August 31, 2010
By Sarah Fisher
As the women’s basketball team takes on a rival school in Firestone Fieldhouse, Pepperdine’s mascot Willie the Wave shakes a blue hand in the air to rally support from the crowd. The fans cheer for the Waves, encouraging their team in blue and orange. Head coach Julie Rousseau stands at the side, reminding her players about the game plan. And in the thick of it all, center Miranda Ayim (’10) catches the ball, glancing around at her teammates to figure out her next move. If she can’t communicate her intentions to the player she needs, it’s all over.
On the court, Ayim knows the importance of communication—between her team, her coach, and her supporters. Her innate interest in the subject shined through her undergraduate work at Seaver College, where she achieved a steady and impressive grade point average as a public relations major. At the same time, she continually stood out on the basketball court during her four years.
In April 2010 the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association honored her hard work by naming her the nation’s top scholar-athlete in Division I-AAA women’s basketball. “The things that help me to succeed on the court—having a positive attitude, working hard, and striving to be the best—help me off the court in many aspects of my life, one of those being academics,” Ayim says, adding that the award was “definitely a huge honor.”
The award follows an impressive career at Pepperdine in which the 6’3″ player became the first Pepperdine women’s basketball player to be named three times to the WCC All-Academic first team. She also won the Pepperdine Athletics Female Scholar of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year awards, and was named a first team Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar. Yet despite a list of distinguishing accomplishments, she claims something altogether different as the highlight of her career at Pepperdine. “I hope this isn’t cliché, but I’ve always valued the relationships I’ve had over the years with my teammates and others,” she says. “Those connections are what make great moments on the court meaningful.”
Last summer, Ayim cultivated friendships with new students, helping them acclimate to life at the Malibu campus. She sacrificed a spot on the Canadian national women’s basketball team to do so. This summer she is making up for it as a part of Team Canada in British Columbia. “After playing with the national team this summer, I’ll head overseas to play in Europe in the fall,” she says. “Hopefully this chance to play professional basketball will give me the time and experience to figure out my ‘calling in life,’ as they say.”
One thing she knows about her eventual calling is that basketball will always play a part. Her father played the sport in college and her mother coaches 7th and 8th grade teams. Though Ayim actually began her athletic career playing volleyball, by the time she had reached the 10th grade she realized she was destined, like her parents, for basketball. On the court, she set a school record for blocked shots (182), started 100 games out of 119, and finished eighth in career scoring (1,377) and rebounding (735).
Looking ahead to the far future, however, she feels her calling might be off the court, communicating for the sport as part of a public relations team. “I’m interested in getting into sports or music PR,” she explains, adding that while growing up, she would often sit at the family piano writing songs. “Those are my two passions: athletics and music. Luckily, public relations is a very flexible field.”
As Ayim begins a new chapter, she reflects on her experiences and accomplishments at Pepperdine as both a scholar and an athlete. One of the joys of college for many students is the sense that each year yields a remarkable degree of personal growth, something Ayim sees in herself. “Looking back at my freshman year and seeing the progress I’ve made throughout the four years tells me my hard work wasn’t in vain,” she reflects. “I’m a stronger and better person now, and that’s something I’m proud of.”
Ayim credits that sense of pride as an essential component of her own success as a scholar-athlete, and one she will channel in her future endeavors. “If you take pride in what you do and how you do it, both on and off the court,” she affirms, “then you won’t allow yourself to fall short of the standards you’ve set for yourself.”