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Thursday, April 22, 2021

From Europe to America: Senior forward Emma Villas-Gomis plans to ascend in final collegiate season

Article Originally Published by John Fields on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by John Fields on North Texas Daily

Women’s basketball senior forward Emma Villas-Gomis is at her third school in four years after transferring from Texas Tech University to North Texas this fall. Having grown up in France before moving to the United States for college, she is no stranger to changes of scenery but she strives to maintain a positive attitude no matter the circumstances.

Villas-Gomis began her collegiate basketball career at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, playing two seasons there before transferring to Texas Tech. In her second year at Salt Lake, she averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, helping the team advance to the NJCAA Nationals, where they lost to Tyler Junior College in the first round.

In coming to the United States, she said the transition on the court was more challenging than adapting to a new country. Her two major challenges were adjusting to a more physical style of play and becoming more comfortable playing in the post.

“The styles of play are very different,” Villas-Gomis said. “I would say here it’s way more physical than in Europe — not that here it’s not skill-based … but it’s way more rebounding, being gritty, being physical all the time. So that was definitely an adjustment, you know, getting tougher and just playing in the post because I was a wing my whole life and now I’m like a four or five.”

After spending her first two years of college at Salt Lake, Villas-Gomis transferred to Texas Tech for the 2019-20 season. She played limited minutes under then-head coach Marlene Stollings, posting a season-high six rebounds against Northwestern State on Nov. 22, 2019.

Stollings was fired by the school this August shortly after reports alleging an abusive culture within the program were published by USA Today Sports. As of Sept. 3, Stollings was planning to sue Texas Tech over her firing and argue that it was not “for cause,” according to ESPN.

Villas-Gomis was unable to comment on her time at Texas Tech due to the coaching change.

The coronavirus pandemic brought her junior season to an abrupt end in March, as it did for many athletes, forcing Villas-Gomis to quickly move out of her apartment and return home to France. Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, she relished the rare opportunity to spend so much time at home.

“It actually felt great to be home for that long,” Villas-Gomis said. “I was home from March until August, and that hasn’t happened to me since I was 12.”

She entered the transfer portal in March to begin searching for a new school and committed to North Texas in May after getting to know head women’s basketball coach Jalie Mitchell through the portal. Mitchell said she was first convinced Villas-Gomis would be a good addition to the team because of her positive outlook.

“What sold me initially, before I even saw one piece of film on her, was just her personality and who she is,” Mitchell said. “She’s an incredible young woman, just extremely positive at all times and about everything, and just a great person to be around.”

Her positive attitude is something Villas-Gomis strives to maintain and instill in others, especially on days when she might not be feeling as motivated.

“Let’s say you’re not having a great day,” Villas-Gomis said. “You still have to go practice, you still have to go to weights, so you might as well do it with a smile on your face. Really, you can have a smile on your face for free, and it can be beneficial for other people too, so why not do it?”

Redshirt-senior forward Rochelle Lee has witnessed Villas-Gomis’ positivity during practice in trying to help her teammates stay motivated and push through fatigue.

“During practice, she’ll always clap it up, or if somebody’s too tired she’ll tell them ‘You’re not tired, just keep going,’” Lee said. “She definitely has a positive attitude and I like that a lot about her.”

Mitchell talked about Villas-Gomis’ size and versatility as two of her main assets to the team for this upcoming season.

“She’s 6-feet-4-inches without shoes right now,” Mitchell said. “You don’t see a lot of 6-feet-4-inch 3-point shooters, except for on the men’s side, so [we’re] just really fortunate to have her gifts and skill and just looking forward to taking advantage of those things.”

Lee, who is the second tallest player on the team at 6-foot-3-inches, said she is excited about the opportunity to improve by competing with someone as tall as she is.

“I was actually excited when they said her height,” Lee said. “That’s the first thing I thought about is being able to play [with] somebody just as tall as me and finishing over her, because her arms are really long just like mine. So that’ll be good practice, and then it’ll be easier [against] all the shorter people I play.”

The goal of playing professional basketball after she graduates this spring has motivated Villas-Gomis to keep improving every day.

“Whatever I do, it’s just for me to be a better basketball player,” Villas-Gomis said. “Everything I do, whatever I eat, how many hours of sleep I get, how many workouts I get in the day, it’s really for me to go pro.”

Mitchell said Villas-Gomis’ character, particularly her positivity, has helped her work through the many changes she’s experienced during her collegiate years.

“I think she’s been through enough change that could potentially hinder or even break some people,” Mitchell said. “You have to have the right mindset and the right approach to adversity to be able to not just go through that but to come out on top at the end of it. [I’m] just really proud of her, I think the person that she is definitely helped her make the most of her situation.”

Villas-Gomis has maintained a positive outlook at each stop in her collegiate journey, regarding them as new opportunities to grow and improve.

“I’m just so grateful for everything that’s happened to me that I don’t really focus on … the stuff that can hold me back or anything,” Villas-Gomis said. “I look at the things that are happening to me as opportunities and things to be grateful for.”

Featured Image: Senior forward Emma Villas-Gomis sets up for a jump shot in practice on Sept. 24, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

Source: North Texas Daily

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