She's Got Game

Maricela “Mari” Sanchez Galaz, is living proof that size should never come between you and your dreams. At a petite 5’3, 110 pounds, she has mastered several areas of her life and fused them together to make them work seamlessly. An engineer, wife, mother, and former NMSU basketball player, Mari has always used hard work and dedication as part of her way of living.

Mari, who comes from a family of athletes, spent all four years of high school, playing varsity basketball for the Oñate Knights, under the expertise of former Aggie basketball player, Connie Vau Limon. Coach Vau Limon, who was the same size as Mari, taught her everything she would need to know in order to play college ball as a girl of her size and stature. Connie emphasized the importance of quickness and mastering her shot. After every practice, Mari would stay behind and shoot with Coach Vau Limon.

All that practice paid off for the Oñate point guard when she was honored with a list of awards including setting school records for career three-point field goals (249), three-point field goals in a season (83), three-point filed goals in a game (8), participating in the New Mexico North/South All-star Game, leading the Oñate Knights to a 16-9 record and averaging 15.8 points per game.

Following her high school graduation in ‘99, Mari was offered several basketball scholarships from smaller schools. She chose NMSU because it seemed the perfect fit for someone who wanted to be an engineer and stay close to her then high school sweetheart–now husband–Adrian Galaz. When Mari first arrived at NMSU, coaches initially wanted her to redshirt, which meant she would need to spend the first season adjusting to the college game and weight training to build her physique. She didn’t spend much time as a redshirt because her coach soon realized that she was more valuable as the starting point guard.

Mari spent her freshman year just trying to survive her new time consuming schedule. Finding a balance between basketball, school work and her relationship, was one of the most difficult things she had to interface. Mari was a strict believer in practicing discipline and time management. Often, Mari would have to do homework on the plane or in the hotel room and slip papers under her professors’ doors just to stay ahead.

During college, Mari earned the nick name “Mighty Mouse.” Sometimes she would get double teamed by the taller girls because they knew just how fast she was and how accurate her shots were. During the last two years of her career Mari faced some difficult obstacles. She had endured two knee surgeries and mid-season of her senior year while playing in the 2003 Sunbelt Conference, Mari’s head coach was put on administrative leave and replaced by the men’s assistant coach at the time. The team struggled with the adjustment but refused to let all their hard work crumble, instead they kept themselves in check and took first place in the Sunbelt Conference regular season championship. This was the first time since the mid 90’s they took first place.

In February of this year, Mari was inducted into the NMSU Athletic Hall of Fame. 2010 is the first year ever where all the inductees were female. The inductees included Mari, a cross country/track and field runner and a golfer from NMSU. Mari was selected for her hard work, dedication and long list of personal achievements while playing college basketball. These achievements included ending her basketball career with the most 3-point field goals made (283) and attempted (804), most three-point field goals in a game (10), becoming the 13th player in school history to score 1,000 points in their career with a total of 1,196, was a 4-year starter and during her junior and senior years, Mari was named an NMSU captain by her teammates and coaches.

On and off the court, Maricela serves as an inspiration to all young women. She demonstrates that it is possible to juggle a personal life, education, the love of a sport and to succeed at all of them simultaneously. Today, Mari works at White Sands Missile Range as an engineer for the Center for Countermeasures and is busy raising her first child. Although she still loves the game of basketball and keeps up with the Aggie girls basketball team, she is excited to start a new chapter in her life, being a mother and starting a family of her own.

By Bianca Villani

Fall 2010
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