Northwood basketball’s Faucette doesn’t let her disability define her

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/27/21

PITTSBORO — Four years ago, Jamaria Faucette took a leap of faith when she joined the Northwood JV women’s basketball team as a freshman. And early on, she regretted it.

When Faucette subbed …

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Northwood basketball’s Faucette doesn’t let her disability define her

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PITTSBORO — Four years ago, Jamaria Faucette took a leap of faith when she joined the Northwood JV women’s basketball team as a freshman. And early on, she regretted it.

When Faucette subbed into games, opposing teams’ fans latched onto her. More specifically, they latched onto belittling her amniotic band syndrome, a rare disability that affects her fingers and toes.

“When I got to high school, it really got worse for me,” Faucette said. “I became depressed about it. Parents would call out stuff about me: ‘She can’t dribble!’ ‘Look at her hands!’ It would affect me.”

It doesn’t anymore.

Faucette, 17, is now a senior reserve on the Northwood varsity roster. She speaks comfortably about those tough days in 2017 and what they taught her: about herself, about her disability and about what really mattered in the long run.

Spoiler alert: the nagging naysayers did not.

“All you have to do is put your mind to it,” Faucette said last week in a phone interview with the News + Record. “You can’t let your pride get to you. You can’t let what other people say about you get you down. You’ve got to use the negativity to push harder to do what you want to do — and be great at it.”

And Faucette’s positive mindset has proved infectious for the Chargers, who are a perfect 6-0 in Big 8 3A Conference play this season after a 48-36 home win over second-place Chapel Hill on Monday.

“She doesn’t play a whole lot, but she has the biggest heart on the team,” Northwood head coach Cameron Vernon said. “The kids have voted her best teammate the past two years. She’s the one who’s vocal and getting everyone amped up on the bench. She’s really important for our success.”

Faucette is equally open about her amniotic band syndrome, which was diagnosed at birth and “makes it look like I have rubber bands around my hands,” as she put it. Faucette has 10 fingers and nine toes, and she had multiple surgeries as a child to separate fingers that were initially stuck together.

“It hasn’t stopped me at all,” she said. “It’s frustrating at some points, but I just push through it.”

When it comes to basketball, for example, Faucette has a firm grasp on her strengths and weaknesses.

She can’t shoot lefty layups, but she’s got a dependable right-handed jump hook. She’ll occasionally struggle to catch a fast or off-target pass, but she’s a strong rebounder on the offensive and defensive glass alike. With a bit of extra focus every now and then, she’s a reliable dribbler.

“Sometimes, I’ll struggle, but I try not to let it get to me,” Faucette said. “I just say: ‘OK, that’s something I need to work on and try to get better at.’”

And Faucette has gotten plenty of reps. She’s played recreational basketball since she was 7 or 8 years old, and she played middle school basketball at Moncure School in southeastern Chatham County.

Entering high school at Northwood, though, she planned to leave the sport behind.

She was worried about how she’d shape up against taller, faster and more talented players. And once her family and friends finally convinced her to join the JV team, she endured the aforementioned taunts.

As Faucette put it: “I let my pride get to me, and I let people get to me.”

On especially rough days, Faucette leaned on her legal guardian, Shuranda Smith. Smith remained a constant source of encouragement for Faucette. She’d remind her of how far she’d gone in the sport already, and she’d pose a simple question: “Why give up now?”

“That’s something that I always kept in my mind,” Faucette said. “That even though I have a disability, I’m still doing a pretty darn good job at (basketball).”

Instilled with a new confidence fueled by Smith — plus other family members and friends — Faucette starting embracing basketball for what it was: a sport she loved. When fans taunted, she used it as motivation to hustle even harder for the next loose ball or play an even better defensive possession.

After two seasons on the JV roster, Faucette moved to the varsity squad as a junior and immediately emerged as the de facto team hype woman. And take it from sophomore forward Te’Keyah Bland: Faucette, whom teammates often refer to by her nickname, Mari, had an immediate impact.

“I know how bad she wants it,” Bland said. “Even when she doesn’t play at all, she’s always going to be on the bench talking and encouraging us, no matter what the score is. She’s a great teammate.”

Freshman guard Skylar Adams added: “She’s there for us, and we’ve got to be there for her at all times.”

Case in point: on Jan. 15, when Northwood held a senior ceremony before a home game, the loudest cheer of the night came for Faucette, who hopes to study exercise and sports science at UNC-Charlotte.

And the second loudest cheer came late in the fourth quarter, when Faucette grabbed an offensive rebound, stepped through two Orange Panther defenders and flipped in a right-handed layup.

This time, no one taunted. Not that Faucette would’ve cared if they did.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.


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