McKelton's Little Secret

Tallahassee, FL - Tameka McKelton dreamed of playing basketball overseas one day. That was going to be her plan once she graduated from Florida A&M. But that all changed in December 2010.

McKelton learned she was pregnant.

Five months after the basketball season ended, McKelton gave birth to her daughter, Auria. The date was August 20, 2011.

Now, she doubles as a student-athlete and a mother.

"It's pretty challenging as far as being able to keep track with everything," she said.

But nobody - her coaches, her friends, her family - knew about her pregnancy until the end of her junior season.

"Roughly, I played about two or three months pregnant," McKelton admitted.

The West Palm Beach native feared she would get kicked off the basketball team. So she hid her secret from everyone except for her boyfriend and one of her teammates.

Senior Forward Qiana Donald played with McKelton since their freshman seasons. McKelton felt like she could trust her.

"That was real tough seeing her going through that and you couldn't say nothing," Donald said. "But, at the end of the day, I just pulled her to the side and said are you okay and just make sure she's all right."

"I basically just gritted my teeth, went to practice every morning even though I was sick, flew on the planes and just played as hard as I could, but carefully, because I knew what was going on inside," McKelton said.

The NCAA handbooks states that a pregnant athlete can still participate in their sport as long as the doctor has cleared them to do so. It reads as follows: "Our athletics department will allow a pregnant student-athlete to continue to participate in a limited manner on the team, including all team-related activities, unless the student-athlete’s physician or other medical caregiver certifies that partial participation is not medically safe."

However, McKelton said she got around it.

"I asked the doctor if it was okay to still be active and the doctor said yes, exercise is always good. But I kind of took it and ran with it," she said.

Doctor A.J. Brickler has worked as an Obstetrician for 30 years. He's dealt with various athletes over this time and said McKelton was clearly putting herself at risk.

"Contact where a potential fall on the abdomen could disrupt the placenta, the afterbirth, and separate it from the wall of the uterus and there could be a sheering effect, almost like a car crash," he said.

But McKelton, who's school's the all-time three point leader, kept playing.

"I fine-tuned my game to where I could help but not have to do all the dirty work,' she said.

FAMU Head Coach LeDawn Gibson said she had been in a similar situation before when she coached at the high school level. One of her athletes had also gotten pregnant. So Gibson knows if she had any knowledge that McKelton was pregnant, she would've benched her.

"Shocked. I had no idea," Gibson said. "I Knew her game had changed a little. I asked her why she didn't tell me and she said she didn't want to quit playing. She didn't want to give up on her team. That meant a lot for me."

McKelton's not alone in taking care of her child. She confesses she's lucky to have her boyfriend, Patrick Franck, help out.

"He keeps the baby when I'm on the road and when he has to go to class he usually takes her with him," she said.

"We have our little moments where it can get tough at times, but we always figure out a way to pull through," Franck said.

There have been many challenges for McKelton along the way, but she has only managed to miss one game her senior year. The biggest result of all is that she will graduate with a Criminal Justice degree this semester.

"The past year has really put life into perspective for me as far as knowing what's important. God, family, school, everything. It's helped me mature," she said.


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