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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 — Houston, TX

Family fuel: Malia Fisher takes inspiration from home

Junior forward Maria Fisher attempts a shot against Tulane University during a home game on Jan. 20. She leads the team with 116 rebounds this season. Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Hadley Medlock     2/13/24 10:51pm

Although Malia Fisher, a junior forward on the women’s basketball team, has long wanted to be a basketball player and even started talking to D1 coaches in middle school, she wasn’t initially sold on Rice University. 

“I took a visit [to Rice] my junior year, and I absolutely hated it. My coach that drove us when we got off the plane got lost, and we ended up in this really bad part of Houston. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go here,’ [but] the rest of the visit was fine,” Fisher said. “I never saw any of the facilities … I never met any of the girls on the team, so it was a really weird dynamic on that visit. I kind of just walked away from it.”

When it came down to her decision between Rice and the University of Colorado Boulder, though, Fisher’s coach sat her down and urged her to think about the value of a Rice education. Fisher said she decided she wanted to go to the place that would allow her a more well-rounded education. 

“I went downstairs at [midnight]. I went into my mom’s room and right there told her I was going to commit to Rice the next day,” she said. “I just kind of spontaneously decided that I wanted to go here, and it ended up probably being one of the best decisions that I could have ever made.”

As she navigated three elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools, sports were always a constant for Fisher. 

“I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember. I was really athletic as a kid. I was the one that was playing soccer and softball and any sport that you can imagine,” Fisher said. “But I think basketball is what really stuck and what I kind of grew up in.”

Part of this athleticism comes from her family. Fisher’s mom was a basketball player at Middle Tennessee State University. Her father played collegiate football at the University of Tennessee and professionally for the Minnesota Vikings. Her brother also currently plays baseball in an independent league and is looking to break into the minor leagues. Because of this, Fisher has always had a built-in support system for pursuing her athletic goals. 

“My whole family, we love sports. I think it’s what has brought us together as a family,” Fisher said. “My brother is my anchor. He’s the closest person I have that’s been through this process of playing in college. He understands my mental battles … so I go to him for a lot of support in that role.”

Her biggest supporter, though, is her older sister.

“My sister has cerebral palsy, so she wasn’t able to play sports, but she was in the gym with us all the time or at any sporting event we ever had,” Fisher said. “She texts me every day about basketball, she reposts everything that Rice women’s basketball posts … and she watches every game.”

“I think she is one of my biggest motivators,” Fisher added. “I want to play for her. I want to make her proud because she loves it so much.”

Despite the prevalence of athletes on social media, Fisher finds inspiration elsewhere. She looks up to role models in her athletic family, especially her mother. 

“My sister is 37, so my mom actually had her the summer going into her freshman year of college. She had her whole basketball career, she also had my sister at the same time. [She was] going to class and my sister would have to go to therapy,” she said. “That’s another reason my mom is one of my most inspirational figures. She was able to do that with a child with special needs on top of that and be as successful as she was in her role.”

Although Fisher is a long-time athlete,  she doesn’t watch sports — she doesn’t even have a TV. Outside of basketball, Fisher likes to read. 

“I love reading, I can’t stress that enough. I guess moving around so much, I was never the person to just go out and make a bunch of friends and be the life of the party. I think I turned to books as my outlet,” Fisher said. “I’m taking responsibility for this — my whole team reads now, and I love it. We had a little book club going on, and it just makes me so happy to see them so happy about books because I think that’s a lost love in our generation.”

While her future plans are not set in stone, Fisher said she currently hopes to continue playing basketball professionally either overseas or in the WNBA. 

“I have had a lot of people talk to me about it, and I can’t play basketball my whole life. Eventually, that’s something I won’t be able to do anymore,” she said. “And they told me, ‘Why not do it until you can’t do it anymore?’, because I think the world is always going to be here.”

As a double major in psychology and sports management, Fisher said that if she doesn’t go on to play professionally, or when she stops playing years down the line, she still wants to work for a professional sports team. She hopes to take on a community-oriented role for a basketball organization, helping to show that athletes are well-rounded people.

“I think another passion I have is just getting society to see that athletes are more than just what they play,” she said. “I think there’s this perception about athletes that all they can do is play their sport, and I really want to highlight that that’s not the case.”

As for now, though, Fisher hopes to continue leaving her mark on Rice basketball. 

“I want to win [a] conference championship and keep growing that dynamic,” Fisher said. “[I want] to kind of just go out with a bang and do as much as I can here.”

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