Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has 'swag'

SPOKANE, Wash. -- While her daughter Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was playing her role as the designated hot hand for Maryland in its 65-55 Sweet 16 victory over Duke on Saturday at Spokane Arena, Andrea Kimbrough was home in Pennsylvania -- at a baby shower.

There was a big pile of gifts still to be opened, and the mother-to-be hadn't gotten to hers yet, so Andrea Kimbrough found herself in an adjacent bar with a group of Shatori's cousins watching the game on TV.

"I was stuck," Andrea Kimbrough said. "I had to watch."

Luckily, it was relatively pleasant viewing, with her daughter putting up 24 points and the Terrapins moving into the Elite Eight. Watching her daughter play isn't her favorite thing, not by a long shot.

Since Walker-Kimbrough was in high school, Andrea Kimbrough has been finding creative things to do and places to hide so that she doesn't have to see what's happening.

"She's made friends with security guards and concessions workers," Walker-Kimbrough said Sunday on the eve of Maryland's Elite Eight matchup with Tennessee, with the winner heading to Tampa. "People tell me they see her out there praying. You know those little windows in the middle of the gym door, I used to be playing, and I would see her face poking through."

Now, with Walker-Kimbrough in Maryland or on the road, Andrea Kimbrough has some home-based game-day routines. Sometimes, she turns up the television so she can hear it while she busies herself in the kitchen. Other days, she goes to Wal-Mart or on a long drive and keeps track of the game by the texts she gets from family and friends.

"I know it's crazy, but I can't help it," Andrea Kimbrough said. "I want to see her do well and I hate seeing her disappointed. Disappointment is a part of life, but she's so hard on herself when she loses and I don't want to see her sad. When she's happy, I'm happy."

Andrea Kimbrough knows better than anyone the depths of her daughter's competitive drive, one that Walker-Kimbrough says is based on one simple concept: work.

"If somebody beats me at something, I know it's because they outworked me and that drives me," said Walker-Kimbrough, a sophomore who came to Maryland as a three-sport star (basketball, volleyball and track) out of Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. "I got my work ethic from my mom and my grandfather. I watched how hard they work."

Walker-Kimbrough has been a worker from way back, getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. to get in a workout or bounce a ball around the neighborhood before the sun came up.

"I used to tell her that the neighbors were going to hate us," Andrea Kimbrough said. "You could hear that ball bouncing at all hours."

But it isn't all about work for Walker-Kimbrough, who admits she has not been the best at accepting defeat through the years. She snapped a hand-held video game in half out of frustration once and has tossed a few board games on to the floor after a defeat. As a young child, her mother bought her a map game, and when she couldn't get the answers right, she ripped the map into pieces.

"My mother used to tell me that I needed to stop doing that. She hated playing games with me," Walker-Kimbrough said. "It was a little rough for a while."

"When she's locked in, she gets everyone going. She's a young player and sometimes her competitiveness gets the best of her, but it's also what I love about her." Maryland coach Brenda Frese on Shatori Walker-Kimbrough

But that competitive fire, the one that she showed Saturday as she got on an offensive roll -- thumping her chest after big shots and exhorting her teammates -- is something that Maryland relies upon.

Terrapins coach Brenda Frese calls it her "swag."

"She will tell me that she needs my swag," Walker-Kimbrough said. "It's really just something that happens when my adrenaline starts to rush. We are a team that defines ourselves by our energy. We need to create our own energy on Monday night for sure."

Frese said Walker-Kimbrough's "swag" is something she's needed to harness in the past two years.

"There's no question she's our alpha dog," Frese said. "When she's locked in, she gets everyone going. She's a young player and sometimes her competitiveness gets the best of her, but it's also what I love about her."

Maryland sophomore guard Lexie Brown said that Walker-Kimbrough is a tone-setter.

"I wouldn't say that as Tori goes, we go, but we kind of do," Brown said. "When she's rolling, she's rolling and we want to keep her rolling."

Walker-Kimbrough was rolling Saturday, coming one point within her career high. She has filled in a good part of the offensive punch left by the graduation of All-American Alyssa Thomas last year. She is averaging 13.5 points a game to go with 5.3 rebounds. The 5-foot-11 guard has made more field goals (188) than anyone on the Maryland roster and was named to the All-Big Ten first team.

Walker-Kimbrough said she expects a "dogfight" against Tennessee with the Final Four on the line.

"They play extremely hard and their defense is up-tempo," Walker-Kimbrough said. "We definitely want to pressure them as well."

These late-season games have already been a little tough on mom. When the Terrapins played Iowa last month, she was sick to her stomach. At another game, watching from home, Kimbrough had an asthma attack after her daughter got a bloody nose.

"I know, I know ..." Andrea Kimbrough said laughing. "But it's nerve-racking."

On Monday night, "I'll be getting a pedicure," Andrea Kimbrough said.

If Maryland reaches the Final Four, Andrea Kimbrough will go to Tampa.

"I'll be there," Kimbrough said. But will she watch?

"I'll be in the building," Kimbrough said.