Makana Stone (with ball) draws a crowd in the key in a game earlier this season. (Provided photo)

Makana Stone (with ball) draws a crowd in the key in a game earlier this season. (Provided photo)

Stone continues education and basketball career overseas

Santa Claus should stuff a box of new pens in Makana Stone’s stocking this Christmas.

The 2016 Coupeville High School graduate continues to write new adventure-filled chapters in her still young life story.

After completing an award-winning high school athletic career for the Wolves, which included all-conference honors in multiple sports and a handful of school records, Stone went on to star in basketball at Whitman College. There she was a three-time, all-league selection; named the Northwest Conference’s Player of the Year last season; and earned a spot in a national all-star game.

She parlayed all that into the opportunity to study and play at Loughborough University in London.

“I knew I wanted to continue playing basketball after Whitman,” Stone said. “But in discussing the various paths I could take with my family, coaches and mentors, I realized that playing ball this year and working toward getting my master’s was the best option for me rather than solely focusing on pursuing basketball.”

As her career wrapped up at Whitman, Stone said she most enjoyed spending time with her teammates and the athletic staff, working at basketball camps, working at the Team Awesome Basketball Leadership Academy and being immersed with the athletic community.

She also realized she wanted to pursue a degree in sports science.

Stone’s undergraduate work focused on ecology and environmental courses, but a class in physiology her senior year produced an “a-ha” moment, which piqued her interest in sports science.

“I, especially, wanted to have a better and working understanding of physiology and its relation to athletes’ needs,” she said, “because I ultimately want to be working with student-athletes in the future.”

After conferring with her college coaches, Whitman alumni and the recruiting agency Play Overseas, Stone sent film to a handful of universities in the United Kingdom.

“For my academic and athletic goals, Loughborough was the obvious choice,” she said. “Loughborough is the first in the world for sports-related subjects and has an elite basketball program.”

Added bonuses, she said, are the opportunity to immerse in a different culture and to travel throughout Europe (when the pandemic is over). These opportunities can be just as enriching as “hitting the books,” she said.

“I’m gaining so much knowledge just by being in this country and meeting new people from different cultures in addition to what I am getting from my (academic) program,” Stone said. “It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am so grateful to be here.”

When COVID permits, she plays in two basketball leagues, which have a mixture of DI-DIII equivalent players.

Loughborough’s basketball program includes a “wonderful” support staff, Stone said, and there is “a little more balance between sport, school and life” than in the United States.

Loughborough University wants to ensure a student-athlete’s success in every area of life, according to Stone.

Stone, hoping not to come off as insensitive to those who have suffered because of the coronavirus, called the pandemic a “real buzzkill” in terms of athletics.

Protocols limit the amount and quality of workouts, and players showing symptoms have caused practices and games to be canceled. Positive tests force the teams to isolate for 14-days.

“Getting into any type of normal practice schedule or following any game schedule is rather tough to do,” Stone said. “While I knew this was a highly probable outcome this winter, it still doesn’t change the fact that we all just want to be on the court making buckets. But, despite wanting to be on the court, the basketball staff and all the girls have been really responsible in making sure we follow protocols and everyone stays healthy.”

As far as school, the university offers a mixture of online and face-to-face classes, offers content to those who can’t attend in-person classes and has contingency plans for interruptions.

“As a person in a new country, the pandemic hasn’t affected me that much at the moment —other than having to order groceries online here and there,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on doing any traveling until winter break or the summer months, although it’s more likely that I won’t be traveling until summer.”

Stone noted that everyone has struggles, and she is grateful for those who have helped her — her family and support groups — through her own tough times.

“I owe all my success to them,” she said. “Likewise, I’d like to extend any support I can give to other students or student-athletes who may think they want to study abroad.”

Stone expects to earn her degree in one year and hopes to elevate her game to compete at a higher level after Loughborough.

Which, of course, would lead to another new chapter in her ever-expanding book of life.

Rising above the defense, Makana Stone puts up a shot in a game earlier the winter. (Provided photo)

Rising above the defense, Makana Stone puts up a shot in a game earlier the winter. (Provided photo)