Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - They didn't expect anything more. Not after the zip lining. Not after the trip to the gorgeous Mount Lemmon cabin. Not after getting their brand new Nike gear for the season. But Adia Barnes insisted. There was something else.
"She said, 'We have a gift for you guys that you guys can do whatever you want with'," said senior forward Dejza James. "'But hopefully it means a lot to you'."
Barnes handed each player a tiny bag filled with tissue paper.
"I was shaking it," said James. "I have no idea what this is."
Inside each bag was a single key.
"Everybody has the key to success," said Barnes. "Collectively we all have the key to do something special."
"You have to have the key to open the right door to get you to the place you want to go," said senior guard Malena Washington. "I think the key was a great symbol of that."
But it was more than just a metaphor. Each key was inscribed with a trait that reflected whomever owned that particular gift.
"What was more important than the key was the word on it," said Barnes. "Everybody had a different word that meant something to them,"
For senior guard Lauren Evans, the word was heart. For senior forward LaBrittney Jones, the word was inspire. For James?
"Mine says believe. I think that was really big for me because sometimes I doubt myself a lot."
"It shows how much (Barnes) pays attention to us individually on and off the court," said Washington. "How much she's invested in us. She has a lot of expectations for us and her standards for us are high. She's ready to see what we can do as a player and as a person."
Washington's key was inscribed with the word lead.
"I was kind of flattered," said Washington. "To know that she wants me to be in that position to be able to lead the team."
"I think it was huge," said James. "For her to come in and say hey, this is what I like about you. This is what I think you can do."
"I thought it was something special," said Barnes. "As a player I would have loved to get that."
Said James, "I hold it close to my heart every day."