THE CONTINUING SAGA OF WOMEN’S BASKETBALL STAR MAYA HOOD
On the far west side of the USD campus sits the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Behind the building is a reflection pool that bubbles with the soothing sound of flowing water.
“My favorite place on campus,” comments Maya Hood ’17 (BA), a sixth-year women’s basketball player and graduate student.
Atop a hillside, the garden offers a spectacular view of Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It’s tranquil and serene. More than once, Hood has retreated to the spot to reflect on her life.
“My thoughts are that I should write a book,” says Hood.
She arrived at Alcalá Park in 2012 with her twin sister, Malina. As a first year, Maya averaged 10.3 points, was second on the team in scoring and was named the West Coast Conference’s Newcomer of the Year.
Late that season, days before turning 20, she became pregnant. In June of that year, her older brother, Saron Hood, a former wide receiver at the University of Buffalo, collapsed while playing basketball and died. He was diagnosed with a thickening of heart walls that causes blockage of blood flow.
Amidst the turmoil, for a nanosecond, Hood considered all her options. But she knew the right thing to do was to have her son.
“The biggest thing, for me, is deep down I knew he deserved to have a life,” says Maya.
Elijah Alexander Ayala turned 4 in November. With Alexander, he shares Saron’s middle name.
In December 2016, Hood was enjoying what she thought would be her final season at USD. She was averaging 18.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals, tops on the team in all three categories.
But in the ninth game, she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus tear to her right knee, ending her season.
“I could have given up, crumbled, walked away, but I wanted to keep going. Not only for myself but for my son. And I knew it was something my brother would want me to finish.”
Hood was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA as a medical redshirt.
USD head coach Cindy Fisher says, “I have never seen Maya have a bad day, ever. She is one of the strongest people I’ve ever been around.”
Hood has a chance to set USD career records in scoring, rebounding and steals. She earned her undergraduate degree last May and is now pursuing a master’s degree in leadership studies.
She plans on playing professional basketball in Europe when her career at USD is complete. Child care will be one of the provisions of her contract.
To celebrate her graduation, Hood had a tattoo inked onto her right forearm. It reads, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” — Don Norcross