Nothin’ But Net
Reading Time: 11 minutes
Name: Samantha (Sam) Furman
Height: 5’ 4”
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Date of Birth: March 14, 2005
1. When and how did you start playing basketball? How long have you played for the Phoenix, the Stuyvesant girls’ varsity basketball team?
I grew up a soccer player and started playing soccer when I was four years old. I played through[out] high school but started doing basketball during middle school. I don’t know if I would really call it basketball, but I was on the basketball team in my middle school. So by the time I got to Stuy, I had been playing a lot of basketball. I tried out in my freshman year and have been on the team since: all four of my years at Stuy except for my sophomore year, which we lost to COVID.
2. What position do you play? What skills/strengths are involved?
The position I play definitely depends on who I am playing with. In years past, when we’ve had other seniors on the team, I would be more of a shooting guard, but now, in senior year, I have stepped up to the role of point guard. I basically make sure the pace of the game is what it needs to be, orchestrating plays and calling things out. But also, obviously, when you think of basketball, you think of really tall people, but I am not that (the authors of this article refuse to write my height as 7’ 3’’). And so I think that as a point guard, there are benefits to that smaller size and being able to move fast and get up the court quickly while being versatile. You have to be able to see the entire court and know what you’re going to do before you get the ball in your hands. Quick decision-making is really important as a point guard.
3. Do you participate on an outside team, and how does your experience on the Stuyvesant team differ?
I play for a team called the East Side Escalades, which is a basketball program that has players ranging from elementary to high school, and I play on the high school team with girls from around the city. The difference depends on which year you’re looking at. Last year, while playing for my travel team, it was definitely different from Stuy because we were playing in a lot of exposure tournaments, so there was a lot more travel involved. But overall, the pace of the game is much faster outside of school, as well as shooting percentage and team strength. At Stuy, we have a strong, well-rounded team where we don’t have to rely on one star player, whereas other teams in the league definitely do rely on that one star player.
4. Do you have a most memorable/proud moment with the Phoenix?
I’m going to have to go with our senior night this year. We were obviously upset that we knew our team wasn’t going to make playoffs this year, but at the end of the day, we knew that this was going to be our last game, and we just all decided to leave it all out there; it’s us, this game and that’s the season, and there’s nothing else to do but go all out. The energy of that game was super special. Everyone was just so ready and happy to be there, and it was a good game, too, with the game going back and forth a lot, and I do think it was some of the best basketball we’ve played. We had a really one-of-a-kind and unforgettable senior night because the underclassmen on the team did an outstanding job. I know that the other seniors and I are never going to forget that night. We all decided to go out together.
5. How do you think playing basketball has changed you as an athlete/person?
Basketball has helped me as a person in a lot of different ways. It’s that grounding thing, that one constant that I know I can always go back to. No matter what’s happening, or what time of year it is, I know that sports are something I can always go back to. I really value and appreciate that it’s a team sport. I think part of that is important because it has given me a solid group of people that I can always go to, whether [it be] my travel team, school team, or camp. Beyond that, it’s also a universal language. I can go anywhere in the city and just hop in a pickup game or see someone in a Knicks jersey because basketball has this really special ability to connect people.
6. Do you have any plans to continue the sport in the future or in college?
Last year, I was going through the recruiting process. I went to many different clinics and met some coaches, but I just decided that wasn’t the route for me. But, basketball will always be a huge part of my life. I will definitely look into playing some intramural club basketball and also continue to play as a camp counselor and coaching my all-girls team at Dribbl.
7. Do you have any pregame superstitions or rituals?
I’ll admit, I used to have a pretty large number of superstitions and rituals that revolved around sports. One thing is that I would always untie and then retie my shoes before anytime it was a new quarter. My big one last year was that I wouldn’t wear my basketball shoes off the court. It got pretty intense, to the point that I would take my shoes off after the end of the second quarter. I would walk out of the gym wearing just socks, with my shoes in hand, just to get to our halftime talks in the hallway.
That being said, I minimized the severity of many of those superstitions this year, which is something I’m actually proud of. Don’t get me wrong, superstitions are and always have been a huge part of sports culture. My brother wears his go-to New York Giants jersey whenever we’re watching a big game, and I always wear the same hat when I got to Knicks and Liberty games. And, of course, I think that there are superstitions, like “you have to make your last shot,” that have the potential to motivate people and promote team spirit and bonding. But I think they can become problematic when we get so hyper fixated on the superstition itself that we end up sacrificing our part in the game. If a game doesn’t go your way, I think it’s better to try and understand what went wrong and where, rather than getting caught up in the color Gatorade someone drank that day. Whenever our team won a game, it was always important to emphasize that we didn’t win because someone was wearing their lucky socks or because someone hit the doorway on their way in—we won because of us.
If I had to think of one superstition from this season, though, it would be: do not call a shot before the ball goes in!
8. Do you have a specific free throw routine? What is it?
First, I, of course, get fouled. As I make my way over to the line, I rub my hands on my shorts and stretch my shoulders. Once the [referee] gives me the ball, I center myself to the hoop, let the ball rest on the front of my right thigh, and take a death breath. While keeping my eyes on the rim, I bend my knees and take a few dribbles. When the ball feels right, I get it into my shooting pocket and release.
9. What is your jersey number? What made you decide that number?
I definitely used to be like most other young, new athletes and tried to get #14 for my birthdate or how old I was or whatever it was. In middle school and as a freshman at Stuy, my basketball jersey number was 23, which was pretty cool given the basketball greats who also wore 23. When I started playing for my AAU team, I was randomly given number one (although I do think it had something to do with my whopping 5’ 4” height and the fact that smaller jerseys usually have smaller numbers). Since it’s a single-digit number and is pretty much just a line, I think I grew to like it because it kind of made me feel balanced in a way. In any event, when we got new jerseys when I was a junior, I wanted to be consistent so I got number one for that season and this one, too. I have to say, though, it is always a little awkward when someone asks me what my number is and I have to reply “I’m number one” or even just with number one.
10. What are the best and worst parts of basketball?
Worst: The unequal treatment as a girl.
Basketball has the potential to do so much for so many people. It’s really become such a huge part of my life, but I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the obstacles I’ve faced as a female basketball player and a female athlete in general. Don’t get me wrong: sports have come a very long way for women, and women have come a very long way in sports. I know that a lot of progress has been made, and I’m not denying that there are always going to be differences in sports as a result of gender, at least to some extent. As much as we’ve all taken huge steps forward with regards to equality, though, there are still plenty of issues that really challenge our efforts and inhibit women in sports.
In my personal experience, I can’t count how many times I’ve felt alienated on the court on the account of being a girl. Sometimes, the inequality is blatant, like when guys at the gym flat out refuse to let you get in the game, or when they ask what you think you’re doing there, argue that they refuse to guard you, or tell you to get off the court and make way for the “actual basketball player.” Other times, it’s more subtle, like when everyone silently agrees to avoid giving you the ball at all costs, or babying the passes they do give you, yelling for one more pass one when you have the open shot, etc., but even the unspoken stuff gets so frustrating. Some people think they’re doing you a favor, or they make a point of your presence just to show that “sexism no longer exists in sports,” but the sweeping of it under the rug kind of just goes to show that it’s a frustration and a disappointment that you can’t really get unless you’ve experience it.
In a larger sense, it’s really great that female athletes are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve, such as in increasingly fair pay and fairer advertising, but sports are not immune to social pressure. There’s also a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to what women are asking for, and I think a lot of that is the result of those in power refusing to take their hands off their ears to even just sit down and listen. Even when progress appears to be made on paper, it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to changing the tides of how females are actually viewed and treated.
Politics aside, if you still think people are making a big thing where there isn’t one, I’d suggest taking a look at any of the big sports Instagram accounts like ESPN or BleacherReport. For one thing, take a look at the difference between females and males in the number and types of the posts. After scrolling through all the men’s highlights and the occasional posts featuring female athletes, there are also some great videos of LSU’s WBB pre-game handshakes, or LSU’s Flau’jae singing in a post-game interview—not a single game clip though. If you’re still not convinced, just click on some of the posts about female professionals and read some through the comment section. There’s not really anything for me to say about that. I try my best to not look because it can be deprecating, but it’s really just awful.
As much love as I already have for basketball, there’s a lot of potential for the game to grow and become so much bigger than it is. That’s one of the reasons why coaching at Dribbl is so important to me, and especially my classes of all girls, because I want them to grow into the sport with the confidence and the skills to know that they don’t need to be sidelined on account of their sex. And I’m hopeful that as efforts continue to move in the right direction, things will get better. We’re not asking for retribution—just that you’d at least give us our shot.
Best: The universal nature of the sport.
Basketball is just one of those sports that lends itself to being widespread and easily accessible wherever you are. For me, basketball really serves as a universal language that brings together a really huge community of all different types of people. Whether it’s a pick-up game at the park, a playoff game at your school, a live game at Madison Square Garden, or the NCAA March Madness tournament on TV, it can connect anyone who wants to be connected. That also goes back to the multitude of ways for someone to get involved—if you aren’t the best three-point shooter, maybe you are really good at driving to the hoop or setting up an assist for your teammate to score. Basketball is really great, too, because there are so many ways you can practice and improve on your own (putting up shots, practicing your form, doing ball handling); there are hoops all around the city, and all you really need is a hard floor and a basketball. It’s truly a sport in which all the different pieces work together to be successful.
At the end of the day, after everyone has been grinding on their own and focusing on getting themselves better, it’s not a solitary sport. There’s five players per team on the court at a time, who all need to play as one to win, and I think that’s a mindset that can be applied to so many things. Relating this back to what I thought was the worst part, there are so many ways for young girls to get involved and find their place in basketball. If we can introduce them to the sport now, help see themselves as part of the community, and support them so they can someday leave their mark, just think about how amazing that would be for the sport as a whole. Think of all the doors that would be opened, all the possibilities of so many things to come! Ultimately, basketball has always been and continues to be a constant in my life, and it is something which I know I can always go back to.
Funniest Teammate: Venus Wan
Favorite Professional Basketball Player: Sabrina Ionescu
Favorite NBA Team: NY Knicks
Favorite WNBA Team: NY Liberty
Playing on Full or Light Stomach: Light
Favorite Sports Drink: Gatorade Zero Cool Blue
Favorite Hobby: New York Times Crossword
Motto to Live By: “Just do it”
Basketball Shoe Brand: Moolah Kicks
Fun Fact: The Founder of Moolah Kicks follows me on Instagram.
Favorite Play to Run: Stuy Marion