MCCC Grad Nadine Elamary Commits to Rutgers University - Newark

Elamary, who came to Mercer by way of Alexandria, Egypt, is excited to take the next step in her academic and athletic careers.
Story by Brandon Johnson


Hamilton, N.J. – Nadine Elamary was one of the lucky ones.

While athletic games and practices were cancelled across New Jersey and the United States in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, Elamary, and the rest of the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women’s basketball team were able to finish out their season just a month before.

Unlike so many other collegiate athletes who put their athletic and academic plans on hold, being able to complete the season meant Elamary could continue her pursuit of transferring to play basketball and earning a four-year degree. She cemented those plans on Sunday, June 14, when she committed to transfer to Rutgers University - Newark.

Elamary, excited to get back in the gym at Rutgers, said she has been working toward this goal for months. She made a Hudl profile and shared her highlight tapes, which brought in a few offers to play, but held out until she heard back from one of her top choice schools.

Since committing, she’s been shaking off the rust that accumulates from not being able to play organized basketball for more than three months.

“Lately, I’ve been working out twice a day,” Elamary said. “Everyday, basketball wise, I go from 8:00 to 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. Then I’m doing a separate fitness plan to work on stamina.”

Though she’s fixated on arriving at Rutgers in the best shape possible, a few years ago, Elemary couldn’t fathom playing ball at a four-year school.

“I actually retired from basketball for two years, starting in my senior year of high school,” Elamary admitted. After transferring into Steinert High School for her junior year, Elamary found she didn’t mesh with her coach, and spent more time on the bench than on the court.

Leaving the team stung, but not because Elamary felt like she didn’t have the coach’s support. Rather, she had played basketball all her life and knew she had more to give than was seen at Steinert.

Elamary was born in Alexandria, Egypt and had been playing basketball since the age of five. Though she has older siblings, their age differences meant she spent much of her youth by herself, figuring out who she was without the influence of her big brothers and sisters.

“I’m the only one in my family with an athletic bone in their body,” Elamary said. She is sure her parents and siblings played soccer at some point, adding, “that’s just what you do in Egypt.” But Elamary was the only one to take sport beyond a casual activity.

“Basketball in Egypt is really competitive, but I’d like to think I kinda made it,” Elamary said. She was enrolled in a private school through her first two years of high school and played basketball year-round.

Getting benched at Steinert, especially traveling some 5,000 miles to live in Hamilton with her father and brothers, was a blow to her confidence.

It wasn’t until her first year at Mercer, when she talked to fellow Steinert alum Mary Kate Madonia, that she was convinced to get back on the court.

“I asked Coach Mike [Tenaglia] how I could play in April of my freshman year and started working out with coach Jane [Berlinger] that summer,” Elamary said. “Even though I hadn’t played for two years, during those workouts, Coach Jane could see I could play.”

By the time the season started in November, the women’s basketball team was 11 players deep. But after sitting the bench at Steinert, Elamary’s role was reversed, earning a starting spot for the Lady Vikings.

“Honestly I never thought I’d play again. Mercer gave me a chance,” Elamary said. “Coach Mike and Jane pushed my limits. They made me better than I am. Coach Mike was really tough on me. And Coach Jane would kick my ass in practice. But I knew they wanted me to invest in myself.”

Now, fully committed to Rutgers Newark, Elamary is enthusiastic about her next academic and athletic chapter. She is entering Rutgers as a graphics design major and has an eye on continuing toward an advanced degree.

“After I graduate, I want to go back for my master’s degree. While I take graphic design jobs, I think I’d like to teach at a college as well,” Elamary said.

Though she has yet to take the court with her new teammates – team meetings have been limited to Zoom calls during the pandemic – Elamary plans to join Rutgers following the same advice she gives to incoming Mercer athletes.

“Get on your grades, be eligible to play both semesters, and listen to the coach,” she said.

“Most of all, show up every day and prove yourself.” 

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Nadine Elamary committed to Rutgers University - Newark earlier this month.

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Elamary will attend RU - Newark to pursue a degree in graphic design.