Farrah Shokoor is leading a strong Triton team that has high hopes for the approaching postseason.
Farrah Shokoor is taking the California Collegiate Athletics Association by storm. After settling in at UCSD for just half a season, the junior transfer and 5’11 forward is already averaging 14 points and 12.2 rebounds a game — good for sixth and first place in the conference, respectively. Despite her height, Shokoor’s average on boards is a vast 2.5 rebounds more than the next best in the conference. She is also leading the UCSD women’s basketball team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals and is guiding her squad in just about every aspect of the game. And it was all a plan in the making.
Shokoor started playing basketball at a young age, following her two older brothers in the sports they played. She also joined volleyball and performed well in track, but she always considered basketball to be her main sport. A “straight tomboy,” she calls herself. She played at a local YMCA and continued when she moved down from Hayward to San Diego at the age of 7. However, Shokoor did not think much of her abilities until she started on the varsity team her freshman year of high school. Suddenly, the possibility of playing college ball opened up and she started sending letters to coaches all around the league.
“Gradually I kept progressing,” Shokoor said. “Basketball was the most fun for me. I didn’t watch a lot of college basketball so I did not know the level, but senior year I figured I would just send letters and finally I went to play in the city at [San Francisco] State.”
Growing up in San Diego, Shokoor’s first choice always was UCSD, but the Tritons’ former women’s head coach was not looking for someone in her playing style at that time. While Shokoor ended up at San Francisco State University, she always bore in mind her ultimate intention of transferring to UCSD once it was possible.
As a Gator, Shokoor did what the coach asked from her: grab rebounds, score some points and especially blend in. SFSU went through two pretty bland seasons, finishing at the CCAA tournament’s doors. Shokoor was already trying to move on.
The pathway to La Jolla lit back up, and a new Triton head coach in Heidi VanDerveer set her sights on getting Shokoor into a blue and gold uniform. However, to be eligible to play on a conference opponent’s roster, Farrah had to sit out a whole year after her sophomore season, playing only pick-up basketball from time to time.
“I had to go to school to maintain a certain GPA to get into UCSD,” Shokoor told the UCSD Guardian. “After my sophomore year, I knew I didn’t want to play there anymore so I sent letters to a bunch of schools in the conference. UCSD was back home and my first choice and they had a new coach, so I tried my luck again.”
She solely focused on her schoolwork, taking a daunting six classes her spring semester as she tried desperately to fill the requirements for a transfer to UCSD. Outside of her studies, Shokoor was visiting UCSD every other week as VanDerveer carefully monitored her progress. However, her transfer could not get through and she was forced to enroll in and ace summer school courses, only learning mid-August that her GPA was finally eligible.
Taking the year off allowed her to get familiar with the new coaching staff in place at UCSD. Shokoor appreciated her interactions with them and now looks at VanDerveer as a true mentor.
“This is by far my favorite coach ever,” Shokoor said. “She just has so much experience in the field of basketball. She goes home and watches basketball, she talks basketball. But then it’s not only the basketball part; it’s also about school and personal life. She’s a really cool coach and person.”
Getting to know the players was a whole different feat. Shokoor played against most of the seniors on this year’s team during her time at San Francisco.
“I played against them and you have a whole other perspective of them — you don’t like them; you hate them,” Shokoor said.
When Shokoor finally arrived to her long-awaited destination at UCSD, the initial transition period was taxing. However, things changed as she viewed them as her new teammates.
“Obviously everyone is different when you meet them,” Shookor said. “It was a big difference playing here. At first I wasn’t really comfortable. I didn’t know how to fit in the offense. I hadn’t played in a year so I was trying to get comfortable.”
Soon enough, though, she found her groove.
“I feel like I had the same type of game, but I just improved in every aspect of it,” Shookor said.
This season, UCSD can count on playing ten deep, with players stepping up for injured teammates, and a new winning mindset for Shokoor, cultivated and nurtured by the coaching staff. Shokoor believes the conference tournament should be theirs to take. As for herself, while Shokoor does not consider herself as the most vocal locker room figure, she believes her play on the floor serves as her form of leadership. She attributes her recent prowesses in rebounding as an indicator of her success this season.
“You can control the rebounding yourself,” Shokoor said. “You can just get to the ball. It’s all on your own will —just have to work for it, outwork the person in front of it. Most of my game would come from the effort I put into it.”
In the end, the recent two-time CCAA Player of the Week is still just like you or me. Despite years of being the spotlight on the court, she still stresses before every game.
“The nerves are out of control,” Shokoor said. “Every game, I get so nervous. I am beyond nervous before tipoff. But then after tipoff they’re all gone.”
This Friday could be an even more nerve-racking contest, as the Tritons will travel up to San Francisco State for Shokoor’s first time facing her former team. Afterward, she will try to lead UCSD against the rest of the schedule and into the conference tournament, where the CCAA crown awaits.
“If we give it all, we can … we should win the conference tournament. No doubt.”