Dambo, Colley bring international experience to women's basketball
Traveling across the world, packing your bags and having an opportunity to playing Division I basketball is what many young athletes aspire so that they can pursue their dreams of playing professional sports.
Redshirt sophomore forward Nathy Dambo started her life in Fort-de-France, Martinique — a small island in the Caribbean — before heading to San Mateo, California. There, she was recruited by head coach Suzy Merchant.
“I left Martinique at 14 and then I went to France,” said Dambo, who’s played in four career games as a Spartan. “So I was already used to being without my parents, I guess, which was a hard transition for me.”
Dambo attended Junipero Serra High School under head coach McKensey Hadley. Under Hadley, she was named 2013-14 Renaissance Academy Girls Basketball Player of the Year and earned 2013-14 Southern Section All-League Girls Basketball Harbor.
“I was already in California, I attended high school in California, so I was already good with the English part,” Dambo said. “Fortunately, I made friends right away so the transition wasn’t really that hard for me.”
At 11 years old, Dambo picked up her first basketball and started playing pick-up with her siblings, where she immediately fell in love with the game.
Dambo said the level of play is different in France compared to the United States. Rules are different and certain foul calls that would be called in American basketball would not be called in France.
Dambo likes both styles of play, but prefers the way the French play a little more. She considers WNBA star Sandrine Gruda one of her favorite players to watch, who was born in Martinique.
“We found (Nathy) in California, and one of my assistant coaches had a friend who was coaching out there and said, ‘Hey, there’s a couple big kids out here’ and we were looking for a big late,” Merchant said. “She actually hadn’t been playing her whole high school season because she was out with some transfer rules. So we went and watched her practice a few times and she was a big-bodied kid.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Shay Colley began her life in Brampton, Ontario, before beginning her collegiate journey to MSU.
“I mean, I live right across the border, so there’s not too many differences,” Colley said. “Other than Toronto is faster than Michigan here, so when I came here I adapted pretty well, so it wasn’t that bad coming.”
Colley is a transfer from University of South Carolina and Pittsburgh, and has a team-high 12 points per game.
In 2015, Colley was considered one of the top recruits in the nation.
She attended St. Edmund Campion Secondary School.
Colley led the team in a pair of regional championships and received a gold medal in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association during her time there.
Colley has prior experience with the Canadian National Team, where she spent four seasons.
Colley helped assist Team Canada to a second-lace finish at the 2014 FIBA U18 Americas Championship and gained attention when she dropped 21 points against the U.S. in group play.
“When I was little, I would go to the gym and watch my dad play a lot,” Colley said. “I just always wanted to be around the basketball court dribbling, doing whatever I can. I watched it all the time.
“I wouldn’t say I played with Barbie or toys a lot. I was watching, playing and focusing on basketball.”
Colley said growing up, Canadian-born NBA star Steve Nash was one of her heroes.
There has also been in recent years as many stars have come from Canada including Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis and Tristan Thompson.
Colley said there is no significant difference when it comes to the style of play between Canada and the U.S.
Many players come to the U.S. to play AAU, attend prep schools and attend the universities Colley said.
“Basketball is very popular in Canada,” Colley said. “It’s on the rise, and for females it’s growing. Keeping the sport around, keeping it interesting for the younger players to grow up in, and just making sure it’s fun to watch and fun to be around.”
Merchant said the team heavily recruits in Canada. One thing she appreciates about Canadian players is they have a really inclusive mindset and thrive in situations where everybody is getting along and everything is going well.
Merchant said Colley is extremely engaged in the team’s dynamics, nd making sure if there is conflict, it needs to be resolved and so team chemistry can always be high.
“I like international kids a lot because I think, just in general, I think they’re extremely appreciative and grateful kids,” Merchant said. “They don’t always have access to things like this where they’re from. I think those are really good lessons for our American kids, to be honest. It’s always more, more and more in our culture.”