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Alumni Profiles

Mountaineer Hoops in the Emerald Isle

Samantha Coleman runs with a basketball and prepares to make a play during a game.

Samantha Coleman has always loved basketball. For her, it isn’t just a sport; it’s a big part of who she is. So, after playing four seasons with the Mountaineers and graduating from Western with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2021 and a master’s degree in behavioral sciences in 2023, she went looking for ways to stay in the game. Originally from Nevada, Sam discovered Western during a summer basketball tournament. Now, she’s playing professionally across the pond, hoping the final buzzer never sounds. Megan West, director of Alumni Relations, caught up with Sam Coleman to see what her experience was like and what she’s planning next.

MW: Tell us where you are and why you went. What’s the name of the league you’re in?

SC: Limerick is just a few hours from Dublin. My family’s heritage is from Ireland so I thought it would be really cool to play somewhere they speak English and experience my roots.

The league is Basketball Ireland’s Division One, and the team that I’m a part of is the Limerick Celtics.

The Ireland Celtics pose with a large banner after winning the national cup.

MW: How did you discover the program there?

Well, it was surprising how similar it was to how you get recruited for college. I got my film together and talked to my agent and she had connections here. I did a Zoom meeting with the coach and one of the girls on the team, and it was a good fit. My coach watched my film, and he was super interested, so then it happened pretty fast after that. The next week, I told him that I was interested and wanted to do it, so he sent over the contract to my agent and then sent it to me. I signed it the week after, and I flew out here at the beginning of September [2023].

MW: How long are you in Ireland for?

SC: I got here in September, and then I had a few weeks of preseason. I will be here until the end of the season. When you play overseas, you have three tournaments: You have the cup, which is when you play all of these teams, and if you keep winning, then you keep going until the final. Then you have the regular league season, and whoever has the most wins wins. Finally, you have the playoffs. We got second in the league, and then our team won the cup for the first time this year. It was really cool to be a part of that. It was a really amazing experience to win the cup and it meant so much for the team in Ireland.

MW: Do you do any coaching?

SC: I coach during the week, about five to six hours a week. I work with the same kids, so I’ve known them all season, and I get to develop them in practice. I also get to coach them in tournaments and games. It is really fun because they’re all growing up with basketball and then we go talk to schools as well, so I went in when we won the Cup and talked to the students. We went to the primary school and talked to the kids and staff. It was such a cool opportunity because, when I was young, I felt inspired by players living their dreams and sharing their stories with me at camp. These people play in the WNBA or other professional basketball? Wow! That’s insane. It hit me in that moment when I was standing in front of those kids, and now, I was sharing my story with them. It was kind of crazy to be able to give back in this way. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so to see all these kids looking at me and listening to what I’m saying about basketball is amazing.

Samantha Coleman celebrates with her teammates after an exciting game.

MW: What is your favorite part of coaching?

SC: The passion that you see from the players who actually want to learn. That’s always been a big thing to me. I love coaching kids that want to learn different aspects of the game and then watching them develop their skills is so rewarding.

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I was teaching these kids to lift the left leg up when you’re doing a left-hand layup. The kids didn’t get it for three weeks, and then, in the fourth week at one of the tournaments, one girl just did it out of nowhere. I love to see that they’re actually learning and developing as players and teammates. That’s fun.

MW: What’s your favorite part of playing the game?

SC: I would say I like the people. My teammates that I’ve met here are great, and it’s really fun to be on the court with them. Ireland is foreign to me, but my teammates live here, and they have always been so welcoming. It’s business, but you’re doing what you love every day. Everything’s covered while I’m here, and then I get I get paid to play as well. We live in a really nice neighborhood and we’re walking distance from the gym that we lift in and that we play in. It is a great set up that they have for us here.

MW: And what’s your favorite thing so far about Ireland?

SC: My least favorite thing is the weather. Gosh, it rains so much. But when it’s nice, it’s like really nice because it’s so green. But my favorite thing, I would say, is experiencing a new place. I went to a town called Kilkee last week. It’s on the coastline of Ireland. In the States, we have man-made bridges, but here, they are made from waves and erosion. Everything here is so natural and green; it’s beautiful, and it’s like nothing that you can see in the States. I also love the Irish accent.

MW: What’s your fondest memory of Western?

SC: When we beat Mesa. Yeah, that was ******* amazing.

No, honestly, I think my teammates. My old teammate is actually in Ireland, too. She played with me for four years at Western and I think the whole team that played that year, all of us would say that beating Mesa was the best. We were winning, but there was just so much surrounding the game and so many haters. When we walked into that gym and beat them, everyone went crazy. It was a packed gym! It was at Western, and there were no seats available. People were lining the walls, and that’s when we went up to the NCAA tournament for the first time in history. Unfortunately, that was a COVID year, so we didn’t get to play.

MW: Could you describe Western in three words?

SC: Family, Drive (Growth), and Support.

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Honestly, family is the first word that pops into my head.

MW: Who would you say influenced you the most during your time at Western?

SC: I would have to say, my professors. All of them were amazing, but if I had to hone it down to a few I would say have to say Matt Aaronson and Jessica Eckhart.

Jessica was new that year, but she was amazing, and she was part of my master’s program. And then there is Jackie Gabriel. We will be friends forever. I feel like she’ll always be in my life. Jackie helped me with so much on and off the court. When I got over here, I was a lot more homesick than I thought I would be, and I was struggling. Matt, Jackie, and Jessica all sent me a box with cards that they wrote, chocolate, a Western blanket that I have on my bed right now, and a Western mug. It was the best care package and made my heart happy. It was amazing for them to do that and send it all the way to Ireland. They influenced me as a person and as a student and pushed me to be the best in the classroom and outside the classroom.

Samantha Coleman catches a pass from a teammate and prepares to shoot during a game.

MW: What’s the most important thing you learned while you were at Western?

SC: Everything’s going to work out no matter how bad things get, how stressed you are, or how anxious you are. No matter how many things you have on your plate, you will make it. If you just keep thinking one thing at a time, talk to people, ask for help, and just keep going, everything is going to work out.

MW: What advice do you want to give to students about their experience at Western and what to take the most advantage of while they’re there?

SC: This is going to sound like a cliche, but I got a tattoo while I was at Western that says, “Just living isn’t enough.” I got it in the last year of my master’s because I felt like there was so much going on in my head and so much that I was doing in my professional work. I was completing my master’s degree and working two jobs that should have been full-time. I felt like I was just going through the motions and I wasn’t living in the present. Yes, Western pushes you to be the best student that you can be and you’re doing it to do more in life later down the road. But, at the same time, being at Western is an experience. Western is like no other place so be present and live in that moment. Experience everything that you want to experience and get out of your comfort zone. Talk to people and get involved in what you want to do. Nobody else has any control over your life. You can do whatever you want to do. This is the time to do it and Western is the right place to do it because nobody really judges there. You do you.

MW: What’s next for you? SC: Great question. I don’t really even know the answer to that. I know that I will probably play professionally again next year. Right now, I’m just excited to go home and see my family. This summer, I’m going to come up to Western and work the basketball camp with Coach Jacobson so that’ll be really fun. I think Western and basketball will always be a part of my life.

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