University of Florida Women’s Basketball shooting guard, Antoinette Bannister has been no stranger to adversity, but her commitment to her loved ones and ultimately the game has been the fuel she has needed for her dedication and growth.
For Bannister, the game of basketball is in her blood. As a native of Jacksonville, Florida, Bannister spent her entire pre-collegiate career as a member of her father’s team who also coached both of her brothers. Despite the talent that Bannister may have inherited from her athletic family background, she admitted that having her father double as her basketball coach forced her to develop a strong work ethic early in life.
“I felt like he was being unfair because he would make me work extra hard. He would push me more than anyone else just so people would always say ‘Oh, he’s showing favoritism,’ –my dad never ever showed favoritism. I had to earn my playing time with him. I wasn’t always a starter. I started being in his starting line-up when I was like 15 or 16. I had to earn my way up there. It didn’t just come.”
Bannister’s hard work and commitment to improvement was evident in her impressive high school career. According to GatorZone.com, Bannister set Florida’s all-time prep scoring record with 4,758 points, ending her final game of the season with 45 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 steals against IMG Academy.
Her all-star high school career earned her a spot with her “dream school,” the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. However, after coming home for Winter break after the Fall during her freshman year, Bannister learned that her mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness and would have to undergo surgery.
After learning of her mother’s physical condition, she returned to UNC with uncertainty to play one last game with the Tar Heels against Clemson. However, her concern for her mother ultimately led her to seek a position with the University of Florida.
“I was able to leave there on a good note. I miss being there, I really do. I miss the team, I miss the coaches. I had no problem with North Carolina, they were my dream school but when stuff popped up with my mom, I really felt like I had to be closer to her.”
Following her transfer, Bannister had to sit out for the remainder of the season before she could gain NCAA eligibility. Still, after months of hard preparation for her sophomore season, adversity struck again. Bannister injured her arm against Florida State and had to sit out for another 12 games. Bannister did not give in to the unfortunate circumstance but dedicated the power she had to getting better in the areas she could affect.
“Having to sit and just watch was really, really difficult but I got in better shape. I worked on a lot of stuff like shooting, getting to the basket more, and just working on my off game so when I came back, I was able to help the team.”
Bannister has not let any of her obstacles block her drive or positive attitude.
“I feel like having that injury really made me become a more patient person. It really made me realize the thing you love can be taken away from you at any moment and you just can’t take it for granted.”
Bannister has already accomplished and overcome more than most on and off the court but she no signs of stopping or slowing down. She has a long collegiate and possibly professional career ahead of her where fans will be able to witness, firsthand, the product of Bannister’s dedication and resilience in the face of difficulty.