Carolyn Blair-Mobley had given up basketball.
She was ready to move on to the next phase of her life as a mother and soon-to-be college graduate.
But a heartbreaking week last November altered her life’s course and eventually led to her arrival at UNO, where she is set to start playing her senior season.
“My story is very unique,” Blair-Mobley said.
Blair-Mobley found out during the summer of 2011 that she was going to have a baby. She continued attending classes and was a “regular student” all fall until going into early labor on Nov. 14 — at just 5½ months pregnant.
She gave birth to Jarred Dwayne Shaw Jr., but he passed away later that day.
“He was just too small,” she said.
Her coach at Oklahoma State, Kurt Budke, was among those who came to visit in the hospital.
“He sat with me for a few hours,” Blair-Mobley said. “And that was the last time I saw him.”
Budke and Cowgirls assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip Nov. 17.
“I have a great deal of respect for Carolyn,” UNO coach Chance Lindley said. “After all she’s been through, she has every reason not to be playing this year.”
Blair-Mobley, after finishing out the semester on campus and then completing her degree by taking six hours of online courses at home in St. Paul, Minn., decided that she would indeed play again.
“I felt I owed it to my child — since he’s not here that I should play for him,” Blair-Mobley said. “And I should do it for myself, to get my own happiness back.”
She’s at UNO in part because of the connection of her junior college coach — Brett Erkenbrack of Cloud County (Kan.) Community College — and Lindley, who coached against him at Barton County (Kan.) CC.
“Coach Erkenbrack and Coach Lindley actually remind me of each other,” Blair-Mobley said.
A 5-foot-10 guard who developed the reputation of being a lockdown perimeter defender and an offensive facilitator who got others involved before creating her own shot, Blair-Mobley figures to have a major impact for a Maverick team that will play its first season of nearly all Division I opponents in 2012-13.
“She’s a great player,” UNO point guard Jamie Nash said. “She’s really, really strong. If we both go up for a rebound, I’m going to let her have it.
“She’s very vocal — just what we needed. Coming from OSU, she has the work ethic and that drive to play hard.”
Blair-Mobley — whose mother, Kathy Blair, played at Indiana before finishing her career at St. Cloud State — averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals in her one season at Cloud County.
With the Cowgirls, she averaged 11.2 minutes while starting four of 32 games in 2009-10 as a sophomore, scoring just 23 points all season for a team centered around high-scoring Andrea Riley.
The following year she started 22 of 32 games, but averaged just 2.5 points.
“Coach kind of set up our offense around (Riley) my first year,” Blair-Mobley said. “I’d never played that way, where everything was set up for one person and everyone else just filled in. My rhythm never got there.
“The next year (though Riley had graduated) it stayed the same. So it just never quite got there for me.”
When she became pregnant, she put basketball aside.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d be playing again,” Blair-Mobley said. “I was willing to give up basketball and make the sacrifices to take care of someone else’s life.”
She said she and her boyfriend, Jarred Shaw Sr., have maintained their relationship. He now is playing basketball at Utah State.
“It’s hard,” Blair-Mobley said. “It’s a lot of work.”
UNO expects more than just the occasional basket from Blair-Mobley, who has started work on a master’s degree. She’d like to be more productive offensively, like she was in junior college.
“Coach Erkenbrack saw all my potential and my talents,” Blair-Mobley said. “He could just bring it out of you.”
Her role will likely be an expanded one for the Mavs.
“I’m not a player who likes to settle for outside shots,” Blair-Mobley said. “I like to get to the basket ... most of the time. At Oklahoma State I had to settle for outside shots — all my stats were outside shots. That’s not me as a player.”
And defense, she said, is always a priority for her.
“She’s going to be a big part of this team,” Lindley said. “Whether it’s through defense or offense or leadership, she’s a very mature young lady who will bring value to this team on and off the court.”
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