ARLINGTON, Texas – Growing up, summers were all about basketball in Marina Mabrey's family.
Mabrey’s mother coached her older brothers and sister when the kids were young, so she and her younger sister and would be at games every summer day, seeing competitive play after competitive play for years.
This left an indelible mark on Mabrey, who is known in the WNBA for competing for every jump ball, every rebound and every loose ball.
“I just want to win every single position, win every game, play every minute. That's just how I am,” Mabrey said. “I just was really competitive with anybody I played against, but it started with my siblings.”
When her older sister Michaela headed to Notre Dame to play for Muffet McGraw, Marina soon followed suit. Their younger sister, Dara, just finished her senior season with the Fighting Irish.
While at Notre Dame, Mabrey made an important connection to someone who shares that competitive spirit. She and her roommate, Arike Ogunbowale, were two of the best bench players in Notre Dame history as freshmen. By the time they graduated, they were at the center of a Notre Dame team that won the NCAA championship in 2018.
HIGHLIGHTS: Marina Mabrey pull up 3, She's Got 20 Points
When it was time to head to the WNBA, Mabrey was drafted by the Sparks, and Ogunbowale headed to the Wings. Their partnership was over, it seemed.
Mabrey played in Los Angeles for one season, averaging 4 points and 11 minutes per game. In the offseason, Mabrey was traded to Dallas, where she once again could play with Ogunbowale.
“I mean, it's kind of inspiring when your other duo teammate is going off. It's like, ‘Okay, let me help her. Let me go do something,” and then vice versa,” Mabrey said. “It's easy to get people involved when someone's playing well. So then you can bring everybody else up.”
When Mabrey is playing well, she elevates her teammates. An early win in the season over the Connecticut Sun stands out. Mabrey scored 20 and dished out four assists, fueling Allisha Gray’s 17 points and Ogunbowale’s 16. Now Mabrey is trying to help her team return to the playoffs. The team is 11-13 after a key win over Minnesota, and sits in sixth place in the league. (The top eight make the playoffs.)
The games will only become tighter and more important. Mabrey’s ability to bring her competitiveness to the court will become even more important.
“I'm always thinking about how I can get better. Like ‘What can I do today to put me at a competitive advantage?’ And continue to build my confidence where I know I did the prep work. I know I did everything possible to succeed. So now it's just in my mind and a matter of bringing that energy and fire really.”