January 14, 2023 

How hard work and patience have paid off for Rhode Island’s Mayé Touré

'How you do anything is how you do everything'

After a particularly difficult game early in her career, Rhode Island junior Mayé Touré went back to the court after the team met in the locker room. Though the Rams had won the game, Touré felt like she personally had lost because she hadn’t played hard enough and wasn’t proud of what she did during the game.

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Touré was running sprints when head coach Tammi Reiss walked back to the arena to talk to her parents after the press conference. The scene wasn’t unusual for her to walk into; Reiss referred to Touré’s postgame work, whether it was shooting or sprints, as her “postgame ritual.”

“After every game she didn’t play, [she’d be] in her uniform after the game on the court for another hour,” Reiss told The Next. 

She added, “This is what she does. Because when the opportunity comes, she will be ready and she will embrace it.” 

After two years of limited playing time, averaging 7.3 minutes per game, Touré’s patience and hard work have paid off. This season, she is averaging 14.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game. Marie-Paule Foppossi and 2021 Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Year Emmanuelle Tahane finished their Rhode Island playing careers in 2022, and Touré had another opportunity to prove herself and earn a starting position.

Going into this season, all Reiss knew was that Touré could run the floor and that she was athletic; Reiss only found out what Touré could contribute when she returned to Rhode Island. Instead of staying in Kingston, Rhode Island, this summer and working with associate head coach Adeniyi Amadou, Touré returned to her home country of France, played for the U20/21 French national team, and competed in the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship. 

She was able to play in games and be a leader instead of working on her individual skills, and she averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 22.3 minutes per game across seven contests. 

“I haven’t played many minutes in two years, and I almost forgot how to be a leader and how to really be the one that we can — we got to count on when it gets tight in the games,” Touré told The Next

She added, “I was a captain this summer. So all that, it really helped me show the example [and] be ready at all times. Be aggressive, too, because I lost my aggressiveness. I wasn’t really confident anymore. And to see that I was still able to dominate really put me in a more confident place for this season.”

Though she didn’t play a lot during her freshman and sophomore years, Touré didn’t transfer, which she now says is the “best decision” she’s ever made. She doesn’t think she would have been as patient without the examples of Foppossi and Tahane. 

“I kept working, put my head down, didn’t really bother it or think about why am I not doing that and the other freshmen are doing that,” she said. “I was really focused on the process. And I think that helped me to see [Foppossi] and [Tahane] go through the same thing. Maybe if they wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t be patient and I probably would’ve transferred or probably would have went back [and] played in France.”

Reiss believes that Touré’s patience and diligence toward improving led her to earn a starting spot this year. 

“We’re very honest with our players as well, and Mayé knew like, ‘Mayé, you can’t make these same mistakes over and over. I can’t put you on the floor,’” Reiss said. “And now, she said, ‘Okay, I’ll work at it in the offseason.’ She did. And now she’s a different player. But patience is a virtue sometimes. And then will you be ready for your opportunity? Or do you [say,] ‘Woe is me. I deserve, I deserve, I’m entitled, I earned [it].’ No, she came and she took it.”

If she could give her younger self advice, Touré would say, “Listen.” She admitted to being stubborn and making the same mistakes repeatedly, not because she intended to do whatever she wanted, but because she didn’t pay enough attention to what the coaches were telling her. 

“Even though it cost me two years on the bench, I don’t regret it because that’s something I had to learn,” she said. “And now if I go pro, I might find myself in this situation again and now that I’ve been through that, I know that I got to do whatever is asked and just be simple until I’m comfortable and the coaches trust me. And then I can kind of play more and try more risky things on the court.”

Touré’s patience has set an example for everyone in the program. 

Hawa Komara, a redshirt freshman at Rhode Island, played with Touré for two years in high school. She watched Touré go from playing a lot in high school to waiting patiently at Rhode Island and continuing to work to improve her skills to earn a starting position. 

“I’m proud of her … and it’s inspired me to do the same thing. Because I know it’s that possible,” Komara told The Next. “And I know I can do the same thing.” 

When Komara came to Rhode Island prior to the 2021-22 season, Touré helped her with her English and helped explain how things worked and what basketball in the United States was like. Touré also taught Komara how to work, improve her skills and have confidence, not only by putting in the work individually after games but also by encouraging Komara to join her when she worked on shooting and cardio. 

In addition to acknowledging that the younger members of the team look up to Touré as a leader and have learned from her patience, Reiss believes that Touré taught her how to be more patient as well. 

“I have a problem with patience … What I take from her is patience, and grind and keep getting better,” Reiss said. “And that’s one thing I’ve taken from Mayé is really grow yourself. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to make mistakes, and then get better every day.” 

In turn, Reiss has helped Touré accept that she can’t be perfect and how to be “a goldfish”; she has shown Touré the clip from “Ted Lasso” “more than 100 times.” 

Although Reiss has shortened the quote from “You know what the happiest animal in the world is? … It’s a goldfish. It’s got a 10-second memory” to just “Goldfish,” the message still gets across. 

“I’ll just look at her and say, ‘Goldfish,’ and she’ll shake her head and smile and laugh and run down the court,” Reiss said. 

She added, “She wants to win. She wants to do well, in the worst way. She would give anything to win and to perform well … She’s not [messing up] because she’s just lack of effort or lazy. She just made a mistake. Now she’s got to relinquish that. A lot of times she’s harder on herself than I am.” 

Reiss also reassures Touré that she will make mistakes, which is okay; that she still trusts her; and that Touré continues to improve.

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Touré got her start in basketball because of her sister. When she was six, she would go with her dad to pick up her sister from her basketball practices and take a ball from the sideline and try to imitate the drills her sister was doing. 

“I was just throwing the ball and trying to run faster than the ball,” Touré said. “And then one day the coach asked me if I wanted to try and I said yes.” 

The sport came easily to her and she always had a scorer’s mentality. 

Growing up, Touré also played soccer and did hip-hop. While Touré doesn’t believe the former helped her in basketball, the latter helped her gain confidence. She always returned to basketball, though. 

“It just felt like home,” Touré said. “I just felt comfortable. I was better at it, too. And it was just more enjoyable. And I could see a future in it.” 

Touré leads by example in practice and aims to be the first one to do what is asked. She also tries to talk to younger players because she knows the challenges that come with not playing. Her leadership extends off the court as well. Komara said Touré’s welcoming nature is helpful for the freshmen because she breaks the ice when chatting in a group. 

“She talks with everybody,” Komara said. “She likes to know how people are. She likes to know who people are, like truly [in] her heart. So she [likes] to talk a lot, even with the coaches. She likes to share her stories and listen to people.”

Culture has been important to Reiss during her time as head coach, and she described Touré as “a culture kid.”

“Her work ethic on the court, her work ethic off the court, how we treat people here now,” Reiss said, “everything — she is almost perfection in what she does and how she does it.”

Touré’s favorite basketball memory was her time with Tango Bourges Basket during the 2019-20 season. 

“Being the youngest and [I] have to, got the opportunity to just watch how they behave, how they take care of their bodies, how they play, how they practice every day, [and to] be part of the group, it was the best thing for me,” she said. “And being able to play in the EuroLeague game, too, was really — I will always remember the first time.”

Each year, Reiss has her players research and prepare a presentation on an animal that best represents them and their characteristics. When Touré was a freshman, she thought she was a lion, but Foppossi had already picked that, so she picked a fox, in part because everyone thought she was a fox.

Looking back, Touré was shy and lacked confidence. This season, she decided that, in her words, “nobody is going to be playing harder than me or working harder than me, and I was going to truly be myself and show my character.” 

People are now seeing that she is a lion. 

“I’m the one, I’ll fight. I’ll defend my pride. I want to be the one. Give me the ball, get out of my way, and I’m going to eat you alive,” Reiss said, explaining Touré’s mindset this season. 

Not only did she regain her confidence over the summer by playing with her national team, but she also learned about being herself and the positive impact that has on her play on the court.

“You’re never going to be a better player than if you’re yourself,” Touré said. “I used to never talk in a group or never express myself with adults … I was just being quiet and just listen[ing] because to me, it was just the adult talks and the children listen.”

She added, “My coach this summer really taught us that it’s important to express what you think, say what you got to say. It was very uncomfortable at first to change that. But I understand that it was making me better on the court. So I [bought] into it. And I really started to talk, not be shy anymore and not be scared of what people were going to think of me. And I just do the same thing on the court, too. So now I feel way better. I feel like I’m myself. Nobody thinks that I’m a way that I’m not really.”

Touré started this season with 27 points at Harvard. Though she thought it was a bad night for her defensively, she proved to herself that she could score. It also helped her set goals for what she wanted to do in the future, like continuing to score while also increasing her rebounding output. Throughout the season, her rebounding average has increased. 

Reiss was surprised that night by Touré’s aggression in scoring and getting rebounds because she hadn’t previously been that way. 

“That’s really when I knew, when this kid decides she’s going to be a player and she wants the ball, we’re going to be really good,” Reiss said. The Rams sit at 13-3 on the season (4-0 in A-10 play) and are undefeated at home in part due to Touré’s play. 

Reiss next wants to see improved decision-making and reading and reacting to what opposing teams are doing, because as Touré continues to improve, Reiss knows she’s going to see double teams and have teams dig on her. 

When she was recruited, Touré was a 3-point shooter, but she had to relearn the fundamentals, including which foot to pivot on because it was different from what she had learned in France. Though she’s only attempted two 3-pointers this season, she still works on them every night in the gym. 

While she has not reincorporated that into her game yet — something Reiss says is part of the next step — her versatility has still helped the team. 

“I’m able to score in the paint, able to run in transition,” Touré said. She later added, “I remember a couple tight games, end of games, they were expecting me to post up and I just take the opportunities when I had some face-up drives.”

Reiss believes Touré’s ability to hard hedge and defend multiple effort plays is key for the team. Touré is able to cover up weaknesses, including guarding guards when her teammates aren’t able to off the bounce.

“She’s our safety net,” Reiss said. 

Rebounding is one of Touré’s primary responsibilities, and she tries to do her work in the paint early including winning her one-on-one matchups and boxing out. While it took until the team’s fourth game for Touré to get her first double-double of the season, she now has seven, including five in a row between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12.

Touré writes out her goals, separated into short- and long-term as well as what she needs to improve on so she doesn’t get overwhelmed and feel down. 

“It really helps because sometimes I just feel like I have too many like things in my head, too many things I have to fix, too many problems,” she said. “It’s often not that deep, and I just got to come back to the base and look at what I said I had to work on and just focus on the basics that I already defined and just do it instead of keep trying to figure out many things at the same time.”

She would like to become one of the top rebounders in the A-10 and is 10th in the conference in rebounds per game as of Jan. 13. In addition, she wants to improve her confidence in the paint, make quicker decisions, improve her defense, and reduce her fouls. As a team, she wants to win an A-10 championship and go to the NCAA Tournament. 

While she has seen her hard work pay off, Touré knows that she can’t become complacent and must work hard to continue to improve, even though she may be tired from playing more minutes. “I have to be disciplined enough to keep working because the results are going to be for the future and not today,” she said. 

Touré loves the sport she plays so much that even just talking about it makes her emotional. 

“The emotions, the working hard, even the hard times, the playing with the team, creating the connections with teammates that are going to be really strong, and celebrating shots or celebrating blocks or celebrating charges — like, I just love everything about the game,” she said. 

Touré has also learned over the years what the journey to becoming a great basketball player is truly about. “To be a good basketball player is way more than just scoring and the flashy things we can see on the court. It’s also like the person you are, the dirty work you do, the rebounding, the defense,” she said.

She added, “Coach [Amadou] really and everybody, the whole coaching staff, they really teach us how to be a good person first before being a good basketball player.”

Basketball has taught Touré many things, but especially that “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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