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15 abril 2024

Keisha Gatling: “I always called Zaragoza my second home”

Markeisha Gatling (Carolina, 1992) have retired recently as professional basket player. The last team that she played for is Casademont Zaragoza. She was the first signing in the history of this women’s team. The league gave her the award of MVP in the season 2020/2021.  She returned in December because she had fallen in love with the club.

Go Aragon interviewed her to remember her two seasons in Casademont. Gatling gratified the support of the fans and she talked about the things she liked the most about Zaragoza. She achieved her goal: to win a trophie with this club.

You have already played for Casademont Zaragoza in the season 2020/2021. How was the experience this season?

This experience is really good. I came in December. I was here for 5 months and it was really good. I love Zaragoza, so I always called it my second home. It was amazing to come back and do what we did and, you know, make history.

The city of Zaragoza is one of the reasons to return?

Because I’m retiring. This is my last year, and I wanted to finish my career in a place where I was comfortable in. When I was here before, always I loved it here, when was 3 years ago. We just didn’t have the right people around us to do what we did this year.  I wanted to retire here and win a championship here.

What expectation have the team before the queen’s cup?

I think we always knew that we could get one of the two championships. Going into the Copa, we practiced for it, we trained for it, and we talked about each opponent that we might play against or that we were going to play. We went into the Copa knowing that we could win.

The support of the fans surprised you during the Cup or you have already seen that support before?

I knew the fans. The support was there before the Cup. Going back to the first year of the women’s league, we couldn’t have fans, but on Twitter they were supporting and when they opened up the stands, we would sell out a hundred tickets in 2 seconds because that’s all they could allow. But the fans were always been amazing.

What was the key to win the cup?

Honestly, we just played. It wasn’t one specific thing that we had to do. We just knew that we had to stay together. That’s the main thing. I think it shows like how close the team was. We all love each other. We all get along. We’re like the best of friends. But I think the key that helped us to win the games is that we stayed together.

We were down against Valencia about 15 or 14 points at one time during the Copa. Even with Avenida, we were down by double digits at one point, but we stayed together. I guess that can be the key, we never lost sight of what we were trying to do.

How were your first days in Zaragoza?

It was the first year of COVID, so we couldn’t have any fans in the gym. It kind of sucked, but it was okay. It was that first year with the women’s team. It was kind of like just pinning a bunch of pieces together. The teammates I had that year we still talk to this day.

What is the difference between the first game that you played in this season and the previous season?

The fans. Having fans in the gym. Be able to see the people that I was communicating with on Twitter before and actually see them in person. See how many fans can pack out the gym that was the difference.

How is your routine in Zaragoza?

I walk my dog, go to Starbucks and I just relax. I sit outside of the park with my dog, and I read a book. I’m christian, I’m big on reading my bible. I go to the park, sit with my dog, carry my Bible, and drink Starbucks. That’s what I do most of the times in my off days.

What is your favorite site in Zaragoza?

My favorite site is the Pilar. Sometimes I get a coffee out there too, and just sit and relax.

Did your friends or your relatives visit Zaragoza?

Yes. My mom came to Zaragoza in February. My fiancée was supposed to come, but things got crazy in New York. The weather didn’t allow him to come

Did she like the city?

Yes. My mom loves get here. She would leave me in the room and go walk

What sites did she like the most?

I think my mom liked everything. My mom is a real tourist person. She likes going down the most little random alleys. That’s her favorite thing to do. She don’t like the big statues and all that. She likes the little small things, going outside alleys and seeing different stores.

You have lived in many countries: Russia, Poland, USA… What differences do you find in Spain?

In Zaragoza in particular, I think I always go back to the fans. You don’t see a lot of fans supporting women’s sports, the way they do here. That’s the big difference for me. The support here in Zaragoza is even better than in the States. It blows my mind, it’s crazy.

Did you like the gastronomy and the food of the city?

Honestly, I was telling my teammates that I don’t really know what the traditional Spanish dishes are. I’m still I just know it’s a bunch of meat. That’s all I really eat. I eat a bunch of meats here and a lot of sushi. But, I enjoy the food a lot.

What is the food that you have tasted here that you have liked the most?

I love different cuts and meats. I’m a big fan of lamb.

Did you enjoy the nature of Zaragoza?

It’s getting hot now, but yes, I enjoy it.

Would you recommend coming to Zaragoza to another basketball player?

Of course.

Why?

Because I think it’s important for people to feel or women in particular to feel the love of fans especially if it’s an American. I think in Europe in general, the support behind women’s sports is a lot different. Like I said here, it’s very different. I think women should experience the love and the support from the fans and from the club. This organization is amazing. I think women deserve that

For people from your country, did you recommend to come here to Zaragoza?

Yes. For sure. I actually coach. That’s my plans moving on for it. But I coach 15 year olds. I might not talk about Spain in particular, but just coming overseas in general, I think the experience in different cultures against your own comfort zone, I think is good.

Why do you think that is a good site to move, regardless of whether you are a basketball player or a regular person?

Me personally, that I’m from the states, I wouldn’t move overseas. I think , yes, it’s an amazing place, but some people might want to move if you want experiences in other countries. Zaragoza is perfect, it’s not too big not too small.

What do you say to that girls that are they’re going to play basketball or any sport and normally they don’t have the support as the men have?

I say just keep going. It’s hard to not compare women to the men, but don’t compare with men. Stay on your own path and anything is possible. The women’s game is growing so much. Just keep pushing, keep striving to be your best to do your best and anything is possible.

If you have to convince someone to come to Casademont to play, what do you tell him or her?

The club and the fans are the best things that you have ever experienced in your life. I’ve never felt more love from an organization and fans in my 10 years of playing professional basketball. That’s overseas and in the WNBA. I said it’s like a big family on and off the court. When we lose, they are always supporting us. If you want to feel that, come here.

I understand that you want to be coach someone. Are you thinking of having experience in Europe as a coach, maybe in Zaragoza or it’s too far away?

No. It’s not too far away, but for me personally, I want to feel like I’m giving back. I don’t want to coach professional. I want to coach younger kids to help them. I’m a coach college only  just to show them what it takes to get to the next level. I don’t want to deal with the professionals, because I know how we be.

It’s quite difficult?

Yes. I’d rather deal with them right before they go pro.

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