June 29, 2018 12:55:18 AM
If you had asked Maggie Proffitt where she thought she would be to celebrate her 23rd birthday, Ruston, Louisiana, wouldn't have been at the top of her list.
But basketball has created a host of opportunities for the former Columbus High School and Starkville Academy standout. Proffitt's maturation allowed her to earn a scholarship to play basketball at Central Arkansas, where she grew into an All-Southland Conference performer and a key figure in the team's back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Following a season with Bender Baskets Grunberg in Germany, Proffitt has opted to hang up her sneakers and get into coaching as a graduate assistant for Brooke and Scott Stoehr at Louisiana Tech.
"I thought I would play a couple of years overseas, but I just decided it was the right time to be done," said Proffitt, who turned 23 Thursday. "Then this opportunity came about. I am really excited and really glad to be in Ruston."
Proffitt admitted homesickness played a role in her decision to give up professional basketball. Last June, Proffitt signed a contract to play with Bender Baskets Grunberg. Her stay in Germany lasted from September 2017 to March 2018. In that time, Proffitt averaged 15.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 steals in 30.7 minutes per game (19 games). She shot 36.7 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from 3-point range.
Proffitt felt confident she would have been able to land another opportunity to continue her professional career. She said she enjoyed her teammates and the experience of playing pro ball, but that it "definitely was a culture shock" going to Germany because she wound up staying in a village. She said she really enjoyed meeting new people, learning about different ways of life, and playing a different style of basketball, but she said it was just too small where she was and that she is glad to be back "home."
That is a relative term because Proffitt still is more than four hours away from her home in Columbus, but she said she feels more comfortable being closer to family and friends. Proffitt also said she is excited to begin a new phase in her life that will include the pursuit of a master's degree in Kinesiology.
"I love basketball and I knew I wanted to be around the game," Proffitt said. "I missed my family. ... Being away from my family was the hardest thing."
Proffitt paved the way to a professional career by earning first-team All-Southland Conference honors as a junior and as a senior. In her final season at UCA, Proffitt, a 5-foot-9 guard, paced the Sugar Bears in scoring (15.6 points per game) and 3-pointers (67). Proffitt finished her career as UCA's seventh all-time leading scorer (1,646 points) and the program's second-leading scorer and career 3-point leader in the Division-I era. She also was named Southland Conference tournament MVP this season.
Proffitt said she met Brooke and Scott Stoehr when they worked at Northwestern State and recruited her out of Starkville Academy. She said she reached out the Stoehrs in April and asked if they had any openings on their coaching/support staff. Proffitt said the Stoehrs eventually replied there was an opening, so she applied for the position and was ultimately hired to join the Lady Techsters.
"We are thrilled Maggie has joined our Louisiana Tech family and will be a part of what we're building in Ruston," said Brooke Stoehr, who is co-head coach with her husband, Scott. "I've watched her grow on and off the court since high school and competed against her during her college career at UCA. Maggie is a determined, hard-working individual who has the ability to make those around her better. She has had an accomplished career on the court and competed at a high level in the classroom. Maggie will be a tremendous resource for our student athletes and can share her experiences of what it takes to compete for championships. We are looking forward to watching her grow and develop as a young coach on our staff."
Proffitt said she "loves" the Stoehrs as people and the way they coach their players. She said she knew Ruston would be a great place for her to learn about leading a program. She made her comments about her new position Thursday during a break from the women's basketball program's day camp for girls and boys in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Proffitt said she likely will go the sports administration route in her pursuit of a master's degree, which would help pave the way for a road into coaching. She said she learned pretty quickly she didn't want to be a strength and conditioning coach, so it was easy for her to shift gears and stay involved in basketball in another way.
"I am looking forward to learning," Proffitt said. "I didn't realize what all goes into being a coach and all of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I have learned a little so far. It has been eye-opening and I am liking it."
Proffitt anticipates being able to work with the players and to be on the court. She isn't 100 percent sure when her responsibilities will be in the fall, but she said she is ready to do multiple tasks and to learn as much as she can to help the program.
"It all happened pretty fast," Proffitt said. "I think I got home at the end of March and I reached out to them in mid April and moved in early June. It happened pretty quick, but like I said I am really happy to be here and I am thankful that coach Brooke and Scott have given me the opportunity."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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