Freshman basketball player approaches game and life with determination.
To see Melody (Mel) Khlok on the basketball court, you'd likely
notice the freshman guard's never-back-down attitude toward the
game. What you wouldn't immediately know, however, is that the
Sacramento native has brought that same determination to overcoming
struggle after struggle to become the first in her family to attend college.
The third oldest of eight children born to Cambodian refugees, Khlok,
18, often missed class in high school to help out in her family's doughnut
shops. Yet after Khlok's mother suffered a stroke toward the end of her
sophomore year in high school, tight finances forced the family to sell
its shops. No shops meant no income. Three months after the medical
crisis, the family was kicked out of its home and forced to move three
times in one month. Khlok ended up living with a friend's family for
most of her junior year.
When she was with her family, Khlok often found herself sharing a
bedroom with several siblings—the family's four-bedroom house was
usually home to 17 immediate and extended family members. Throughout,
Khlok focused on school and basketball, a sport her uncle taught
her when she was in second grade.
"Giving up is not always the solution to things," she said. "You always
want to work hard, not just for yourself, but for others around you."
During her junior year, Khlok almost called it quits when the stress
became too much, but she ultimately rediscovered her internal
motivation. That drive paid off, with Khlok serving as captain of the
basketball team her senior year
and leading fellow players to a
section win. She was also named
MVP and had her name placed on
her school's gym wall. On top of
that, she graduated from Sacramento's
John F. Kennedy High
School with a 3.5 grade-point average and a scholarship to USF.
"Mel is a competitor who will not back down from anyone," said
Tanya Haave, USF's women's basketball head coach. "She doesn't
care who you are, what you have done. She once guarded an All-American
post player who is now at North Carolina and stopped her until
she got so frustrated the girl fouled out of the game."
Still, few teammates know about Khlok's off-the-court determination.
Khlok knows it's unfortunate that she’s had such weight to bear
on her young shoulders, but instead of talking about it, she simply
accepts it: "It's what I've got to do."
Part of what keeps her upbeat is the desire to make her parents proud
and to set a good example for her younger siblings. A business administration
major, Khlok looks to her past for dreams of her future—she
hopes to one day open her own business. That, coupled with basketball,
is all part of why she's at USF.
"I'm here for myself, of course, but also for my family," Khlok said.