KOKOMO, Ind. – Tia Chambers chose Indiana University Kokomo specifically because of an opportunity to continue playing basketball.
What she found when she arrived on campus was much more than she expected.
“I feel like I made the right choice,” said Chambers, from Mishawaka. “I hadn’t been the best student in high school. But, with the small classes, and professors not having a huge number of students, it helped me with my grades and staying focused.”
Chambers graduates in May with a degree in health sciences with plans for graduate school to study physical therapy. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she also has a fifth year of athletic eligibility, which will help guide her choice of graduate programs.
She didn’t have a specific major in mind when she enrolled, but thought about the difference her physical therapist made when she tore her ACL as a junior in high school. She was back on the court in 10 months, enough time to draw the attention of IU Kokomo athletics.
“That process was really long, but it was beneficial in the long run,” she said. “I thought I might not get to play basketball anymore, but I was still able to play college ball like I wanted. I’d like to do something to help others rehab and get back to where they used to be.”
She’s had to work hard on and off the court, keeping up with her classes, an internship, and the demanding schedule of a college basketball player.
“Anatomy was the hardest class I’ve ever taken,” Chambers said. “You just have to know what you’re doing. You can’t really memorize it; you have to study it. That was new for me, and I passed it.”
She credited Angela Coppola, assistant professor of health sciences, with mentoring her and checking in with her regularly.
Coppola said Chambers’ experiences with recovering from a potential career-ending injury give her empathy and understanding for her future clients.
“She doesn’t just have the head for health education, she has the heart for it as well,” Coppola said. “She has a passion for advocacy of health literacy, or ensuring that everyone, regardless of experiences with social inequities, receives proper healthcare information, resources and services.”
She’s also achieved on the basketball court, winning the River States Conference (RSC) Newcomer of the Year for the 2018-2019 season. She is a three-time RSC First Team selection, and the fourth player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
With a coaching change leading up to her senior year, Chambers’s role changed slightly, with new coach John Kenger pushing her to take more leadership.
“It was about being there for my teammates and helping them adjust and also being that voice on the court,” she said. “I’m probably the loudest voice they can hear, communicating, making sure everyone’s in the right positions, and making sure we know the time on the shot clock. It pushed me out of my comfort zone for sure.”
Kenger called Chambers a talented player, noting that she’s been the team’s anchor.
“She took more of a leadership role in making sure we were operating as a team, and the ball was getting funneled around,” he said. “She was a monster on the boards, and after getting a possession, she was good at finding the open shooter on the outside.”
Chambers also played a role in motivating and cheering on her teammates.
“She stepped up to be the voice of positivity, and did a great job keeping the team together in rough times,” he said.