By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Leaving for college is tough for many athletes.
While the excitement of participating in college sports can be uplifting, many athletes struggle with leaving family and friends behind to further their athletic and academic careers.
Miami guard Suriya McGuire was a star at Roosevelt High in Minneapolis, Minn., but the 5-foot-11 guard decided she wanted to play collegiately for the Hurricanes.
Like many college athletes around the country, McGuire was leaving her family and friends behind to pursue a college degree and athletic career. But the sophomore was leaving behind her best friend and closest confidant, her mother, Anjali.
"It's always been me and my mother," Suriya said.
The two have been inseparable, moving from city to city because of Anjali's job as an on-air radio personality. When Suriya decided she was going to attend Miami, both McGuires wondered what it would be like to be apart. Anjali admitted that she worried about how different it would be without Suriya around.
"Suriya is everything to me," Anjali said. "My career is very important to me but my number one job has always been being her mom. I was always including her in anything that I did. She is always with me. People say we are connected at the hip. She is my best friend. She's not just my daughter."
The two did not have to worry for long, as Anjali found an opening at 95.7 The Beat in Tampa Bay. "Anjali the Queen B" moved to Florida to be closer to Suriya and she says the two of them could not be happier.
"I moved here because of her," Anjali said. "Part of me left, so I left Minneapolis to specifically be with her. Tampa was the closest I could get and it's such a blessing to be able to come see her. It was definitely worth moving and being closer to her."
The two speak daily on the phone and Anjali has come to visit Suriya at Miami "at least seven times." Anjali was in attendance for Sunday's game against North Carolina and was incredibly proud to see her daughter fulfilling her dream.
"It's such a blessing to see her succeed," Anjali said. "This is what she has worked so hard for. It's her passion. When I used to come home from work at two o'clock in the morning, she would ask if we could go outside and shoot. She would go to bed with the basketball. This is what she's always wanted and always worked for."
McGuire has provided key contributions to the Canes this season. Her tenacious defense has been instrumental in several Miami victories. Suriya has also hit a pair of game-winning shots, most recently in a win over Wake Forest on January 24.
"I think I've matured a lot," Suriya said. "I still have a lot of growing to do, but compared to last year, I've grown. I've been in a numerous situations where I could have either broke or progressed and I feel like I've been growing and progressing."
Suriya admits that she would like to be more confident on the court, but she struggles to maintain her confidence at a high level.
"It's always been that way for me," McGuire said. "It's not like I lost confidence when I got to college, I've been this way my whole life. I'm very passive. Everyone says 'you're right there, just shoot.' I've always been the player to pass first and not shoot. It's always been a confidence thing for me."
McGuire feels that a talk with her mother or some time with members of her Miami family help get her confidence back on track.
"I talk to my mother a lot," McGuire said. "The coaches try
to keep me in it and so do my teammates."
Two teammates who McGuire turns to frequently are senior captain Morgan Stroman and junior guard Krystal Saunders.
"I got attached to Stro before I even got to school," McGuire said. "She kept communicating with me and trying to get me to come here. We just clicked. People say that we should be sisters. We say the same things and finish each other's sentences."
Stroman felt a connection with McGuire from the minute the two met during McGuire's recruiting visit to Miami.
"When she first got here, we noticed that we had the same personality," Stroman said. "She wasn't even my recruit. I was just helping out, but we connected. Once she got here, we hung out more and developed that friendship and bond. That's like my sister on the team. I could tell her just about anything and be comfortable."
While McGuire and Stroman became close friends instantly, McGuire's relationship with Saunders took more time to develop.
"Me and Krystal got close with time," McGuire said. "She was my teammate and we were cool, but now, she is one of my best friends. It doesn't matter what it is, she will let you know what you need to know. That helps me. I like that she is honest with me."
Beyond being honest with McGuire, Saunders also helps keep a very emotional McGuire calm and focused.
"I'm a very emotional player," McGuire said. "When I don't make a shot, you're going to know. When I don't get a steal, you're going to know. When I do get it done, you're going to know, too. Krystal Saunders is the one that keeps me calm on the court and talks me through some things."
McGuire would like to control her emotions a bit better and improve on her jump shot. But the talented guard believes she can make the biggest contribution to Miami basketball by maturing as a player and a person.
"I hope that I keep progressing," McGuire said. "I feel like every year I have grown and I want to continue to mature. I feel like I can do that and I want to continue to see myself progress and the team progress."
Anjali is confident that her daughter will continue to improve on and off the court and accomplish her goals.
"She is my greatest joy, my greatest accomplishment and my greatest legacy," McGuire said. "I feel like the best is yet to come."