Besides winning an NJAC Championship and getting back to the final 4 in the NCAA Tournament, the women’s basketball team has even more goals that go beyond the
“Each player will have their individual goals but for us its about continuing to build a culture that we could be proud of,” King said. “It’s our goal to be one of the highest academic teams in the country as well. We’re trying to be in the top 25 for team GPA.”
With her personal success this season as well as the success of her team, Bacon has proven herself as a standout on the women’s basketball team. But even with her monumental success on the court, King had more to compliment on her player other than just her basketball skills.
“She is a very impressive player but I’m most impressed by who she is as a person,” King said. “She is very driven, she works extremely hard at her game and I think that she is the type of player that just makes everybody better around her; the type of person that makes everybody better around her. We really believe that character drives winning and it drives the process and she’s an example of that.”
Planning to practice everyday and continue to work hard are only a few of the goals Bacon has. Being a role model for her teammates as well as helping to lead them to success are other goals she values. Bacon commented on the impact that her coaches and teammates have had on her over the course of her basketball career.
“It made me become the person I am today like humble and hungry and just willing to do anything to get where I need to be,” Bacon said. “I love my teammates and my coaches this year, like we became a big family doing what we’re doing.”
Marajiah and her twin sister Miesha were heavily recruited to play basketball at Kean. With assistant coach Brian Erickson being sent from practices and games to watch them play, the coaching staff knew that their commitment would be a turning point in Kean basketball.
“They would give us the opportunity to build the type of family and culture that we’d be proud of,” King said. “And then also have a chance to hopefully win an NJAC championship and go to a final four during their career.”
With big aspirations for the Bacon twins, King remarked that, in their first season, they have already surpassed those expectations
“I can’t wait to see how their career unfolds because they’re two of the most unbelievable young women I’ve ever had the chance to coach,” King said. “We’re really lucky to have them and all of our freshmen in our program this year. It’s really been a pretty magical season.”
According to King, Bacon brings confidence, passion, competitiveness and energy to the court in a way that is very respectable, ultimately raising the level of the program itself.
“I think she continues to play the game with great integrity,” King said. “She’s a good teammate, she’s a great leader, really everything that you would want one of your leaders to be, she is an example of that.”
Although the season did not end in an NJAC championship or in NCAA play, Bacon and her team are coming back fighting for another shot at the conference title and a final four appearance next season. Coach King has big dreams for her young squad and it will be an exciting journey to watch the programs progression over the course of the next several years.
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