Women’s basketball: Freshman from France finding comfort zone at Dayton

Dayton's Tenin Magassa shoots against Duquesne on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Dayton's Tenin Magassa shoots against Duquesne on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Magassa ranks among the national leaders in blocked shots

Tenin Magassa had never traveled to the United States. She had never visited the University of Dayton.

When Magassa stepped on campus last summer as the newest recruit for the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team, she was taking a leap of faith, in part because she left her home country during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was a little bit nervous about meeting new people,” Magassa said. “My coaches and my teammates made me feel comfortable. I ended up somewhere where everybody really cares about me and wants me to feel good here. I’m excited to be here and to play. I’m trying to do my job on the court and do everything the coaches want me to do.”

Magassa, a 6-foot-5 center, is from Morsang-sur-Org, France. The city is located 17 miles south of Paris. She learned about Dayton from Sebastian Sako, a coach and mentor who’s friends with Dayton men’s basketball assistant coach Ricardo Greer.

Greer had a 14-year playing career in Europe and spent most of those years in France. He was inducted into the France’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. When Magassa started exploring playing college basketball in the United States, Sako talked to Greer, who recommended Dayton’s program. Dayton women’s coach Shauna Green said she owes Greer a steak dinner for the recruiting assist.

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Magassa signed with Dayton in June and has made a big impact in her first season. Through the first 11 games for a team that had won nine straight games, she was averaging 5.9 rebounds and 9.6 points while shooting a team-best 59.7 percent from the field.

Magassa ranks second in the Atlantic 10 Conference and 14th in the country with 32 blocked shots. If she continues to average 2.9 blocked shots per game, it would be the third-highest single-season average in school history behind Jodie Cornelie (3.6, 2015-16) and Michele Kurty (3.4, 1987-88).

Green knew Magassa had the ability to block shots but thought she might be prone to foul trouble in her first season in college basketball. That hasn’t been the case. She’s averaging the most minutes of any reserve (21.7) and has seen her playing time increase in recent weeks. She was averaging 26.4 minutes in the last five games through Feb. 7.

“She just has a natural ability to block shots without fouling,” Green said on Feb. 8, one day after Dayton improved to 9-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 95-66 victory at La Salle. “She’s very good at it. She has done a really good job of not having a lot of contact. She’s such a presence. You see the difference. Everyone alters their shots when they go in there because they’re thinking about it. These last few games, she has been a huge presence defensively She’s really getting into a groove and not rushing stuff offensively and being really efficient. I’m just proud of her.”

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Magassa said she was battling some injuries earlier this season and wasn’t 100 percent.

“At first, it was a little bit hard,” she said. “I need to play a lot to have my skills back. I feel like I’m starting to get everything back.”

Although Magassa said she misses her mom’s cooking, she’s used to being away from home. She was 12 when she first moved away to play basketball. In the summer 2019, she played France’s Under-18 national team in the European Championships, averaging 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 61.5 percent from the field. She also competed for France’s U-16 team at the 2017 European Championships. France won the bronze medal both years.

Magassa is the second native of France to play for Dayton. She follows Cornelie, the school’s career blocks leader (287).

“It’s just amazing the courage she had to make this jump,” Green said. “She’s getting more and more confident. You can see it in the past month or two with the team and the relationships. That takes time. She’s starting to get in that comfort zone on and off the floor. She does a great job of using all the resources here at Dayton. I’ve seen so much growth.”

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