An essential portion of her life’s time, effort and focus is coming to an end.
The game clock began for her in third grade. But with every dribble, steal or block the clock ticks closer to the final buzzer.
The buzzer signals the end of a season for the Missouri women’s basketball team, and a basketball career for senior center Megan Roney.
Roney’s exit could come on Tuesday, when Missouri begins play in the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
In four years, things changed for both the Missouri program and Roney.
“I was about 40 pounds lighter, and that’s about it,” Roney said. “No, just how much basketball has taught me, as far as teamwork, responsibility. I feel like I’ve really matured in four years, really grown up a lot. I can see things more from an adult perspective now.”
Many things could overwhelm a young, 6-foot-3 Division I athlete, but it was the experience of being apart of something bigger that excited Roney.
One of her more memorable moments is her first trip through the tunnel at Hearnes Center.
“Every one was cheering for us, and I’ve never been in that kind of environment before,” Roney said.
That season, the Tigers reached the WNIT but lost 68-67 to Alabama. Missouri rebounded in 2002-2003, received another bid for the WNIT, and went to the quarterfinals before losing 62-61 to Colorado State.
Two straight postseason losses, but Missouri was moving forward.
In 2003-2004, the Tigers were all grown up. They were led by five seniors.
Roney averaged 16 minutes and 4.2 points. Missouri was invited to the NCAA tournament, where it lost 68-44 against Stanford.
This season has not been easy for Missouri or Roney.
Roney is the only senior that gets significant playing time. She averages 17.9 minutes and 3.5 points per game.
The other senior on the squad is Shea Swoboda, who was a four-year soccer player at Missouri.
This youthful Missouri team needed guidance, and the person left to give it was Roney. The question was would she be ready or able to give it.
“I think that’s a role I’ve struggled with a lot this year,” Roney said. “Last year there were five seniors, and I never had to be a leader. It was something that was a lot different for me.”
Roney didn’t have long to adjust to her new role. After Missouri’s first loss, 75-54, against Iowa on Nov. 20, teammates wanted to know what would coach Cindy Stein do.
“You know every one was real scared, and they just asked different questions that they know I can answer because I’ve been here forever,” Roney said.
Roney advised her teammates the best way she knew how, but even she had no answer for a stretch of eight-straight losses.
She said the losing was challenging because, up to that point, her time at Missouri was fairly successful.
“It was just like … you don’t know what to do, you try everything, and it was just like nothing was happening,” Roney said. “It was a difficult time not only for me, but for everyone.”
Roney’s presence must have been reassuring, though. She projects an attitude of confidence and calmness. Although Roney is slightly stiff in the presence of outsiders, it is always clear how relaxed and comfortable she is with herself.
By her senior season, she had transformed into a leader, whether recognizing it or not.
“It got to the point where every one was like we either need to do something now or this is going to be an even longer season than it’s already been,” Roney said.
Missouri snapped the losing skid, and won three straight from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26.
Moving on can be emotional, but Roney isn’t sure her departure from basketball will be that way.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that hard because it’s one of those things where you’re in the moment, and it doesn’t really hit you,” Roney said. “It’s just kind of like another game.
“Once it never comes again, I think that’s when it will be different."