To read Part I of the profile, click HERE.
Ieisha Small admitted she was confused and didn’t trust anyone in the wake of her mother, Michelle Robinson's, death. She spent many nights crying, questioning, confiding only in her younger brother, whom Ieshia refused to let out of sight in fear of losing him too.
But while in the foster home, Davis-Powell proved her sincerity. She made the seven-hour drive from Tallahassee, Fla., to Miami at least twice a month, just to check up on the Smalls.
“No one else did what she did for us,” Small said. “So I’m glad it was her that adopted us. I’m glad Coach Kim and her husband took us in with open arms. It’s been great living with them.”
Well, mostly great.
“On no, hell no,” Davis-Powell said, laughing. “We’re talking about teenagers here. There’s going to be ups and downs. But it has been great, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Just doing silly things, typical teenage things, it’s been fun.
“But it’s just a little more difficult when you don’t raise them. When you lose a parent, you think you’re completely on your own and it becomes very difficult to build trust.”
By November 2011 the Smalls had settled in with their stepparents in northern Florida. The pair ended up transferring to Florida State High School, where Davis-Powell served as the girls’ head basketball coach.
Under Davis-Powell’s watch, the senior Small earned Tallahassee Player of the Year, Florida Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American honors. Ranked the No. 3 wing in the country, according to ESPN, she garnered offers from major Division I programs around the country.
The Terps, for their part, had been recruiting Small since her freshman year, head coach Brenda Frese urging Small to visit College Park, Md. But the recruit opted against it, favoring programs closer to Tallahassee instead. In the meantime, Frese landed star guard Lexie Brown, in effect ending the Small pursuit.
One of the last class of 2011 recruits to sign, Ieshia ultimately decided on Baylor, noting the presence of two Essence AAU teammates in Waco, Texas. But after two years of limited action and up-and-down results, Small decided the Bears may not have been the best fit.
“It was mainly me not being the player the Baylor coaches thought I was. It was a lot of changes throughout the two years, and I had to switch positions a lot,” Small said. “I played the one, the two, the three and sometimes, when we played a lot of guards, I played the four. I just didn’t fit the system.”
Following her sophomore season, Small elected to transfer, figuring she’s have plenty of suitors. But Ieshia fielded few calls, and Davis-Powell said her stepdaughter was “kind of beat up” and “didn’t think anybody wanted her anymore.”
Frese still did.
But did Ieshia Small want Maryland?
“To be honest,” Small said, “I was a little shocked. I knew [star guard] Lexie Brown was leaving [transferred to Duke], but not many schools, after you turn them down, not many come back to you again.”
Small, after receiving assurance that Frese envisioned her as an on-the-ball guard and wouldn’t over-recruit her, promptly scheduled a College Park trip.
“We knew if Ieshia liked and respected her head coach, she’d play through a wall for her,” Davis-Powell said. “And when we saw how she interacted with [Frese], we were like, ‘Wow, we’re all on the same page.’ We felt really comfortable with [Frese].”
“I wish I would’ve visited Maryland my first time around,” Small said. “I love Coach Frese. She’s a family woman, she loves her kids, she loves her players. She’s a players’ coach, and I love that about her.”
A couple days later, Small let Frese know she’d be joining the Maryland program. She’ll sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining.
"Ieshia is a winner through and through,” Frese said. “Getting to bring her to campus reinforced our beliefs of what we already knew. Ieshia is a versatile player that can help in multiple areas on both ends of the floor. She will provide veteran leadership and experience to our team as well. Everyone around her has said what a great young lady she is. I’m excited to coach her and I think her potential is untapped. Her future is extremely bright.”
Ieshia’s stepfather, Kelvin Powell, offered his own scouting report, mentioning Small’s “No. 1 attribute” is her size for a point guard. He also lauded her coordination, ability to penetrate and her knack for finding open teammates.
“Ieshia is very competitive and she loves to play. She’s committed to the game,” said Kelvin Powell, who would like to see Small hone her 3-point stroke. “There’s no doubt in my mind she can play at a high level and help Maryland.”
For her part, Small said she’ll be bringing “happiness” and “fun” to next year’s Terps. She’s seeking acceptance from her new teammates, building camaraderie the one way she knows how: livening up the atmosphere.
“You will know when Ieshia walks into the building every single time,” Davis-Powell said. “It won’t be a quiet moment (laughs).”
“She’s definitely not quiet,” Kelvin Powell said. “She plays to the crowd for sure, and I’m sure she’ll be engaged with the fans at Maryland.”
It’s a fact Small readily admits to. She said no matter what the activity, be it basketball or some other favorite pastime like beach volleyball, she’s “always talking” and “always positive.”
Just don’t expect that kind of attitude once she finally takes the Xfinity Center floor in two years.
“Ieshia’s got a brash type of demeanor on the court, and I think that’s the Miami in her,” Davis-Powell said. “She wants to win. She’ll really get after it on defense to win games, and she’ll go at her teammates like, ‘We’ve got to get it together.’”
That approach won’t change in the slightest, but Small has a different perspective four years after her mother’s death. She’s learned to appreciate the here and the now -- for tomorrow is never guaranteed.
“I get going to college and playing basketball is like a business, but sometimes you get too caught up in the business and forget these are supposed to be the best four years of your life. So I try to make the best of any situation,” Small said. “Coming out of high school I felt all the pressure in the world, but now I feel like If I just relax I can be who I’m supposed to be. I’ll be fine. So my goal is to be the best person I can be and to strengthen my relationship with God, and everything else will fall into place.”
Ieshia Small Profile Part II: Redemption Road
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