MOTHER'S DAY can mean many things to different people. For Adashia Franklyn, it's a 365-day celebration. And that goes way back. Not that this Sunday won't be a little more meaningful, just because. But she wouldn't have it any other way. Neither would her mom.
"When I was little, I was always with her," said the Saint Joseph's junior forward, the Big 5's Most Improved Player last season. "She was the basketball coach for the boys team at a high school (Miami's Coral Reef) in Florida. She was the only woman in the state to do that. So I was always at the gym. When they practiced I used to roller skate around and play with my Legos or coloring books, when I wasn't watching her. That still remains very fresh in my mind.
"It finally got to the point where I was like, 'I want to play.' And she stopped coaching so she could teach me. I didn't ask her. She never forced me. My older sister (Marilyn Stephens-De La Cruz) was really accomplished in track. I think the only reason I didn't follow her, honestly, was that it was too hard. I like to be able to control the weather. And basketball was in my heart."
Maybe that's because her mother is Marilyn Stephens, the one-time Temple women's basketball All-America and a 2016 inductee into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Some genes.
"As long as I can remember, (Adashia) was always doing things for me," said Stephens. "She'd save her snacks and greet me with it. Or her favorite candy. She did that. I never asked. That's just how she was raised. I basically was a single mother. You try to direct them to what's right in life. I was that stable parent, you know. They know I'll do whatever I can for them too. Mom is there, she's praying for me. But I can't take all the glory. I couldn't do it without God's help."
Franklyn went to Bayard Rustin High in West Chester where she led the program to its first-ever Ches-Mont district championship as a junior. When the Hawks play Temple mom wears a Big 5 T-shirt. For all the other games she goes with St. Joe's colors.
"She knows what I did on North Broad Street, but she went there to become her own self," Stephens said. "It's about her, not me. She had to be comfortable. It feels like family to her. And we've always been about family. And education."
They share a unique bond. Adashia's father Dexter passed away when she was 15. But her mom was the constant. She knows she never had to worry about who was looking out for her. Which made the process of growing up that much smoother, even if it wasn't that simple to understand at the time.
"I had my sister, too, even though she was a lot older," Franklyn said. "She was my full-time babysitter sometimes. She took care of me. That's how it was. I always had somebody to look up to. I had the best role models you could ask for.
"I remember how excited my mom was when I chose St. Joe's. She was bubbling. She always had the smile on her face. It's funny, but all her church friends would tell me how much my mom would talk about me. It was like a 20-person group message. Then I saw her tapes from Temple, and I was so proud.
"She was a great player, and my mom. I had to handle the fact that it was a package. I never felt like it was a burden. She's my inspiration. I look up to her for everything. And that will never change."
Sometimes, it's mostly about the little things.
"I wanted her to get that Philly feel," said Stephens, a product of Gratz High. "She used to go to John Chaney and Sonny Hill camps in the summer. I think that helped. She even went to the Penn Relays.
"I'll never forget the first time she saw snow. We had just moved back, and we got like 3 feet back-to-back. She couldn't understand it. There was nowhere for her to go. She looked at me like, 'It's almost 3 feet past my knees.' It was a big introduction for her. But she adjusted well."
Then there was this snapshot from their South Florida years that remains frozen in their memories.
"It was a day in the park," Stephens recalled. "She had to make 10 layups before I'd let her get in the car (to go home). She kept missing the last shot. The lights came on outside, and she thought she was going to get out of it. I told her not yet. And I put the high beams on. And then she finally made it. She could not believe I did that . . .
"Her college entrance essay was called 'The Day at the Park.' She told the whole story. And people couldn't believe it. But it paid off, you know. Once you're committed to something you want, it's a commitment. You've got to go for it."
Franklyn, who's made the dean's list twice, is majoring in both sports marketing and communications. But she figures she might get into education, like her mom, sister and grandmother ("My sister thought she was going to be a business administrator, so who knows," she reasoned). When she graduates next year, her mom and sister will be receiving their master's degrees in educational leadership. Both want to become principals. Evelyn, Stephens' mom, is 87. Counting the grandchildren, that makes it a four-generation story.
"Mom would take notes at my games, snap some pictures on her phone so she could show me later," said Franklyn, who has also worked with legendary coach Theresa Grentz as her mom once did. "Sometimes, I would hate it. Now I realize that's what made me what I am. On the court and in the classroom. When I actually listened, I got better."
So how do you repay all that? Well, you treat Mother's Day as something a little extra special. Even when you know it's merely another opportunity to express your appreciation for everything.
"I do try to make it a big deal," Franklyn said. "At the same time, I talk to my mom every day. Some people don't even have a mother. Here's my mom, blowing up my phone. Sometimes it hits me. Mother's Day is honestly just another day. But we'll take her out to eat, buy her a nice gift. But that's something we do any time. The same thing we've been doing all these years.
"Saying 'I love you' is a very understated type thing. Or 'Thank you.' You don't realize how far that goes. I don't think people say it enough. Even me. Hopefully I can be half as good as my mom and sister, the examples they've set . . . I'm a card person. Probably one with a nice little Biblical message. Whatever I choose, it'll be from the heart."