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Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

I stayed up late last night reading a story that truly moved me.

I came across it on ESPN Rise, an online publication that celebrates high school athletes. It was there that I found the story of Tierra Rogers, a young promising basketball player from San Francisco, California.

[I’m going to try and explain it, but I’m not going to do it justice. I highly encourage you to read the whole story on ESPN Rise].

Basketball had been a big part of Tierra Rogers’ life and relationship with her father, “Terray” (Terell) Rogers.

Like many dads, Terray was Tierra’s biggest fan.

As a former gang member (and ex-con), Terray’s life was changed when Tierra, his daughter, came into the world. He decided to dedicate himself to “cleaning up some of the mess he created”  on the streets. He often acted as a mediator to street arguments and conflicts, saving lives and bringing together the community.

As Tierra grew up, she and her dad spent many days on the basketball courts of San Francisco. Also, her “godfather” Guy Hudson, a former friend of Terray’s from the streets, started coaching Tierra privately.

It is on those courts in San Francisco that Tierra got good… real good. So good, in fact, that she went on to play at Sacred Heart Academy.

Of course, her dad was her biggest supporter. He gave her pep talks before games and was the loudest fan in the gym… always sitting in the first row, cheering her on.

But when Tierra was in her junior year, her cousin, Zakeel, was murdered on the streets (rumor is it was gang related).

This is something that affected her father, Terray, very deeply , and he stopped mediating the streets and started showing signs of frustration. Rumors were going around that he wanted to seek “revenge” on those that killed Zakeel. These were untrue, but Terray showed signs of concern.

And then it happened.

On January 12th, 2008, Terray was at his daughter’s high school basketball game.

At halftime, when he went outside for his typical cigarette, he was gunned down by two strangers.

And Tierra was left alone to cope. No more pep talks, no more first-row cheering. A few days later, ESPN wrote a piece about how she was struggling to cope.

I can’t even imagine the pain she’s been through or how she even begins to feel about basketball.

But what I can attest to is her strength – her strength to move on. Because she promised her dad that no matter what, she would always play, Tierra is still playing hard.

She’s set to play at Cal next year – and hopes to make the McDonald’s All-American Team.

I’d like to wish Tierra the best of luck – and let her know that she has my support. Cal is lucky to have grabbed her.

[To read the entire story, go to ESPN Rise].

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Sunday night in Indianapolis the NCAA announced Nkolika “Nicky” Anosike 2008 Woman of the Year.  Anosike led the Lady Vols of Tennessee to back-to-back Women’s Basketball National Championships.  Being an avid watcher of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and regular season play, I could not be happier with the NCAA’s decision!  Not only is Anosike a household name, at least in my house, but a woman with tremendous talent, who carries herself with such pride and confidence!

Anosike’s success spans across much more than the basketball court.  Anosike has many noteworthy achievements.  Her academic and athletic success combined is incomparable to most, and I do not think anyone will disagree on how deserving she is of this award.

Academic achievements: Graduated in May 2008 with a triple major in political science, legal studies and sociology. SEC Academic Honor Roll, 2005-08. ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American second-team, 2007-08. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship winner for Tennessee, 2008.

The recipe for determining the winner: “The annual Woman of the Year award recognizes outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in academics, athletics, leadership and service. A committee composed of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences selected the top 30 – 10 from each division – from 130 conference and independent nominees. From the 30 honorees, nine finalists – three from each division – were chosen.”

The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selected Anosike from nine finalists:

“1.  Susan Ackermann, Salisbury (lacrosse), Capital Athletic Conference
2.  Nkolika Anosike, Tennessee (basketball),Southeastern Conference
3.  Jennifer Artichuk, Delta State (swimming and diving), Independent
4.  Shanti Freitas, Smith (swimming and diving), New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference
5.  Arianna Lambie, Stanford (cross country, track and field), Pacific-10 Conference
6.  Samantha Mitchell, Mount Olive (volleyball, track and field), Conference Carolinas
7.  Lindsey Ozimek, Charlotte (soccer), Atlantic 10 Conference
8.  Sarah Schettle, Wisconsin-Oshkosh (track and field, cross country, swimming), Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
9.  Heather Walker, Georgian Court (volleyball, softball), Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference”

I think that this is an amazing award and a great way to showcase female athletes.  Only ONE winner of this award has been a Division III Athlete.  EVERY other winner competed at the Division I level.  Now, I understand Division I is the highest level of competition, thus you are going to find the most successful and talented women competing for Divisioin I.  HOWEVER, having been a: 4 year varsity athlete, 2 time NCAA All-American, team captain, 4 time All-Conference, and a 4 time NCAA qualifier, in Division III swimming, something is to be said for the Division III student-athlete.  Where is the recognition for non-scholarship athletes?  The athletes that compete simply for the love of the game.

The athlete that gets out of bed every morning at 5:30am for swim practice, goes to class all morning, comes back to the pool to swim again, and then hits the weightroom, just to go home, eat dinner, do some homework, and wake up to do it all again.  All the meanwhile, maintaining a 3.95, still finding time to volunteer for various activities and programs, not to mention being a darn talented swimmer!!  This swimmer I am referring to was one of the 30 finalists in attendance Sunday night, Michelle Coombs.  Coombs, a 2008 graduate of SUNY New Paltz, was the 2007 NCAA Division III National Champion for Women’s Swimming in the 100 freestyle, and the first female National Champion at SUNY New Paltz.  As an assistant coach at SUNY New Paltz, I had the pleasure of coaching Coombs for the 2007-2008 swim season!  Much like all of the candidates for Woman of the Year, Coombs excels in academics, athletics, and in the area of service and leadership.  Congratulations to Coombs and all of the other finalists on their amazing honor to be nominated.  Most importantly, congratulations to Anosike for winning the title of Woman of the Year, and best of luck as you all go forward in your lives and look to excel outside of your specific sports arenas.

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Viral video campaigns could be the much-needed answer to bringing deserved attention to women’s baketball.

Of the sports-related viral videos that I’ve seen, Gonzaga takes the lead – by far – with their newly-launched Inspired Season campaign to sell season tickets.

Stay with me here, this is fun.

By definition, a viral video is a video clip that gains popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or IM messages, blogs or other media sharing websites. [Think funny YouTube videos such as The Evolution of Dance or “I Got a Crush… on Obama.”]

As you can imagine, my attention was caught when I came across a viral video for women’s basketball. After reading a posting by Adrants (a site that evaluates advertisiments) which said Gonzaga’s efforts to sell season tickets were “well-executed,” I was thrilled – and very, very eager to check it out.

Essentially, Gonzaga University created a microsite (a URL that is separate from the University) called Inspired Season, which is dedicated toward a goal of selling season tickets for only $75. The main feature of this site is its viral video which is interactive through Web AND mobile technology.

The video features Gonzaga’s coach, Kelly Graves, who motivates you to buy tickets and inspires his team to take the court.

Adrants blogger Angela Natividad said,

“To sell tickets for its women’s basketball games, Gonzaga University produced a well-executed online campaign that makes your attendance feel vital.”

This campaign is so good – in fact – that Dan Heath, author of Made to Stick, claims he wanted to buy a pack after engaging the campaign, even though he’s, like, 2,600 miles from Spokane.

It’s important to note that coach Graves, 20 years ago, left a job with a finance company to commit his future to coaching women’s basketball. In 2007, he told Spokesmanreview that he “loved” coaching women’s basketball and never was entised to take a men’s job.

So here he is, leading Gonzaga’s program into his eighth season as the school’s winningest coach and leading women’s basketball into a new age of interactive video awareness campaigns.

To see the campaign, visit Inspired Season.

Did it make you want to buy season tickets? $75 is pretty cheap!

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The Sports Museum of America forwarded me some pictures of the event they held this past Monday. Check them out (below). Looks like it was a cool event!

The USA Women’s Softball Team at the Sports Museum of America.
From left to right; front row: Tairia Flowers, Natasha Watley, Vicky Galindo, Andrea Duran and Kelly Kretschman. From left to right; back row: Crystl Bustos, Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, Alicia Hollowell, Monica Abbott, Jessica Mendoza, Lauren Lappin and Caitlin Lowe.

Former New York Knicks All-Star John Starks and Liberty standout Kym Hampton hosting a skills and techniques clinic for kids

Mascots from the New York area
From left to right, the New Jersey Ironmen’s IronDog, Maddie from the New York Liberty, the Fordham Ram, New York Shark’s Sharkie and in the center, Mr. Met.

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Last night, the Detroit Shock swept the San Antonio Stars in the WNBA finals by clinching game three with a final score of 76-60.

There is no doubt that Kate Smith’s performance late in the game was the highlight of the night.

ESPN reported that Smith hit a long jumper and then drained a high-arching 3 that made it 62-47 and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Smith led the Shock with a team-high 18 points. Check out this incredible display of great shooting in this ESPN video of the WNBA championship.

It’s certainly exciting to hear that crowd go nutts. Can’t wait until next year.

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Becky Hammon and Kate Smith

Last night, in game 2 of the WNBA finals, the Detroit Shock beat the San Antonio Stars 69-61. This now puts the Shock up two games.

The Shock came ready to play, as they built a big lead in the first quarter with a 19-2 lead in less than 6 minutes into the game. Kate Smith ruled the court last night for the Shock with 22 points, and Becky Hammon led San Antonio with 24 points.

“Katie Smith is killing us,” Hammon said. “And she’s facilitating a lot of people.”

Deanna Nolan and Kara Braxton each contributed 12 points for the Shock.

Even though the Shock are up two games, it doesn’t mean it’s over. Game 3 is tomorrow (Sunday) at 4:30pm ET on ESPN2. For more information, check out WNBA.com.

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With MLB smack in the middle of their playoffs and football season in full swing, it can sometimes be difficult to pay attention to what’s going on with our women’s pro basketball teams.

But I can assure you this: the WNBA finals are going to be exciting. Watch game 2 tonight at 7:30pm EST on ESPN2 as the Stars try and answer back to Detroit’s one game lead.

As ESPN’s Michelle Voepel puts it, “Not surprisingly, the Shock and the Silver Stars said the same thing on Thursday: Game 1 — a 77-69 Detroit victory — doesn’t mean anything.”

According to Voepel, there are benefits to both teams right now.

The Shock have won two WNBA titles and were runner-up last year. Detroit is playing for the championship for the third consecutive season. However, they’re fighting against San Antonio, who had two fantastic finishes on its home court in the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles.

The Shock’s two “old-timers” — Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Katie Smith — are catalysts in scoring, while Deanna Nolan sets the tone on defense and commands so much attention on offense that the rest of the Shock benefits.

What’s more:  Kate Smith is something truly amazing to watch. She turned 34 in June, and shows that when the situation calls for it, she can still be, as Voepel says, “one of the most reliable and fearless shooters in the sport.”

San Antonio’s guard Becky Hammon is  clear, critical threat on offense and Sophia Young came out of the regular season averaging 17.5 ppg. These girls came to play and stand up to what the Shock have to offer.

But beyond the games themselves, the WNBA’s Web site has so much to offer their fans which adds to the playoff experience. In fact, it almost makes you feel like you are part of the team and that you actually know these players personally simply by reading their blogs.

If you’re a Detroit fan, you read about how Taj McWilliams Franklin is feeling while heading into the finals and how Deanna Nolan feels about her team’s match-up against the Stars.

Or, if you’re more of a San Antonio fan, you can read about how Sophia Young feels she is living a dream.

There’s all kinds of information up there, anything you’d ever want to find. I encourage you to check it out and watch the WNBA finals tonight at 7:30pm on ESPN2.

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