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Women’s History Month Interview Series: Catching up with former Rutgers Scarlet Knight Basketball Player Matee Ajavon

Matee is finishing up the season in Maranhao in South America and will return to the WNBA this summer.

ajavon2Rutgers fans will always remember Matee Ajavon for being an integral part of the Scarlet Knights’ 2006-2007 women’s basketball team that under the direction of head coach C. Vivian Stringer, went to the national championship game.  What Rutgers fans may not know is from where she came.

Ajavon emigrated to the USA from Liberia at the age of 6.  Leaving her grandmother to join her mother in New Jersey, she never took for granted the opportunity she found in America.

After attending Malcom X. Shabbazz high school she attended Rutgers University and never forgot her roots where she graduated with a degree in African Studies using much of her life experiences to write poetry.

She has since gone on to a career in pro basketball that has taken her to Houston, to Atlanta, to Istanbul, and to Brazil.

I got a chance to catch up with my old friend, and she opened up on some of her feelings about her time on the banks of the Raritan, and her career.


On playing basketball at Rutgers and for coach C. Vivian Stringer:

“My four years at Rutgers will forever be memorable one [experience]. I had the opportunity to be coached by a legendary coach, cheered for by arguably the best fans in college basketball, and educated by a prestigious university. I will forever represent myself as a walking billboard for Rutgers! (laughs).”

ajavon1On the state of women in athletics and in male-dominated professions:

“On August 5, 2014, Becky Hammond, a six-time WNBA All-Star, was announced and hired by the San Antonio Spurs as their new Assistant Head Coach, becoming the second woman ever to coach in the NBA. In a world that is so male driven, this validates exactly why women in sports not only fit into its own timeline but has earned its’ place in the history of sports in general. In 2012, we celebrated 40 years of Title IX, which has been extremely impactful in the progression and equality of women’s right to participate and compete at high level just as men do. Since its inception in 1972, women’s sports have made leaps and bounds creating an impressive timeline of accolades and setting precedents, in some cases exceeding their counterparts. For me personally, I feel a part of women’s history in sports. Almost 51 years after the inception of the NBA, the WNBA had its first season in 1997 and 11 years later I am the fifth overall draft pick in the 2008 WNBA.

I feel a sense of obligation to do my due diligence in continuing to build the legacy of women professional athletes and making our own history in sports. To date, there has to be well over 300,000 women participating on a collegiate level and almost every professional sport major and minor has a women’s team. So there’s no doubt women’s sports fits into women’s history. We as women, have accomplished so many great things and have contributed so much to all facets of history. We have proven that we can match our counterparts and be on the same playing field whether it be in politics, sports or any other male driven profession. We aren’t completely on equal playing fields but we have made leaps. Best part about it is, there is much more history to be made”.

On playing basketball around the globe and the impact of the stars of the WNBA in its infancy:

“I played in Europe for the past 6 years and this year will be my first time playing in South America. My fortunate enough to continue to live the dream I’ve had since watching Cynthia Cooper and Mwade Mbika on NBC at the age of 14/15. And the best part about it is the fact that I’m getting compensated to do something I would do for free and travel the world while doing it! Talk about living! (laughs)”

Matee is finishing up the season in Maranhao in South America and will return to the WNBA this summer.

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