By: Joe Cardoso
One of the really cool things about life is that you almost always have a chance to change it, and if you get thrown a curve ball you can adjust and hit it out the park. From the start, the Dream Chasers Series is all about people who are focused and on a mission to reach goals. For our first Q&A of the month, we take you to Miami, Florida and introduce you to a baller with a nasty game and positive attitude. Her game is hot on and off the court allow us to introduce Tiffany Suarez.
JC: Growing up did you play any other sports besides basketball? What made you stick with hoops?
TS. Growing up, I really looked up to my older sister and always wanted to model whatever she was doing. She started off doing ballet, so I did as well. She then quit and started playing basketball, I guess she thought it fit her personality more. I remember watching her shoot on a hoop in front of our neighbor’s house with my dad. I remember watching and wanting to join not really knowing if I was strong enough to carry the ball and throw it up into the hoop.
JC: How old were you when you started hooping, and at what point did you fall in love with the game?
TS: I was 4. I remember her working on her form for an hour or so. After my dad and sister (Danielle) went inside. I stayed out for a while attempting to make a basket. Not sure how long it took but I finally made one! And when I did I remember running to my backyard where my dad was cutting the grass and telling him “I made a basket!!” Since then I never fell in love with any other sport. I guess it was the feeling it gave me that made me never want to do anything else. It was like a rush especially when I started playing with the boys.
JC: College basketball has seen a ton of talented players move around until they found the perfect fit. What are your thoughts on NCAA women’s basketball? Can you share a little about your college career starting at UVA and ending at EMU.
TS: College hoops was a journey! Starting at UVA was tough for me. Not basketball-wise, I was able to showcase pretty well for it being my first year. But it was hard for me to adjust living away from my family. I went through a lot of self-reflection and started to have to face real struggles alone. I think that was the toughest challenge. But I was stubborn and refused to allow anything to keep me down too long. So when things weren’t going the way I desired them to on the court I fought my way to more playing time and was able to show my abilities in some games. Playing in the ACC, in my opinion, the hardest conference in women’s basketball, was an amazing experience. There was a lot of negative things I went through battling my image as a feminine athlete but all in all it taught me a lot. I felt the need to transfer wanting more for my future as a player. I attended Fordham University. Another amazing academic school with amazing people and an amazing location, New York. I attended Fordham for two years as I did Virginia, and it was a tough atmosphere and a hostile one in the basketball aspect of it but my experience at the school and the friendships I made were unforgettable and I’m so appreciative for them. After I graduated from Fordham I knew I had to go to one last school for my 5th year so that I may possibly get the opportunity that I’ve been working for. I decided to go to Eastern Michigan, not for anything else but for the constant consistency the coach had in recruiting me…since high school! It turned out to be not what I wanted. There a lot of factors that play in finding a right fit. If I were to say I knew the answers to finding the right fit, my college career would have been a lot different. But I will say this, it was all worth it! It humbled me and made me realize that though I didn’t turn out to be these amazing player people expected me to be, I started to love myself and see how strong I am because I never gave up and I fought ever battle, unfairness, and judgment with a smile.
JC: Moving from high school to college is tough, and even harder for an athlete. How was it for you?
TS: Coming out of high school I was a pretty good player. I was ranked 56th and 17th in my position by ESPN. I had a good head on shoulders. I fought through a lot of things and came out on top. With that said, I felt pretty invincible. Heading out to college was exciting yet scary. I remember wanting to go so bad and not caring about moving away from home until the day I was. Playing in the ACC my first year was a wake-up call. When I first got to campus I wasn’t at all mentally ready for the challenges I was going to face. Outside things affected me which in turn affected my play coming in. I understood why I wasn’t playing but still felt like they weren’t seeing how good I was or could be if I got over some things that I was dealing with outside of ball. Time went on play got better and I was on the court making impacts and helping my team win. My fight kicked in like I knew it would and good things were happening. I would honestly say college is a difference from high school but, if you played in the top AAU circuits and you played against teams or on teams who had WNBA prospects then no college wasn’t that different from what I was used to. It was in the way that I had to manage schoolwork, meetings, 2-day practices and games. That part was the hard part.
JC: Let’s talk basketball, what traits do you feel a good guard needs to have?
TS: Traits that I think a good guard should have would be…court vision above all else! It’s important to have a guard who can see the floor well. Make good plays and decisions to set up their teammates. Another trait would be being a scorer. If oh can score on your own and create on your own, that’s a deadly thing.
JC: Who are some of the players you love to watch and use to shape your game?
TS: There are two players that I molded my game around…or at least tried to. First one is Dwyane Wade, I always looked up to his play. His passion and flare to the game are what I loved most. I think till this day many have made comments of me playing similar to him. Doesn’t shock me at all. I even wear number 3. Another person who wears number 3 that I love is Diana Taurasi. I loved her flow, the way she moved on the court and how crafty she was. Her attitude rubbed on me as well when studying her game. I even would gel my hair back in a tight bun.
JC: What do you do in terms of training to stay sharp?
TS: I get in the gym with my trainer and boss Allison Bustamante ( who was a former player for Notre Dame University) she was also my high school assistant coach. We would work on a lot of off the dribble moves and passing (creating) drills. And most times I was just getting a lot of shots up with my dad and doing a lot of chair drills. To stay in shape, I had trainers that I was fortunate enough to know who was always willing to work me out and build my strength and endurance
JC: Any REAL Miami Heat fans knows that Dwyane Wade IS the heat. What has he meant to you as a player and how do you feel about him hanging it up after this season?
TS: D Wade has meant a lot to me as a player. I looked up to him and his game since I was 8. He was my role model and a good friend. Seeing this being his last year is bittersweet. For one, I hate endings! But it’s a beautiful thing with what he has done for basketball and his career. It’s been a long one and a great one! Proud to say the least. Miami will never have better.
JC: You have been blessed with some really dope opportunities thru basketball, have you had that “Is this really happening” moment yet?
TS: Well, I’ve had small “is this really happening” moments but I guess I’m still living to feel that really big one(: but I rejoice in my small victories. I live in the moment and feel blessed in where I am at in my life
JC: 2018 has been a GREAT year for females in sports. How important is it to you to be a role model not just for little girls but boys as well?
TS: It’s always seemed crazy to me. My dream has always been to inspire and show people self love and devotion to something you really love! Not having the career I wanted and still having kids look up to me is so much more than I can express. Having boys look up to me is the cutest thing ever! To have them ask me questions or ask me to train them makes everything I’ve been through so worth it. Basketball has allowed me to teach and touch lives, it’s honestly a blessing.
JC: Who is the coolest person in or out of basketball you’ve met so far?
TS: The coolest person? Myself. I have changed and built myself up. I think that’s the most rewarding.
JC: What are some of your goals in Greece?
TS: I, unfortunately, won’t be playing in Greece anymore. I am open to other places and am working towards that. For now, I am working on helping others.
JC: OK, Tiffany all-time starting five men or women besides you who is on the squad?
TS: Starting five besides me? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Steph Curry, and Diana Taurasi.
JC: Who is Tiffany Suarez?
TS: Tiffany Suarez is someone who strives to never give up in the things that matter most to her. She’s a fighter, a person who loves hard, and a person who wants others to do the same for themselves. She’s always learning about who she is with her faith in God and her love from her family. She’s someone who will never give up and who will never be anything but herself. She wants to show others that they can fight for themselves and they don’t have to fit into the boxes that life has made. Because we are more than those walls that hold us in.
Her answer to the last question is what being a Dream Chaser is about. With her drive and game, it’s only a matter of time before she is on a professional team and doing what she loves. As she continues her journey in basketball and off the court follow along.
I want to thank Tiffany for the time and sharing her story and don’t forget me when you have some extra Miami Heat tickets laying around. Are you a Dream Chaser or know one? Shoot us an email [email protected] or @NutsAndBoltsSP.