Doers, Dreamers, Trailblazers My journey from hoops to finance - Zahna Medley

Most people have had that moment in their lives when something happens that derails their plan and, at the time, everything is ruined. We don’t have the benefit of hindsight.

In my case, it was five years ago, a week before the early signing period of my senior year of high school, when my dream school told me they didn’t have a scholarship available for me.

What I couldn’t see at the time was the private school in Texas that would lead to my incredible future, the teammates that I would form a life-long bond with, that guy from San Antonio that I would fall in love with, earning a finance degree, playing among the world’s best in a WNBA training camp, learning a new culture overseas, and, eventually, starting my career with Fidelity Investments.

This is my story.

I was born in Springfield, Illinois, and basketball was a part of my life almost immediately thanks to my parents. My parents gave me my first basketball when I was two years old, and my dad has always been my coach since. He was that dad that was a coach on every single team and always on the bench with me in some form or another.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade I got my first letter from Southern Illinois, and I was pretty surprised. It may have been the first time I envisioned I could play in college and get a full ride scholarship.

Then I had to make the decision, do I want to stay at Calvary Academy, a small 1A school I had attended my whole life, or go to a big public school, where my dad said I could get more exposure to colleges. I decided to go to Springfield High School, which was obviously a big change, but I kind of knew people, and when you’re on a sports team, you can pick up friends fast.

I made the varsity team and started as a freshman, and was able to make an impact as the backup point guard behind Allison Anderson. You know how you hear about those seniors that are really hard on freshmen and they kick their butts in everything? That was Allison, and I can’t thank her enough. She made me work for everything, made me a strong competitor, wouldn’t allow me to cry about anything, and I’m really grateful to her for instilling that physical mentality in me.

Throughout my high school career we advanced to state all four years that I was there, which I was extremely proud of since it had never been done as well as becoming Springfield High School’s all- time leading scorer, male or female, that broke a total of 11 program records.

I started getting scholarship offers the summer before my senior year. The top schools I was looking at were Northwestern, which was my number one school, Bradley, Illinois State and Virginia Tech. I was getting all of these letters from across the country, even the Big 12 schools, but I was so focused on wanting to stay close to home.

I had made a really good connection with the head coach at Northwestern and I thought I was going to go there, as I previously mentioned. My dad and I talked and he wanted me to sign during the early signing period before my senior season.

It was a week before that when I got that phone call. The Northwestern head coach said he knew we had a really good relationship, and they loved me as a player and a person, but they decided to go with another guard.

At that point, my life would head in a completely different direction.

Either that night or the next day he mentioned he was really good friends with a guy named Jeff Mittie at TCU, and he didn’t know if I would want to go that far, but he was really into my game and wanted to look into getting me an offer.

I had never been to Texas. Not even close. I think I might’ve heard of TCU just because of their football team. I talked to Coach Mittie and he was willing to come all the way to Illinois to meet my family, so I figured, if he’s coming that far to meet me, then why not listen?

After coming to visit my family, I decided to take my official visit at TCU, and my dad made the trip with me. Noonie (Natalie Ventress) was my host, and I fell in love with the place when I stepped on campus. I really liked my future teammates. They showed me the plans for the arena renovation, but at the time, I thought the current facility was amazing! My dad was the one pressuring me to commit, so I trusted him and told the coaches I wanted this to be home and I wanted to come here.

Going into my freshman season I didn’t think I would play that much. Freshman year is when you develop and learn the system and freshmen usually don’t play a lot. I was actually the lowest rated player of the freshman class with Veja, Caitlin and Kamy. I was just going to come in and work super hard and do what I could for the team. I was just doing what I do best, shooting threes in practice, and I picked up on the system quickly, and I think that’s how I got into the starting role.

It was quite a challenge to play in the Big 12. I was playing against Angel Goodrich, Tiffany Bias, Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, etc. I couldn’t believe I was playing against them. I used to watch them play on TV, so I was a bit star struck and got beat up a lot as a freshman.

The other difficult challenge was that I had come from winning a lot on every team I had been on, and we only won two games in our first season in the Big 12. I still had fun making great memories as I still have good relationships with my teammates until this day.

Fast-forward three seasons and 24 Big 12 wins later, and I’m playing in my final home game with a chance to break the TCU all-time scoring record held by legend Sandora Irvin.

I wasn’t going to force it, just take the shots when they were there, and ultimately I just wanted to win the game.

My mom was there, so there were some emotions, because it was her first home game she had been to due to some sickness that she deals with. She was only able to come to two of my games throughout my college career, which both happened to be during my senior year (Butler game and senior night), but she is definitely my number one fan and biggest cheerleader. In my head I was thinking, “My mom’s here, Sandora’s here, all my family is here, so I have to at least play well.”

When I made the free throw to get the record, it was a very exciting moment. It meant a lot to have Sandora there and be able to give my respects to her. She’s been a good role model for me.

When I first got to campus I was a kinesiology major, but after my freshman year I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do for my career. So I talked a lot with Shawn Worthen (Academic Services) and Valerie Hairston (Sports Medicine) who were sort of mother-father figures for me while I was at TCU. They kind of steered me in the finance direction after learning about the Neeley School of Business and seeing how prestigious it was. I felt I would have limitless opportunities.

I actually received a job offer in the fall of my senior year at Fidelity, and had to eventually turn that down when I went to training camp with the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars.

Growing up, I wanted to go to the WNBA. That was the goal. However, the more I matured and was going through college, I knew I had to keep my options open.

Being a finance major, and with the TCU family in the DFW area, I felt I could get a pretty good job, but if the opportunity presented itself with professional basketball, I would definitely take it.

I knew if I didn’t get drafted at all, I would at least go to a team for a training camp opportunity, and that’s what happened. I had to report to camp before school was actually over, so I told my professors my situation, and they really worked with me a lot to help me take all of my finals early.

I was star struck all over again. I couldn’t believe I was on a WNBA team! Not everybody gets to do this. I was obviously trying to make the team, but I just felt more blessed to have the opportunity.

After being released from the team then came the decision to play overseas. During my senior season, I would talk a lot to Coach Edwina Brown about it, and I was just going back-and-forth. Some days I was set on not playing overseas, and then other days I thought maybe I could try it. Finally, I decided to try it if that opportunity came.

So when I got a call in August to go play in Romania and my agent told me Adrianne Ross was on the team it made the decision more comfortable. I had just met her that summer because she was also helping at the women’s basketball camp here.

I was excited, but I only had four days. I got a call on Tuesday or Wednesday and I had to fly out on Saturday, and I was still in Texas. So I literally left the next day to go home and packed for the next two days and then left for Romania, and I was pretty much freaking out. I didn’t even have a chance to tell Derrick bye.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention him! I’ve been dating Derrick Kindred (you’ve probably heard of him) for three years now, but we’ll get back to that.

I had never been overseas so I was extremely nervous but Adrianne was showing me the ropes and was very helpful in the process, as well as the four other Americans. I got to learn a new culture and do a lot of things on my own that I never would’ve gotten to do. However, I’ve never been so thankful to live in America until that experience.

My first couple of months I did not play well. I didn’t think the transition to playing overseas would be so difficult. The style of game was very different and not as structured as college.

I went home in November to visit Derrick in Cleveland when we had a five-day break. I think that was when it really hit me, where I really missed being home and in America. I had always heard from Coach Brown and Adrianne that playing overseas isn’t for everyone and I came to realize it wasn’t for me.

Before making the decision to come home I wanted to make sure I had a backup plan and that’s when I reached out to Fidelity and did another interview with them over the phone while I was overseas. Once I received the email that I got the job I made the decision to come home.

I spent a month back home in Illinois right after Christmas and then decided to move back to DFW so I could go ahead and get settled in before starting my new job in June. In between then I was able to get a job as an intern at TCU Athletics working under Jessica Hazard in Student-Athlete Development.

It was a perfect fit and getting to see the behind-the-scenes support system for college athletes has been eye opening. Seeing what goes on with all the meetings and everything, I didn’t realize what all went into helping our athletes. It really made me feel blessed to have been a college athlete, and made me appreciate the little things such as having Justin Shaw, our equipment guy, to wash your uniform for practice every day or having an amazing strength coach and athletic trainer like Missy and Val to prepare workouts for you and teach you how to take care of your body. I don’t have that anymore and being a college athlete, you really get the best of everything.

OK, back to Derrick.

Derrick and I came to TCU at the same time during the summer of 2012 before our freshman year. I was really good friends with his roommate, Josh Carraway. I started to get to know Derrick through Josh and we starting dating the end of sophomore year. Soon after dating we got a dog together named Netta who just turned three years old.

People have asked me why I would take a finance job in DFW when my boyfriend plays in the NFL in Cleveland. Well, I worked really hard to get my finance degree so I wanted to start and get some work experience at a great job and company. Just from being an athlete, we have that drive to be independent and I knew I didn’t go through all those hardships to get a finance degree and not do anything with it. Of course, I love this area and all my connections are here as well as prestigious TCU alums.

As an independent woman, you can say you’re making it on your own and not depending on someone else. Derrick really appreciates that and respects those values. Being overseas really put it in perspective too, making the distance between DFW and Cleveland so much easier. I’m happy to be able to see him every so often and once the season hits, I’ll be going to all the home games.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have received that phone call from what I thought was my dream school. TCU helped me become independent and understand the importance of education. I actually first linked up with Fidelity through a TCU Athletics career fair, as they were always giving us opportunities following graduation.

I love how the TCU community sticks together. All of the alums are looking out for other alums, and I wouldn’t trade my four years at TCU for anything and will always be proud to say, “I am a Horned Frog.”

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.