CEDAR RAPIDS — The Mount Mercy women’s basketball team hasn’t had a winning season since the Mustangs went 16-14 with a 9-1 conference record in 2015-16, but first-year coach Tim Schuring brings 31 years of coaching experience into the job and wants this to be the last stop of his career.
“I had the fire in my belly again to rebuild a program that I thought could be successful,” Schuring said. “I think we can get players to come to Mount Mercy and we can compete among the top teams in the league. I’m not looking to climb the ladder any more, I just love the opportunity to build a program and want the opportunity to build it here and watch the gals reap the benefits of it.”
The 54-year-old from Prairie City has one focus: Improvement every day. The team is 5-11 this season and 5-10 in the Heart of America Conference.
“If we can do that within our core values than we think the wins will eventually take care of themselves,” Schuring said. “We have a motto. Play fearless and success equals improvement.”
Hired in March of 2020, Schuring knew he needed to start looking for the three-dimensional type of players that he feels can best fill his roster. He soon realized he already had one in sophomore Sammy Mia.
“We want players who can get to the rim and score, shoot from the perimeter and have a midrange game,” Schuring said. “That’s the basketball side of what we’re looking at and Sammy really is a model student-athlete.”
Mia is not only an outstanding student and an excellent teammate, she is very humble according to her coach.
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“Even though I didn’t recruit her, I love her and her teammates love her,” Schuring said. “We expect her to do some really special things over the next two years.”
Born in Minnesota, Mia moved to Cedar Rapids and started playing basketball when she was 5.
“As soon as I got the ball in my hands for the first time I knew this was going to be the sport for me,” Mia said. “I would run around all over the place and I was a bit chaotic, but I loved it.”
An only child, the 19-year-old became very close with her mother Sara after her parents got divorced, something that played into her decision to stay close to home after her graduation from Cedar Rapids Washington in 2019.
“I wanted to be close to her and I have a lot of friends here as well, so that was one of the main reasons,” Mia said.
Middle school was when she realized her love for the sport and decided she wanted to continue on with it through high school and college, but she knew she needed to “pick up her game,” after seeing some playing time as a freshman at Washington.
“Just being more aggressive and more confident in my abilities,” Mia said. She also improved her perimeter shooting.
A combination of her game and her close relationship with the family of Mount Mercy’s previous coach led to the Mustangs looking like a good option for Mia.
“The women’s program has struggled a bit so I wanted to come here and have some growth in the program,” Mia said. “I’m hoping we can continue to grow into a really good program over my next two years.”
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The team has already nearly doubled its conference wins over the previous two seasons combined and although they don’t worry about wins and losses, both Mia and coach Schuring expect they will come.
“In the beginning we were just trying to mesh all of our personalities and skills together,” Mia said. “Now, we have started to do that and play like a team now that we’ve created some chemistry.”
Speaking of science, Mia is proud to have stuck with her original major, Biology, and she hopes to work as a physical therapist after she completes her undergrad program.
“I would like to work with college athletes,” Mia said. “It’d be really cool to work at a school. If that doesn’t work out I’d like to open my own practice.”
While some kids choose to leave the nest for college, Mia finds solace in Cedar Rapids.
“It’s just home for me,” Mia said. “Being able to play basketball here in front of my parents is amazing. While I can’t this year, I’m hopeful for the next two years.”