More than a year away from the game could not stop All-American Rams guard

Anoka-Ramsey Community College sophomore Tacita Gonzalez didn’t think she would play competitive basketball again.

After helping the Golden Rams basketball team win a national title in 2011 at starting point guard as a freshman, she thought her playing days were past and it was time to move on.

Anoka-Ramsey sophomore guard Tacita Gonzalez, right, returned to the court after 18 months away from the game to earn All-American honors.
Anoka-Ramsey sophomore guard Tacita Gonzalez, right, returned to the court after 18 months away from the game to earn All-American honors. Photo by Bill Jones

That was until mid-October 2012 when she texted head coach Dave DeWitt about rejoining the team for one more go-around as a second- and final-year player.

“I asked him if they had room on the team and he said ‘yes. Of course.’,” Gonzalez said.

She became part the team which finished 24-7, winning its fourth straight MCAC Southern Division title. “I knew it would be tough because I put on 40 pounds and went from exercising everyday to doing nothing put work and school,” she said.

“I didn’t touch a ball for the last year and a half.”

Fast forward six months and Gonzalez surpassed her performance as a freshman to earn NJCAA Division III All-American honors. “It’s a huge honor,” she said. “There were so many others that put up great seasons that it really means a lot to me to receive this honor.”

According to Gonzalez, who first picked up a basketball as a six-year-old in St. Paul, the motivation to get back on the court came from friends and family. “I had a few people in my corner behind me like my boyfriend but other things were getting stressful and I just needed that feeling of being a part of something,” Gonzalez said. “I really missed that and it really helped me make the decision.”

Although her return to the floor didn’t translate into another national championship for Anoka-Ramsey, her stats increased and the team placed fourth at nationals.

She led the Golden Rams with 12.3 points per game, averaging 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Of course, that uneasy sense of failure crept into her mind that first practice, but soon left as the team welcomed her with open arms, Gonzalez said.

“How are they going to be OK with [me]?” she said about heading into the first practice. “I was so scared that first practice because I was just getting back and thinking ‘If this doesn’t work out I’m not going to play any more.’”

She said DeWitt helped ease her into the line-up. “He told the girls about me and that I put in my work once upon a time,” Gonzalez said. “I knew what it takes to win and I could bring that energy into what they were missing.”

The group welcomed Gonzalez, especially since they lost guard Mariah McLaughlin to injury minutes into the season-opening practice.

Gonzalez said the team chemistry this season was one of the biggest differences between the two teams.

“We were all so close on and off the court,” she said. “I don’t know if it was because they were mostly all freshmen or not but we were basically all sisters. We studied, ate meals and a lot of them had classes together. So we formed such a stronger bond as a team than my freshman year.”

As for next season, Gonzalez said she’s finishing her studies at Anoka-Ramsey before transferring to Metro State University in St. Paul to focus on a career in law enforcement.

She admitted to thinking about the prospects of playing at a new program next season and said, “I’m a city girl, born and raised in St. Paul.”

She’s the oldest of eight children with her father watching over the entire family after her mother died. “At the end of the day, I want to be happy and I’m planning to enroll in Metro State in the fall,” said Gonzalez.

“I have a passion to help people and my upbringing and stuff I’ve gone through in life can help me connect to people and get them on their feet.”

For her, basketball, friends and family have kept her going and on her feet in tough situations.