Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Everything you didn't know about Monacan star and UConn-bound Megan Walker

In addition to Mom and Dad and bro Jonathan, Megan Walker had a host of aunts and extended family celebrating her Senior Night at Monacan High on Tuesday night. (Those folks, no doubt, won't be shy about visiting her in Storrs, Conn., as she is UConn-bound in the fall.

You already know the lowdown on Walker the player -- but do you know who's her favorite on "Gray's Anatomy"? Or the most bizarre offer she got during her recruiting days? How will she get by up north without Daz, her pup, who is no Husky?

Find out everything you didn't know about Megan, who was gracious enough to sit down for a video chat with LadySwish

Meet Richmond-bound Alex Parson (Micaela's sis!)

We loved getting to know Richmond-bound Alex Parson (her sis, Micaela, is already a Spider), on Senior Night at Monacan High. Just like her UConn-bound teammate, Megan Walker, Alex is a huge Gray's Anatomy buff (Olivia Pope, too) and loves her pugs. Check out our video chat with her!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

VCU's Camille Calhoun talks about enduring an ACL tear again

"Not again. Not again. Not again."

Lying on the Siegel Center floor, Camille Calhoun kept repeating the words. The VCU senior guard knew from the moment her knee didn't move with her body that this was indeed "again."

Another ACL tear to her left knee. She had played all of one whole game since the last ACL tear.

The first time, she felt her knee buckle while going up for a layup against Arizona State on Dec. 5, 2015, the seventh game of the Rams' season. As bad as it hurt, she wasn't sure it was an ACL as she had never had that type of injury before.

But there was a pop. "I was just in so much pain," she recalled.

The ensuing rehab, she said, was harder than she expected.

"A lot more went into it when I thought," she said. "I lived on the underwater treadmill for six months."

She couldn't wait to play in 2016 -- especially against the coach that recruited her to VCU, Marlene Stollings. Now with Minnesota, Stollings brought her Gophers to the Siegel Center for the second game of this season on Nov. 15 when Calhoun's knee gave way again.

This time she was on defense, sliding one way. Her knee didn't cooperate.

"I didn't feel an initial pop, but I knew it was an ACL," she said.

Initial tests were inconclusive, but ultimately they confirmed "again." Calhoun had surgery Dec. 27 and is going through the same process she went through last year.

"It sucked because I just come back," she said. "I just did this. Now I have to do it all over again."

As crushing as a second ACL is, Calhoun knows what to expect throughout her rehab and is fully aware of the milestones she needs to hit. Positivity is important. So is developing outside interests. Calhoun now has time to volunteer more; her pet causes include the SPCA and a Richmond homeless shelter.

She's also completed internships, one with emergency management for VCU Police and another with Kings Dominion security (her favorite ride is the Intimidator, btw, which would be the steel rollercoaster).

This time, the 6-foot Calhoun is more attune to her weight. She has also learned that extra pounds aren't a good idea. She put too many on the first time. "I put on a good 30 pounds, and so far I've lost 21 of those," she said. "I make sure I'm eating right. My left knee can't handle all that weight."

Calhoun didn't take part in the Rams' senior night last week. Already graduated, she's aiming for a master's in homeland security and emergency preparedness with an eye toward working for federal law enforcement.

She wants to play again. She's planning on it.

"I can't go out like this," she said. "Freshman year I struggled the entire way through. By sophomore year I started to pick up a bit and thought, 'Now I can play my brand of basketball.' Junior year my mentality was, 'My year.' I didn't realize it was my year to sit down. That's why I definitely want to play.

"I'm looking to come back better than ever. I've tried to stay positive. What else can you really do?"

Friday, February 3, 2017

JMU's O'Regan: right coach for the job

Two-thirds of the way through the 2016-17 season, it looks like the "people's choice" was the right choice.

Within minutes after news began circulating about Kenny Brooks' resignation as JMU's women's basketball coach last March, momentum started building within JMU Nation for Dukes associate head coach Sean O'Regan to fill the vacancy. For what it's worth, we thought it was a pretty good idea, too.
If only all of our thoughts turned out this well.

There's a temptation is to look at the Dukes' record - 14-6, 7-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association - shrug and say, "typical JMU." In fact, what's unfolded in Harrisonburg is actually an expert rebuilding job cleverly disguised as typical JMU.

Consider that these Dukes are without the 2016 CAA Player of the Year (Jazmon Gwathmey), the first-team all-league point guard (Muff Mickens) and the team's second-leading scorer (Ashley Perez). Right before the 2016-17 season began, center Kayla Cooper-Williams, who made the league's all-defensive and all-rookie teams last season, went down with a season-ending knee injury. And eight games into the campaign, O'Regan revealed that forward Da'Lishia Griffin, the CAA's leading rebounder a year ago, had left the team.

The massive turnover produced one of our favorite by-the-numbers stats:

0 - Points supplied by current JMU players in the Dukes' 60-46 victory over Drexel in the 2016 CAA tournament championship game.

Now, O'Regan isn't the first coach to have to replace five starters. But how many have had to replace five studs? In their first year in command? The challenge is enough to make a guy pull his hair out. No, wait....

Scratch that bit about hair. The point is, this team had to undergo a near-complete overhaul. Also, we couldn't help but wonder, how well would the players respond to O'Regan going from popular assistant to the man who now must occasionally crack the whip? And what about the challenges of replacing a superstar coach like Brooks? Wouldn't it be better to be the coach who replaced the coach who replaced Brooks?

In short, there were all sorts of legitimate excuses in place for a season (or two) full of getting-to-know-each-other struggles. Led by O'Regan, the Dukes have navigated around them all while branding themselves serious players for a fourth straight conference tournament title in a deeper-than-usual CAA.

Granted, it helps to have star guard Precious Hall, who missed last season with a knee injury, not only healthy but producing at an All-American level. But everyone else is either adjusting to a more significant role (Tasia Butler, Aneah Young, Logan Reynolds, Hailee Barron, Savannah Felgemacher), to playing the JMU way (Stetson transfer Amber Porter) or simply to college life, period (freshmen Kamiah Smalls, Lexie Barrier, Devon Merritt).

There's plenty of talent there, for sure. But to see it blending together this effectively this quickly is a credit to O'Regan, assistants Bridgette Mitchell, Ian Caskill (Cox High!), Ashlee McGee and the rest of the women's basketball brain trust. Evidently, O'Regan is as good as assembling a team around him as he is as guiding the team in front of them.

So, yeah, O'Regan was the people's choice. And in this case, it looks like the people knew what they were talking about.

Quiz time

What is "1984?"

a. Title of a classic book by George Orwell;

b. Year "Purple Rain" hit theaters;

c. Career point total for JMU's Precious Hall;

d. Consecutive victories by the UConn women's basketball team;

e. All except "d."

Pat yourself on the head if "e" was your choice. Obviously, UConn hasn't won anywhere near that many games.


As for Hall, well, we're not taking anything for granted. But since she's averaging 23.9 points per game, let's just say we like her chances of crashing the 2,000-point barrier Friday night in Hempstead, N.Y. when the Dukes visit Hofstra (8-11, 1-7 CAA). Only two other JMU players have ever done so - Dawn Evans (2,667) and Tamera Young (2,121).

Still streaking

On Nov. 11, we visited Harrisonburg and watched the Dukes go 6-for-16 from the free throw line (Brick City!) in a season-opening loss to Tennessee. On Sunday, we saw JMU live for a second time at William and Mary and witnessed a program-record 18-for-18 performance from the line in a 15-point triumph over the Tribe.

Combine this with the 6-for-6 effort in the final 26 seconds in last Friday's victory over Drexel and the Dukes will take a streak of 24 straight made free throws into Friday's game at Hofstra. And the best thing about what's happening is it isn't just one player knocking 'em down. Not surprisingly, Hall leads the way by making all nine of her attempts over this span. But there's also: Butler 4-4; Barrier 3-3; Porter 2-2; Smalls 2-2; Young 2-2, Barron 2-2.

Of course, this streak's bound to end at some point (right?), but the improvement from that first game seems legit. Through nine conference games, the Dukes are shooting 75.9 percent from the line, just a smidge behind league-leading Delaware (76.0). JMU was at 69 percent through its 11 non-conference games.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chit chat with William and Mary's Alex Masaquel

Aloha, Alex Masaquel. Caught up with the Tribe senior, a Hawaii native and future dentist who continued her outstanding season Sunday with 18 points and 12 rebounds in William and Mary's game with James Madison at Kaplan Arena. The game played out before the second-largest Tribe women's basketball history. When asked why the surge in attendance, William and Mary coach Ed Swanson pointed to veterans like Masaquel.

If only she could sing....

Chit-chat with James Madison's Hailee Barron

Hailee Barron's season-high 14 points (that includes 4 treys) lifted James Madison over William & Mary 79-64, the Dukes' fifth victory in six games. Afterward LadySwish caught up with that rare kid who comes to Harrisonburg from Vermont (kudos, by the way, to Cracker Barrel for its maple syrup, she says). Get to know a little about Hailee, who will be cheering for the Pats on Super Bowl Sunday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From walk-on to captain: Meet Liberty's Crowder and Rettstat


Very little about playing college women's basketball is glamorous. Now imagine the life of a walk-on, who goes through much of the same grind as the scholarship player but rarely gets real minutes let alone glory. Bluntly, walk-ons usually see what's regarded as garbage time -- time at the end of a blowout.

But sometimes the script plays out differently. Sometimes that dream does come true in the form of a scholarship or more.

Rarely does it happen as quickly as it did for Liberty's Audrey Rettstat, a senior. More frequently, the story is similar to the one from Tatyana Crowder, a sophomore.

Both are Lady Flames captains this season. Both started as walk-ons.

Last summer, on the eve of preparing to travel to Atlanta for an internship, Crowder got the scholarship offer from coach Carey Green: 

"It felt surreal," she said. "I'm this little ghetto kid from Roanoke.  Nobody in my family ever graduated from high school let alone college. I was ecstatic."

Playing college ball was a dream she had as a little girl growing up about an hour west of Liberty. Playing her high school ball at Liberty Christian Academy, she got offers -- Division III and NAIA. A Liberty assistant even advised her in that direction. It wasn't what she wanted to hear.

"I was crushed when he said that," she said. "I never thought I'd be here, but I knew I wanted to be at Liberty. I felt like God wanted me to be at Liberty; I didn't know why."

That same assistant later invited her to a summer bridge program for freshman athletes. Then she joined the Lady Flames as a walk-on, though her highlights last season were minimal. Crowder played in 17 games, scoring her first point on Nov. 23.

She went on to score one more the entire season, playing a mere 30 minutes in 2015-16.

"I wasn't getting financial support and I wasn't playing much," she said. "I worked super hard, but didn't get the results. That's discouraging in any area, not just basketball."

When Green offered her a scholarship over the summer, Crowder was not just appreciative but ecstatic. Being a captain is a role she relishes.

"I want to be above reproach," she said. "I want to be the hardest worker on the team, the one who serves the girls."

She's also the one with perspective. Crowder maintains a 4.0. She wants a future in social work.

"On the court if you mess up, you've got to have perspective," she said. "In life if you mess up, you've got to have perspective."

Rettstatt, a 1,000-point scorer at Ohio's Worthington High, began her journey in 2013 after her uncle reached out to Liberty to inquire about possibilities.

"Before I knew it, I was getting offered a spot as a recruited walk-on during the summer," she said.

After the first week or so, a stunningly short amount of time in retrospect, Green called Rettstatt into his office and offered her a scholarship.

"That was better than I ever dreamed," she said. "I thought it was going to take the whole summer

An injury prevented her debut until Feb. 6, 2014 against Coastal Carolina. Rettstaff saw minutes in nine of the Lady flames' final 10 games that season.

She played sparingly as a sophomore but as a junior cracked the starting lineup before suffering an ACL injury in Liberty's Big South opener at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 2, 2015.

As crushing as that was, she found confidence in what she had achieved already. The Galena, Ohio, native said initially she thought she'd struggle in the college game. It didn't take long to realize, "I can play with these girls. I can play and work hard and get time."

Rettstatt has started nine games this season, averaging just shy of 20 minutes along with 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds. Her calm demeanor and poise have been assets given the youth on a Liberty team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores.

More importantly, the exercise science major has learned a lesson that many in their 20s and 30s still struggle to grasp: "My identity is not my performance."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our video chat with Hampton's Malia Tate-DeFreitas

After Hampton's scrappy victory over Norfolk State on Saturday, we caught up with Pirates senior Malia Tate-DeFreitas. The two-time MEAC Player of the Year1 en route to wrapping up the honor again, tore her ACL and meniscus against Delaware State on Jan. 14. It was a non-contact injury -- one of those "Why in the world does this have to happen" sort of thing; Tate-DeFreitas was 96 points shy of the conference all-time scoring record.

The sports management major said the program is exploring the idea of applying for a redshirt waiver. Given Tate-DeFreitas  had played in 16 games, the chances are slim, but we're hopeful. Prayers for her surgery, which is scheduled for Friday.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Here's the word on Hampton's Tate-DeFreitas and her knee

We'll make this brief. Hampton coach David Six confirmed that Malia Tate-DeFreitas tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee in Saturday's victory over Delaware State.

"She's very upset," he said.

The injury is a devastating end to a college career that included twice being named MEAC Player of the Year and earning conference Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman. Tate-DeFreitas' 2,214 career points are the most of any Hampton player since the school became Division I. She was 96 points shy of breaking the league's all-time scoring record.

Among active players, Tate-DeFreitas 2,214 points ranks fourth and her 256 career steals rank fifth in the NCAA.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hampton's Tate-DeFreitas: MRI today, now we wait

Dating ourselves here, there's a song Anne Murray used to sing -- "A little good news today."

Hampton coach David Six could use some good news because right now it's lacking.

Two-time MEAC Player of the Year Malia Tate-DeFreitas, who sustained a right knee injury during Monday's victory over Delaware State, underwent an MRI on Wednesday afternoon. Six is awaiting results he anticipates will come Thursday, but said when Tate-DeFreitas went down while going for a layup, he said, "It didn't look good."

If the injury is a season-ending ACL tear, it will mark the end of a stellar career. Tate-DeFreitas is 96 points shy of the MEAC record that would make her the conference's all-time leading scorer.

Tate-DeFreitas started all 16 games for the Pirates and leads the team in scoring (17.2 ppg) and is second in rebounding (5.4 rpg). In fact, the senior has started all 112 games she has played in at Hampton and amassed 2,214 points thus far, 553 this season.

To be blunt, she's the franchise.

While Tate-DeFreitas' injury is certainly the most significant, Hampton is also without starting forward Jephany Brown, out with a high ankle sprain and reserves Mariah Bankhead (leg) and Mikayla Sayle (back). Sophomore guard K'Lynn Willis is expected back Thursday from an ankle injury.

We'll let you know more on Malia when we know.