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Natasha Cloud Blog: St. Joseph's star discusses her season on and off the court

St. Joseph's guard Natasha Cloud, among the 22 Division I players announced yesterday as finalists for the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award, offered Swish Appeal a guest blog about both the A-10 season and challenges that she and her family have faced off the court.


Hey everyone! My name is Natasha Cloud; I am a 6-foot combo guard from Broomall, Pennsylvania and am currently playing my junior year St. Joseph’s University. Our season thus far has definitely been a ride and a bit of a roller coaster, but we are in a very good position to enter the A-10 tournament.

We started off the 2013-2014 season surprisingly well! If you would have told me prior to the season that we would go 10-2 to start our non-conference season, I would have looked you in the eye and asked if you needed a doctor!

I do not doubt the amazing talents of our players or the witty knowledge of our coaching staff, but we are a bottom heavy team (meaning that the underclassmen outnumber the upperclassmen).

With only returning five upperclassmen with experience, we put a lot of pressure to perform on our two sophomores and five incoming freshmen. May I say that these "underclassmen" have stepped up for this team and have put us into a good place two games out from the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Like any team, we had the ups and downs, ebbs and flows of the season (meaning that we have some ugly loses, but also some amazing wins). Currently sitting in third place in the A-10, we need to finish out our season with two must win games to seal our fate as the third place team.

I hope that through these blogs, many of you will get a feel for the person I truly am. I am an outgoing, strong, loud, obnoxious, caring, humble, respectful, fun-loving person (I know tooting my own horn, I apologize!). For me, my family is the most important thing in my life. We are the furthest thing from "perfect," but we are a strong, close knit kind of family.

I am many things before I am a basketball player; I am a daughter, sister, aunt, godmother, granddaughter, niece, and cousin long before I am a "basketball player," and I think this is why I am a centerpiece/rock for my family.

Now I do not want you to think that I do not consider being a basketball player a huge part of my life because I do; but I would give this game up for my family any day of the week. You may be thinking why is she telling us this? I wanted to discuss how important family is to me because this past December, a week before Christmas, my family lost our home to a fire.

I thank God every day for many things, but especially for me being home the night it happened. My mom and I were sitting in the living room watching TV; while my dad and sister were already sound asleep in their beds.

My mom had my wash in the dryer, when something electrical went wrong and it caught on fire. The fire detectors went blaring and my mom and I went running and could smell smoke. My mom discovered that it was coming from the dryer while screaming for my dad to get up.

In the meantime I yelled for my mom to call 9-1-1 and sprinted for the fire extinguisher to attempt to put out the fire. One thing I will always be thankful to basketball and being an athlete in general for is how I handled this pressure situation. In situations like these, many individuals freeze, but what sports has taught me is how to think when in high-pressure situations.

When seeing that the fire was only getting bigger I yelled to my dad we have to get out. We all got out of the house but I had to run back in to grab both my bird and my suitcase (you know because we were traveling to Syracuse the next day). Standing outside watching the house I grew up in burning was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Within 15 minutes, my two oldest sisters (Kim and Krystal), my brother in law (John), my best friend and her mom (Kathleen and Mama Fitz), my aunt and cousin (Dawn and Laura), and my assistant coach (Sue) were all already there standing outside with us.

Now I know I already went on a rant about how important family is to me, but I think I need to stress how important my second family is as well; my second family being my team and the SJU community.

The day after the fire my team was set to leave for Syracuse at 5 pm. The next morning waking up in my grandmother’s house realizing it wasn’t a dream was extremely hard. Coach Griffin had called to check in on me, and tell me that it was ok if I stayed home from this trip and took care of my family and myself; but that was not an option for me. I am a co-captain of this team, and even though my family was in a tough spot, my team needed me.

It was my responsibility as a captain, as a leader, and as a teammate to be there. When I arrived at SJU that night I walked in and the first person to stop me was Coach Martelli; he stopped his entire practice to make sure he and the entire men’s basketball team had a chance to say something to me.

I will never be able to express to both coach Martelli and the entire men’s team how much that meant to me (so I hope this helps). I proceeded in the locker room to my team where I continued to ball my eyes out. My team is amazing; when they found out about the fire they instantly went out and went shopping to get my family necessities (clothes, food, jackets and shoes).

I think for me leaning on my team is what still continues to get me through this traumatic time. It is my job as the centerpiece of my family to be the rock for them; being strong and having a positive attitude about the situation is what I do for them. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes it leaves me weak and vulnerable and that is when I depend on my team to be my centerpiece, and they have come through every time I have needed them.

I would be lying if I said it has been easy to play through this situation; but basketball has always served as my oasis away from what is going on in my life; it is my escape from reality. The biggest weight I carry is worrying about how my parents and my sister were doing; are they ok, is it a good or bad day? I think most kids will agree that we look at our parents as super heroes and we depend on them for everything.

To see my parents lose everything they have ever worked for, and be vulnerable (human) was the hardest part for me. Now as your parents child it is time for you to be strong, and allow them to lean on you. I would never have been able to do it if it was not for my family, my team, and the SJU community.

A lot of weight has been taken off of my shoulders since my parents moved into a rental house; they are happier and things are finally beginning to move forward in the rebuilding of a new house.

I know you are probably like, ‘oh my gosh, that is horrible,’ and yes it is a hard situation to deal with but, we are ok. What previous SJU player, now North Carolina’s GA Katie Kuester told me is that God only throws his toughest battles at his strongest soldiers, and I am a firm believer in the fact that he has a plan for my family and me.

I also wanted to show that as an athlete we have more going on than what you see on the court -- and that as an athlete/teammate I have been blessed with 19 amazing people in my life. Thank all the neighbors, fire fighters, ambulance, police, SJU community, strangers and teams in the A-10 conference.