Oct. 5, 2007
Lansing State Journal
On the surface, the setting seemed perfect: Local high school all-american signs with hometown college a year after the school played for a national championship.
But things got so bad for Tiffanie Shives in her only season at Michigan State that the thing she loved most - playing basketball - was the thing she wanted to do least.
That was even before her freshman season began in the fall of 2005.
"I hated basketball," Shives said. "I was completely depressed. I didn't want to play anymore."
Two years later, she can't wait to play again.
After transferring to Gonzaga and sitting out last season because of NCAA rules, the former Lansing Christian star is eager to return to the court this fall with the Bulldogs.
The 2004 Michigan Miss Basketball has settled in at a small, Catholic school in Spokane, Wash. - 2,000 miles away from where she thought she'd be playing her college ball.
It's also a world away from that empty feeling she left behind at MSU.
"She's walked around here with a big smile on her face most of the fall," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. "Last year was tough. When you sit out, there's no real light at the end of the tunnel - it's hard to see that next season.
"But now, she realizes it's upon her."
Shives, a 5-foot-10 guard, will be stepping into a Bulldogs' lineup that won the West Coast Conference Tournament championship and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Gonzaga's women are piggybacking the success and notoriety that their men's team has built in the last decade.
One former Bulldog men's star, Adam Morrison, first sparked Shives' interest i the school. Like Morrison, Shives has diabetes and read about Morrision's battle with the disease while he was in college, and she had hoped to talk to him and his doctors.
Graves said he found this out when a fan gaves him a copy of a newspaper story and knew he had an in with Shives, whom he didn't recruit.
"We were able to make someone with Type 1 Diabetes not only survive and make do, but also thrive and succeed," Graves said. "That really appealed to her. Everyone in our athletic department knew how to work with someone with diabetes."
Now, Morrison's doctors are her doctors. Shives said she weekly gives doctors her blood-sugar numbers and a detailed list of what she eats at every meal, following a strict plan they set forth for her to maintain maximum energy and health. She has Morrison's cell phone number, and the two have talked about tips to monitor and control their diabetes, as well as shooting some baskets when he's on campus.
"It wasn't that we didn't work hard at it at Michigan State, they (team doctors, coaches and trainers) just hadn't been through it before," Shives said. "Having had Adam go through it, everyone here knows what it's about and what to do. And he's really cool about it."
Shives, who averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in about nine minutes a game for the Spartans in 2005-06, said she's in "twice-as-good shape" as when she was at MSU under then-coach Joanne P. McCallie. She added that everything about the Gonzaga program, including a style that fits her game, has helped ease the transition.
"I went through the ('05-06) season because that's the right thing to do - I made a decision, I committed there - but I knew I was transferring at the beginning of the year," she said. "Everyone thinks it was about the playing time, but it wasn't. I just didnt' fit there. It wasn't the best for me. ...
"I was kind of a robot at Michigan State. I did everything they said, and I was too scared to play my own game. You couldn't shoot until the last 10 seconds of the shot clock - there were so many rules. Here, I have more freedom."
The Bulldogs have a tough schedule this year, playing 10 teams that made the postseason. It includes games with defending champion Tennessee and Elite Eight teams Arizona State and Purdue.
"What Tiffanie gives us is that, quote, 'big-time mentality.'" Graves said. "We're really going to need that."