Thursday, October 30, 2014

RIP to ODU fan Mr. Booker

 Section 112, Row E behind the scorer's table at the Constant Center. Two seats. 

As long as he could, Old Dominion supporter Gilbert Booker sat in one of them.

Booker died on Sunday, at 96 years of age. He would have turned 97 on Nov. 9.

At one point, he had missed only a handful of Lady Monarch games, but age sent him to a Portsmouth nursing home a few years ago.

He was a friend and an inspiration to me. I sat in front of him in 1997 when the ODU charter bus stalled on a French highway amid a blizzard. The Ticha Penicheiro-led Lady Monarchs spent the night on that bus with nothing but snow and tractor-trailers in view. ODU was on a 10-day trip to France and Portugal; we had just seen Lucienne Berthieu play against the Lady Monarchs hours before. The highway closed with us on it.

I wanted to scream that night. My legs ached. I was scared and hungry and there were no restrooms. Cell phones didn't really exist. Mr. Booker was calm, upbeat and unrattled. He had terrific perspective. I never heard him complain about anything over the years. He was an astute fan who had scrapbooks full of photos of the team that he started following as a hobby the day he retired. He didn't go to ODU, but I rarely saw him without his blue hat.

I can't be at his funeral on Saturday. My own mother is battling for her life in an Arlington hospital, and I am going to see her. She could use both his perspective and his strength. Frankly, those are things we could all benefit from.

RIP, Mr. Booker. You will be missed and remembered every time the ball tips for the Lady Monarchs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remembering Ginny, bidding adieu to Wendy, new look at George Mason, and Robyn in Spain


Ginny Doyle #ThrowbackThursday pic



Remembering Ginny: Stephanie Gaitley couldn't figure out the text message. It was from Delaware Coach Tina Martin expressing sorrow. Gaitley was in Las Vegas on the morning of May 8.

The text sent Gaitley to the Internet where she learned of the tragic balloon accident that killed the Spiders associate head coach and the team's director of operations, Natalie Lewis.

Stephanie called her sister Coco. "We cried together on the phone," she said.

The week before, the Fordham coach had been recruiting alongside her good friend and player she recruited to attend Richmond, Ginny Doyle. The two had a blast, joking about if limited to one person on a desert island, who that would be. Ginny picked actress Melissa McCarthy.

"I was Ginny's mentor," said Gaitley, who keeps a framed photo of Doyle in her office. "She loved Richmond so much."

Gaitley plans to keep Ginny's memory alive in a number of ways, even planning to name a play for the1992 Spiders graduate who led Richmond to consecutive NCAA tournaments. "Naturally, it's going to be for a 3," Gaitley said.

Gaitley also dedicated all of the money from her offseason clinic to the Ginny Doyle Scholarship Fund.

"We'll do that annually," Doyle said. "She'll be with us forever."

Once the scholarship fund reaches $50,000, each year an incoming freshman player will be known as "The Ginny Doyle Women's Basketball Scholar Athlete."

Ginny's brother, Joe, posts a photo of Ginny every Thursday for #throwbackThursday to raise awareness for the scholarship. Donate by clicking here.

Driving Miss Virginia: Former ODU coach Wendy Larry, who spent the last three years as an associate commissioner at the Atlantic 10, was part of her last official function for the conference at media day. Larry, with more than 600 coaching wins next to her name, will retire but plans to be plenty busy over the next several months.

Larry's mother, Virginia, 89 and living in New Jersey, is eager to travel around the country with her daughter, who plans to do a lot of driving in the coming months. "We're going to Cape Cod, Charleston, my condo in Florida, New Orleans, and she wants to go to Italy," said Larry.

Wishing Wendy and her mom happy travels!

Home sweet home: George Mason coach Nyla Milleson enters her second year coaching the Patriots with a new home and an upbeat attitude about her new-look team, which includes two transfers.

On the home front, Milleson and husband Brent have settled into a house in Haymarket. Brent recently moved to Virginia after spending last year in Missouri and has settled into a new middle school teaching job with an ideal commute. "We both have a perfect 30-minute real-world commute," Milleson said. The difference? Brent's is almost always a half hour as he's going against traffic, wheras Nyla often gets caught up in the gridlock of being close to D.C.

"Sometimes it's an hour and 30 minutes," she said.
Jasmine Jackson

As for the team, two transfers, 5-9 redshirt junior Jasmine Jackson (Georgetown) and 6-2 redshirt
junior Kristi Mokube (Florida State), should be in the starting lineup, good news for Taylor Brown and Sandra Ngoie, who carried the offensive load a year ago for the Patriots. "Jasmine is a great defender," Milleson said. "She's going to be a great complement to Tay. I can run her both at the 3 and the 2. More importantly, she provides a big voice."

Jackson and Brown were former teammates at Georgetown.

As for Mokube, "She provides a tremendous presence on the block and on the boards," Milleson said. "You don't hear this much about a post player, but she's an energy player. She provides just endless energy physically and emotionally."

Rachel McNair is also healthy again, Talisha Watts has a renewed confidence and Reana Mohamed "continues to get better and is a spark plug for us," Milleson said.

Deeper Spiders: Richmond coach Michael Shafer is hoping the added depth he has will allow Gen Okoro and Liz Brown to return to their natural positions. Okoro played center a year ago but returns to the 4 spot with an added strength that has allowed her to shine in early practices. Olivia Healy, who blossomed last season as a freshman averaging 12.3 ppg before a January ACL tear, has also been cleared for practice, and two freshman will be part of the early mix. They are Karleigh Wike, a 6-4 forward,  and Rennie Harrison, a 6-4 forward/center. Wike is the career leader in rebounds (1,291) and blocks (477) for East Rowen (N.C.) High in Salisbury. Harrison is a two-time all-league player from Episcopal (Va.) High in Alexandria.

Patriot pals: Great idea by Milleson to pair teammates to spend time together outside of practice every day and eat one meal as pals per week. The pairs exchange two tokens of appreciation and encouragement and spend snack time together during practice. The purpose is to help the team get to know one another better and build team chemistry.

In Spain: Hardly surprising that through four games, VCU grad (and former A10 leading scorer) Robyn Parks is atop the stats for scoring with 14.8 ppg for Gran Canaria. Parks is shooting .417 from the field and .500 (4-of-8) from 3, averaging a team-high 30.89 minutes. The team is 2-2.
Robyn in Spain









Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marianne Stanley: a Hampton Roads Sports Hall-of-Famer with an unmatched legacy at ODU

Marianne and me
She was just 12, swinging from a flagpole that overlooked a four-lane highway outside of Philadelphia. When told by a passerby, "You can't do that," Marianne Stanley's response was this.

"Watch me."

So typical of this woman, whose sense of self and confidence catapulted her into heights well above even her wildest dreams.

What an honor it was for me to induct this women's basketball legend into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at Scope in Norfolk.

For her, it was an evening of catching up with many from Old Dominion who remember well the three teams she coached to the national championship, the last one in 1985. She looked around Scope with a gaze that suggested she was replacing all the folks in suits and ties for players with numbers, recalling that surreal experience when ODU hosted a loaded Russian national team and took a halftime lead into the locker room.

It was December 1979. Dr. J's Virginia Squires had never sold out Scope, but Stanley's Lady Monarchs did that night.

"Being back here in Scope brings back a flood of memories," said Stanley, wiping away tears.

If you've seen "The Mighty Macs," a feel-good film about Cathy Rush's success at Immaculata College,  you have some sense of the background Marianne hailed from. She grew up seeking out pickup games on the streets of Philadelphia against guys who towered over her. They weren't welcoming until they realized this:

"I could pass and I could play defense," she said.

She enrolled at Westchester State, but never attended, realizing late that the curriculum didn't match her interests. As much as she loved sports and competing, she did not want to be pigeon holed as a physical education teacher. Instead, she went to Immaculata and majored in sociology and thrived as a point guard in a sport that was in its infancy. Theresa Grentz was among her teammates and she doesn't put any qualifiers on calling Marianne the best point guard of all time.

ODU alum Wendy Larry played against Marianne when Immaculata visited the Fieldhouse. "She was  just so aware of where the ball needed to be," said Wendy, a graduate assistant to Stanley for the '85 championship

In four years at Immaculata, the Macs advanced to four national championships, a feat that Diana Taurasi fell one game shy of. The next year, Marianne was an assistant to Cathy Rush and the Macs reached the Final Four.

"We were pretty damned good," she says.

Winning was something Marianne knew about, so she wasn't daunted when, at 23 years of age, she interviewed with ODU athletic director Jim Jarrett over breakfast at a Marriott.

"I had a certain confidence about what I knew," Marianne said. "I felt like my experience was Swiss cheese: What was solid was real solid, but I had a lot to learn."

And yet she knew this, too. Jarrett was a visionary. He saw value and potential in women's sports, considered by many as nothing more than a nuisance. "There is absolutely no way I would have gotten anything more than what today is a director of operations job or a graduate assistant job with my experience. I don't know why he chose me. My life would be unrecognizable had I not come to Norfolk."

ODU went 30-4 in her first season and the next year, they finished 35-1, winning the AIAW national title in OT over UCLA in Greensboro. The next year, behind a 37-1 mark, they beat Tennessee for the second crown at Central Michigan. Stanley moved her team into the NCAA era with a 70-65 win over a favored Georgia team in Austin, Texas.

Her ODU teams won 30 or more games four times and enjoyed eight seasons of 20 or more wins.

At Tuesday's ceremony, she recalled playing at Virginia when Geno was an assistant to Debbie Ryan. Geno is now a friend, but she smiles when she says, "We went to Virginia and whipped their asses."

Other collegiate coaching jobs followed at Penn, Cal and USC, a place where she made her mark with a lawsuit that made national news. She wanted her pay to be equal to men's coach George Raveling, and after rejecting lesser offers, she was terminated. The Title IX suit she filed claiming sex discrimination was ultimately rejected in the federal court of appeals.

"I had a different kind of career," said Stanley, inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. "I had an awful lot of success early and then had to learn how to deal with not being so successful."

She's an assistant for the Washington Mystics these days, a teacher who stills prefers practice to games. She still loves every bit of it.

I don't have a daughter, but if I did, I wish she could learn from Marianne, an unabashed trailblazer who is a role model for kids playing any sport.








Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Adios, amiga! Dream comes true for VCU's Parks



Adios, amiga!

Robyn Parks is headed to Spain. The Virginia Commonwealth graduate, who led the Atlantic 10 in scoring and rebounding last season, left Wednesday to play for Gran Canaria, part of the Spanish Women's League.

How excited is Parks?

After learning the news on Monday, she called it "one of the most exciting days of my entire life."

Since graduating last spring, Parks picked up a temporary job back home in Waldorf, Md., all the while planning to go overseas to play ball. Calling the process long and hectic, she got discouraged when originally told she'd leave on Sept. 15 to play in Israel or Turkey. That day came and left. Parks admitted she didn't want to play just anywhere.

"I wanted to go somewhere where I could play against better players, so I could continue to get better," she said.

Admittedly, she lost hope and even when her dad woke her up at 7 a.m. on Monday, she didn't believe him.

"You're going to Spain, girl!" he shouted.

Half awake and sure he was joking, Parks went back to sleep.

"When I finally woke up, my agent confirmed that everything my dad was talking about was true," Parks said.

So Parks finds herself on a plane today for Last Palmas, the capital city of Gran Canaria, part of the Canary Islands located in northern Spain.

Her first game is Oct. 15. We're thrilled for Robyn and promise to keep you posted on her time there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Talking with Wendy Larry, inductee for the ODU Hall of Fame














Every time Wendy Larry plays the Old Dominion reel, she sees another face.

Her glorious career, which included taking the Lady Monarchs to the national championship in 1997, winning 17 CAA Tournament championships as head coach and amassing 608 victories for her alma mater, will be celebrated Nov. 8 when the New Jersey native will be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Speaking from her Atlantic 10 office in Newport News, where today she is associate commissioner for women's basketball and championship director for softball, Larry acknowledges all the support she got along the way to her career milestones.

"Individuals make plays and teams win championships, so I am inviting every single person who had anything to do with my career at Old Dominion to come to breakfast," Larry said. "It is a village, isn't it?"

Rattling off names of those who made Team Larry roar could read like a "Who's Who of Lady Monarchs History" -- Celeste, Ticha, Clarisse, Lucienne, Mery, Tanty, Shareese . . . but Larry includes support staff such as Jessica Bowman, Felecia Allen, Leslie Williams and Annette Chester -- folks she credits with playing an invaluable role in her 24 seasons at ODU that ended in 2011.   "I think of all of them in addition to the trainers and the assistants and the operations directors. It's just amazing what we did."

Larry hasn't sent out an invite breakfast email yet -- the ceremony is at 9 a.m. during ODU's homecoming festivities -- but she's already got word that former Lady Monarch Deanna Vander Plas plans to come. "There's people who want to come back to celebrate the family," says Larry, who jokes she has 50 grandchildren out there (and she plans to visit every one of her kids' kids when she eventually retires).

Celebrating Larry's legacy at ODU is overdue.

After spending 30 years at ODU as a player, assistant for a national championship team and head coach, Larry parted ways with the school in May 2011 after athletic director Wood Selig did not offer her a contract extension. On the heels of a 20-11 season, it was chilly ending with no fanfare for a coach who kept the Lady Monarchs relevant despite the emergence of the power conference era.

Larry hasn't returned to ODU for a game but accepted this honor "for the program, for the players, for my mom, who will be 90 years old soon. I'm doing it because it's not just about me. I mean, you get over your bad self in that regard. It's about so many people. It's about everyone who was engaged with what we did, who knew us for what we were. It's recognition for a lot of good folks who did a lot of good things together."

Larry enjoys the role she has at the Atlantic 10, even though talks of endless phone calls and late nights piecing the recently released conference schedule together for 14 teams make for long hours. She travels more, usually by air, for a league that spreads from Richmond to St.  Louis to New England to upstate New York to Dayton. And she is an ideal sounding board for the league's coaches, who love having one of their own advocating on their behalf.

"Working on the conference schedule, I asked myself, 'What would I like as a coach?' " Larry said. "I asked myself that for all 14 teams."

The ODU soundtrack that plays in Larry's head when she reflects on her success starts at a different point every time, with a different face. Maybe it's a former manager like Bowman, now Jessica Horning, who today is school activities coordinator at Virginia Beach's Cox High School or maybe it's Clar, a mother of two in Italy or maybe it's a former assistant such as Cindy Fisher, head coach at the University of San Diego.

Sometimes she gets giddy recalling the memories --  there was the Monique Coker recruiting trip in the Bronx, which had her and assistant Allison Greene searching for their towed rental car past midnight. Other times it's awe -- recounting Grant's 35-point performance in the 2005 CAA title game with walk-on Melea Caldwell playing point and the ODU frontline fouled out.

Twenty NCAA Tournaments. Two Elite Eights. National runner-up. Triple-peating in the CAA championship game again and again and again and again and again.

Those are glory days,  Wendy Larry days worth celebrating. Breakfast tickets are $25 and can be purchased through ODU by calling (757) 683-3359.














Thursday, September 11, 2014

Updated verbals for 2015-16; six at JMU, four at Hampton



Taisha Murphy

The women's basketball season may still be weeks away, but several programs are already knee-deep into the process of stocking up for the 2015-16 campaign and beyond. Here are the 2015 verbal commitments we have so far for the state's 13 Division I programs. As always, if you know of someone we've missed, drop us a line at ladyswishing@hotmail.com or on twitter @ladyswish

2015 verbal commitments

WILLIAM AND MARY

Chandler Smith, 6-3 C, St. Mary's Ryken (Md)

Bianca Boggs, 5-8 G, St. Mary's Ryken (Md)

Misha Jones, 5-9 G, Battlefield (Va.)

VIRGINIA TECH

Kelly Koshuta, 6-2 F, James Madison (Va.)

Chanette Hicks, 5-5 G, Maury (Va.)

Alana Gilmer, 6-0 F, Archbishop Williams (Mass.)

Lexi Barrier, 5-11 G, Ironton (Ohio)

Also available for 2015: 6-2 F Sidney Cook (Parkton, N.C.), a transfer from Seton Hall who made the Big East All-Freshman team and has three years of eligibility remaining.




JMU

Kayla Williams, 6-2 F, Hylton (Va)
   - Chose JMU over ODU. Older brother Chris Cooper was a standout Monarchs forward.

Aneah Young, 5-10 F, Polytechnic (Md.)

Elemy Colome, 5-9 G, Proctor Academy (NH)

Destiny Campbell, 6-2 F, Scotland (NC)

Logan Reynolds, 5-8 G, Wise (Va.)

Savannah Felgemacher, 6-2 F, Volunteer (Tenn.)

OLD DOMINION

Gianna Smith, 5-10 G, Maury

LIBERTY

Kierra Palmer, 5-8 G, Aberdeen (Md.)

Keturah Barbour, 6-0 F, Albemarle (Va.)

Molly Reagan, 6-2 F/C, Braintree (Mass.)

NORFOLK STATE

Quiera Gilmore, 5-8 G, Ardrey Kelly (N.C.)

GEORGE MASON
Jewel Triggs

Jewel Triggs, 5-11 G, Thibodaux (La.)

Chinyere Bell, 6-1 F, Southview (N.C.)

Also available in 2015: 6-6 C Briget O'Donnell, a transfer from UMBC

HAMPTON
Dejane James

Taylor Pate, 6-2 F, Proviso West (Ill.)

Dejane James, 5-4 G, Weaver (Conn.)

K'lynn Willis, 5-4 G, Cass Tech (Mich)

Jephany Brown, 6-0 F Walters State CC (Tenn.)

VCU

Bria Gibson, 6-0 F, Sanderson (N.C.)

Katherine Strong, 6-2 F, Bloom (Chicago)

Sandra Skinner, 6-0 F, Clark( Ky)

VIRGINIA

Debra Ferguson, 6-4 C, Amherst County (VA)

Shakyna Payne, 6-4 C, Southwest Christian Academy (Ga.)

Also available in 2015, 5-10 G J'Kyra Brown (Rocky Mount, N.C.), a transfer from East Carolina.

RICHMOND

Taisha Murphy, 5-10 G, Clayton (N.C.)

RADFORD

Lydia Rivers, 6-2 F, Kinston (N.C.)

Alexis Jackson, 5-9 G, Meade (Md.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why we love Radford's Aisha Foy



A few weeks ago, we sent players a Twitter survey to try and learn how they spent their summers. Well, let's just say we weren't overwhelmed with responses. But that's OK; we love the feedback we got, particularly one detailed offering from Radford's Aisha Foy. In fact, we loved it so much we decided to share it with the world.

Thanks a ton, Aisha. Coach (Mike) McGuire, more minutes for this young lady!


1. What aspect of your game have you worked on/improved the most this offseason?

Absolutely the mental part of the game and self-development as a person and leader. We can work on our jump shot until we shoot like MJ, but if we can't help our teammates do the same thing then we won't get championships. We have eight newcomers this year; that's huge for basketball. So the entire concept of leading by example makes every other aspect of your game improve because you have to work harder than everyone else in any drill no matter what it is so the game and skill will come.

2. Most fun thing you've done this summer?

Wow. The most fun thing I did this summer was my experience as a Quest Assistant, which is a student helper for freshman orientation. They split about 300-400 incoming freshmen that come each session into groups for about 20 per QA, and we are the first impression of the school. You can be the deciding factor if they come back to Radford in the fall. And if they don't have a choice, are they going to be excited to come back or will they dread it? Talk about pressure! Twenty freshmen, with the wrong things on their mind, and having to keep them motivated and entertained through a long day of presentations they don't want to sit through AND have to tend to anxious parents that want to ask all the questions in the world. . . . I don't care what anyone says; that's one of the toughest jobs in the world. But it was rewarding and so much fun through the process and the training. All the 24 QAs live together for about a month and a half and build this incredible bond. As a QA you develop this ownership, love and appreciation for your school. You also make amazing friends, even though all 24 of us were completely different. I had trouble bonding and developing relationships with people different than me (non-athletes). After my QA experience, I can find ways to relate to anyone which was something that was on my list to develop anyway. The greatest moment of my QA experience was we had a talent show just for the staff during the training period, and I decided at the last minute to put together a speech to inspire everyone throughout our journey (Believe me, we needed it working 6 a.m. to noon during sessions). This was a huge fear of mine, but at the same time I want to be a speaker, so I got that first time out of the way (haha). Personally, the QA experience hit me in a different way because I was one of three athletes on staff. When you are being recruited as an athlete to come to a school, there's SO much you don't see or realize about your school. I wass fortunate to get to have such an amazing experience, to have a huge impact of the incoming freshmen and to be the one to make a difference in their time here at Radford.

3. Summer guilty pleasure?

It came when I went on vacation to Cancun with my family. For those four days ate and had fun and that was about it (haha). I had all the intentions to hit the gym every day, but I got so caught up in my family craziness time when by so fast! But I had a great time.

4. Best movie you've seen this summer, and why did you enjoy it so much?

I actually didn't see any good movies really! I am not into TV.

5. Favorite Robin Williams movie/show/special?

I have watched a lot of Robin Williams but my favorite has to be "Mrs. Doubtfire." Hilarious!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Instead of an Ice Bucket Challenge video, a story about ALS and former WNBA player KD Whittington

KD Whittington
















I don't have a funny video to post of anyone dumping water on my head to show support for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Though many find the videos tiresome at this point, I have no issue with the idea but instead choose to tell a story about a story I once told.

Girls basketball fans in Hampton Roads likely have vivid memories of a high school team that included T.J. Jordan, whose three-point shooting lit up Old Dominion for four years, and her Wilson High School teammate Khadijah "KD" Whittington, who moved to the area for her senior year of high school. Whittington and Jordan only played together for one season, 2003, a memorable one in Portsmouth, Va, when the Presidents got all the way to the state final before a crushing loss.

Whittington would go on to star at NC State under Coach Kay Yow, and a WNBA career followed.

Her father, Mansoor Mohammed, suffered from ALS.

Instead of following his daughter's basketball career, instead of sharing in her adult life, he was confined to a bed in a Hampton nursing home. Father and daughter had always been close. As much as she was the emotional heartbeat of her high school team, he was her emotional heartbeat. He never missed a game until he wasn't able to go anymore.

He laid in that bed for six years.

One Sunday, I accompanied her to visit her dad. She was visiting from Raleigh during her senior year at NC State.

For two hours, I said almost nothing. I watched KD and her dad. She kissed his forehead. She braided his hair. She read him cards that were sitting on a nearby table. She opened a present -- a dream catcher. She cleaned his ears and washed his face. She read from his Koran. She talked and talked and talked, sharing stories about her progress as a college player and her WNBA dreams. She talked about the Wolfpack's trip to the Bahamas, and then she began to weave his puffy black and gray hair into dreadlocks, joking that he looked too much like Don King with all that hair.

She dabbed away occasional tears and told him over and over how much she loved him.

Mohammed never spoke. Beyond occasional blinks from his eyes, nothing else about his body moved. I have never seen anyone so rigid, teeth entirely clenched. He stared intently at his daughter. She swore he smiled a few times, and I'd like to think he did.

But here's what I know. The ALS robbed him of movement and communication in a cruel way. Imagine if your mind worked, but you couldn't make any part of you work or speak or respond to those around you. During early visits, KD used an alphabet chart to try to communicate with her dad, but that became too laborious for both as the disease progressed. All life as most of us know it was impossible for this man in this bed who had tubes sticking out of every part of him with machines beeping that occasionally prompted nurses to check. His life was closer to death than life.

For me, ALS is Mansoor Mohammed. It was January 2008. That September he died at the age of 57.

I remember leaving that nursing home that afternoon, feeling a sense of relief when I walked out the door, more focused on my own movement than ever before. Walking and speaking -- two things I admittedly take for granted -- never felt so good. I hopped in my car and got back on the interstate, but the image of Mohammed couldn't escape me. Sometimes I would think of all the things I had done in an hour or in a day or in a week and I would think of him, still lying motionless, no chance of recovery.

Because here are the facts. ALS attacks nerve cells and leads to total paralysis. The mind, however, remains sharp. Life expectancy is two to five years after diagnosis. The cause isn't known. There is no cure.

I don't tire of the Ice Bucket Challenge for that reason. The added awareness has brought in $41 million and counting -- donations that can perhaps bring us closer to a cure so no one has to suffer the way Mansoor Mohammed did for more than half a decade.

I donate to the ALS Association today in memory of Mohammed and in honor of KD. No one should have to suffer as the two of them did.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A big year for Jazmon, who's not back and JMU schedule details, all from Coach Kenny Brooks












While Kirby and Nikki have moved on, there's still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the 2014-15 version of James Madison. We caught up with Kenny Brooks, who's in the middle of a move to a new house, and he shared some thoughts.

First, we asked about the move and Brooks admitted he's an HGTV junkie (all this time we thought he was watching hoops . . .). He's lived in Harrisonburg 17 years, and this is his fourth move with a fifth to follow shortly. The old house sold in two days and the Brooks family is in temporary housing, looking to build with an eye toward downsizing. "As long as I have my man cave, I'm OK," he said. Remember, in addition to wife Chrissy, Kenny shares his digs with daughters Kendyl, Chloe and Gabby.

Jazmon
As for the the Duke women, we asked who's had the best summer, and of course, he's impressed by all, offering these specifics on a few.  "At the top it has to be (Jazmon) Gwathmey," he said. "Her work ethic is on par with the Nikkis and the Kirbys and the Dawns and the Tameras."

JMU fans will love to hear about her developing three-point shooting prowess (she was 10-of-33
from behind the arc last season). "If Dawn and Kirby are 1 and 1A, she's probably B," Brooks said. "We had a workout this spring, which was probably one of the most impressive showcase performances I've ever seen."

Brooks had her attempt 25 treys after a workout.

"She made 23 of them," he said. "She's gotten stronger. She's put on some weight. She probably weighs 168, 170. I'm really excited about what's she's going to be able to do this year."

On Precious Hall: "She's has been tremendous, taking more of a leadership role. I think she's going to be a little bit more off the ball this year because of (Angela) Mickens' role. I think she's going to have a fantastic year as well."

On Toia Giggetts: "She has really blossomed as a player here so much so that we've gone out recruiting based on Toia's performance. As she's an undersized post player, normally, I would have been hesitant to take them, but now we compare them to Toia, and if they compare relatively, we think they can do it. She's probably going to be more of a go-to player than last year."

Da'Lishia
Look for 6-2 sophomore forward Da'Lishia Griffin to gain minutes. "She came on tremendously in February. She actually broke the rotation a little bit and played over a couple of kids. We went with her because she's got a high basketball IQ, tremendous hands, soft touch around the basket and rebounds well. She needed to get in shape, and it took her a while. It was very reminiscent of Toia's freshman year."

They have newbies -- freshmen 6-foot forward Carley Brew, 5-10 guard Hailee Barron and 5-7 guard Candice Williams -- but they are likely to play behind a pretty experienced group, even with the loss of Burkholder and Newman.

On a side note, 6-2 Beverly Ogunrinde (who averaged a double-double for Pallotti High in Laurel, Md., is not on the roster, going the junior college route in New York instead, a mutual decision, Brooks said. Senior Crystal Ross is also not back, focusing on academics with plans to graduate in May. (We noted in an earlier post that Amani Tatum has transferred to Manhattan College and incoming transfer Allysia Rohlehr has opted not to play college ball due to number of concussions.)

All this talk of players makes us anticipate the season and Brooks gave us a peek at the schedule, which includes a home opener against UCLA, St. Bonaventure, American, Pitt, Maryland (in Puerto Rico where they'll have Houston, too), Richmond, Ohio, Hampton and Vandy before the CAA slate.

Closing it off, we asked about Kirby and Nikki, kids Brooks has known since they were 10. The future looks fun for both. Kirby is set to play in Italy for Italian A1 League based in Orvieto (she'll love the shopping), and Nikki, on the JMU staff as assistant director of operations, is going to sit alongside David Taylor for Dukes broadcasts. Nikki will be doing color, a good fit for her zany personality. (Also look or rather, hear her voice for "Inside the Huddle" on the JMU website.)

One more question, Coach? Is it time to tip off the season yet? Can't wait to see these Dukes!

Monday, August 18, 2014

ODU loses recruit to junior college

Gilmore on Senior Night
Point guard Auteaonna Gilmore, who had committed to Old Dominion, will instead attend Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., according to the All-Star Girls Report.

Gilmore, whose height is listed anywhere between 5-6 and 5-9 depending on the source, graduated from Capitol Christian High in Landover, Md. and was a three-star recruit, according to ESPN.com. The Fort Washington (Md) native played AAU ball for the Fairfax Stars.

Chipola, a junior college in the Florida panhandle, is coming off its best season in school history, finishing 33-2 with a loss in the national semifinals.

Prior to her senior year, Gilmore attended Riverdale Baptist High, and had she attended ODU, she would have been reunited with Jennie Simms, an alum of that high school. Simms and Gilmore played together on a nationally ranked Riverdale team.

Simms, a transfer from West Virginia who will be eligible for the coming season, leads what has been ranked as the top recruiting class in Conference USA. In addition to incoming freshman Maia Lee, a 6-3 forward, and Keyana Brown, a 5-11 guard, 6-2 forward Annika Holopainen will be eligible to play for the Lady Monarchs.