Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Comings and Goings: Liberty 2016-17


We're back with another installment of Comings and Goings looking at Liberty. Tech on deck (hey, that rhymes!). We promise we'll get to your school if we haven't!

The series so far:

Richmond: Comings and Goings
Virginia: Comings and Goings
George Mason: Comings and Goings
William and Mary: Comings and Goings
James Madison: Comings and Goings

Goings:

Katelyn Adams: The 6-5 post has graduated. She averaged 7.2 points and a team-high 8.7 boards as a senior.
Sadalia Ellis: The 5-6 guard graduated. She averaged 9.1 points per game and hit double-digits a team-high 16 times. Also led the team in assists with 92.
Catharine Kearney: The 6-6 center has graduated. Put up 9.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year, both second on the team. Finished strong, landing on the Big South All-Tournament team.
Candice Leatherwood: The 5-6 guard started a dozen games as a sophomore and averaged 4.7 points. She has transferred to Sacred Heart in Connecticut.
Ashley Rininger: The 6-4 forward has graduated (and then some). She averaged a team-high 11.2 points last year despite a knee injury that cost her nine games and her starting job. She earned her bachelor's degree (in criminal justice) in just three years, so she leaves the program with a master's in human services counseling. She is currently pursuing a second master's. All with a 4.0 GPA. You hate to see someone like this go.
Jayme Fisher-Davis: The 5-7 guard graduated. She played in every game last year, starting 11, and averaged 5.7 points. She's a 3-point specialist who hits 84 percent of her free throws (and holds the school record for consecutive free throws made with 26).
Brooke Alexander: The 6-foot guard-forward transferred to UT-Arlington. She's a Texas girl, headed homeward. She started 16 games last year but averaged just 3.3 points.
Mikal Johnson: A 5-8 guard, she started a dozen games as a redshirt junior last year and averaged 2.0 points. She has transferred to Mount Saint Mary.
Mickayla Sanders: The 6-foot forward is no longer listed on the Liberty roster. She averaged 7.8 points last year as a junior.


Comings:

Nene Johnson: A 5-8 junior guard and juco transfer from Eastern Florida State College, where last year she averaged a team-high 14.3 points and 6 assists per game.
Keyen Green: A 6-1 freshman forward from Philadelphia, where she was the first player in Phil-Mont Christian Academy history to compile 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Iva Ilic: A 5-7 freshman guard from Croatia. Played on the U-18 Croatian national team. Career goal is to be a diplomat.
Lela Sellers on signing day
Kaila Ballard: A 5-11 guard-forward from Gatesville, N.C., she  has been practicing with the Flames since January, after completing her high school graduation requirements early. Averaged a double-double for three years in high school.
Kierra Johnson-Graham: A 5-11 freshman guard-forward from Atlanta. Starred on a Tucker High School team that went undefeated her junior year and was state runner-up last year.
Ola Makurat: A 6-1 freshman guard-forward from Poland. Played with the U-18 and U-20 Polish national teams, and her mother had played on the Polish national team. Ola graduated from someplace called Sports Championship School in Warsaw, which certainly sounds impressive.
Lela Sellers: A 6-foot guard-forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa (where she played her last two years of high school ball, though she still lists Lakeville, Minnesota as her hometown).
Kaitlyn Stovall: A 6-3 post, she sat out last season as a redshirt and will be a freshman this year. Home-schooler from Hopewell who won an AAU national championship with her Boo Williams Summer League team as a high school freshman. Majoring in American Sign Language and Interpreting, which is pretty cool.

Yes, coaches love to chatter about being young no matter who's on the roster, but Carey Green isn't even bending the truth a little when he talks about the youth of this Liberty team, which has a roster of players who have made a total of five career starts.

To be precise, that's two players, Audrey Rettstatt (three starts) and Sheana Vega (two starts). The Lady Flames lost 90.6 percent of their scoring from last season with KK Barbour returning as the leader scorer and rebounder -- that's 65 points and 61 rebounds -- total.

Green's ability to sub big after big into the rotation has been a luxury for years and will be one missing this season.

Personnel changes will mean a smaller, quicker guard-oriented lineup that will seek to keep Liberty at its usual place, atop the Big South. Green foresees a better shooting team than in the past, but doesn't have a good assessment of who will come up big in terms of stat lines for the Lady Flames.

"Success will come by committee," he said, noting transfer Nene Johnson brings much needed experience at the point.

Injuries cloud the picture. Rettstatt is coming off ACL surgery and along with Barbour and Ballard have not been released. All are expected to play a role, but will have to play catchup to get up to speed.

Among the newbies, Sellers comes is as a touted recruit who developed a mid-range game in high school, where she was also a track star.  (We like her because she likes pugs and so do we.) She compared her signing at Liberty with the feeling of opening a pile of presents on Christmas or your birthday, and we look forward to what she will give to the Lady Flames. She turned down offers from Arkansas and Indiana.

If you think Green is worried about his inexperienced roster, banish the thought. He likes the energy and work ethic he's seen thus far and stresses "faith over fear," noting, "I've already fallen in love with this team."

Season opener: Duke, Nov. 11 at the Vines Center


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Comings and Goings: James Madison 2016-17 season

O'Regan gets some help from his daughter selling season tix for the Dukes



















We're back with another installment of Comings and Goings looking at James Madison. Liberty on deck. We promise we'll get to your school if we haven't!

The series so far:

Richmond: Comings and Goings
Virginia: Comings and Goings
George Mason: Comings and Goings
William and Mary: Comings and Goings

Goings

Kenny Brooks: the Dukes' all-time winningest coach replaced Dennis Wolff at Virginia Tech; Brooks led the Dukes to five NCAA tournaments, was CAA coach of the year three times and hands down, is the best developer of talent in the state
Jen Brown: has joined Brooks as an assistant at Virginia Tech
Sarah Williams: After three years, Williams has moved on pursue her doctorate in philosophy in educational leadership and organization development with a sports administration specialization (a mouthful)
Jazmon Gwathmey: the CAA Player of the Year is a starter for the WNBA's San Antonio Stars
Angela Mickens: the point guard known as "Muff," averaging 11.0 ppg and 6.8 apg, has graduated
Ashley Perez: the 3-point ace averaging 14.4 ppg has graduated into a new role at JMU (see below)
Elemy Colome: the guard who played all of three minutes is no longer with the program

Comings

Sean O'Regan: promoted to head coach after serving as an assistant to Brooks for nine years; has been associate head coach since 2012
Bridgette Mitchell: assistant coach; spent two years as recruiting coordinator at Siena; as a player helped Duke reach the 2010 Elite Eight
Ian Caskill: assistant to O'Regan; the former center for the JMU men's team who had an overseas playing career returns to his alma mater
Ashlee McGee: assistant to O'Regan, comes to JMU from Milwaukee; former standout at Austin Peay
Brianna Skeens: joins staff as director of operations; from Florida International
Ashley Perez: a foot injury has delayed her overseas career, so Perez joins O'Regan's staff as assistant director of operations
Amber Porter: eligible transfer from Stetson, who averaged 13.4 ppg as a sophomore; the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year in 2014 and Defensive POY in 2015; has two years of eligibility remaining
Kelly Koshuta: the former Hokie is on the JMU roster but not eligible until 2017-18; a five-star ESPN Hoop Gurlz recruit who played just 20 minutes as a freshman at Tech last year
Lexie Barrier: 5-10 Freshman G scored 1,000 points at Ohio's Ironton High; made a verbal commitment to Virginia Tech prior to Brooks' arrival; Ironton finished 27-1 her senior year, falling in the Division III state semifinals
Kamiah Smalls: 5-10 Freshman G from Neumann-Goretti High in Philadelphia, which won back-to-back Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association titles her junior and senior years
Devon Merritt: 6-2 Freshman F; the biology major and reportedly a future ortho surgeon also played volleyball; led Berks Catholic High to state semifinals last two years

It's not a stretch to say these Dukes lost plenty from last season CAA championship team, most significantly, conference Player of the Year Gwathmey, who started the final 10 games for the San Antonio Stars after being selected in the second round of the WNBA draft. Mickens, second all-time in assists at JMU, will also be missed as will the sweet-shooting Perez.

But nobody in the CAA will be shedding tears for the three-time defending CAA champs, who return 2015 CAA Player of the Year Precious Hall, recovered from knee surgery. "She's been full go since early June," says O'Regan, confident the senior can overcome the mental hurdles that follow a season-ending injury. "She's been chomping at the bit."

Da'Lishia Griffin, who led the league in rebounding, returns for her senior year alongside CAA Rookie of the Year Kayla Cooper-Williams, who set a school record for blocked shots last year. The pair provide an enviable presence in the paint. Replacing Mickens will be a chore; the Dukes need consistency from sophomore guard Logan Reynolds and Hailee Baron, each of whom saw time in all 33 games last season.

While Tech transfer Kelly Koshuta will sit out, JMU will benefit inside from the 6-3 Porter, an Atlantic Sun first-teamer in 2015 who could be a key cog in a potentially formidable front line. "She's learning how we do things more and more each day and is buying into our system," O'Regan said. "It should be fun to watch her grow."

Freshmen tend to wait their turn at JMU, but O'Regan sees early promise in all. Smalls is already winning sprints, and O'Regan ranks her among the best conditioned athletes he has seen come into the program. Merritt, he says, has good hands, and Barrier, a high basketball IQ.

Opener: Tennessee at the Convo on Nov. 11 -- Big-time game to start the O'Regan era. How did he get the Lady Vols to come to Harrisonburg? Simply put, he made a slew of calls when he needed to add some games and thought why not Tennessee? He's thrilled that the Lady Vols will be in his home gym; next season JMU will travel to Knoxville.

When told Tennessee would start the home-and-home series at JMU, he even asked, "Are you sure?"

"It's an awesome opportunity for us," he said. "It's certainly created a lot of buzz around the program."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Comings and Goings: William and Mary 2016-17 season

Nari Garner












W&M on tap for the latest in our series; James Madison on deck.

The series:

In case you missed it:

Richmond: Comings and Goings
Virginia: Comings and Goings
George Mason: Comings and Goings

Goings
Brooke Stewart: the guard who averaged 1.8 ppg last year graduated
Jenna Caroll: the walk-on remains in school but is no longer on the roster
Jeanette Wedo: the Tribe assistant left to become head coach at Franklin Pierce
Kelly Killion: the Tribe assistant left to become an assistant to Penn coach Mike McLaughlin

Comings

Nari Garner: 5-7 Freshman F: Combo guard from Freedom High in Tampa; daughter of NFL's Charlie Garner: 6-0 Freshman F: Played basketball and lacrosse at St. Anne's-Belfield in Charlottesvile; mom Kerri played basketball at James Madison;
Victoria Reynolds: 5-10 Freshman F: Played AAU ball for Fairfax Stars, one of the top teams nationally, three-year starter at Archbishop Spaulding High
Sarah Eichler: After two years at Hartford, Eichler joins Ed Swanson's staff. Played for a Green Bay team that won Horizon League four straight years and reached the Sweet 16 in 2010
Lynne-Anne Kokoski: After four years as operations coordinator at Providence, Kokoski joins Swanson's staff; played collegiate ball at Bryant

What's new isn't the Tribe team, it's the Tribe assistant coaching staff given the departure of Wedo, to pursue a dream job for her, and Killion, returning to Penn for the second time.

Eichler worked under Jen Rizzotti at Hartford. "She brings a winning mentality to our program," Swanson said.

Swanson initially recruited Kokoski while recruiting her to play for Sacred Hart and is excited about the energy she will bring. The pair will join Milette Green, who has been with Swanson since he started at William & Mary in 2013.

The Tribe have been on a climb since he took over the program and last season's 15-15 mark included wins over James Madison and Old Dominion and a tight game with Richmond. With a veteran roster of four seniors and three juniors, it's refreshing to hear these words from Swanson, "We're really old."

(Side note: We cannot count the number of times in press conference settings that coaches say the words, "We're young" regardless of the veterans on their rosters.)

The core is leading scorer and 3-point shooter Marlena Tremba, leading rebounder Alex Masaquel and a healthy again Abby Rendle, who missed the last 11 games of the season with an ankle injury on the heels of achieving the first triple-double in program history. Latrice Hunter (4.8 ppg) and Kasey Curtis (1.7 ppg) also are expected to contribute.

Swanson is also challenging Bianca Boggs (7.4 ppg) and Jenna Green (5.6 ppg) to be impact players Boggs, a 5-8 sophomore guard, received early playing time after the injury to Rendle. Swanson wants her to find that extra gear and establish a higher level of consistency while shooting the ball more. He'd like 5-7 junior guard Green to move beyond being solid to becoming "more of a risk taker and looking for her shot."

Among the newcomers, Garner has the pedigree as the daughter of Charlie Garner, drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. Reynolds, an All-Metro Baltimore Sun first-team selection, averaged 21.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg her senior year.

While the Tribe has been on rise since Swanson took the job, this is the year he wants the team to say "Enough," and compete for one of the top spots in the CAA and beyond.

Season opener: Nov. 13, St. John's at Kaplan Arena

Comings and Goings: William and Mary 2016-17 season

Nari Garner
W&M on tap for the latest in our series; James Madison on deck.

The series:

In case you missed it:

Richmond: Comings and Goings
Virginia: Comings and Goings
George Mason: Comings and Goings

Goings
Brooke Stewart: the guard who averaged 1.8 ppg last year graduated
Jenna Caroll: the walk-on remains in school but is no longer on the roster
Jeanette Wedo: the Tribe assistant left to become head coach at Franklin Pierce
Kelly Killion: the Tribe assistant left to become an assistant to Penn coach Mike McLaughlin

Comings

Nari Garner: 5-7 Freshman F: Combo guard from Freedom High in Tampa; daughter of NFL's Charlie Garner: 6-0 Freshman F: Played basketball and lacrosse at St. Anne's-Belfield in Charlottesvile; mom Kerri played basketball at James Madison;
Victoria Reynolds: 5-10 Freshman F: Played AAU ball for Fairfax Stars, one of the top teams nationally, three-year starter at Archbishop Spaulding High
Sarah Eichler: After two years at Hartford, Eichler joins Ed Swanson's staff. Played for a Green Bay team that won Horizon League four straight years and reached the Sweet 16 in 2010
Lynne-Anne Kokoski: After four years as operations coordinator at Providence, Kokoski joins Swanson's staff; played collegiate ball at Bryant

What's new isn't the Tribe team, it's the Tribe assistant coaching staff given the departure of Wedo, to pursue a dream job for her, and Killion, returning to Penn for the second time.

Eichler worked under Jen Rizzotti at Hartford. "She brings a winning mentality to our program," Swanson said.

Swanson initially recruited Kokoski while recruiting her to play for Sacred Hart and is excited about the energy she will bring. The pair will join Milette Green, who has been with Swanson since he started at William & Mary in 2013.

The Tribe have been on a climb since he took over the program and last season's 15-15 mark included wins over James Madison and Old Dominion and a tight game with Richmond. With a veteran roster of four seniors and three juniors, it's refreshing to hear these words from Swanson, "We're really old."

(Side note: We cannot count the number of times in press conference settings that coaches say the words, "We're young" regardless of the veterans on their rosters.)

The core is leading scorer and 3-point shooter Marlena Tremba, leading rebounder Alex Masaquel and a healthy again Abby Rendle, who missed the last 11 games of the season with an ankle injury on the heels of achieving the first triple-double in program history. Latrice Hunter (4.8 ppg) and Kasey Curtis (1.7 ppg) also are expected to contribute.

Swanson is also challenging Bianca Boggs (7.4 ppg) and Jenna Green (5.6 ppg) to be impact players Boggs, a 5-8 sophomore guard, received early playing time after the injury to Rendle. Swanson wants her to find that extra gear and establish a higher level of consistency while shooting the ball more. He'd like 5-7 junior guard Green to move beyond being solid to becoming "more of a risk taker and looking for her shot."

Among the newcomers, Garner has the pedigree as the daughter of Charlie Garner, drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. Reynolds, an All-Metro Baltimore Sun first-team selection, averaged 21.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg her senior year.

While the Tribe has been on rise since Swanson took the job, this is the year he wants the team to say "Enough," and compete for one of the top spots in the CAA and beyond.

Season opener: Nov. 13, St. John's at Kaplan Arena

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Comings and Goings: George Mason 2016-17 season



Be patient while we crank out this series (William and Mary is on deck), but today we focus on George Mason.

In case you missed it:
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: Virginia


Goings

Taylor Brown: the multitalented guard graduated as the school's second leading scorer all time despite playing just three years
Katrina Hutzell: the UMBC transfer who averaged 1.1 ppg graduated with one year of eligibility remaining
Reana Mohamed: the team's leader in 3-pointers her senior year has graduated
Kristi Mokube: the Patriots No. 2 scorer and rebounder has graduated

Comings

Jacy Bolton: 6-0 Freshman F: Amassed more than 2,000 points at Drexel (Missouri) High where she was also a volleyball and track star
Alexsis Grate: 5-6 Freshman G: Averaged 16.5 ppg or better at Hampton's Bethel High
Sarah Kaminski: 5-9 Freshman F: All-time assist leader at Minniehaha Academy in Minnesota
Allie McCool: 6-2 Freshman F: East Central (Lawrencesburg, Ind.) High's all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, FG percentage and blocked shots
De'Jah Williford-Kelley 6-1 Freshman F: Four-year letterwinner at Lower Richland High in Columbia, S.C.

Back in Fairfax after a rejuvenating cruise in the south Caribbean, Nyla Milleson enters her fourth season at George Mason with optimism. Of course, replacing scoring machine Brown and Mokube, right behind her last year, isn't something to envy, but with eight returners, a staff that's stayed intact and five freshmen, Milleson is excited about where the Patriots are in terms of chemistry and relationship building, those ever-important off-court intangibles that relate to how a team performs as a unit on the court.

Milleson is quick to credit the work ethic of all of her players; force her to pick out a pair and she elevates Kara Wright and Tiffany Padgett just a tad. Wright has a year under her belt as a Patriot after transferring from Southeast Missouri State and started 27 games a year ago; Padgett played in 29 games after transferring from Loyola-Maryland. Both redshirt seniors, along with 5-7 guard Sylvia Maxwell, eligible this season after transferring from Niagara, will be integral to the Patriots system.

If any of the freshmen will redshirt, it's too soon to say, and how quickly Jewel Triggs mends from offseason knee surgery will contribute to that decision. The 5-11 sophomore guard, second behind Mohomed last year in 3s, had patellar surgery on both knees and is pain free for the first time in her career.

Onto the frosh. We asked about McCool first, because, let's face it: It's a really cool name. Milleson like's McCool's hands and work on the low block. The 6-2 forward averaged a double-double 14.1 ppg and 11.1 rpg her senior year and was second in field-goal percentage (.59) in the East Indiana Athletic Conference.

Point guard Kaminski flew under the recruiting radar likely due to injuries in both knees, though one of them was in eighth grade. She missed the first three games of her senior year rehabbing from a second ACL tear, and finished as her team's leading scorer with a loss in the 2A state quarters. (Reportedly a Shel Silverstein fan, we note her good taste in authors.)

Grate can also share time at the point, and she scored plenty while at Bethel High after transferring from nearby Kecoughtan. Milleson likes her tough-minded mentality and ability in the open floor.

Long and lanky Bolton and Williford-Kelley will both benefit from the weight room. Bolton played at tiny Drexel High in really tiny Drexel, Mo., a town an hour south of Kansas City where population is about 1,000. (Let's just say Jacy knew everybody in her graduating class.) Williford-Kelley is more a slasher than Bolton, and she brings the ability to score inside and on the perimeter.

Two more transfers -- Camden Musgrave (5-7 guard from Central Connecticut) and Taylor Byrne (6-1 forward from Seton Hall) await in the wings for the 2016-17 season after sitting out due to NCAA rules. Musgrave has two years of eligibility left and Byrne, three. And while Milleson has relied heavily on transfers, she said the Patriots are able to be more selective about the talent they bring in. Next year's class already includes three freshmen with the hopeful addition of a fourth.



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Comings and goings 2016-17 season: Richmond




Lauren Tolson is healthy again for the Spiders.




















Can you smell the season? With school starting, we sure can.We're ready to fill you in on the latest with the teams in our state. We have no particular order for what we call Comings and Goings; something just made us start with Richmond.

Goings

Ebony Tanner Moore: After seven seasons as a Spiders assistant, Moore reunited with her former teammate and best buddy Kim McNeil. McNeil is the new coach at Hartford and Tanner is her assistant.
Bria Powell: Graduated; started 12 games and averaged 5.5 ppg and 3.8 rpg
Liv Healy: After two ACL tears in two years, Healy has opted to remain a student at Richmond but will not play basketball for the team. She has asked for her release and plans to finish her bachelor's in journalism early and pursue a master's in conjunction with playing basketball at another university. Healy said she is completely healthy and ready for full contact.

Comings

Lauren Tolson: Healthy again, the 5-8 guard is a graduate student playing her final season of eligibility; averaged 13.4 ppg last year before a season-ending leg injury on Dec. 5. and is 211 shy of a career 1,000.
Danielle Hatcher: 5-8 G Freshman from Lake Nona (Fla.) High; played point guard and post in high school
Jaide Hinds-Clarke: 6-1 F Freshman from Westwood (N.J.) High, 1,000-point scorer
Ragan Wiseman: 6-1 F Freshman from Floyd (Va.) High, 1,500-point scorer who committed to the Spiders in October 2014
Amy Duggan: 6-0 F Freshman of Noble and Greenough (Mass.) High, won three Class A state girls basketball championships behind a 70-game winning streak; also played softball and volleyball
Kara Powell: Hello, old friend. The former Spider graduated in 2011 and spent last season as an assistant at Holy Cross. She will be an assistant to coach Michael Shafer this season.

We need to knock on wood for these Spiders, who battled injuries much of last season. Having a healthy Tolson and Janelle Hubbard in the backcourt should send shivers around the Atlantic 10; Hubbard upped her scoring average last year (15.8 ppg) with Tolson sidelined.

Richmond also returns 6-1 sophomore forward Tuuli Menna and 5-8 junior guard Micaela Parson. Menna will benefit from a summer conditioning with the Finnish national team and is in "unbelievable shape," Parson remains integral for the Spiders; the junior did not start a game as a freshman and started all 31 last season.

As for newcomers, Hinds-Clark, a player Shafer refers to as a Gen Okoro type, will fill an immediate need on the boards, and Hatcher adds to a complement of guards that are in the discussion for best in the league.

Wiseman and Duggan are both tweeners who pose intriguing matchup possibilities. Expect Shafer to create mismatches using Wiseman, a crafty passer and lights-out shooter who has the ability to post up. The athletic, versatile Duggan, who dreamed of the WNBA as a fifth-grader, was a post player her first two years of high school but she's versatile enough to play on the perimeter.

Season opener: Old Dominion, Nov. 13




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Our first podcast: In the house with Pat Summitt



Pat Summitt will be remembered on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. with a Celebration of Life at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, home to her Lady Vols. We remember the legendary Tennessee coach with a story of our own.

Welcome to our first podcast and thanks for listening!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pat Summitt and the happily ever after we didn't get

Happy endings are for fairy tales. We know that, and yet it's hard not to hope for the "ever after" in real life sometimes.

If we'd have scripted it, there would have been one more UConn/Tennessee matchup for Pat Summitt, one more Final Four, one more national title.

No more Alzheimer's and lots more years.

Instead we lost Pat on Tuesday at 64 years young. It's clear from the massive amount of tributes and personal stories shared by media, players and friends in the last few days just how much of a collective loss this is. As my friend Maria Cornelius wrote, "How does a mountain disappear?"

We remember when the news of her disease broke in 2011, Summitt sitting alongside her son, Tyler, talking about taking on the biggest fight of her life. Summitt was larger than life, an unprecedented icon in this sport who accomplished just about everything she set out to do. If just for a moment, she seemed capable of conquering a new opponent, even one that doesn't play fair.

If anyone could beat Alzheimer's, it was Pat Summitt.

Early on, we watched her at the ESPYs; President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and occasionally she'd sit behind the Tennessee bench. But soon after, we stopped hearing from her. The interviews stopped and the once visible Summitt disappeared from public view. We haven't laid eyes on Pat Summitt in years.

In March a story about Summitt moving to an "upscale retirement resort" seemed like a cruel euphemism.

Just as the outspoken Muhammad Ali was robbed of his voice for the last two decades by Parkinson's Disease, Summitt, the greatest in our book, was lost to a disease the shrinks the brain and robs its victims long before they take their last breath.

Yet when we lost Pat for good this week, the suddenness of it,  the finality,  became jarring and profoundly sad. If you've ever lost a parent, you know the emptiness that accompanies that. It's something you carry with you the rest of your days.

Our sport will go on and so will those whose lives revolve around it, but its greatest ambassador leaves a void we don't expect to fill.

 We'll miss you, Pat. Very, very much. How we wish we could have written the ending you deserved.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Game 7, LeBron and a kid I know named Ben

Honestly feel like crying tears of joy right now
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Editor's note: Two of us comprise LadySwish and we always write as a "we." Deviating today for this personal post written by the female half of this blog.

Sports has given me many gifts. I've loved writing about it since middle school; I started watching it as a tot growing up in Redskin territory. It's no surprise that my kids followed suit. Older son Harry is a sports and recreation management major at James Madison, a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan like his dad and tsk, tsk, he prefers the Colts to any NFL team. He's a heckuva athlete himself; younger brother Ben is, too.

But Ben has spent much of his 15 years beating to his own tune, the rare teen who wants no part in being cool to fit in with some group. He has a comfort level in his own skin that you don't find in most of his peers. In fact, I've always said his manner of carrying himself is the true definition of what cool really is. Like Harry, he adopted the Colts but is bored by baseball and doesn't have much patience for college football. While the pair grew up at Lady Monarch basketball games, much to my chagrin, they don't follow women's basketball anymore with the same passion as I do, though they have an education about the game that none of their friends comes close to matching.

And then there's the NBA. They both like it; Ben loves it. He is immersed in it in a way that a gambling man identifies with a racing form. He's a rules expert, knows the roster moves and their implications and frequently rolls his eyes at what he considers often inane commentary from the booth.

Ben idolizes LeBron. Not sure when it started. Not sure why. But the fathead in his room speaks to his oversized admiration for No. 23.

As a D.C. native, I didn't grow up watching the NBA -- the Bullets, which the Wizards were called way back when, produced no rooting interest in my household. From afar, I'd dismiss the league as a bunch of overpaid guys who traveled on multiple possessions. It was a season that came and went year after year little scrutiny from me.

But Ben watched religiously, and after a while, I joined him on the couch for Miami Heat games. I didn't know much about the other teams, but watching Wade and Bosh and Chalmers and LeBron became a familiar routine. I was alongside him when Ray Allen drained that improbable 3 in Game 6, and I would sit still for the video over and over when he'd insist on one more playback.

For Christmas a few years ago, I bought Heat/Wizards tix and took him to his first game. I spent weeks worried that some freak injury would sideline LeBron, but nothing of the sort happened and while we weren't as close as I would have liked, Ben spied LeBron in person.

Then, of course, came The Decision and LeBron headed home to Cleveland.

A stubborn kid, Ben wouldn't admit that it was pretty crushing at the time. He identified with that Miami team and wasn't invested initially with the idea of LeBron heading home to win one for the Cavaliers. I wasn't either. I liked LeBron in a Heat jersey and couldn't warm up to this Cavaliers bunch.

But over the last two years, just as I educated myself for the sake of my son about the Heat, I began to soak up all that is Cleveland. Ben never exactly called himself a Cleveland fan, noting instead he was a LeBron fan, but the constant adulation about Curry grew old on him as did ESPN's Curry crawl. When the playoffs came, he like the rest of the nation seemed to accept the road to a Golden State coronation.

Two games in, a Golden State sweep seemed possible, maybe likely. Down 3-1, even a magnificent game by King James seemed too late. Even after Game 6, Ben couldn't bring himself to get too pumped and nor could I for him. The odds of the Warriors losing again at home in this series seemed as unlikely as, well, a traveling call in the NBA.

We didn't watch Game 7 together. One of the things you accept as a parent is as your children grow, your company is replaced by that of their peers, and that's the way it's supposed to be. So while he was a few miles away with his bro and friends, I found myself following the game with the same fervor I once reserved for Joe Gibbs' Redskins.

I wanted the Cavs to score every trip down the floor. I want the Warriors to miss every trip down the floor. I kept telling myself Draymond Green would come down to earth. Every Curry 3 made me cringe. Kyrie's final 3 lifted me in the same way as an Art Monk touchdown used to. The LeBron block -- no words.

When Curry missed his final shot, I realized the Cavs were going to deliver the storybook ending for my kid. I pictured Ben, who unlike his brother, rarely asks for much, and I could feel the exuberance pumping through every vein in him. I sent him a text: "I am SO happy for you," and I didn't need a reply. A few minutes later when he walked in the door, he had a look of unbridled joy that nothing is going to erase any time soon.

Monday when I came home from work, he was curled up in a chair watching Game 7 minus the anxiety of the night before, and still beaming, too, I might add.

Sports has given me many gifts. This is one of its greatest. The championship is great for the city of Cleveland, but I wanted it for Ben. You have no idea when you become a parent where your kids will take you -- oh, the places you'll go. You figure out what love is -- wanting something for someone else actually more than you could have ever wanted it for yourself.

Enjoy this, B. LeBron might be carrying the trophy, but this one's for you.