McDermott impacting Panther basketball



Maya McDermott attempts a free throw. McDermott is having a breakout season in her first year as the starting point guard.

NIXSON BENITEZ, Executive Editor

The women’s basketball season is in full swing. During media day, Head Coach Tanya Warren set the tone, saying that this year’s women’s basketball team is hungry for the season. Last year, the women’s basketball team’s season ended in the second round of the 2022 Women’s National Invitation Tournament. This was the fifth time the team ended with 20 or more wins in a season under Coach Warren. This year the Panthers were selected by league coaches, sports information directors and media members to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). This year during media day, Coach Warren expressed that this year, “This is Maya’s Team.”

UNI’s sophomore point guard Maya McDermott is starting for the first time this season. 

“I want to win a conference championship for the coaching staff, for my teammates. I just want to be a part of a conference championship, I want to make it to the NCAA Tournament,” McDermott said. 

McDermott was adopted from Guatemala when she was 11 months old. She has lived in Iowa her entire life, and before she was a Panther she was with the Johnston Dragons. During her senior year at Johnston High School, she was a part of the legacy of leading the women’s high school basketball team to the Class 5A state championship in the 2019-2020 season. From the legacy of her high school career, she is wanting to leave the same legacy for the UNI women’s basketball team, but also wants fans to recognize the character of being a positive leader off the court.

“The mark I want to leave as a person is that I want to treat everyone extremely nice. My mom always taught me that you don’t want to be known as a good athlete, but you also want to be known as a good person,” McDermott said.

Before McDermott started this year she would generally play between 10 and 12 minutes per game and was taken under the wing of the former starting point guard Karli Rucker and Coach Warren. This was a huge change for McDermott, as this was a shift from being a starter in high school to being a role player in college. In the past two years, she would put her energy into being the spark plug for the team and pushing the pace for the team to do better.  This year with McDermott being a part of the starting line up she gets to lead the team and fill the shoes of her best friend Rucker. 

“Coach Warren these three years that I’ve been here has taught me a lot, one of my favorite quotes that I liked about her is she’ll always tell me ‘being a point guard, even when it’s not your fault, it is your fault…’ Karli taught me how to play with poise, how to pick each other up on the court… She taught me so much but didn’t say a whole lot. She was more of a lead-by-example.” She continued, “It’s a huge privilege to be under that and for her to take me under her wing and teach me all that stuff.”

Outside of all the competition when the fans don’t see her on the court, McDermott is pursuing an education in digital media leadership. She is aiming to pursue her master’s and go into sales after college. McDermott also wants to promote conversation in regard to mental health and emphasizes that today athletes across the world and nation are impacted by mental health every day.

“I’m not just an athlete, I’m also a person,” she said. “Being an athlete in this era, society sees athletes as one occupation, sports and that’s who we are. No, we are more than just athletes. I’m a daughter, a sister, a digital media leadership student and so many other things. I will not let sports define me because the world is bigger than basketball.”

When McDermott leaves the court after every game, she acknowledges many athletes around the world struggle with online criticism. With Twitter, many athletes get bashed online over their performance and this follows athletes in the palm of their hands and back pockets.

“It’s hard to talk about. But not even just athletes, everybody and I want people to know, there’s resources for you,” she said. “We unfortunately had two suicides here in sports. it’s hard to talk about, but I think it needs to be talked about more than I think people need to realize that there is help and mental health is a really big thing.”

With McDermott’s care for the team, she is ready to help her team and energize them in being the best they can be on and off the court. McDermott’s influence regardless of the online presence defines a positive light and future for the team. It has even been proven the Panthers have excelled in the classroom as the team got recognition on the WBCA’s Academic top 25 ranking.

“You know what, we’re gonna win a lot of games this year. We’re gonna play good this year. We have a really good team and we’re really excited. So this year is definitely new for me starting and having a big role. But yeah, we embrace that,” she said.