Zamica Gage is just 39 points shy of becoming the 11th player in the history of the Gallaudet University women's basketball program to reach the career 1,000-point mark. That milestone would have seemed out of reach just two years ago, when Gage returned to college basketball following an extended absence.
After graduating from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in 2010, Gage enrolled at Gallaudet. During her freshman season, Gage played in eight games and averaged 8.0 points, 3.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals for a Gallaudet team that went 24-4 and made the school's most recent NCAA tournament appearance.
She sat out the following season but was back on the roster for the 2012-13 campaign. However, a preseason injury sidelined Gage for the season, and she didn't return to the Gallaudet program until 2014-15.
Yet, Gage continued to play competitive basketball. She was a member of the U.S. women's basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. Two years later, after her junior season at Gallaudet, Gage played for the U.S. team that earned the title at the 2015 World Deaf Basketball Championships in Taoyuan, Taiwan.
Despite her absences from the college game, Gage has become one of the most productive players in Gallaudet's recent history. The 5-foot-8 guard has totaled 961 points, 319 rebounds, 226 assists and 220 steals while playing just 59 games in a Bison uniform. A senior from Washington, D.C., Gage has been at her best this season. She has averaged 19.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 4.7 assists for a Gallaudet team that has posted a 15-11 overall record and a 13-7 mark during the North Eastern Athletic Conference's regular season.
"I've always loved playing basketball," Gage said. "I was still involved, playing in the Deaflympics. For me, [the college layoff] was a time to take a step back and decide what I wanted to do."
Gage, who leads all NCAA Division III players with 123 steals, put together one of her best career performances during Gallaudet's 76-70 victory against Bryn Athyn during a NEAC tournament quarterfinal game Feb. 23. She contributed 33 points, six steals and four assists as the Bison advanced to the conference semifinals for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Gage, who was named first-team All-NEAC Feb. 25, has scored 31 percent of her team's total points this season despite rarely attempting a 3-point shot. She has made one 3-pointer in 14 tries during her senior campaign, after hitting just 14 treys during her junior year.
"She deserves everything that she gets, because she's worked hard at it," Gallaudet head coach Stephanie Stevens said. "Zamica always wants to do better not for herself, but for her teammates. That's what motivates her to improve."
While Gage is the catalyst for the Bison, she is not a one-person team. Sophomore guard Sabina Shysh is the team's other double-figure scorer, at 12.6 points an outing. Senior forward Danielle Morris is Gallaudet's top rebounder, pulling down 9.8 boards per game.
Gage, who holds 13th place on Gallaudet's career scoring list, made an immediate impact during her 2014-15 comeback season. As a junior, she led the Bison in scoring (16.0 points per game), steals (3.3) and assists (3.0). Her production helped Gallaudet post a 14-11 record, including 13-7 in conference play. Gage earned second-team All-NEAC honors and was also named to the conference's Scholar-Athlete Team.
"The first year back, I was a little rusty," Gage said. "I think that getting more experience [my junior year] helped me, and I'm going all out this year."
Gage will have another opportunity to get her Gallaudet team closer to an NCAA berth during the NEAC's championship weekend. If the Bison can defeat SUNY-Poly (21-5) in a Feb. 27 conference semifinal in Lancaster, Pa., they will face either host Lancaster Bible or Morrisville State in the Feb. 28 championship game for an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. The Bison haven't made a trip to the NCAA's since Gage's freshman season in 2010-11.
"We're not thinking about Sunday, because we have a Saturday game to get through first," Gage said. "We can't focus on what's too far ahead."