By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
On Monday, with rain pelting the roof of his office, TMU women’s basketball coach Dan Waldeck retrieves a cell phone from his desk to show something rarer than water falling from the Southern California sky.
In an Instagram video – in slow motion, no less – Stephanie Soares leaps toward a 10-foot rim and flushes the ball with one hand.
Soares is 6-foot-6. She can dunk. She can shoot. She can pass. She can block shots in a way that changes the entire dynamic of a game.
Of interest to Waldeck, Soares is a Christian, and this summer she signed to play for the Mustangs starting in 2018-19.
“There’s not many like her,” Waldeck said of Soares, whose sister, Jessica, and brother, Tim, already play basketball for Master’s. “She’s 6-6, maybe 6-7 with shoes, maybe taller, but she plays bigger than that. And she can play smaller than that. She has guard skills.”
If it all sounds too good to be true, pull up ESPN.com. There, Soares holds a “95” scouts grade on a scale of 100. She is the No. 10 prospect in the country at her position and No. 53 overall. An evaluation on the site reads, “Superior length, shot blocking presence and mobility; emerging offensive game; versatile defender with limitless potential.”
Last season, playing for Mt. Baker High in Deming, Washington, she won the Class 1A state title alongside Jessica, who’s 6-3. And Waldeck can already envision pairing the sisters together, again.
“People are going to have to deal with the twin towers for a while,” Waldeck said. “I’m glad they’re on our team.”
A team that’s been years in the making.
Waldeck attended Master’s with Stephanie’s father, Rogerio, in the 1990s, and he has coached with her mother, Susan.
“It feels like we’re finishing our family,” Waldeck said.
For Stephanie, who is currently doing home-schooling and training in Brazil, where her parents are missionaries, Master’s presented an opportunity to grow in her faith.
“I chose Master’s because I will be able learn more and more about God and my faith,” she said via email. “I will be able to build relationships (with people) who share the same faith as me. I will be playing for a coach who will not only teach me more about the game of basketball but who will help me grow in my faith.”
Soares will also be joining a program that’s made the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship tournament in each of the last five seasons and is off to a 10-3 start this year behind the play of Hannah Forrar, Brooke Bailey, Anika Neuman and others.
The team boasts three juniors and no seniors, though. So the core will be around when Stephanie arrives – a combination with the makings of something special.
“My goal is to always play for an audience of one – God,” Stephanie said.