Reservoir junior Zelor Massaquoi admits to being only 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, but she can outmaneuver much taller opponents and leads the Howard County girls basketball league in rebounding. Her tenacity emerges all over the court as she averages 12.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 steals for the No. 13 Gators (16-3), who open the Class 3A East regional playoffs Monday night at home.
Massaquoi, who plays Amateur Athletic Union basketball with the Columbia Ravens, wants to play the sport in college. She has a 3.7 weighted GPA and plans to major in criminal justice. Her goal is to become a police officer and eventually, the chief of police in a big city.
How did you get started playing basketball?
Funny story. When I was in the seventh grade, I used to play soccer and a month before soccer season, I got grounded because I took my stepdad's phone and I lost it. My mom grounded me and I couldn't play soccer, but she said I could play basketball, so I started playing basketball. After that, I never played soccer again. And the rest is history.
What's your role on this Reservoir team?
My role is to find my teammates the ball. In crunch time when you need a basket, I feel, as a team captain, it's my duty to get the ball in my hands and make something happen. If I'm not going to make a basket, create opportunities for somebody else to make a basket. And I see myself as being a leader to my teammates, someone they can always come talk to on and off the court. Just being a friend first and foremost and being a good teammate.
What is the strongest part of your game?
Rebounding, for sure. A lot of people look at me and they see I'm really small, but when I get out on the court, I'm getting more rebounds than the 6-foot center. I think throughout the season I'm leading the county in rebounding with 10 a game, and I've had 19-rebound games and 15-, 16-rebound games. I just have a nose for the ball.
What's it like being in the same region with your toughest Howard County foes — No. 10 River Hill and No. 12 Howard?
I feel as if we're just as good, if not better than those two teams. We took two tough losses to Howard, but with the circumstances surrounding those games, I think given the opportunity, we can regroup well and beat Howard. We beat River Hill, but we don't take it as, "Oh, we beat River Hill, so that's the end of our season." We look at them as they could beat us. A 25-point win means nothing during the regular season if you have nothing to show for it at the end of the season, and they're both great teams. We're really looking forward to playing them should we be fortunate enough to beat Atholton or Northeast Monday.
Where did your interest in becoming a police officer come from?
I started watching Law and Order SVU from like 11 years old and Elliot and Olivia, they were my two favorite characters. That got me interested in it and then I started watching shows like Southland and Boston's Finest is coming up and I'm really interested in that. And when I was younger, I had a problem one day and my mom called the police. This police officer came and he practically saved my life. That's when I was 13, so from then on, I was like I want to do something, I want to help people and I feel the most hands-on way I could help people would be to be a police officer.
Can you elaborate more on what happened that day when you were 13?
I got into an incident with this girl at the bus stop and she followed me home and she tried to fight me at home. I called my mom inside the house crying and this cop shows up and gets the girl arrested and takes her away. No problems ever again.
Where were you born?
I was born in Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa and when I was 4 years old I moved to America. We weren't even here to move to America. I came on a visit with my mom and while we were here, my dad got killed in Liberia during the Civil War. We just figured going back would be more of a danger, because my dad was a government official, so we just stayed.
What's something most people don't know about you?
A lot of people seem to think I'm very extroverted, but I prefer being in solitude more than anything else. My definition of a Saturday night isn't to go out and party. I just want to stay home, stay in bed, turn on a movie, maybe order Chinese. That's so cliché, but that's my typical Saturday night. Or just hang out with my mom or something like that. And I'm also a pretty good cook.
What do you like to cook?
Anything. My mom's actually a chef, so usually I'll find little recipes on cards that she has written around the house or I'll go to her office and I'll find something I like and I'll bring it home and try to make it.