Rafu Staff Report
FULLERTON — The CSU Fullerton women’s basketball team played its first game Saturday without Assistant Coach Monica Quan.
The Titans’ 64-45 loss to the UC Riverside Highlanders seemed secondary as the team remembered Quan, 28, who was shot to death with her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, the weekend before at the garage of their condominium in Irvine. A moment of silence was observed after the national anthem, and the players cried and hugged each other before starting the game.
At a post-game press conference, Head Coach Marcia Foster said, “It was hard for us to get out on the floor because a part of our family was missing … I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to function without a part of your family here. I think my players did a great job this week of just supporting one another and staying together and trying to use extra motivation because Coach Mo would want them to perform at a high level.”
Referring to Quan’s parents and brother, Foster added, “We can’t say how sorry we are to Randal Quan and Sylvia Quan and Ryan Quan and the family of Keith Lawrence. It doesn’t make sense to any of us … We want to do our best as the season goes on to honor Monica Quan by the way we play, by the kind of student athletes that we are, and carry her memory on in such a positive way because she was such an outstanding person.
“She was a great coach, she was a great assistant coach for me, she did wonderful things for me. She taught me a lot about myself … She was the best of the best. She came from a quality family, she was a quality person, and we’re going to miss her …
“I don’t think anybody feels like they’re healing right now. We feel like we’re just getting through. We’re showing up a day at a time and we’re putting in work. That’s the best we can do right now … We’ve shared memories about Coach Mo. There’s a lot of good stuff to remember about her. So those moments intertwine with the grief. Someone said to me today, ‘Each day will be a better crappy day.’ And that’s how we feel.”
Junior guard Alex Thomas commented, “It’s hard being out there at practice every day and not seeing her. It’s hard walking past the offices and knowing that she’s not going to be there … Today we just wanted to try to play in a way that we could honor her, and play in a way that we know she would have been proud of … We wish we could have pulled it out and had a better performance today, but we’re going to keep working, keep trying to honor her.”
Thomas remembered Quan as “someone that we could all talk to, someone we could go to, and we could talk about things besides basketball, so that was nice for all of us. I think sometimes we take for granted the little conversations that you have with people, and I think she was … someone that we could all talk to about anything that we needed to talk about. She was definitely more than a coach for all of us.”
Asked what Quan would have thought about Saturday’s game, Thomas said, “She would have been proud of our effort, she would have been proud of us coming out, being there and trying to stay focused. But she definitely would have wanted us to pay attention to the little things a little bit more.”
Sophomore forward/center Jessica Palmer described Quan as “a great person. She loved life. She was spontaneous, fun, happy. I would say that she supported all of us in almost everything we did. I mean, you came to practice and you were having a bad day and no matter what it was, she was always there for you … Without her, I’m not quite sure how I would have gotten through it, being injured and what not.”
Asked how team members are coping with the tragedy, Palmer said, “We share stories a lot, like all the things that we remember and the funny things, the bus rides. We’ve all had really funny, interesting conversations with her, some really great memories. But we stay together a lot. We’ve had team sleepovers, team cookoffs the last couple of days.”
Senior forward/center Lauren Bushong recalled, “She had a chart, she’d check how many boxouts you missed, how many O-boards you got, so I think whenever we’re rebounding in practice, she’s in the back of your head just saying ‘Crash the boards’ or ‘Box out.’ I think that’s what we’ll probably remember on the court.”
Bushong added, “She really focused on school and all the work on the court and off the court. She knew it was important. You’re only a college basketball player for four maybe five years, and then she knew you had to get a job and you had to have a lot under your belt … She really encouraged everyone to get the most out of the classroom and to do your best in the classroom.”
Foster noted, “I’ve heard from so many people from the WBCA, the NCAA, the BCA, college coaches from around the country. People who knew me, people who knew Monica, some that didn’t know us. There’s just been phone calls, emails, text messages from everyone because everyone understands like this is a family …We do everything together. We eat together, we travel together, we meet ridiculous hours together … and you just expect that it’s always going to be that way …
“Monica was loved. She’s good people, and people know that … Our (Titan) teams are pretty close because we are close as coaches. I know they were just as devastated. They’re in the same hallway and they saw Coach Mo all the time just like everybody else, so it’s hit a lot of people.”
Foster continued, “She was introduced to me as a potential coach four years ago by a guy that I used to coach his club team, Jesse James, and I didn’t have an opening at the time, but I introduced her to my good friend at Cal Lutheran, Roy Dow. And Roy Dow was in need of an assistant coach at the time. So then for two years I watched Monica Quan work on the road.
“I knew her work ethic, I knew how professional she was, I had the opportunity to talk to her a lot. And when I had an opening, she’s who I wanted in because I knew what she stood for, I knew where she came from, I knew about her parents and the class and integrity upon which they operated … So it was a no-brainer. (But) I didn’t realize all that I was getting in Monica Quan. I didn’t realize the depth of someone so young that would have such an influence not just on me, but the team and other people she had the opportunity to interact with.”
Regarding Quan’s engagement, Foster said, “When we left for San Luis Obispo last Wednesday … she took that moment to tell the team that she was engaged, and it was the absolute best response from the team, like everyone was so excited. She told me a few days earlier … I couldn’t tell anybody and it was the hardest thing for me to do because I was so happy and I wanted to pass it on to everybody.”
Foster concluded, “She was bright, driven and loved basketball … was passionate about teaching young women about the game and about life. I think she’d have been a fantastic head coach. She was a rising star. That’s what’s so hard about it all, it’s like there was so much life for her to live, so many things for her to do.”
The Titans will try to break their six-game losing streak when they host Long Beach State on Thursday.