By Josh Brown
“I’ll never forget the first time he called me. He said he was Coach Campbell, and I said, ‘Coach Campbell?’ He said, ‘Yeah, like Campbell Soup,’ which still sounded funny and strange because we don’t have Campbell Soup in Africa.”
Zeinab Chan, senior history major, laughed recalling the first phone call she ever received from Lady Bulldogs’ Head Coach Mark Campbell. Chan, a 6-foot-4-inch center for the Lady Bulldogs, first heard of Union from Kennedy Okello, a former Union center and forward, and one of Chan’s good friends.
Chan and Okello attended the same high school, Laiser Hill Academy, and she said he was always like a big brother and often encouraged her to look into playing college basketball at Union.
Chan decided to come to Union and was soon thrust into a world much different than her hometown of Arange City, Sudan. She said she remembers leaving after her first practice, tearful, upset and realizing there were major changes she would have to get used to.
“There is a difference of culture and game and atmosphere here,” Chan said. “At home, basketball isn’t as intense as it is here. That is one thing I have learned. It is much more competitive, and you have to be ready every day. You either love it or leave it.”
Chan has come a long way since that first practice her freshman year. Last year, she achieved a milestone, passing the 1,000 career-points mark in a win over Lyon College. On top of that, last season Chan averaged 15.1 points a game and 8.9 rebounds a game. She received her first career All-American honor and was the 2010 NAIA National Tournament MVP. Coming off a breakthrough season like last year, expectations are even higher this season for Chan, who was voted NAIA “Preseason Player of the Year.”
Chan said all the honors mean to her is to strive to do better than last year. Campbell said Chan’s success in the post directly affects the team.
“She is a big part of (the team),” Campbell said. “Anytime you coach a team you have to have some kind of inside presence and someone physical in the post. The more consistent she is, the better we are (on the court).”
That consistency is something Chan said she struggled with in the past and still continues to work on this season. However, Campbell said he saw flashes of her potential from the beginning and knew she would be able to contribute to the team even as early as her arrival freshman year.
“After watching her on tape, it was a ‘no-brainer,’” Campbell said. “I saw there were some things you can’t teach. She is the first African center we have brought in that had to come right in and play. Each and every year she has contributed.”
However, Chan said she wants to contribute even more and has strived to make herself better this season. Fans, teammates and coaches are not the only ones with high expectations this year. Chan said she has high expectations as well.
“This season, I’m trying to give it my all every day and every practice,” Chan said. “My main aim this year is to get better and make everyone around me better, and (my teammates) make me better too.”
Now, it is Chan’s senior year and the last chance to prove herself further as a Lady Bulldog. The senior year is sacred and important to athletes and students alike, and Chan is no exception. She understands the importance of this season and said what it means to her.
“It means everything,” Chan said. “I can choose to just take it easy or give it all I’ve got. Right now, taking it easy isn’t an option. I want to do everything I can not to let my teammates down. God willing, we will win another championship again this season. I know we are good enough.”