FORT WORTH, Texas — Typically for college or professional basketball players, basketball is their first love. But for TCU forward Michelle Berry, her passion started on a soccer field. Not on the hardwood.

Before she became a household name at Schollmaier Arena and before she became the Frogs’ second leading scorer this season, Berry was scoring goals on the soccer field. Growing up in the outskirts of Miami, soccer was her obsession. As Berry got older and taller,basketball looked a lot more viable.

“All the basketball coaches would come up to me and be like ‘why don’t you come play basketball?’ I’m like no I’m playing soccer! Leave me alone,” said Berry.

She was resistant at first. But after a long talk with her parents discussing the broad opportunities the game could provide, Berry decided to give up soccer and pursue a career on the court. 

“[Soccer] was hard for me to give up at 16 years old,” Berry said. “It took me probably two years, maybe three to be like oh I actually like basketball. I can do this."

Berry knew she could excel on the court from the encouragement she received from her dad, who died from colon cancer before he had a chance to see her play in high school.

“Once he passed away my 8th grade year, I was more accepting of the game because that’s something he always wanted to see me play. I wasn’t as mad as I think I would have been if he was still alive, but it was a thing I knew he wanted me to do and watch me be great at.”

Her collegiate basketball journey did not start in Fort Worth. First, she was a Titan at Cal State

Fullerton. Then she was a Hokie at Virginia Tech, where her game quickly and significantly improved, until team doctors found a blood clot in her lungs. Consequently, Berry had to sit out the 2018 season. 

“It was hard because it was not one of those injuries you can do rehab for,” Berry said. “It’s not like your shoulder or your knee. It’s internal. So it was like this is frustrating.”

It was a difficult time, especially with a tedious circumstance. After Berry was fully recovered and medically cleared to play one year later, she decided it was time for a change in scenery with a new environment, new team and new coaches. Now entering her second year with the Frogs, there is one distinct goal in mind: punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, something that was dramatically taken away from them in 2020.

“It’s a really sensitive topic,” said Berry. “Like we all want to go this year. But just knowing we were there last year and COVID-19 messed it up, it’s really like a kicker because we

were second in the Big 12. For all us seniors, none of us went. It still hurts.”

It’s a pain that fuels this year’s squad and Berry. For the woman who changed sports, lost her father and overcame an illness, lacing up in March is beyond attainable.