PROVO — Maria Albiero learned an extraordinary amount of discipline at a young age, and is reaping the rewards as a result.
Not to mention the BYU women’s basketball team, which has rounded into good form late in the season in large part due to the play of the 5-foot-8 junior guard.
Albiero has started at point guard throughout the season, stepping into the role after Shaylee Gonzalez tore her ACL prior to the start of the year. As she has with most everything in her life, the native Brazilian rose to the challenge presented, which hasn’t come as a surprise to BYU coach Jeff Judkins, nor her teammates.
“She’s the hardest worker on our team — by far, and not just with basketball,” Judkins said. “She just has a work ethic with everything she does that is really, really impressive, and nothing has been easy for her. She’s a coach’s dream.”
Albiero has played since her freshman year, but has made her strongest impact during the current season — her third at BYU — and has steadily improved with every game played. Getting to the point where she’s at now hasn’t been easy by any means, which Judkins alluded to.
Hailing from Londrina, Brazil, which is about a six-hour drive west of Sao Paulo, Albiero had to grow up and manage things on her own much earlier than most. At the age of 14 she moved away from her home to live with her father, Alci Albiero, in Sao Paulo in order to refine her basketball skills while playing for the Brazilian junior national team. Two years later it was a much bigger move, all the way to North Carolina to pursue even more basketball opportunities, along with better academic opportunities.
“She came to the US without speaking much English, but she got on to a good basketball program, with a coach we have a lot of contact with, and we eventually got her here at BYU,” Judkins said.
Judkins recognized Albiero’s talent early, and that she was capable of taking on a lot.
“I’ve probably been harder on her than I have been on anyone,” Judkins said. “It’s because I know what she’s capable of and I expect a lot from her. I know she can handle it.”
Albeiro smiles big upon hearing what her coach said, quickly adding, “I didn’t say it. He said it. Just remember that.”
Like Judkins said, Albiero has excelled off the court, as well on. She currently carries a 3.8 grade point average and is finishing up a major in exercise science, a pursuit she’s as serious and as disciplined about as everything else in her life.
“I have an opportunity to go to school for free, so I better sit on my butt and study and work as hard as I can,” Albiero said. “That’s the way I look at it. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity here at BYU — opportunities my parents didn’t have and it’s my job to make the most of it.”
Albiero credits both her parents for her hard work and extraordinary focus.
“They didn’t grow up in the best situations — both of them — but they worked and worked to make the most of it. That’s always been a great example to me,” Albiero said. “But it’s also my personality. I just like to really get after things and so far it’s worked out well.”
Albiero’s impact on this year’s team hasn’t come with big numbers, given her 6.3 points per game average and 3.3 assists, but via intangibles Judkins and her teammates readily recognize.
“She’s had to adjust and she’s extremely important to everything we do out there on the court,” Judkins said. “She came in not knowing how to play much of any defense, but has really worked hard on that and is now one of our top defenders. She is someone I use a lot to guard some of the top players we go against.”
As for Albiero, her focus is on helping out wherever she can, while remaining grateful for every opportunity.
“I really don’t think (Judkins) gets enough credit for how amazing of a coach he is. I’ve learned so much from him and I’m just so grateful to work for him and all of my wonderful teammates,” Albiero said. “I love coach and all of my teammates so much. We have a great group and I honestly don’t know what I’d do here without them. Fortunately it’s coming together and we hope just to get better and better from here.”