Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ODU Lady Monarchs: Thanks for the memories

Clarisse has a red 'do. Lucienne has an adorable baby girl named Marie. Clarisse's son, Luca, loves to kick around the basketball. Natalie's hair extends all the way down her back.

TJ has a new haircut. Hamchetou still talks with that wonderful accent. Mery looks just like the Mery we last saw in 1999.

Nine of the 11 Lady Monarchs selected to be on the CAA Silver Anniversary will be at the Constant Center on Wednesday night. Tipoff for the ODU/Towson game is at 7 p.m., but get there early to see these special players, which also include Shareese Grant, Nyree Roberts and Celeste Hill, honored.

All of them attended shootaround on Wednesday afternoon and joined the current Lady Monarchs for their pre-game meal. Most of them weren't just in awe of the Constant Center; they were in awe of the evolving campus.

"When I first got on campus, I couldn't believe how much it had changed," Jordan said. "They have a football field, a new rec center. Walking in (the Constant Center) for the first time, I noticed all the lights, saw all the goals I used to shoot from. All the memories are good."

TJ loves her life in Stockton, Calif., where she works as a mental health counselor for teenagers. Nobody in Stockton knows the legend behind Three-J and she prefers it that way.

"It's wonderful to feel again," Jordan said. "I have no pain in my body at all. My feet feel good. My thumbs feel good. My knees don't hurt."

Diaz doesn't play, either, except shooting free throws with the kids at her native Mojave reservation in Needles, Calif. She resides in Surprise, Ariz., but spends a bulk of her time in Needles, working as part of a language revitalization contract.

"The Mojave language is dying out; we're working to keep it alive," said Diaz, an accomplished writer and poet who teaches composition at Grand Canyon University. Her first poetry book is due out in 2011, and if you've never read her writing, check it out.

Diaz's knees have improved, and though she enjoyed her playing days, she doesn't miss them.

"As long as nobody's chasing me, I'm not running," she said. "I still can't wear heels, though."

Clarisse and Mery play abroad (at the end of the month, Clarisse's Italian team will be pitted against Ticha's Italian team. Ticha and Monique Coker are the two CAA honorees who were unable to return for Wednesday's ceremony). Clarisse has her hands full chasing around her 5-year-old, Luca, whom Mery loves to roughhouse with.

"Sometimes I can't believe I'm not here anymore," Clarisse said. "Walking around I keep thinking I need to study for something."

Like many of the players, Lucienne, who resides in her native France, misses the intimacy of the field house. "I loved playing there," she said. "Our fans were so great. We had a core group that followed us everywhere, so any house was our house.

Mery, who lives in Milan, felt at home back o the ODU campus instantly. "I saw so many people I recognized --teachers, people I used to play at lunchtime."

She coaches camps over the summer and is not surprisingly, demanding with the kids. "I make them run," she said, sending the Lady Monarch alums into giggles as they recalled sprints for anything more than 12 turnovers in a game.

Hamchetou, whose WNBA franchise (Sacramento) folded will play in Minnesota this season (Ticha has signed with LA).

"I'm sad the Monarchs are gone, but I'm looking forward to my new opportunity," she said. "I loved the fans here."

Shareese frequently sits behind the bench at home games, hoping to get back overseas to play. She works as a recreation supervisor at Fort Monroe and she will always be celebrated for taking the team on her back in the CAA championship game (she scored 35 amazing points). She and ODU assistant Celeste Hill, who will also be honored on Wednesday, are the only two players that have remained local.

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