Milan Bolden-Morris joined the Georgetown Women’s Basketball team last spring after spending several years with Boston College. Milan’s story illustrates how her faith and perseverance helped her overcome bullying, an eating disorder, and its residual mental health challenges.
We recently had a chance to ask Milan a few questions about her journey.
What is your earliest memory as a basketball player? Were there any specific people in your life that influenced your love for the game?
I actually was a late bloomer. I didn’t start playing basketball competitively until I got into 8th grade and it was really because I was tall, not because I actually had a passion.
I grew up playing softball, baseball, and football in South Florida, so all the outdoor sports were my forte. I didn’t even watch the games, I would watch a baseball game on TV before I’d watch a basketball game. I just knew who LeBron James, Kobe, and Michael Jordan were because they were huge names and had cool shoes.
I didn’t even know the WNBA existed, let alone know any of the prominent women in the game. My dad played leisurely so he kinda influenced me at first, then I became super passionate after a while.
What was the recruiting process like for you in high school? What kind of experience did you have getting in front of college coaches?
Recruiting was very slow at first. I didn’t play for a huge AAU program, for my first couple of years, so I didn’t get a lot of exposure from coaches. At first, I got a lot of Division II offers and low Division I offers.
Then, when I went to play for the Miami Suns, my whole recruitment changed. The Suns were a part of the Nike circuit, so I was able to play in front of every known college coach from Gino to Muffet. I started to get Power 5 attention because of who we were playing in front of. It was honestly one of the coolest experiences that I’ve had in my life as an athlete.
At first, I saw myself as an underdog, so I just went out and played hard not caring what happened, I was just grateful to be there. However, by the end, I felt like I belonged on that stage, so it was an experience that challenged my growth and confidence.
Some of the criticism that I received was probably foot speed and defending smaller guards.
Tell me about your experience at Boston College. What lessons did you learn while playing there?
BC was definitely a humbling, yet empowering experience for me. In my first season, I started and solidified myself as a force in the ACC. I was on the All-ACC Freshman team and broke a couple of records there, so I was super confident going into my sophomore year.
However, we got a coaching change that changed my whole career. I barely played my following season and when I did it was usually when we were either winning by a lot or losing by a lot. In my junior year, I started and then halfway through, I didn’t play again. So, my confidence was shot.
It was super humbling. I had to learn how to navigate anxiety, depression, and eating disorder habits that started to drown me. I was at my lowest for sure. It’s crazy how God works because it wasn’t until Quarantine (the ugliest thing that has happened in the world, during my lifetime) that I was able to see the beauty in my life.
I started to realize my growth and how, now, I can relate to just about anyone, from the star player to the benchwarmer. I started to realize I’m so much stronger than I ever thought, I can deal with difficult people, and persevere through difficult situations. Most importantly, I learned my self-worth. I grew spiritually, mentally, and physically over quarantine and sought help where I was struggling.
Why did you decide to transfer to Georgetown? And what has the experience been like so far?
Well, surprisingly, my mom has always talked about Georgetown, even before I got offered a scholarship there. So, she always kinda planted that seed. But, at first, I wasn’t sold on Georgetown. I wanted to go into kinesiology or exercise science through a post-back med program, but Georgetown didn’t have one. Then, I asked for a performing arts, theater, or film masters program and they didn’t have it either.
So, honestly, I wasn’t going to commit, but there’s something about a Boston College and Georgetown degree on my resume that spoke to me. Also, I spent a lot of time in prayer and I just got the right amount of signs.
What pushes you & keeps you motivated when times get tough?
I’m from a low socioeconomic area. My brother and I are two of the few kids to go to college on a full-ride athletic scholarship and actually stay in school. So, I’m honestly motivated by fear. I don’t want to end up where I started and I don’t want to struggle.
I see it every time I go home and visit my extended family, that discomfort lights a fire in me to never get complacent or too comfortable. I always want more for myself and I know that I always have more in the tank. Also, my motivation is to show all of my younger cousins that they can do it too. They can work hard and be successful, just like me. They don’t have to live the way that they do forever.
In your opinion, how can the sports world do a better job of prioritizing mental health?
Honestly, I think everyone should be mandated to take some type of workshop to better handle situations that could be fragile to someone’s mental state, especially people in power, like coaches.
I don’t think people are aware of how taking time to manage stress is essential. I think it’s essential to be equipped with the right tools to help athletes navigate their mental health. As an athlete, I feel like we try to seem tough and like we have it all together, but in reality, we don’t. So, I think having those, who are authoritative figures, to help assist athletes through their anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues would be game-changing.
Also, I think coaches should be taught how to communicate with athletes, especially ones who deal with mental health issues. They need to understand how words matter and what they say plays a role in how a player navigates their confidence.
What do you hope to achieve this upcoming season?
Well, I hope to leave a mark on the program. I want my presence to be felt when I step out on the court. I worked a lot on the off-season with some of the type players in our league, so I feel my most confident and I’m ready to dominate.
I also worked a lot on my mental health, being able to work under pressure and confront things that I was fearful of.
What is your #1 piece of advice for aspiring college athletes?
Feed your faith, in the midst of fear, even when your circumstances tell you not to. You’re going to face a lot of adversity in life. Sometimes it’ll be as easy as jumping over a puddle of water and sometimes it’ll be like swimming through a rip current. However, don’t allow yourself to succumb to the fears of your circumstances.
While swimming in that rip current, faith will tell you that you’re becoming a stronger swimmer, you’re understanding how to navigate your breaths, and that you’re almost to shore. Fear will tell you that you’re going to drown and that you aren’t a good enough swimmer to make it.
The idea here is that, regardless, you’re surrounded by these toppling waves, no matter how you feel. You can either choose to feel like you’re drowning or you can feel like you’re getting stronger, it’s all about which perspective you choose to take, faith or fear. Choose faith.
Is there anything you were hoping I’d ask you or any stories you’d like to share?
Something I aspire to do outside of basketball: I want to be an actress and then a coach.
Author’s Note: Big thanks to Milan for taking the time to answer our questions. Go follow her on Instagram!
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