Mar. 2, 1998By Moisha Platto
Point guard Marie Folsom is one of only two seniors on this year's Cal women's basketball team and the only player to have played four seasons with the Golden Bears. Despite the limited team success achieved by the Bears during her tenure and the personal battles she has fought hard to overcome, she describes her experience at Cal as irreplaceable.
Unlike most players who grow into increased playing time over the years, Folsom's freshman campaign is her most memorable. She played in 26 games as a freshman and started 10 games, tallying career highs in nearly every statistical category.
Although Folsom played in all but one game that first season at Cal, the transition from high school star to college freshman did take some getting used to. At Corona Del Sol High School in Arizona, Folsom led her team to back-to-back Division 5A championships, while earning two Arizona High School Player of the Year award, and four team MVP honors.
"I was used to being in the game the entire time and not coming out, so it was hard to adjust," recalls Folsom. "In the beginning of my freshman year I played a little bit, but not a lot. As the season progressed I got more playing time, and then I eventually started."
Although she probably would never have imagined it, her sophomore season would bring even more adjustments, and much more difficult ones at that. Folsom was diagnosed with mononucleosis seven games into the 1995-96 season, sidelining her until spring. The illness negated the hard work Folsom put in during the off-season, and hampered the momentum she was carrying from her successful freshman season. However, she continued to work hard in the off-season, joining a summer Pro-Am league in San Francisco in order to make up for lost time.
"I worked so hard all summer long, but then I came down with a virus in the preseason, and I couldn't condition with the team," said Folsom. "I never felt healthy the whole time, and once I found out what was wrong, I was out for the whole season. I was afraid it was going to set me back, but I worked really hard during the summer and came back strong conditioning-wise."
Folsom not only had to re-establish herself on the court entering her junior season, but she also had to acquaint herself with a new coaching staff. This change, however, was one which she seemed to welcome. An extremely important factor to Folsom coming out of high school was the opportunity to learn from a coach who knew the game, and her wish was granted with the arrival of three-time national champion Marianne Stanley
"In high school I didn't have a coach that taught me a lot," Folsom recalled. "I knew that in college I would be learn a lot more. That was probably the biggest thing I was looking for and I was expecting was to be coached better."
Stanley arrived prior to Folsom's junior season and delivered what the guard had been looking for - someone who could show her the nuances of the game.
"She has definitely helped me see a lot more," Folsom said. "Coach Stanley taught me more about the game than I had ever seen before,. She'll pick out little things to tell you, and you'll remember not to do them again. She is an excellent teacher."
Now playing the final games of her collegiate career, Folsom finds herself the elder statesman of a youthful Golden Bear squad. Although her court time has never returned to the level of her initial season, Folsom has managed to gain invaluable experience.
"Even though I may not play perfectly, I know what is going on. It comes naturally to me now, " noted Folsom. "I do feel like a senior with all of the knowledge that I have gained over the years."
One of her most memorable moments at Cal came in the final home game of the 1994-95 season, Folsom's freshman season. Cal was facing heavily favored Oregon State, who sat near the top of the Pac-10 standings, and the Bears upset the nationally-ranked Beavers, 77-75.
"Oregon State was a really good team then, and we were expected to lose, according to the media," Folsom recalled. "But we ended up pulling it off and beat them by two points. My whole family and all my friends got to watch back home on TV and it was really fun. That was my favorite game."
Just as important to Folsom as all of her on-court experiences are the personal memories she will take away with her. Being a Golden Bear has allowed her to meet people she would not otherwise have known. "I've made a lot of good friends here," said Folsom. "In my freshman year, I met one of my best friends when I first joined the team. Every year I meet new people and our team environment has always been strong."
Folsom views the experiences she has encountered during her four years in Berkeley as irreplaceable, and she figures that much of life is what you make of it.
"It can be a battle and you have to be mentally strong to play this sport," Folsom explained. "You're not always going to hear what you want to hear, and you're not always going to get what you want. I really believe that it builds character, and it makes you mentally stronger, which prepares you for life."