West Mifflin basketball star resumes career after giving birth
As a West Mifflin basketball player, Ciara Patterson heard her share of applause from Titans fans and catcalls from opponents.
But it was something she never dreamed she'd hear at 16 that rang through her head just a couple of months after the 2011-12 season ended.
She learned she was pregnant.
“I was really scared because I didn't know what to expect, and then I was thinking about basketball because that was my first love. It always has been since I was young,” Patterson said. “I was just hurt that I had to sit out, and I hurt my team. This was supposed to be our bonding year where we all came together, and I was out.”
Instead of meeting with the rest of the West Mifflin players, she sat down with her family to talk about what would come next.
“It was a big discussion, and we called a family meeting and sat down and talked about it collectively,” said Patterson's mother, Tameka Moody. “It was a shock, but you have to get through it — it is what it is — and move on.”
It wasn't only a stunning revelation to her family. Patterson was one of the top guards in the WPIAL. She had received interest from several Division I and Division II colleges, including Drexel, N.C. State, North Carolina A&T, St. Francis (Pa.) and Colgate.
“It was a shock to our team, but we adjusted pretty well,” West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said. “It definitely had an impact. But there's a lot of things that we deal with in life, and as a team we dealt with it.”
During the early part of the basketball season, Patterson sat on the West Mifflin bench and occasionally went out on the floor during pregame warmups and dribbled a basketball. She went to practices, added her input in strategy sessions and kept her finger on the pulse of the squad.
“Her knowledge of the game is great,” Yeschenko said. “Having her around, helping out the younger players, was beneficial in that respect.”
Then, while most high school students spent their afternoon on New Year's Eve deciding which party they planned on attending to ring in 2013, Patterson was in the maternity ward at Magee-Women's Hospital in Oakland, where, at 1:37 p.m., she delivered a 5-pound, 9-ounce baby girl she named Camryn.
“It was long and stressful and tiring,” said Patterson, who turned 17 on Feb. 1. “But she's a good baby. She sleeps every three hours, and I try to sleep while she sleeps.”
Like most girls in her situation, the West Mifflin junior has been forced to juggle motherhood with class work and has gotten tremendous support from her family. Few teenagers, however, are Division I basketball recruits. Patterson made it back to the court less than a month after having her baby.
“It was pretty hard running up and down the court,” she said. “I've never been out of shape, so it's hard to catch my breath. I was used to playing whole games and maybe coming out once, but now I have to come out several times because I can't breathe and I have asthma and it's just a lot harder.”
Almost immediately after having Camryn, Patterson started to get herself back into playing shape. She began playing junior varsity games, something she had never done in her career, and made her varsity debut Jan. 28 when she scored nine points in an overtime loss at Belle Vernon.
Though inserting a player who averaged 21.1 points as a sophomore might seem like it would immediately make West Mifflin a potential WPIAL Class AAA championship contender, there have been some problems working her back into the lineup. The Titans played a different brand of basketball with her as a starter last season, and the team is trying to find the most effective way to use her skills as it prepares for the postseason.
“The chemistry has been difficult because of her talent, the girls around her adjust their game as well, and it's tough,” Yeschenko said. “In her absence, some of these girls really stepped up and had a big impact and surprised our coaching staff … but we've been trying to be a well-balanced team and the chemistry is something that we've been working on for the last two years.”
Still, it is her child that inspires Patterson, and she always knows where her newest fan is in the stands. It's also why she is ready to do whatever it takes, including taking Moody and Camryn with her when she goes to college. She is still being recruited, but schools are taking a wait-and-see approach deciding whether having a baby compromised her talent.
“It depends on how far I want to go, and my mom and gram are letting me decide where I want to go,” Patterson said. “If I decide to go to Philly (Drexel), then they'll probably stay here, but if I decide to go to like N.C. State or North Carolina A&T, most likely my mom and my daughter are coming with me.”