By John Armwood III
(photo courtesy of @kees2life & @wydjody)
Where did it all Start for Victoria Mazzeo?
Throughout Victoria Mazzeo’s childhood oftentimes she moved around a lot, however the two cities that helped shaped her into the woman she is today were Detroit and Philadelphia. Mazzeo’s journey originated in Detroit, Michigan, from the fourth to the ninth grade. There she learned her toughness and built her character as a player. Normally, she played with all the boys and came home endlessly with bloody noses and bruised body parts. She admits that she didn’t want to seem weak and the majority of the injuries stemmed from her putting herself in bad positions.
“I don’t think my game is pretty, but my hustle, grit, and sheer will to win I have to credit to Detroit and Philly,” Mazzeo explains. “When I was younger, I’d come home with bloody noses from my own doing. The boys would try to take it easy, however I’d always jump for rebounds and fight for loose balls.”
Later, Mazzeo moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she’d finish her entire high school and collegiate career. While she dominated middle school sports due to her size and height, this wasn't the case as many continued to grow and eventually catch up to her. Naturally, Mazzeo was forced to adapt her game to find ways to be effective. Ultimately, her hard work, energy, fundamentals, and tangibles granted her an opportunity to play at the collegiate level.
“I played at Chestnut Hill College and Arcadia University,” Mazzeo states. “Hard work has never scared me, in fact I’m used to running off three hours of sleep.”
Although she never played Division I, she was respected amongst her peers as such. Many of these characteristics were transferred over in her professional career.
“I can handle 10 to 12-hour days, it’s nothing compared to what I went through in college,” Mazzeo continues.
Transitioning From Athlete to Professional Career
Prior to becoming “Babyyyv”, where she got the nickname from her teammates Jess and Jen for being youngest and smallest on the team at the time, Mazzeo explains how tough it was to break into the industry, especially for a woman. Initially, after Mazzeo graduated college, she admits she needed an adventure. Therefore, she managed to find a job in Los Angeles, California, in pharmaceutical and medical sales. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worst, in fact she eventually got laid off just months later due to the pandemic and the nationwide lockdown. Despite the misfortune, Mazzeo remained composed and truly appreciates her parents, her boyfriend Nathan Hudson, and best friend Jen Caison and the rest of her inner circle for always supporting and believing in her when times looked bleak.
“In the industry, it’ll always be ebs and flow, meaning one week this person can be killing and the following week they’ll fall off,” Mazzeo explains. “The support and the inner circle are the most important to me because no matter what, I have people who love me so organically.”
“For example, one night, I was able to get courtside tickets to the Philadephia 76ers, however her parents declined because they needed to go to a neighbor get-together,” she continues.
Fortunately, that humility and almost ignorance to a fault, allows Mazzeo to stay grounded and remember the most important things of life. The character in which they raised Mazzeo still spews out in times of need. Despite her parents not glamorizing celebrities, she explains how in times of need that mindset helps her persevere and continue to not sacrifice her morals and dignity by any means.
Victoria Mazzeo’s “Sh3GotGame Moment”
During the interview, Mazzeo explains in great detail how her game isn’t necessarily pretty, however her attributes she provides something nobody can teach. Her mindset is one of her most important weapons on and off the court. That said, one of her idols and players she modeled her game after was NBA Hall of Famer Ben Wallace. Wallace wasn’t the most skilled player, however he did all the small things correctly and was an ultimate team player which made him a force during his tenure.
“I always love players who play hard and with grit, I’m almost a team player to my own detriment,” she describes her mindset while playing. “I’m capable of more but I like to show my value in defense and other aspects of the game.”
For the first time in Sh3GotGame history, Mazzeo delivered two different moments as her “Sh3GotGame Moment”. One of those moments was in college and the other was in her professional career.
During her senior year of high school, Mazzeo was put in a position to hit the game-winner to advance in the playoffs, however she missed the shot. Naturally, feeling terrible that she let her team down, additionally, she overheard the coaches arguing about whether they made the right decision. Naturally, this added doubt to her confidence moving forward. Despite failing at that moment, she had another opportunity in her senior year of college to do something similar. However, this time she capitalized on the moment and won the game for her team and she explained how her failure prepared her for the magnitude of this moment three years later.
“Unfortunately, I heard the coaches arguing, one of them defended me while the other belittled me,” she said. “... Naturally, in college, I got in the same opportunity and was freaking out, but once I stepped on the court I knew it was my time.”
“My coach said she saw it in her eyes and just knew it was going in,” Mazzeo continues.
Later in her career, she had an opportunity to play in a celebrity game at Dyckman Park in New York. She admits this was the most crowded game she has ever suited up in front of and she felt slightly out of place. However, once she got the ball and shot the half court shot with double-rims and made it, naturally the park erupted and she felt like at that moment she arrived.
“It was one of the greatest feelings, I’ve ever felt,” Mazzeo states. “I’ll admit, during my time playing, I’ve never played in front of that many people so that shot just meant that much more to me.”
Role Models and Guidance Within the Industry
Growing up in Philly, Mazzeo wasn’t privileged enough to have celebrities at her disposal and overall there aren’t as many as there are in Los Angeles. That said, it’s much more frequent and more opportunities to network and meet people on the west coast. While breaking into the industry Mazzeo's goals were to never be famous or be in as big a room as she is in these days. In fact, there are moments when she sits and reflects on her journey before truly appreciating the opportunities to work with NBA HOFers Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady.
“There are definitely some stories where I wouldn’t suggest meeting your heroes, however Iverson and T Mac didn’t let me down for a second, it’s something I thank god for,” Mazzeo emphasizes.
Eventually in her career, after working up the ranks and putting in the work, she finally was promoted to Los Angeles Lakers trainer Phil Handy’s admin. Meaning, she handles a lot of his scheduling and communication amongst clients, and really anything he may need help with during his operation hours. She explains how important of a role Handy has played in her life and how these opportunities have ultimately led to other opportunities, however without Handy many of these fortunate wouldn’t be possible. She looks at him as a role model and attempts t learn from him as much as possible.
“Phil’s one of the best people I’ve ever met,” she explains. “When I first moved, it wasn’t easy to navigate out here. He was one of the few people who were good people. I used to volunteer with him a lot until I convinced him eventually to work with me. I think he thought and saw the genuineness I felt about him and ever since we never looked back.”
“He always has my back, he’s family,” she continues. “He’s never steered me wrong in my career.”
Un-glamorizing the Entertainment Industry
Some see what reporters and individuals post on the internet in regard to sports, however they don’t see the things behind the scenes that a person had to do to get there. That said, Mazzeo explains the majority of her journey was doing things for free for people in hopes of a bigger opportunity. For example, she explains about times that she would schedule “business meetings” with Handy just so he could pay for food to eat.
“Handy knows this, but there were moments throughout my career I had no clue where my next meal was coming from,” Mazzeo emphasizes. “I used to go to events and hoard snacks, just I can have something to feel me up at night.”
“At times, it’s sometimes a world I wish I wasn’t exposed to,” she states.
Unfortunately, in the industry, there’s a ton of uncertainty and Mazzeo attempted to highlight some of that, especially with the youth following. She advises that many looking to break into the industry direct message five of their favorite individuals in sports and offer to intern for free. She believes this is one of the best opportunities to grow in the business and network internally, instead of externally.
“Biggest advice would be to not look for the most money, and just go into a field you really care about and love because the money will come,” Mazzeo emphasizes.
In conclusion, Mazzeo is a testament to not giving up and always fighting for whatever the objective may be. Not only is her story inspiring, but it’s informative and can allow others looking to break into the industry some sense of reality. When asked if was there anything left she wanted to leave with anyone following her journey, she responded:
“I’d say just go for it and never stop believing in yourself. Always believe in yourself as greater than anyone could ever doubt. Failing isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you continue learning.”