BY DANA NICKEL CO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Allie McCool sat in a folding chair in one of Mason’s practice courts for the basketball teams in the RAC. She fidgeted with her hands, her eyes darting between her fellow teammates still out on the court doing drills. She bounced a basketball she brought over to sit down with her, eventually resting it on the floor between her feet.
She explained she felt natural on the court, whether it was to practice or for games. McCool has been all in for basketball since she was in the third grade.
“I wasn’t too fond of [basketball],” she recalled. “I was just really, really tall, and I had just started growing. Then I really got into it. My mom and dad put me in a travel team. We traveled all over and that ended up with me going to exposure tournaments. I also got to meet coaches and get recruited, so that was great.”
Even as a child, McCool towered over her classmates. Now, as a graduating senior at Mason, she stands 6-foot-1-inch.
“I was the tallest in my class,” she said with a laugh. “I was like 6 foot tall in the seventh grade. I just sprouted up overnight. Me and my mom were in the same shoe size in the seventh grade. Like, I was already a [size] eight and a half.”
McCool explained that she was initially more involved in softball, but she received more attention for her skills on the basketball court.
“My dad was a baseball player, so I wanted to kind of pursue that and be like him. But when I started with basketball, I just fell in love with it.”
She continued, motioning to her shirt, “I actually picked my number because of my dad’s baseball number.”
She explained that her father’s baseball number was eight, so she chose 35 for her basketball jersey.
“I choose 35 because three plus five is eight,” she said. “So does four plus four, but 44 was taken.”
A sense of family is a value that was instilled in McCool at a young age.
“I think that’s why I really felt drawn to Mason,” she recalled.
McCool recalled an instance where Mason women’s basketball coach Nyla Milleson came out to visit her in her hometown, Lawrenceburg, Ind.
“I had recruiters come watch me play and set up meetings, but Coach [Milleson] was the one that came over and ate dinner with my family. I could tell she really wanted to be there — to meet me and help me make a decision about colleges,” she explained.
Milleson raved about McCool’s performance on and off the court.
“She’s just a really, really caring person,” Milleson told Fourth Estate in an interview. “She is always just trying to make sure everyone is doing okay and is taken care of.”
The team itself provided McCool with a strong sense of family, even when she felt homesick.
“Everyone on the team was just really supportive and understanding,” she explained.
She continued, “We all spend so much time together, on and off the court. We even do holidays together — on Thanksgiving we do this potluck that’s really fun as well.”
McCool also channeled her love of helping people into her academics. She graduated from Mason with a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies with a concentration in early childhood education in May 2019. Currently, she is set to graduate with a master’s degree in special education this December.
“She just works so hard, she was able to graduate early, and I’m really proud of that,” Milleson said.
McCool explained her experiences with coaches in her basketball career have inspired her to pursue a career coaching basketball as well.
“I was very fortunate to have my varsity coach take me under his wing when I was in the third grade,” she explained.
Another major influence on her love of the game was her father.
“He was a baseball player, but he really was about all kinds of sports.” She said, “He really pushed me to be my best all the time, and that definitely influenced me growing up.”
She continued, “He really helped me work on my skill and just my player development as well.”
“Because of all my coaches, I really can see myself really happy just teaching kids how to play basketball,” she explained.
McCool plans to stay in the area after she graduates from Mason and look for teaching jobs.
“I want to teach in the classroom, I really like science as a subject. I’d like to teach that to kids,” she said. “I’d also like to find a job where I’m coaching or helping to coach too.”
She continued, “There is a desperate need for good teachers, and I want to be able to be one of the teachers a child can look back on and say ‘Wow. She changed my life in a positive way.’”
She is looking forward to coaching basketball in the future as well.
“In terms of coaching, basketball and all the people involved have changed my life and shaped me into the person I am today,” she said. “I want to coach to give back and hopefully give student-athletes the opportunities to grow and pursue their dreams.”