Playing basketball for a storied name like Syracuse University takes commitment, work ethic, and long hours in the gym. Tiana Mangakahia, a former women’s basketball player for the Orange, learned firsthand about the hard work and dedication required to excel at her sport.
And along the way, she discovered a level of dedication that extended far beyond the hardwood.
As a junior in 2018-19, the Brisbane, Australia native led Syracuse in points (16.9 per game) and assists (8.4 per game). Her efforts earned her First Team All-ACC honors and an All-America honorable mention. Looking towards her senior year, she was poised to level up her game and make a run at the WNBA.
But just before that season, Mangakahia’s life changed forever.
She was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.
As Tiana battled through truly rough times off the court, she still stayed present for the Syracuse team. She continued to attend classes and sporting events, and relished opportunities to hang out with her teammates.
“Battling breast cancer was definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. It has helped shape me into the person I am today, mentally and physically,” she said.
In November 2019, Mangakahia underwent a five-hour surgery, and would eventually be declared cancer-free. Throughout her journey, she never gave up on her dream to resume playing basketball, played her senior season at Cuse in 2020-21 and averaging 10.8 points and 7.7 assists per game.
“Basketball has taught me so much from learning how to work with others, building relationships and just being yourself on the court,” she said.
For Tiana Mangakahia, life after Syracuse has meant pursuing a new dream: playing basketball at the professional level. In May, she signed with the Northside Wizards of Australia’s NBL1 league.
Tiana is an inspiration to all student-athletes who are met with great challenges — and inspiration to keep showing up and never give up. No matter what.