SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine— Priscila Berdeja is Southern Maine Community College’s (SMCC) female student-athlete spotlight of February. Standing five feet, four inches tall, Berdeja plays the role of a wing player, and loves to contribute to the team as best as she can. “I enjoy encouraging my teammates to succeed on the court. I love to be actively involved in any way I can.” She told me with hard work and putting forth a maximum effort every day, is how you become the best basketball player you can be.
A first-year at SMCC and 19 years old, Berdeja is originally from Monterrey, Mexico. Fluent in both English and Spanish, Priscila uses it to her advantage. We spoke about her transition—she said it’s been difficult but well worth it. Berdeja is studying Liberal Studies, but also interested in the Ultrasound Tech program. Berdeja was drawn to the particular field when her mother was pregnant and considered it a career path for the future. She went on to rave about her time thus far at SMCC and plans to see it through to attain her Associate’s degree. “I really want to explore my options. So far everything has been a transition for me—from high school to college was a big step.” Priscila told me the transition has been a blessing and has allowed her to be a better student.
Priscila has always enjoyed playing sports. Along with basketball, she has been involved in lacrosse, soccer, and track & field. She started playing basketball in 8th grade when her physical education teacher urged her to take advantage of her athleticism. “He would always keep pushing and motivating me to achieve my dreams pertaining to basketball and sports in general.” Berdeja, a 3.0 student, is taking four classes at the moment—Intro to Literature, Intro to Psychology, Creative Writing, and Oral Communications. She also mentioned that being a student-athlete is challenging at times, and the time management piece can be tricky. She keeps up by taking on one task at a time, playing basketball and managing her workload is the major focus.
Mental preparation and keeping a clean mindset is something Priscila really focuses on when game day comes around. Priscila took me through her thought process. “If I make my first shot, it boosts my confidence. I always stay focused on where the ball is and who’s doing what.” Being a playmaker is the role Priscila loves to embrace.
With basketball season nearing an end, I talked to Berdeja about the ups and downs and how the team stays whole through it all. She spoke about how the mindset is to turn a poor performance into a positive and motivation for the next game—she used the example of how SMCC suffered a loss to NHTI but then came out stronger than ever in the next game to defeat the College of St. Joseph (Vt.) in convincing fashion. “We use moments like that to tell each other we can do it, and we use that ‘never give up’ attitude to our advantage. We love taking that energy into the next game.”
Lastly, I asked Berdeja if she has a favorite athlete, someone who motivates her to be better. Her answer was Kelsey Plum, a member of the University of Washington women’s basketball team. She mentioned to me that Plum’s leadership on and off the court is admirable, never making it about her. “She doesn’t want to be remembered as a scorer, but by helping those around her to be better. I try to represent myself like that.” Priscila loves helping people and she wants to be remembered for representing that kind of attitude not only for herself, but for others as well.