Zelor Massaquoi was visiting Quinnipiac last summer when she was given the same old news. The coaching staff liked her, they really did, but she wasn’t enough of a guard for them. She wasn’t tall enough. She just didn’t fit.
At 5 feet 6 1/2 inches and 195 pounds, the Reservoir senior has always been told that she isn’t tall enough to be a forward or shifty enough to be a point guard. Her size gives defenders fits on the court, but it also causes problems for college coaches who don’t know where to play her.
“What’s the difference between me and somebody who’s 6-foot-4, besides height?” Massaquoi said. “I have just as much passion, if not more, for basketball. I have just as much drive, if not more. I’ll probably box out and get a rebound over your 6-foot-4 center like it’s nothing, because I know how to use my body.”
Massaquoi entered this season with something to prove, both to college recruiters and the coaches in Howard County who overlooked her on last season’s player of the year ballot. In three games last week, she made her point loud and clear.
Massaquoi scored a career-high 32 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a win over Glenelg on Monday. Then she had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Gators past Long Reach on Wednesday. Finally, on Friday, she matched her career-high 32 points in an overtime win over Atholton, adding 10 rebounds for good measure.
All told, Massaquoi — the supposedly undersized guard/forward — has now recorded six consecutive double-doubles entering Monday night’s game at Hammond.
“I think as a whole this year what’s changed for me is my focus has been redirected,” Massaquoi said. “I felt like last year, I was playing basketball to get recruited. I wasn’t playing it because I loved it. I wasn’t playing it because I wanted to do great things. I felt like I was playing it for selfish reasons. And this year, I don’t care about all that anymore. If I get recruited, I get recruited. If I don’t, I don’t.”
Massaquoi’s game, like her perspective, has also evolved this year. After scoring the vast majority of her points in the paint last season, she spent the entire summer working on her jump shot. Reservoir Coach Kyle Sullivan said that Massaquoi hit five or six pull-up jumpers Friday night alone.
“Teams can’t make a decision on how to stop her,” he said. “If they decide they’re going to stop her inside, she’ll beat them outside. If teams say they’re going to press up, she beats them down low. . . . She’s driving and creating rather than just getting the ball in the block and putting it up.”
Sullivan said that Massaquoi’s size and skill set reminds him of NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley, the shortest player to ever lead the league in rebounding. Massaquoi used a more modern comparison, likening herself to Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Like those great players, Massaquoi knows that she will always be doubted because of her build. It’s the reason that her list of interested Division I schools has dwindled, despite her dominant performances. Grand Canyon University, which recently moved up from Division II, is currently expressing the most interest.
For now, Massaquoi is focused on leading the Gators (7-2) to the state tournament, improving her jump shot and cementing herself as the county’s best player. When coaches sit down to fill out their player of the year ballots this season, she doesn’t want to leave any doubt in their minds.
“I’m just going to keep working hard, and if the offers come, they come,” Massaquoi said. “If not, I know that God’s going to do something good for me, like he always has. It’ll be good.”