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Varsity Q&A with Zelor Massaquoi, Reservoir, basketball

Reservoir junior Zelor Massaquoi admits to being only 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, but she can outmaneuver much taller opponents and leads the Howard County girls basketball league in rebounding. Her tenacity emerges all over the court as she averages 12.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 steals for the No. 13 Gators (16-3), who open the Class 3A East regional playoffs Monday night at home.

Massaquoi, who plays Amateur Athletic Union basketball with the Columbia Ravens, wants to play the sport in college. She has a 3.7 weighted GPA and plans to major in criminal justice. Her goal is to become a police officer and eventually, the chief of police in a big city.

How did you get started playing basketball?

Funny story. When I was in the seventh grade, I used to play soccer and a month before soccer season, I got grounded because I took my stepdad's phone and I lost it. My mom grounded me and I couldn't play soccer, but she said I could play basketball, so I started playing basketball. After that, I never played soccer again. And the rest is history.

What's your role on this Reservoir team?

My role is to find my teammates the ball. In crunch time when you need a basket, I feel, as a team captain, it's my duty to get the ball in my hands and make something happen. If I'm not going to make a basket, create opportunities for somebody else to make a basket. And I see myself as being a leader to my teammates, someone they can always come talk to on and off the court. Just being a friend first and foremost and being a good teammate.

What is the strongest part of your game?

Rebounding, for sure. A lot of people look at me and they see I'm really small, but when I get out on the court, I'm getting more rebounds than the 6-foot center. I think throughout the season I'm leading the county in rebounding with 10 a game, and I've had 19-rebound games and 15-, 16-rebound games. I just have a nose for the ball.

What's it like being in the same region with your toughest Howard County foes — No. 10 River Hill and No. 12 Howard?

I feel as if we're just as good, if not better than those two teams. We took two tough losses to Howard, but with the circumstances surrounding those games, I think given the opportunity, we can regroup well and beat Howard. We beat River Hill, but we don't take it as, "Oh, we beat River Hill, so that's the end of our season." We look at them as they could beat us. A 25-point win means nothing during the regular season if you have nothing to show for it at the end of the season, and they're both great teams. We're really looking forward to playing them should we be fortunate enough to beat Atholton or Northeast Monday.

Where did your interest in becoming a police officer come from?

I started watching Law and Order SVU from like 11 years old and Elliot and Olivia, they were my two favorite characters. That got me interested in it and then I started watching shows like Southland and Boston's Finest is coming up and I'm really interested in that. And when I was younger, I had a problem one day and my mom called the police. This police officer came and he practically saved my life. That's when I was 13, so from then on, I was like I want to do something, I want to help people and I feel the most hands-on way I could help people would be to be a police officer.

Can you elaborate more on what happened that day when you were 13?

I got into an incident with this girl at the bus stop and she followed me home and she tried to fight me at home. I called my mom inside the house crying and this cop shows up and gets the girl arrested and takes her away. No problems ever again.

Where were you born?

I was born in Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa and when I was 4 years old I moved to America. We weren't even here to move to America. I came on a visit with my mom and while we were here, my dad got killed in Liberia during the Civil War. We just figured going back would be more of a danger, because my dad was a government official, so we just stayed.

What's something most people don't know about you?

A lot of people seem to think I'm very extroverted, but I prefer being in solitude more than anything else. My definition of a Saturday night isn't to go out and party. I just want to stay home, stay in bed, turn on a movie, maybe order Chinese. That's so cliché, but that's my typical Saturday night. Or just hang out with my mom or something like that. And I'm also a pretty good cook.

What do you like to cook?

Anything. My mom's actually a chef, so usually I'll find little recipes on cards that she has written around the house or I'll go to her office and I'll find something I like and I'll bring it home and try to make it.

What's your favorite food?

I have a lot of favorite foods (laughs). I love to eat, so I'll give you my top five: steak; anything seafood like calamari, shrimp, lobster, crawfish, that kind of stuff; Krispy Kreme doughnuts and I have two Liberian favorites, cassava leaf and fufu and soup. Cassava leaf is like a sauce you put over rice and it's made of the leaves of the cassava plant. You grind it up and cook it and put red oil in it and it's really good. You put a lot of meat in there. Fufu and soup is like the equivalent of American chicken noodle soup, but it tastes a lot better.

Are you superstitious?

I am so superstitious it's not even funny. I have this big thing with ACL injuries and it scares me to death. Any time anyone mentions the word ACL, I have to knock on wood. Also, before every game I always pray. I ask God just protect my teammates more than anything. The same way we walked onto the court is the same way I hope for us to leave the court. Win or lose as long as we're safe, that's all that matters. I always ask God to give me the strength and the leadership to lead my team and if not me that game then somebody else. Allow somebody else to pick up the slack and allow me to play to the best of my ability to help us get a win. Also, for playoffs, I'm going to wear the same sports bra, the same spandex, the same socks starting Monday for every single game. They're going to be washed, of course (laughs). Whenever we play a really big game, I always wear my Jordan Olympic 7s (basketball shoes). And I try to have the same pregame meal, which is a six-inch sub from Harris Teeter and a tropical vitamin water and beef jerky. I have to eat beef jerky before every single game.

What moment of your sporting life would you most like to live over?

When we lost to Howard. It wasn't a great moment, but I've accepted it even though it happened a week ago. After we lost, my teammates rallied around me, because I felt most responsible. I missed four free throws. We lost by one. If I would have made two of those free throws, we would have won by one. I had a steal with like 15 seconds left in the game. In my mind, I was thinking I should have pump faked, let her foul me and gone back up and got an and-one. If I could relive the last three minutes of that Howard game, I would go back and do it. I'd make better decisions. I'd tell my teammates straight up, "Give me the ball." I wouldn't linger around and wait for the ball to get to me.

Do you like snow days?

Snow days are the best days possible. I feel as if the heavens have shined down on us when snow days come. It's so funny because the night before a snow day, you know that there's some homework that you have to do and you're like, "I'm going to put this off. I'm going to test it just to see if we have school tomorrow," so when you wake up and it's a snow day, it's like, "Yesssss. Thank you." You just go back to bed and sleep the day through. The only thing that stinks about snow days is usually my mom has to go to work, because she works in Virginia and they don't get snow like we do, or it will be vice-versa and I'll be mad at her for getting to stay home.

What's your most prized possession and why?

It would have to be my mom (Rubitha Logan), not that she's a possession, but my mom has been with me through everything. She tries her best to make it to every single game that I play, and she works so hard for me. Everything that she does is for only me and for that I owe her everything in the world. I can never repay her for how much she's done for me just to raise me and give me everything that she could provide for me, whether it was basketball or just school or anything that I really needed.

Do you have any hobbies?

Cooking and sleeping are my two hobbies, that's for sure. I want to to be a volunteer at an animal shelter and I'm hoping my mom will allow me to adopt a dog, but she says if I get a dog, it's going to die because I'm lazy (laughs). She's been putting off this dog thing since I was like 8. I've been asking for the same thing for Christmas for the last nine years and I have yet to get it. Her new excuse is, "You're going to college." I'm like, "You can take care of it, Mom. You know you love dogs." She loves animals deep down. She just likes to pretend that she doesn't. I also want to do a police internship over the summer. I'm going to try to get an internship with the Montgomery County police for about eight weeks, so that will be the majority of my summer. And on top of that, do a lot of college visits to all the schools I want to go to, Long Beach State in California, Seattle University, Loyola University in New Orleans — that's a DII school — Quinnipiac University, American University and Northeastern University.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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