'Do your best' mantra guides NMSU's Sasha Weber

Dave Weber’s game-day ritual is admittedly “goofy” — his word — but he has adhered to it ever since his daughter Sasha began playing basketball at age 6. He sees no reason to stop now.

Do your best, he tells her.

Just that: Do your best. Because that’s what he has given her, always and forever.

He raised Sasha, a senior guard at New Mexico State, as a single parent after her mother died when Sasha was not quite 2. Raised her first in Northern California and later Lacey, Wash., where he still makes his home. Raised her, often, in a gym, since he kept her close at hand while he coached small-college hoops and later served as athletic director at another school.

But raised her, just the same.

“It’s just what I did,” he said. “That’s been my life. That’s what happened to me. I did the best I could, and everybody says it came out OK. And hopefully that did have something to do with me.”

Sasha’s take is much simpler. All she and her dad have really been doing, she said, is attempting to “make the best out of a kind of sucky situation.”

Which, again, is the idea he has been trying to get across to her – face to face for much of her life but over the phone these last four years, since she is in Las Cruces, some 1,700 miles away.

Her best has been very good indeed. As was the case when she was an All-WAC first-teamer last year, she is leading the team in scoring this season, at 13 points a game. And the Aggies, who made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988 in 2014-15, are again trending in that direction. They have won 11 straight and carry a 21-3 record into Thursday’s game at Cal State-Bakersfield. (Saturday’s game at Seattle will air on ASN.)

Sasha, who stands 6 feet tall, is the WAC’s active career leader in points (1,435) and 3-pointers (253), totals that leave her ninth and second, respectively, on NMSU’s all-time lists. She is also ninth in blocked shots, with 76.

None of that should come as a surprise, given her bloodlines. Dave played college ball, at Division III LaVerne, just east of Los Angeles. Sasha’s late mother, Sheri Cannon, played at Merritt College, in Oakland, Calif. People tell Sasha all the time how good Sheri was, that she could really play, and that has buoyed her since her mom’s death on Feb. 6, 1996, three days before Sasha’s second birthday. Kidney failure was the cause, Sasha said, though she added, “She used drugs, so that wore her body down.”

Sasha, who spent her early years in the Bay Area, thinks not so much about that as living up to her mom’s on-court legacy.

“I’ve always kind of looked at it like, I’m kind of doing what she would have done, had she not picked up the habit that she chose to pick up,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing what she could have been doing.”

From the time Sasha was 3, Dave said, it was evident she had an aptitude for hoops. He was then the men’s coach at Patten University in Oakland, a job he held from 1994 to 2000, and he would bring her along to practice. She would play off to the side, but every now and then she would interrupt whatever he was doing: Look, I can dribble without looking at the ball. Or, Look, I can make a shot on a 10-foot basket.

Wasn’t too long before she was playing in the local YMCA leagues, which she liked well enough, except for one thing: Players weren’t permitted to steal the ball from one another. And since she was much better than just about everybody else, she really, really wanted to do that.

It was better when they moved to Lacey, just outside the state capital of Olympia, as she was about to go into first grade. There she could play AAU ball, where it was just fine to go all out. And she did.

It was fine in every other way, too. Dave had found a job as the athletic director at Evergreen State College, a position he held until 2010. He had found a good school system for his daughter, and worthwhile activities besides basketball – Girl Scouts, track and field, the whole bit.

And if he had to give up his nights out with the boys, so be it.

“I always wanted to have kids,” he said. “Once I had one and her mom passed away, there wasn’t too much I could do but go ahead and raise her.”

Sasha became the all-time leading scorer at Timberline High School, and according to Dave had recruiting interest from all but three of the schools in the Pac-12 — but no scholarship offers. The mid-majors came through, though, and because Dave had heard good things about NMSU coach Mark Trakh, his daughter wound up an Aggie. Never mind that she would be far from home; Dave, now a part-time sportswriter, has only seen his daughter play a handful of times in person since she began college, and just once this season.

He hopes to be there for Senior Day on March 5, as well as the WAC Tournament. Maybe NCAAs, too, if the Aggies get there and play on the West Coast.

In the meantime, he will keep making phone calls, keep dispensing the same advice he always has, goofy as it may be.

Because it seems to be working.

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