Missouri women's basketball players challenge themselves in the classroom

Friday, December 7, 2012 | 6:54 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — On the court, there was a veterinarian, a mechanical engineer, a pair of nurses, two businesswomen and a physical therapist. 

In five years, this collection of women might seem random. At the moment, they're all student-athletes playing for the Missouri women's basketball team. 

"I've got a lot of respect for what they're doing in the classroom," coach Robin Pingeton said. "I think we've got kids that are very committed to that degree. We've got some tough majors."

Despite the time commitment required to be a college basketball player — which includes games, practices, film sessions, weight room sessions and independent practice time — many of the women on the team are also pursuing time-intensive academic programs at MU.

Freshman guard Lianna Doty is in her first year in the engineering school, while freshman forward Darian Saunders is starting her animal sciences degree.

Sophomore guard Bree Fowler and freshman guard Lindsey Cunningham both hope to become nurses.

Senior guard Sydney Crafton is an agriculture business major, while sophomore guard Morgan Eye is studying marketing. 

Senior center Liz Smith hopes to work in physical therapy.

Up and down the roster, it's clear the team isn't afraid to challenge itself off the court.

"It definitely takes time management, but you know, every girl that coach Pingeton recruits is someone who is able to manage their time and take care of business," Eye said. 

Pingeton said she's made adjustments to the team's practice schedule with the end of the semester looming. The team will have no games during finals week, and this week, some practices were replaced by short team meetings and lifting sessions.

While the team's academic demands have made scheduling somewhat more difficult, Pingeton said the team's commitment to academics is reflected in her team's play.

"I've always been a big believer that there's a carryover in what you do in the classroom to the approach you take to the court," she said. "The discipline, the attention to detail, the work ethic."

Crafton said time management is made easier with the built-in structure of practices and study hall, along with the academic resources offered by the athletic department. 

Pingeton emphasized that she wanted to enable her players to follow their own paths after graduation.

"I don't believe in putting them in a certain major just so we can maximize their basketball time," Pingeton said. "I think they need to pursue what they're really passionate about."

The group may have varied interests off the court, but for now, they're united by their passion for basketball.

"I think everyone on the team does a great job of making sure that we do get our academics taken care of, and we're also able to set it to the side," Eye said. "When we're here, we're here to do work."

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