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Vicksburg native Amber Gaston has continued to pursue her love for basketball after success on both the varsity and collegiate level.

Gaston was introduced to the sport at age nine by her grandfather. The game quickly became a lifestyle her. She could only then imagine what the future held.

“I started playing right here at the YMCA when they had biddy ball,” Gaston said. “I initially tried softball, but it didn’t work out. So, my grandad moved me to basketball because when he saw how tall I was going to be then eventually made it up to the junior high team.

Gaston was a cheerleader and a Vikette, who struggled to perform on the court in junior high. She was soon introduced to former Warren Central High School Head Coach Jacqueline Glass. Glass saw much potential in the young athlete. Gaston quickly went from being just a junior high player, to competing on the varsity level as a freshman in high school.

“I played in a lot of games as a freshman and Coach Glass allowed me to get out there and I would watch Shay Bracey, who was in my position. She helped me get comfortable. By the time I was a sophomore, things really started to pick up and that’s when I realized that basketball was something I really wanted to do,” Gaston said.

Gaston was introduced to travel basketball at the end of her sophomore year. She prepared for what would come next when she faced more talented athletes. This led her to a breakout season as a junior.

“Discovering travel ball really helped me out and we would play teams over in Louisiana. I eventually found a team over in Jackson that really helped develop me. We would travel to places like Atlanta and Texas and that showed me how much talent was out there.”

Her hard work paid off for both her junior and senior year. Gaston led the Vikings to deep playoff appearances and was at the top of her game. Gaston managed outstanding performances over Vicksburg and Forest Hill. She scored 18 and 21 points, respectively.

After helping the lady Vikes to a 23-9 season as a junior, Gaston received offers to play at Florida Atlantic University, Southeast Louisiana, Hampton University, Alcorn State and numerous other colleges. She chose to take her talents to the sunshine state and accept the offer at Florida Atlantic University. She still had one more year at Warren Central.

As a senior, Gaston averaged 12.2 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. The Lady Vikes captured a 22-9 season this year.

Gaston knows the struggles high school athletes face. Although things can seem glorified, many struggles present themselves for those attempting to be the best.

“There’s a lot of different changes that high school athletes go through, but it’s really important to find your position on the team and just embrace your role,” Gaston said. “It’s very overwhelming knowing that that you have to do so much just to be the best, but as long as you know what you want to do and don’t hesitate then you should be set.”

“The Motivation for me was that I knew that I didn’t want my parents paying for me to go to college. Since they put in all the work on getting me trainers then I could work hard enough to get me a scholarship. I let that be my driving force.”

Gaston quickly found herself as a freshman at a Division 1 school playing in 26 games. She averaged 7.7 points per game.

“It was very eye-opening because of the different level of play and the competitiveness. But, I expected it and embraced it, although I didn’t think I was going to play much, but luckily my coach motivated me so when I got out there I was able to get the experience I needed and I grew a lot that year.”

Gaston’s second season was spent mostly observing the older players while continuing to gain experience. She competed in another 26 games and performed well against Western Michigan by scoring 19 points.

By her senior season, Gaston was a starter for FAU and began the season with a 10-game double digit scoring streak. She also dominated over North Florida with a 25 point performance and 12 rebounds.

Gaston was finally recognized for her talents at FAU after multiple double-doubles in a game against Florida Memorial. She scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

“I received the Conference USA Player of the week. I was so proud of myself because I knew how much hard work I put in and with all the changes including a coaching change,” Gaston said.

Over the years, mental health has played a big role in the lives of college athletes. Gaston has offered advise for those who may be going through their own challenges.

“We have sports counselors at my school, so absolutely don’t keep things in because it can get overwhelming. You can confide in a family member or teammate or even a coach because many people care. Reach out, because there are some things you can’t handle,” she advised.

The progress that Gaston made over her previous season has convinced her to keep going and to strive for more success. She is about to enter her final year with her team.

“Being a leader and having a over .500 record is what I want and whatever I have to do to make the team better I’m up for it,” she said.

Gaston has been training with multiple professional athletes this summer. She is eying a larger goal of playing professionally after her 2023 season.

“After I seen how they train and their motivation for the game I’m convinced that I want to go overseas and I want to do my best,”

Gaston will be headed back off to school soon but she always wants to see athletes from her hometown succeed.

“Believe in yourself because things are going to get low but if you’re able to have a ounce of perseverance then you’re going to succeed an don’t be afraid to go out and try something new,” Gaston said in advice to the younger generation.

Being the oldest of four kids, Gaston has always relied on family to keep things positive in her life. They remain her most cherished asset in life.

“Without my family I wouldn’t be here because they are my main driving force. We all bonded throughout the years and they made important sacrifices for me,” Gaston said. “I’m grateful to have my siblings and I want to be successful for them. I miss them when I’m off at college but I hope to be a great role model for them.”

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