For TWU guard Rachel Schlosser, family and basketball have always been intertwined. Despite loving the game and wanting to pursue training as a career, Schlosser made the decision to quit playing for Texas-San Antonio in 2008 and spend time with her father, Thomas Schlosser, who was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in October 2011.
For all Schlosser knew, her basketball days were behind her as she focused on spending as much time as possible with her father.
“When I left UTSA when my dad got sick, I really didn’t know if I would ever play again,” Schlosser said. “I wanted to, of course, but I didn’t know if it would be possible. I would walk past the gym and see people practicing and be jealous.”
Schlosser said it was difficult to leave the game, but she knew she was making the right decision.
“There was definitely a big void in my life, especially in the beginning,” Schlosser said. “I wrote my coach at UTSA a letter before I left saying that I knew that I was going to regret it and that it was going to hurt me leaving, but I just felt like if I didn’t spend whatever time my dad had left on this Earth with him that I would regret that more. It was definitely hard, but it was something bigger than me, so I had to make that sacrifice.”
Three years later, Schlosser finds herself back in the game of basketball as a starter for TWU, but the circumstances surrounding her joining the team were more than coincidental, according to TWU coach Beth Jillson.
“If she wouldn’t have been in my class, I don’t know that she would have come to my office to say, ‘Coach, I want to be part of the team,’” Jillson said. “I know that when I told her she was going to be a part of the team, she started to cry. I think it was a burden off her shoulders. I’m a big believer of everything happens for a reason. I do believe that God brought her there. She is our 10th player, and we always talk about being 10 deep.”
After Jillson invited Schlosser to join the practice squad, she held a tryout. In that tryout, Jillson said, it was obvious that Schlosser had a knack for the game.
“I always ask if anyone is interested in being a practice player — especially this year, because we were going to need people,” Jillson said. “I already knew that she could shoot. What was impressive was that every loose ball, she would go down to the floor. You could tell right off the bat that she was a hard worker and had a passion for the game.”
Jillson said she was surprised by Schlosser’s performance because she had been out of basketball for three years.
“When she came on, she was in great shape,” Jillson said. “The first day we go out there, she’s winning sprints. I kept thinking that she needed to ease her way into it. She didn’t miss a beat. Conditioning-wise and in the weight room, she exceeded our expectations. Basketball-wise, you could tell she hadn’t played organized basketball in a while. I think that might be where she might have been a little bit behind.”
Before knowing if she was going to make the team or not, Schlosser was just happy to be involved in basketball again.
“When she told me to try out, I was so happy,” Schlosser said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, but just to get another chance, I felt very blessed. Being on this team has actually helped me get over everything. My dad and I bonded over basketball a lot. He was at every one of my games, no matter where it was. It kind of helps me feel connected in a way, and it has just been kind of a way to keep my mind off things and stay focused on what I love.”
Schlosser not only made the team and is starting, but the junior was voted co-captain by her teammates after just weeks on the squad.
“She’s starting for us and was voted team captain, which I think says a whole lot about a player that came in and proved herself,” Jillson said. “She has a maturity level. She’s 23; she has a daughter and has been through a lot of what I like to call life. I know she knows how to make the most of every opportunity. She’s had basketball taken away from her and somebody she loves taken away from her.”
When asked why she thought the team voted her co-captain along with Rebekah Cluley, Schlosser said she’s never been as enthusiastic about being a captain as she is this season.
“I think I have a maturity level about me because of everything I’ve been through,” Schlosser said. “I’ve been captains of other teams, but I told the girls that this is the first time I’ve wanted to be captain. They see how much I love the game and how passionate I am.”
While spending time with her dad during his battle with cancer, Schlosser said, she learned valuable lessons about life outside of basketball.
“My dad lived every day like he didn’t have cancer, and I learned a lot from him in the last few weeks of his life when it came to his attitude, positivity and his faith in God,” Schlosser said.
Her father and their family learned he had cancer when the nurse accidentally broke the news instead of the doctor, but in that moment, Schlosser said, she saw something in her father that has stuck with her.
“My dad looked at her and said, ‘What do we need to do to beat this thing?” Schlosser said. “I still remember that. Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, I remember my dad’s attitude and how he was faced with something so terrible but he was so positive about it. I think there’s a lot to be said about that.”
Schlosser credits her father for her infatuation with basketball. He played in college and then coached her.
“My dad and I were so close,” Schlosser said. “He taught me everything I know about basketball. He played at Sam Houston for a year. The thing I remember most about my dad was that he always told me to shoot free throws, which is funny because I am struggling with my free throws a little bit right now. We would shoot in the driveway, free throw after free throw after free throw. Basketball was just something that we bonded over. He loved the game and I loved the game.”
Schlosser’s free throw percentage is 63 percent, but she still has several games to make the improvements her dad would harp on.
“I talk to my dad before every game, especially when we are at home and we line up to do the national anthem because he always sang the national anthem,” Schlosser said. “I always heard him. I talk to him and tell him to watch over me. Sometimes I talk to him like he’s actually here. If I’m having a bad game or something, I talk to him to get me through it. Whether I’m playing good or bad, he’s always with me.”
After taking off an extended amount of time, Schlosser said her appreciation for basketball has never been greater, and she shares Jillson’s outlook on how she found her way to the team.
“I always say that this is either a message from my dad or God,” Schlosser said. “I didn’t know about my eligibility because I had been gone for so long. It seemed like the stars were aligned.
“Back then I took it for granted. I didn’t appreciate it like I do now, because it was taken away from me, and the fact that I got it back is great.”
As for passing on her family’s basketball tradition, Schlosser said she would never force her daughter, Destiny, to do anything she didn’t want to do, but she hopes she learns what her father taught her.
“I wanted to show her that you never have to give up,” Schlosser said. “There’s nothing that isn’t possible, and if it’s basketball or whatever she chooses, she should do the best she can and never give up.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .