Empowered By Basketball

June 26, 2017

DENTON — Less than two months from having to quit the game due to a knee injury, former North Texas women’s basketball player Tosin Mabodu sat in her living room watching the NBA Draft.

As she watched fellow collegiate basketball players’ life-long dreams come true, she reflected on what the game has and still is giving her. 

“I’m still trying to accept it all,” Mabodu said. “One minute you think you’re fine and the next you’re done.”

“It sucks,” she added.

Mabodu missed the final eight games of the 2016-17 season due to discomfort in her knee. When she went to have what was expected to be a simple surgery to clean out her knee, doctors discovered she needed microfracture surgery and furthermore the knee had degenerated to the point that if she continued to play she’d do more serious damage.

She had to quit.

“It hasn’t completely sunk in,” Mabodu said. “But I’ve done my crying and am moving on.”

How Mabodu got to where she is now was anything but anticipated. A native of the south side of Chicago, Mabodu played one year of junior college basketball in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, at Murray State College before earning a scholarship to North Texas after head coach Jalie Mitchell saw Mabodu at a showcase.

Since arriving to Denton in 2015, Mabodu has accomplished more than she expected and some of that has taken her new perspective of the game to realize and appreciate.

“When the game is taken away, you view it differently,” Mabodu said. “I already miss the long practices, the battles and frustrations. That’s something I wouldn’t have said before. I think now I’m slowly seeing a bigger picture and how the game is shaping me and what it is teaching me.”



Through her first 34 games with the Mean Green, Mabodu started in three and averaged 10 minutes a game. When the disappointment of not exceeding expectations got to a boiling point, Mabodu stepped out of her comfort zone and sought advice from coaches on how she can earn more playing time. What that resulted in was a career game.

Coming off the bench at Tulsa during the midst of her junior season, Mabodu scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, both career-bests. She played with a confidence and aggression that hadn’t been seen.

She started 11 of the next 13 games, including 10 in a row from Dec. 22 to Jan. 28.

Following the season, Mitchell awarded Mabodu as the team’s most improved player. 

“I felt more confident in myself,” Mabodu says. “It showed me that I am someone who can accomplish anything both in basketball and in whatever I want to do if I put myself out there. I don’t think I fully believed that before the Tulsa game or had the confidence to do that.”

Though she will never score another basket, grab another rebound or suit up for the Mean Green ever again, Mabodu is still as much a part of the program as she was before. She still has her locker and will be with the team every step of the way.

The only thing that has changed is her role.

She expects once the season gets closer she’ll be able to help the team as an emotional leader, a peer who sees the game with a different perspective and can influence younger teammates.

“It’s hard, especially for the freshmen and sophomores, to see the bigger picture,” Mabodu said. “They can get caught up in everything and don’t see how special this all is.”

As for herself, Mabodu plans to graduate in May of 2018 with a degree in sports management recreation event planning. She holds one of the highest grade point averages on the team and was awarded twice with the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll. 

Though the ending didn’t go exactly as she envisioned, Mabodu says she is grateful for her scholarship, her teammates and friends she has made. Most importantly she is excited for her future. 

“I definitely feel empowered by everything basketball has put me through,” Mabodu said. “I’ve done great things and I know I’ll continue to be great.”

North Texas Mean Green