Two-sport athlete defines determination, leadership

Goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla and guard Dierra Mize earned 2016-17 Athlete of the Year honors for their leadership and outstanding performances on and off the field and court.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

When team leaders are imagined, one may envision a player dripping with bravado, openly strutting an athletic dominance that lets the public know they are the main attraction of any sporting event.

For 5 feet 5 inch freshman point guard Dierra Mize, her quiet confidence and unassuming demeanor, led her to being named First Team All-Bay Valley Conference and helped the Comets finish one game away from postseason play.

“I was surprised that I was recognized. I know that there was a lot of competition at my position. Playing on this level was definitely a challenge. The game is faster than in high school,” Mize said. “It was fun and we played pretty well this year. But next year we’ll be better.”

For her efforts on the basketball court and softball field, Mize has been named The Advocate Female Athlete of the Year for 2016-17.

The freshman said she needs to improve her shooting and dribbling, but her most important job is keeping the team together.

“We kind of fell apart at the end of the year and it’s my responsibility to keep us all on the same page,” she said.

Mize began playing basketball at age 10, two years after being introduced to softball. Her older brother played basketball and some of his teammates had sisters who were the same age as his own. The girls formed their own team, for fun in the beginning, but continued to play together in some respect into their high school years.

The African-American studies major was a two-sport athlete at nearby Hercules High School, playing both softball and basketball, before graduating in 2016.

She also played for the Comet softball team before the squad forfeited its season after playing just four games.

In the softball team’s first doubleheader of the year against Los Medanos College on March 14, Mize unleashed the most exciting moment in the team’s short season. After striking out in her first at bat, the freshman returned to the plate and smashed a shot into shallow right field in her second plate appearance.

Mize challenged the right fielder’s arm and stretched the hit into a double. As the second baseman lost track of the ball, Mize continued to round the bases, picking up a head of steam while rounding third base toward home.

The Comet softball crowd cheered louder than it had in two seasons as Mize crossed home plate, notching an inside the park home run.

Where the freshman Comets’ potential was unrealized on the softball field, it was fully recognized on the basketball court.

Mize showed potential from the moment the 2016 season started for the Comets.

Admittedly not recruited out of high school by first-year Comet coach Vince Shaw, Mize’s consistent play quickly earned her a starting spot on the freshman-heavy squad.

“It’s hard for a freshman to come in and be consistent. However, Mize has a good attitude, never misses a day and always works hard,” Shaw said. “She has leadership qualities that she tries to shy away from sometimes, but it’s naturally in her. I saw it early on.”

In her first year of college competition, Mize compiled a stat line that garnered acclaim among coaches through the conference. In 24 games she averaged 10 points, on 32 percent shooting, while shooting 25 percent from behind the arc.

The point guard also averaged five rebounds and two assists per game.

“She (Mize) is a very encouraging and uplifting teammate. When I felt like giving up, she pushed us to continue to fight,” freshman forward Keyauna Harris said. “She knows all of our strengths on the court and she uses that to make us better.”

Mize scored above her average in 13 games this season with her high of 21 coming at the end of the season when the team believed it still had a chance to make the playoffs.

In that game, a 77-44 victory against the College of Marin, Mize only shot 4-13 from the field and 2-7 from behind the 3-point line. Despite a poor shooting effort, the point guard made her mark in the contest by driving the lane and forcing the Mariners into committing fouls.

Against Marin, Mize got to the free throw line 13 times and made 11 of those attempts.

She added four assists and four steals with no turnovers.

What Mize lacks in dead-eye shooting, she makes up for with defense, intensity and leadership. With only one sophomore on the team, it was only natural that a leader emerge from all of the new faces that make up the Comet roster.

The freshman made her presence felt early in the season for the team.

After its first game, a 64-56 loss to Modesto Junior College at the Las Positas Tournament in Livermore, Mize did her part to make sure the team came away victorious in the second game.

In that game the next day, Nov. 10 against Lassen College, Mize put forth a well-rounded effort that filled her box score.

In just her second game, the freshman shot 4-9, tallying 11 points while making 2-5 from behind the 3-point line. She also grabbed six rebounds, and had six assists with two steals.