July 29, 2014
Freshman Maria Backman comes to Ann Arbor after growing up in the Bronx and spending her whole life in the city. She left Cardinal Spellman High School as its all-time leading scorer, scoring 1,604 points during her high school career. She was a two-time Bronx Player of the Year and made the all-city first team as a senior.
In today's Summer Session, Backman discusses how her summer has been so far and how important developing time management skills has been. She talks about the shared NYC bond she has with head coach Kim Barnes Arico, why she chose Michigan, and how great it is to walk outside and see trees. She has enjoyed her transition to Midwest living but there is one thing she could do without. Hint: they can be seen scurrying all over campus.
On her summer in Ann Arbor ... "My summer has been fun. It has been packed with workouts, class and figuring out how to manage my time. I think time management has been really key for me since I have been here. You have to be responsible and know that certain things need to get done. It isn't about just getting them done and going through the motions either. You have to give them your best effort. I think I started with the 'trial and error' approach to getting things done but then my older teammates stepped up and helped me. It makes transitioning from a high school setting to a college setting so much easier. Coming in the summer and being surrounded by them all the time has helped so much."
On the advantage of coming in the summer ... "Being from the city, knowing where you are at is really big. When I got here, I made a point to walk around campus to figure out where everything is. Coming in the summer, it definitely helps getting used to the pace of college and what the professors expect of you. You also figure out what the coaches expect from you before workouts start for real in the fall. It will be a little more intense in the fall but this helps get an idea of how it will be."
On why she picked Michigan ... "I chose Michigan because out of all the other places I was looking at, when Michigan said 'family' they really meant it. Coming on two visits here, I got to see that family was a true thing. A lot of other schools say they are all about family but some of the players only see the coaches two or three times a year outside of basketball. When I came, Coach Arico had a real maternal feel about her. I fell in love with the academics before the athletics actually. When you combine the two (academics and athletics), because not everyone stresses both, Michigan was perfect for me. Michigan sets you up for your life when you are done playing basketball because you leave here with a great degree and the ability to get into so many different careers. Michigan was the perfect place for me."
On what she plans on studying ... "I want to study business and finance. Ten years from now, my dream job would be working down at a firm on Wall Street. I would love to work for Wells Fargo or in some kind of investment banking. I definitely want to move back to New York City."
On her adjustment to living in the Midwest after growing up in New York City ... "Adjusting has been a little hard. Everything is a lot slower here. Sometimes with living in New York, I could wake up and be at a store within five minutes. Here, I need a car for everything. Places close pretty early, which has been hard to get used to because places don't really close in the city. It is different but I love the change. I love waking up and seeing trees. I am a little scared of the squirrels but I do love it here."
On head coach Kim Barnes Arico ... "I love her energy and how intense she can be. I love that she can joke around with you but then be serious. It doesn't feel like she is critiquing you in a hurtful way; it is so constructive. She is being real with you. That is the best way to help a player develop to where they want to be. She does a phenomenal job of staying connected with each one of her players. She wants to get the best out of us and not just from a basketball standpoint. She wants to know how your family is doing, she wants to know how you are doing in class, and she just wants to make sure that you are good. She is phenomenal."
On being part of this team ... "I love my team. I think that this is the first time that I have come into a team where there aren't egos or divas. Everyone genuinely looks out for each other. Again, it goes back to the whole family feeling. The older girls on the team have been amazing. I don't think that my transition here could have been any easier because of how they treated the freshmen when we got here. It is an awesome feeling to be here with them."
On having a New York connection with Barnes Arico ... "It definitely did help. We have already made a couple of jokes about it because some of the other girls have pointed out that that we talk really fast and a little different. But it did help with her coming from St. John's, which is right in my neighborhood, along with the success she has had here in her first two years. I do feel like we have a connection since she grew up where I did. It was a major plus."
On wearing No. 23 ... "This wasn't my first choice. I wanted No. 24 but it was more important for someone else to have it. I chose No. 23, not because of Michael Jordan, but because it was the closest I could get to No. 24. I didn't really want to change, but it is a new number and I have to make it mine. I already changed my twitter handle, so I have committed to it. I am starting fresh."
On what she is working on this summer ... "I am working on getting stronger. I am skin and bones. Coming in the first week and playing in that first open gym, I realized that everyone is so much stronger and faster. This is not high school anymore. You have to be on your game all the time. My endurance is something else I am working on. The longer you can go up and down the court, the better off you are going to be. The commitment to lifting and conditioning has gone up a level. It is all mental but it is just different. It has been difficult to go from lifting to putting up some shots when your arms are dead and still expecting those shots to fall. That is probably the biggest adjustment for me."
Previous Q&A: Katelynn Flaherty
Season tickets now on sale. » Learn about 2015-16 Michigan women's basketball season ticket opportunities.