Failure to success: NOC Enid's Monique Tramble overcomes potential life-changing mistake

NOC Enid's Monique Tramble dribbles upcourt against Ft. Scott November 11, 2019 at the Central National Bank Center. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID — Monique Tramble is the fuel that ignites and combusts the efficient engine that is the Lady Jets' offense.

When the Northern Oklahoma College Enid speedy sophomore guard is sprinting down the hardwood in transition, she is constantly three steps ahead of everyone else, anticipating the moves of the defenders and finding the slim gaps to execute the perfect assist to her teammates, whether it's a lay-in or a 3-pointer from the corner.

"Her vision is incredible," said NOC Enid head coach Scott Morris. "She'll find them and make the game a lot easier."

Tramble doesn't make many mistakes on the court, but there is one life decision she regrets more than anything.

An ill-fated choice

After graduating from Shawnee High School in 2016, Tramble began her college career at NOC Enid later that fall. As a freshman, she started in the first 12 games of the season for the Lady Jets before Carley Frymire, a sophomore at the time, made a full return from an injury and took over.

On Jan. 16, 2017, Tramble went into Morris' office between classes and told him she intended to quit the team.

Stunned by what he was told, Morris asked her to think the decision through and what it could mean for her future. Not necessarily in terms of basketball, but getting a college education.

She played in a few more games, but before Morris could talk to her again about the situation, she withdrew from the college.

Tramble said everything she was going through at the time became too much of a challenge, from classes, to finances, to home life back in Shawnee.

"So I just gave up and quit," she said.

After packing her belongings, Tramble moved back to Shawnee. She stopped playing basketball completely and began working at a Sonic Drive-In.

Morris had very little contact with Tramble that summer. Nothing more than a couple brief text exchanges to check on her.

Tramble quickly got tired of the fast-food occupation and realized if she didn't do something to change the situation she put herself in, her life would not be enjoyable.

"I had a friend tell me I should have never gave up what I love and what I wanted to play," Tramble said. "She got me thinking I really did make a huge mistake."

A second chance

Morris was sitting on the NOC Enid team bus traveling north to Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kan., for a tournament in early November 2017 when his phone started to ring. It was Tramble. He answered.

She asked if the two could meet when he had the time. Morris said he'd be back on campus that Monday.

When they met again in Morris' office, Tramble admitted she made a mistake and she wanted to come back and play again.

Morris was instantly ready and willing to help her. He wasn't completely sure how everything would work getting her enrolled and eligible again, but knew there would be stipulations of her being held accountable for her decision to leave.

"You have a lot to prove," Morris told Tramble at the time. "You walked out on not just me, but your teammates. You got a lot to prove to them that you're willing to come back in and pay the dues to get back in good standing."

Tramble enrolled again at NOC Enid for the Spring 2018 semester. Morris and her agreed on a handful of parameters — ranging from academics to social interactions — which she had to complete and maintain if she wanted to suit up in a Lady Jets uniform. Plus, she hadn't played let alone touched a basketball since she left nearly a year prior.

Morris said she was excelling and hitting her marks, except for a significant one.

Tramble failed a drug test in April 2018.

Initially, Morris had a knee-jerk reaction to the situation. In his nearly 20 years of coaching in Enid, he never had to deal with a case like this.

Morris was ready to cut Tramble from the program.

"I can't believe this," he said to Tramble after calling her into his office. "We had this set up and now you failed."

With tears running down her cheek, Tramble's head dropped. She felt like she was doing better and was on the right path.

As Tramble continued to cry, Morris took a minute to put himself in her shoes.

"Here's a kid who is looking to me as a male role model," he said. "What she really needs is somebody like me to put my arm around her and say, 'Hey you're doing good. You slipped, but we're going to help you.'

"What I was actually doing was shaking my head at her and telling her she failed. It was kind of a humbling moment for me and I really gained a lot of perspective."

Morris told Tramble he would take some time to consider what he planned to do next, but it didn't take more than a night for him to realize God put him in this situation to help people. He knew Tramble wasn't a bad kid, and she wasn't detrimental to the program. She made a mistake just like everyone else does at one point or another in life.

Rather than cutting Tramble on the first sign of imperfection, Morris said he would help her through the process and repercussions of her actions.

Today, Tramble is sincere when saying she regrets her lapse. When she was away from basketball, she had a contagious mindset of caring less.

She started hanging around the wrong crowd, again.

"It helped me relieve stress, but at the same time it didn't help anything," she said.

Back on the right path

After serving a two-game suspension at the start of the 2018-19 season, Tramble stepped onto the court in a competitive game for the first time in 647 days.

NOC Enid defeated Howard (Texas), 70-51, in the final game of the Thunderbird Classic in Hobbs, N.M., on Nov. 3, for the first of what would eventually be an 18-game winning streak. Tramble scored just two points, but added seven rebounds and seven assists.

"I was kind of nervous at first, but as soon as it got going and everybody started cheering, it just brought back what I lost," Tramble said. "I fell back in love with it again."

Not only has Tramble been a standout on a crowded Lady Jets squad, she was recognized as one of the top players in NJCAA Division I Region II, earning All-Region second team honors. She led the region in assists (147) and was third in steals (67).

In the 25 games Tramble was active for NOC Enid this season the Lady Jets were undefeated. In the three games in which she didn't play, they were 0-3.

Tramble and four teammates were benched for a non-conference game against Crowder College on Feb. 2 for a violation of team policy.

"We were at the wrong place at the wrong time," Tramble said.

Since that loss, NOC Enid has rattled off seven straight wins.

Morris admits he knew Tramble was capable of performing at a high level in her return. She just needed to steady things off the court first.

"I knew that all the areas of her life had to stabilize a bit for her to be her best on the court," Morris said. "I think that's allowed her to concentrate on basketball, or just relax and enjoy it instead of all those stresses that were pulling her away."

If she could go back and get another opportunity, Tramble said she would never have quit. But, she knows she can't reverse time, so instead she's made the most of what she's overcome.

Tramble said she's learned to take more responsibility for her actions, but more importantly, never give up or fold when life gets hard.

"I was going to be in the wrong path, but I changed it," she said.

Title chasing

With an undefeated conference record, the NOC Enid women earned the top seed for the Region II tournament this week in Shawnee.

The Lady Jets play the No. 7 seed Connors State (15-5, 6-10) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 3 p.m. on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University.

NOC Enid has advanced to the region championship game in five of the past seven seasons, but came out on top just once, in 2014, beating Eastern Oklahoma State 89-73. The Lady Jets lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the other four, including the past three years. The Lady Norse are the No. 2 seed.

More likely than not, NOC Enid needs to win the region tournament to clinch a spot in the national tournament, with slim odds of getting an at-large bid.

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Nagel is a sports reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at cnagel@enidnews.com.

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