Fargo North graduate Mary Sem no longer a 'sleeper' for the Cobbers
Kim Wagers described Concordia sophomore Mary Sem as a “sleeper.”
The first-year Concordia head women’s basketball coach said Sem was reserved the first time they met in an individual meeting.
“She was kind of quiet,” Wagers said.
Sem has shown different sides of her personality since that first impression.
“I’ve seen videos in the locker room, pregame, postgame, where she’s dancing and having fun with the kids,” Wagers said. “You got to get to know her and she lets her guard down a little bit.”
Sem has let loose on the court in her second season with the Cobbers. The Fargo North graduate leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game. Her scoring average has jumped around 10 points since her freshman season.
“Last year, since it was my first year, I kind of played with fear,” Sem said. “I held back a lot I guess. I just have more fun on the court and I just don’t think about it and I play. … I feel more confident in myself because I know my teammates are there to support me.”
Sem has scored at least 20 points in five games this season, netting a career-high 25 points on two different occasions.
“Some of it is maybe her being just a year older and knowing what to expect,” Wagers said. “She’s getting the ball in good spots and she’s got really good teammates around her, too, which helps a ton.”
Sem is relatively new to organized basketball. She didn’t play on a team until her freshman year in high school, although she started playing pickup games with her family at a young age. Sem would often go to the park with her siblings and play from early morning to late at night.
“Growing up, that’s all we did,” said Sem, who has five brothers and two sisters. “I always loved playing with my siblings.”
While she played plenty of basketball with family and friends, Sem said playing on her first organized team as a freshman was an adjustment.
“It was hard because I wasn’t really used to that team environment,” she said. “I wasn’t used to running plays and being coached by someone. I wasn’t used to that.”
Playing college basketball wasn’t a consideration for Sem during her freshman year at North. She credited one of her first coaches for believing in her talent. Sem said the coach told her she had so much potential.
“I never believed it,” she said.
Sem got her first taste of varsity basketball during her sophomore year at North. She said she was moved to the varsity team after injuries to upperclassmen. By the end of her senior season, Sem was good enough to earn a spot on the Class A team for the Lions All-Star series.
“One of my first proud moments was making it to the all-star game in North Dakota,” Sem said.
In her first season at Concordia, she averaged 4.5 points in 25 games, averaging 14.5 minutes per game. She made three starts.
“When I first got here, I was very quiet,” Sem said. “As time went on, I started to show different sides of myself. People got to see my goofy side, my sad side and like all of me I guess. As time goes on, I open up to people.”
Sem’s older brother, Siman Sem, plays men’s basketball at Minnesota State Moorhead. Her younger sister, Jennie Sem, is a senior on the North girls basketball team. She has a younger brother who is in the eighth grade and can dunk a basketball.
“All my siblings play basketball, I think that’s why I love the game so much,” Sem said.
Wagers expects Sem to continue to improve due to her steady demeanor, natural talent and work ethic. The 5-foot-9 Sem, who is primarily a post player, has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and also finish plays around the hoop with both hands.
“She’s got a lot of stuff that makes her very versatile, which is hard to guard,” Wagers said. “We need her to get touches, not necessarily always to score.”
Sem credits Wagers and Cobbers assistant coach Olivia Johnson for her development. Sem said Johnson has helped her improve on footwork and rebounding. Johnson was a standout player for the Cobbers.
“She has a second level sometimes where you are just like ‘Wow,’” said Wagers, who played basketball at Minnesota-Duluth. “I’m in awe sometimes with some of the things she can do.”