Shaunice Palms wasn’t born a pro basketball player. She hadn’t even played before high school, when she decided to join Nottingham’s girls’ basketball team as a freshman, but that didn’t affect her new interest in the sport she went on to play four years later at college.
“I loved it immediately. I didn’t even know how to play when I first walked on. I just knew that you throw it in the hoop and that’s it,” Palms told The VOICE in a recent interview.
Shaunice Palms, fourth-semester student studying exercise science, is co-captain of the Vikings women’s basketball team. She’s approaching the end of her basketball career here at Mercer. Over time, Palms says she’s grown to be a better leader.
“I think I’ve improved most in leadership. I was very shy [in high school] and as a guard, you need to take leadership and communicate well on the court.”
While Palms was used to being a forward in high school, she told The VOICE that she understood that it was necessary to step it up in order to fill the slot the team needed. She talked about the countless practices she’d show up early to so she could practice her dribbling and shooting drills, skills specific to guards. Palms says it’s all for the benefit of the team.
“My teammates motivate me the most. Right now, we are the underdogs and we all have a part to play and we need to constantly be thinking about the bigger picture. It’s about [all of] us, not any singular person.”
Outside of basketball, Palms is motivated by a specific person, her twin sister Shaune who is a criminal justice major at Mercer also the women’s basketball team manager.
“We were brought up based on church and my mother made sure we were involved in a lot such as helping out the community, running nursery in the church…We do a lot. We like to be involved in things and be as active as possible,” Shaune Palms said.
Shaune who has been beside her sister for every move describes the changes she has seen since Shaunice took up basketball.
“As a person, she expresses herself a lot more now and I’ve seen her become more aware with the way she presents herself as [both] a player and as a person.”
Teammate, Shanice Barnes, sees something similar. She has been playing with Palms since last season and says of her teammate: “On the court, we both know how each other play and we know each other’s strengths and preferences. Off the court, I know that she’s someone who I can talk to about anything…She’d give her honest opinion. Then we’d laugh about something silly that’s happened.”
Another teammate who says she can count on Palms is Haylee Kieffer. “On the court, I know that she will work her butt off for everyone on the team and if something needs to get done, she’s the person to be told because she makes sure that she does it exactly as needed. Off the court she pretty much the same way,” Kieffer says.
While Palms says the motivation her team gives her pushes her beyond her limits, she attributes a great deal of her success as an athlete and a student, to coach Mike Tenaglia. She says coach Tenaglia approached her at her All-Star game her senior year of high school and recruited her. Palms says he has increased her “basketball I.Q.”
“Oh my goodness. [Coach Mike] truly taught me everything about basketball from the fundamental aspect and beyond. He’s helped me figure out how basketball is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one.”
After Mercer, Palms’s basketball career will be coming to a close. She’s looking into the physical therapy program at Drexel University. When she was a junior in high school she experienced a severe ankle sprain and was only brought back to the court after intense physical therapy. She was inspired from then on to support other athletes in the same way.
Palms mentioned, “It just feels like it’s time to rest my body. Playing a sport puts a lot of physical strain on your body, so I think it’s time to hang it up after Mercer.”
Her teammates say Palms will not be forgotten when she moves on.
Shanice Barnes said, “She taught me not to give up, give it your all in anything you do. Even though I’m still learning how to do it.”