Finishing what was started: Mariah McCully looks to fulfill her father’s basketball dreams


Easton Thompson

Mariah McCully poses for a photo during media day.

Feeling the rough grip of the bright, orange basketball between her small hands, two-year-old Mariah McCully was introduced to the sport that would change her life forever.

McCully grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where both of her parents influenced her love for basketball.

“Both my parents played basketball, so it’s always just been a family tradition,” McCully said.

Growing up with basketball was one thing, but McCully’s outside life brought it’s fair share of struggles. Playing basketball became her outlet.

“Basketball kept me off the streets in my hometown,” McCully said. “During high school, it was common for my classmates to get pregnant, go into the drug business, or be affiliated with gangs. I wasn’t a part of that because I was always in a gym working on basketball — perfecting my moves and building my skills. I knew that I wanted to be better than that. I wanted to make my life worth something.”

Mariah’s father, Alonzo, inspired her the most, she said. After ending his basketball career in college to serve in the military, Alonzo stopped playing professionally to be in the Marines. McCully sought to make good on finishing her father’s dreams.

“Even after the military, he still kept up with basketball, and he even did a little wrestling here and there, but never got to achieve his goal of playing professionally,” McCully said. “My dad always told me that I was his shadow, and he always pushed me to finish what he started. I look up to my dad a lot and how much he persevered through this sport. He’s my role model.”

After transferring from Wabash Valley College and Odessa College in two years, McCully went looking for another option. She said Head Coach Keitha Adams was the reason she chose Wichita State.

“She helped me through all my struggles and hardships that I faced during my first semester of college,” McCully said. “At one point, I was failing my classes and I was ineligible, but she kept me motivated to finish strong.

“She is more than a coach to me.”

For the upcoming season, McCully said she plans to attain and sustain success through her positive mentality.

“When we lose, I never take it as a negative,” McCully said. “Most people look at a loss as a loss, but I look at it as a learning experience. What can you work on? What worked? What didn’t? Keeping a positive mindset versus looking at the negatives puts me in a whole other perspective.”