March 9, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
In sports, statistics help quantify the impact a player makes on a team but they don’t tell the whole story.
Georgia Tech redshirt senior center Shayla Bivins is a perfect example.
Numbers simply can’t quantify Bivins’ value to the team, to Georgia Tech and to women’s college sports over the past five years.
Her career-best 2013-14 stats show she had a good year, but don’t tell of the hard work she did to get healthy enough to play or the commitment to the program she had that drove her to want to come back, determined not to go out with a losing season.
“The thing I will always remember about Shayla is how she came back for a fifth year when she didn’t have to,” said Head Coach MaChelle Joseph. “She had already graduated from Georgia Tech but unselfishly came back to help her team and her program. She wasn’t happy with the way things ended in her senior year and gave herself an opportunity to come back and turn things around. What she’s done in the community, what she’s done in the athletic department, with her leadership with SAAB, she’s just a tremendous person and leader.”
One of the highest-rated recruits coming out of the state of Florida in 2009, Bivins put her ego aside and accepted her role coming off the bench for Joseph. Then, after missing most of her junior year with a knee injury, she rehabbed her way back.
What she would not accept was leaving Tech with a losing record in 2012-13. So she came back, was a captain, started every game and helped the Yellow Jackets put up a winning record and probably get back to the NCAA Tournament. She was rewarded with an ACC Postgraduate Scholarship, was named to the 2014 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team and, on Friday, was named All-ACC Academic Team.
Off the floor, she was Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) President and was out front in promoting initiatives to help in the community. Her opinions were even sought by the NCAA, which brought her on board as one of two student-athletes to serve on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Issues Committee.
Bivins recently took time to talk with The Good Word about her years on the Flats, her coming back to play one more year and her plans moving forward in the years ahead.
THE GOOD WORD: You recently played in your final home game at Georgia Tech. What was the experience like?
Shayla Bivins: It was kind of surreal. Both my grandmothers were there on Sunday, so it was a little bit emotional. My grandmother from Florida, it was her first time coming to one of my games since I’ve been in college, so I was really excited that she was there. Georgia Tech has been great to me. I’ve been given so much.
TGW: What made you come back for your fifth year after graduating?
BIVINS: Definitely [2012-13] was a disappointment after going to the Sweet 16. It’s really not in me to quit. I didn’t want to quit on myself or my teammates or my coaches I went from not playing at all to starting every game this season. It’s really rewarding and it’s such a blessing to be able to be in a position that people dream about, that little girls dream about — I dreamed about when I was a little girl. So I’m very thankful for that. I’m glad that I did come back because we’ve had a great year.
TGW: What was your favorite moment of your career?
BIVINS: Definitely beating Georgetown at UNC to go to the Sweet 16, where we played Baylor and Brittney Griner. I red-shirted that year, but the excitement and the emotion and just to really be a part of that 2011-2012 team was awesome because what we had was something special. I will never forget it.
TGW: Being a captain this year, how important was helping mold younger players like Nariah Taylor?
BIVINS: I have set a high standard for myself, whether it be in the classroom or on the court and I believe that people see that and how I carry myself and the things that I do and they respect it and they try to follow suit.
TGW: How will you remember your experience with SAAB?
BIVINS: When I became president of SAAB I took over after Roddy Jones and Roddy did a fantastic job. When I took over that position it was important to me that we established a presence in the Atlanta community and that we created a more friendly environment among student-athletes. That was really big because it would be this team over here and that team over there. I feel like it’s a greater atmosphere and I think that’s great because we support each other at our games. It’s just a great environment to have with your peers. As far as in the community, Atlanta is a great city and it would be an injustice if we didn’t have a presence and give back to the city. So I made sure that we visit schools and that we visit homeless shelters and the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive that we do every year. This year we presented a check of about $6,000 to the Atlanta homeless shelter. So it’s been amazing.
TGW: How have you helped new president Morgan Jackson?
BIVINS: I think Morgan’s going to do great as SAAB President. I basically told her that you can’t be afraid. When you’re in a leadership position you have to take risks and you have to be bold in decisions that you make. I told her that if she was personable and friendly and had open and honest, candid conversations, because sometimes we have to make tough decisions, she’d be fine.
TGW: How did you become part of NCAA D-I Women’s Basketball Issues Committee?
BIVINS: I don’t know why these people think I deserve to be on all these committees (laughs). But it’s an honor. It’s so hard for me to articulate because it is such a blessing to be one of only two student-athletes on that board [former Tennessee Tech guard Kellie Cook is the other]. It’s so exciting that 10 years from now I can look back and say, `I helped make a decision that helped evolve the sport and now women’s basketball is even better than it was a decade ago.’
TGW: Did you ever imagine you’d have the impact you have on the University and nationwide in women’s sports?
BIVINS: Absolutely not. My freshman year was such a struggle. I came from being the No. 2 player in the state of Florida. It’s not easy going from the best player to everybody else is on the same level if not better. I always did well in school but I struggled my freshman year and Lord knows some days I didn’t think I was going to make it. I used to call home every day and say, `Mom, you have to come and get me.’ She didn’t entertain that idea at all. I’m glad she didn’t and I’m glad that I did have the struggles that I did because I think they made me who I am today.
TGW: Was it easier for you this year NOT having classes, having already graduated?
BIVINS: NO! This year has been, by far, the craziest of my career. I thought that once I graduated it would be down hill but I’ve been interning at the Athletic Association. Last semester my big project was the `Thank-a-thon.’ This semester I’ve done a lot more marketing projects, specifically for women’s basketball. That definitely takes up a lot of my time. Applying for jobs takes up a lot of time. Being President of SAAB is a huge responsibility. Being the captain of this team is a huge responsibility. So I definitely had a lot on my plate this past year, post-graduation.
TGW: You were awarded an ACC Postgraduate Scholarship. What will you do with that? What post-graduation plans do you have?
BIVINS: I’m torn right now. I’m either going to go and get my law degree, hopefully at Georgetown, or I’m going to go get a Master’s in Sports Administration at UNC.
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