Mercy Blanco was casually shooting hoops on the playground when some fellow classmates walked by and suggested she try out for the basketball team.
Blanco, a fifth-grader at the time, had never seriously considered playing basketball. But she took the classmates up on their offer, made the team, and, by the next year, was running the basketball court.
“I just fell in love with the game very quickly,” she said. “I have always liked having to push myself physically and mentally, and I kept on working to become a better basketball player.”
Blanco’s hard work has paid off: now a senior at Sunset High School, she received an offer and full scholarship last month to play girls basketball at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Blanco is one of the first Dallas ISD Hispanic girls in recent memory to receive a full-ride athletic basketball scholarship to a Division I school.
Sunset Girls Basketball Coach Kelan Jones said he was not surprised by the offer, given Blanco’s talent and work ethic.
“You never have to question her or ask her do to anything: she just does it,” Jones said. “She is always asking to do extra work and looking to improve. That’s a unique ability that many people don’t have.”
Blanco had just gotten out of church one day last month when she saw an email from Coach Jones about the basketball offer. Her family was thrilled when they heard—as Blanco will be among the first in her family to go to college, a full-ride scholarship is great news—though they said they would miss having her close to home.
Blanco said she knows that while her basketball skills will be paying the tuition, the academics will be the most important part of college. She doesn’t expect it to be easy to balance playing Division I basketball and college-level school work in an unfamiliar city. But, as always, she is up for the challenge.
“Coach Jones says you have to believe in something before you can do it,” she said. “I truly believe I will succeed in college, and I’m very excited by the opportunity.”