Monday, July 29, 2013

Virginia vs. Tennessee at Junkanoo Jam

Virginia will get a major test on Thanksgiving Day when the Cavaliers take on Tennessee in the opener of the Bahamas-based Junkanoo Jam tournament.

The Cavaliers and Lady Vols will square off in the first semifinal of the event's four-team Lucaya Division on Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. SMU will face Kansas State in the second semifinal. The two first-round losers will play for third place on Nov. 29 at 4:15 p.m. The championship game will follow at 7 p.m.

Tennessee advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight last season and is expected to be even more potent this season with the arrival of Mercedes Russell, the nation's No. 1 recruit. Russell will join a cast that includes National Freshman of the Year Bashaara Graves and backcourt stars Meighan Simmons and Ariel Massengale.

Virginia is just 3-13 lifetime against the Lady Vols, but the Cavaliers did snatch a 69-64 overtime decision in the teams' last meeting on Nov. 20, 2011 (Joanne Boyle's fourth game as Virginia's coach). Two current Cavaliers were pivotal in the victory - Ataira Franklin finished with 12 points and Lexie Gerson added 10.

This year will mark Virginia's third appearance in the Junkanoo Jam. The Cavaliers placed first in 2010 and came in third in 2007.

Oh, Pye! Former William and Mary guard excited about playing in Norway

She can't wait to see the Northern Lights, bundle up for the chilly climate and of course, play great basketball, too.

Welcome to Norway, Taysha Pye! Or to be more specific, welcome to Bergen, home of Gimle, the team that recently signed the former William and Mary star, whose 1,679 points are second most in school history.

Overseas ball has been a long time coming. After taking a year off from the game, which wasn't exactly in the plan, Pye finally will be able to experience international basketball when she arrives in the city surrounded by mountains on Sept. 1.

The signing "came out of nowhere," Pye said."When I first graduated last May (2012), I had an agent, but it turned out to be a really bad situation. I didn't choose the right agent. I ended up not getting signed."

So Pye took to the Internet herself, along with some help from Chuck Correal, dad to her former teammate Emily Correal (bound for Italy).

"He played a really big part," Pye said. "He contacted a ton of teams and a ton of coaches for me, and I was doing the same thing, so it was me and him sending a ton of emails."

Pye sent along links to her YouTube videos (which we must say are quite impressive), and found the perfect situation in Bergen, which was seeking a combo guard. The coach was surprised at Pye not being signed, and she attributes that to missing part of her senior year. In addition to sitting out out three games in 2011-12, Pye started just 9 of William and Mary's 30 games. Pye played for Debbie Taylor, who was let go after the 2012-13 season.

Pye calls her senior year "disappointing" and noted she is pleased at the hiring of new Tribe coach Ed Swanson. After graduation, she remained in Williamsburg to give her access to the W&M facilities where working out and working became her life. She maintained two-a-days on her own while holding a job at the Bose store.  But she missed being part of a team, especially the bond that comes with being on the floor together.

"I missed the sisterhood," said Pye, who majored in kinesiology at W&M and plans to open her own fitness center in the future. "I'm really excited to be on a team again."

While she contacted numerous teams, she is particularly happy that she ended up signing with Gimle.

"I emailed Norway teams, Swedish teams, Italian teams, Spanish teams -- places where I'd like to spend time," said Pye, a native of the Bronx. "I'm really happy that Norway responded because I can't wait to experience that. Bergen sounds like a really interesting place. I know in the summer, there are days when the sun does not set. It stays light all the time."

As for sights, "I definitely want to see the Northern Lights," she said. "I"m excited to go to Norway for a couple of reasons. They are one of the best run countries in the world. They're socially really accepting and happy people, low crime. But it definitely will be really cold."

The Northern Lights

Sunday, July 28, 2013

ODU's Lewis confident about her new overseas job: basketball in Bulgaria

Tia Lewis can't wait.

The former Old Dominion forward is Bulgaria bound.

Lewis signed a pro contract earlier this month with Dunav 8806 Ruse of the Bulgarian Basketball League. Her team is the three-time defending league champion.

The news is great for Lewis, who earned a WNBA tryout last season before leaving for Netanya, Israel, a situation that ended up not working out. Lewis said it was not a good fit, as when she arrived, she said, she was told to forgo scoring for defense.

"The offer in Bulgaria was always on the table since I left Israel," she said. "I had to do some soul searching to find out if I really wanted to go back overseas and I had a couple of other offers. But I think Bulgaria is the best fit for me. They're clear in what they've said to me and what they've offered me, and they are sure of what they want from me."

So what do they want? Lewis says they want her to put up the kind of numbers she compiled for the Lady Monarchs -- 16.9 ppg and 8.9 rpg when her 35.5 minutes was third in the CAA her senior season.  She feels even better about her scoring capability given some extra body weight she felt was necessary to put on.

"I've gained power and strength with my game," said Lewis, who has spent her summer playing pickup with the Lady Monarchs. "I like my new weight. I was only really, really skinny because I never got a break with basketball. I'm powering up."

Lewis will be playing alongside her former CAA teammate Shante Evans of Hofstra along with Oregon's Amanda Johnson.

   The main street of the city is "Aleksandrovska."

She is looking forward to immersing herself in the Bulgarian culture, which is rich in archaeology, architecture and folklore, though she will miss American food and wouldn't mind receiving a care package or two from the friends and family she will leave behind  (raman and snacks are her faves).
"I'm very picky," she said.

As far as being rusty? "Not at all," Lewis assured. "I've been working out. I don't even see how people become rusty."

Here's how Lewis described herself on her new team's website: "Hard working, determined, motivated player who loves to play the inside out game. I am more of an undersize post with ball handles so I make my way to the basket a lot. I am a terrific rebounder, always hungry for a put-back. Overall people’s person that gets along with everyone."

We couldn't agree more. Follow Tia on on her fan page, and of course, we'll keep you up to date on her progress.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hampton Roads Pro-Am playoffs set to begin

Norfolk State's Rachel Gordon finished 3rd in the league in scoring.

Who will be named the regular season most valuable player of the Hampton Roads 7 Cities Women's Basketball Pro-Am?

Despite our best efforts, league CEO and operator James Flood Jr. wasn't telling. So it looks like we'll find out with everyone else when the four-team playoff series begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Maury High School in Norfolk.

The MVP will be named prior to tipoff of the playoff opener pitting undefeated Talk Family Va./Norfolk Express Alumni (led by Old Dominion's Chelisa Painter and Galaisha Goodhope) against Academic Athletics (ex-South Carolina State standout Trinese Fox, former Radford star Kymesha Alston). The second semifinal will commence Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and feature Towne Bank (former George Washington ace Danni Jackson, ex-George Mason star Amber Easter) against Optima Health Family Care  (Norfolk State's Rachel Gordon, ODU's Shae Kelley and Ashley Betz-White).

The championship game is set for Aug. 3 at 3 p.m.

Chelisa Painter
Flood said this year the pro-am took another step forward as a must-play event for the area's top players, as the league featured more teams (six, up from five the previous two seasons), a deeper talent pool, more competitive games and a healthier contingent of players from the Peninsula (Hampton and Newport News).

"It's gone extremely well," said Flood, whose goal is to feature an eight-team league. "But we're going to keep on building."

While Flood declined to reveal the MVP, no doubt strong consideration went to ODU's Painter, the 6-1 George Washington transfer who has delivered at both ends of the floor. Painter posted a 17-point, 16-rebound effort in last week's regular-season finale and finished with a league-high 16.5 scoring average, more than two points higher than anyone else.

For more information about the league and teams, visit the pro-am website.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Viva Italia! A chat with William and Mary's Emily Correal

Oh, to be Emily Correal! The William and Mary grad signed her first professional contract Thursday and will play for Fila San Martino in Italy. San Martino won the A2 North league playoffs last year, earning the team a promotion to A1, the top women's league, for the upcoming season.

LadySwish chatted with Correal about what promises to be an awesome adventure. Correal leaves Aug. 18 (she'll fly into Rome) and she's in the process of becoming an Italian citizen, too!

"My great grandparents were naturalized in America, so the citizenship passes down," she said. "This year I'll be playing as an American, but it's a real advantage to have dual citizenship. You don't count again the two-American quota."

Correal has never been abroad before and is more than a little psyched to play in the city that is a ski resort full of beaches with great shopping and food. Her summer so far has been a busy one, as she had to take one class to complete her degree in marketing.

"In June, I did an independent study where I taught an acting class," she said. "It was really fun. One of my tasks was to lead the class in yoga every day. We did scenes from plays, too." (BTW, Correal remains passionate about acting in the future along with modeling and broadcasting and perhaps advertising.)

On the basketball end, Correal has worked with a personal trainer and shooting in the gym every day.

"My dad rebounds for me," she said.

Correal looks forward to dedicating herself solely to basketball. "All my focus will be on the team," she said. "I don't have to worry about getting a midterm paper done before a game. It might be easier not in the sense of competition, but that I can focus my full attention on basketball and training."

While many players find themselves filled with extra free time during international play, Correal has already taken note that her preseason schedule includes two-a-days every day with Sunday off. No pressure, of course, but Correal, who averaged  16.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg her senior year at W&M, has been told the team will be built around her.

"I'll come out and set screens and do pick and roll and also, they'll set screens for me to shoot.  Coach wants me to shoot the 3 and everything, which is great because I wasn't allowed to at William and Mary," she said. 

With Italian citizenship, Correal will also be eligible to play for the national team. She's hoping to get her citizenship by October.

Correal also plans to travel the country and ideally go to France and Spain, too. All of it sounds glorious if you ask us. 

"I have a lot of friends who have traveled abroad, and they keep telling me about the food and the great gelato ice cream," she said.   

Correal promises to share details of her basketball and beyond adventure by occasionally blogging for us. We're ecstatic she's agreed and can't wait to read her first post. Until then, pack your bags for Italy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Former VCU guard transfers to Florida community college

Atwater with Titans coach Jim Grimes and her brother, Jeron
Highly touted guard Kaneisha Atwater, who initially signed with Old Dominion but then attended VCU, has transferred to Eastern Florida State College (formerly Brevard Community College). The school, which competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association, is located about an hour away from Atwater's hometown, Fort Pierce, Fla.

The 5-7 Atwater was the first Parade All-American to ever sign with VCU. Atwater committed to ODU under former coach Wendy Larry, but did not attend the school and chose to sit out the season following her senior year at Westwood High School.

Atwater appeared in all 30 games for the Rams last season, starting 12, and averaged 18.6 minutes, 6.2 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Virginia Tech loses recruit to Oregon State

Breanna Brown
The six-player recruiting class Virginia Tech announced last month is now a five-player class.

Breanna Brown, the 6-4 post player from California who signed with the Hokies last November, will instead stay on the West Coast and play at Oregon State.

"She's in summer school (at OSU) right now," said Leroy Hurt, Brown's AAU coach with the Cal Ballaz. "She got her release from Virginia Tech. She just wasn't comfortable going there anymore."

According to Hurt, Brown lost interest in Tech after former assistant Chantelle Anderson left in a "mutual decision" with head coach Dennis Wolff.

"Chantelle was the person who recruited her, the one who showed up at every (AAU) game," Hurt said. "Then when she left, they sent an assistant coach out to tell Breanna, not the head coach. It didn't feel right to Breanna after that."

Brown, a rebounding and defensive stalwart who was gradually improving her offensive game, was ranked the 43rd best prospect in the Class of 2013 by Blue Star Basketball and No. 73 by All Star Girls Report.

The five recruits still ticketed for Tech are: Sarafina Maulupe, a 5-8 guard from Murrieta, Calif.; Vanessa Panousis, a 5-7 guard from Sydney, Australia; Maddison Penn, a 6-0 guard also from Sydney, Australia; Samantha Hill, a 5-10 guard from Toronto; and Tara Nahodil, a 6-4 center from Pine Grove, Pa.

The loss of Brown continued an offseason of significant transition for the Hokies, who bid adieu to two assistants (Anderson and Billi Godsey, now the head coach at Iona) and three players with eligibility remaining. Larryqua Hall was dismissed from the team while Alex Kiss-Rusk and Alexis Lloyd both transferred.

Dribbles and bits on Hampton's Gilbeaux, ex-NSU assistant and Hokies international

Had a nice chat Monday with Hampton coach David Six, who filled us in on all things Lady Pirates. Although it's obviously early, Six said he's been pleasantly surprised by the rapid development of Georgianna Gilbeaux, a rugged incoming freshman guard - not to mention a first-team All-Name candidate - from D.C.'s H.D. Woodson High.

I was intrigued, so about an hour later, while killing time in the Tidewater Community College library, I googled Gilbeaux.

"Do you know Georgianna?" the man sitting next to me asked.

"Not really. Why?"

"She used to play for me in AAU ball."

Turns out I'd had pulled up a keyboard next to Ricardo Foster, an assistant coach on Boo Williams' 15-and-under elite squad. Let's just say he was hardly surprised Gilbeaux was fitting in so well.

Now I can go to that library for the next 100 days and not find anyone who knows Gilbeaux from Stephen Colbert. But on this day, I hit the coincidence jackpot.


Just when we thought the assistant coach carousel had made its final revolution....

A couple of months ago, Norfolk State's Kenny Edwards was doing what all assistant coaches do this
time of year - scouting the next wave of talent at a faraway AAU tournament - when he received a text from his wife.

"I have a 10-month old son - Charlie - and the text showed him crawling for the first time," Edwards said. "And it hit me - I don't want to miss all those things."

The desire to spend more time at home is a big reason why he's now ex-Norfolk State assistant Kenny Edwards. He recently accepted the job as head girls basketball coach at Chesapeake's Grassfield High.

"I enjoyed my time at Norfolk State, met a lot of great people and learned an awful lot about what it takes to succeed at that level," said Edwards, who spent four seasons with the Spartans. "But it's tough spending that much time on the road, especially with a newborn. Plus I miss running my own program."

Prior to coming to Norfolk State, Edwards was a three-time Beach District Coach of the Year and amassed a 200-139 record as a head coach in 15 seasons.

Spartans coach Debra Clark said she hopes to have NSU's vacant assistant's position filled by the end of the year.


Virginia Tech, aka the United Nations of the state's women's basketball teams, has four players competing in international tournaments this month. Here's your Hokies scorecard so far:

Taijah Campbell
World University Games

Taijah Campbell, Team Canada 
     - Averaged 4.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14.5 minutes to help Canada to an eighth-place finish out of 16 teams. Campbell notched her tournament-high of 10 rebounds in Canada's Games opener against Japan, and scored a tourney-high 8 points in just 9 minutes in the 7th-place game against Hungary.

FIBA U19 World Championships

Samantha Hill, Canada
     - Is averaging 1.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in limited minutes through three games. Had 5 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes against China. Hill's Canada squad will take on the United States on Tuesday.

Maddie Penn, Australia
     - Has logged just 5 minutes in 4 games for a strong Australian side.

Samantha Panousis, Australia
     - Is averaging 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists through four games. Lit up Russia for 13 points in 22 minutes and added 11 in a win over Japan.


Quick hits

- Turnabout is fair play - A couple of months after William and Mary snagged ex-Sacred Heart head coach Ed Swanson to take over the Tribe, new Sacred Heart head coach has added ex-William and Mary assistant Will Ingersoll to her staff with the Pioneers.

- VCU will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the second straight season for a game against Ohio State (head coach Marlene Stollings and assistant Nikki Dawkins are both former Buckeyes). OSU thumped the Rams 88-50 last season. This year's game is scheduled for Nov. 17.

- Finally, who's the best returning player among Virginia's Division I schools? The best 10 players? Drop us a line at and let us know what you think. Our list of the best 25 returners will be coming soon.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Virginia-bound Mikayla Venson succeeding by taking her own path

Being a regular teenager is important to Mikayla Venson, a rising senior at Arlington's Yorktown High who committed to the University of Virginia earlier this week.

That means family comes first. Spending time with mom Pia, father Michael and her brother, 21, also named Michael, comes first in her life. But just because she hasn't spent all her time playing high school or AAU ball, don't think that Venson, a 5-7 point guard ranked No. 23 in the class of 2014 by ESPN, doesn't work at her game.

"I'm going to work my butt off between now and when I get to UVA," said Venson, whose father is a former McDonald's All-American who played one season at Georgetown under John Thompson before finishing at James Madison under Lefty Driesell.

Venson joins 6-2 Aliyah Huland El and 6-2 Lauren Moses in a 2014 class that looks to be among the best in the nation.

Venson has gone the nontraditional route. She won't play basketball her senior year, and she didn't play as a junior, choosing to focus on her health. During her sophomore year, Venson was sidelined three games into last season when, while driving to the basket against Centreville, she crashed to the floor after a forearm to the head. While Venson lay on the floor, the game continued, until the teams returned to her end.

"I played for one more minute and I got up not feeling well," she said. "Afterward, I told my parents I had a headache."

The headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and sensitivity to light and noise continued for months, all lingering symptoms of a concussion. Venson resorted to home schooling and didn't attend games given the effect of the noise and lights.

When she returned to the court, it was if she never left. Playing for Team Takeover, Venson wowed coaches at the Boo Williams Invitational with her pull-up jumper, athleticism and quick hands. Although she hadn't played AAU since 2008, Venson decided to join Team Takeover as it was coached by Ron James, her former 9U AAU coach and father to one of her best friends, Raven James. But an elbow right between the eyes while playing in Florida in June sent Venson to the hospital. The 12 stitches above her eye are healing nicely, though her AAU career is over.

"She's the total package," said James, who coached her Fairfax Stars team to a national championship in 2008. "The thing that I've always known about her that makes her pretty unique is her dedication and commitment to the game. Her motor keeps on going. She's got that 'it' factor."

Even as a young teen Venson was up at 5 a.m. in the gym with her dad hungry for more drills. She loves working out with her dad and has made a habit of playing pickup against not just guys, but men, many of whom are her dad's friends.

Yet the choice not to let basketball dominate her childhood was a conscious one.

"I'm a regular teenager, and I'm glad I've experienced that," said Venson, who lists books, movies and traveling with her family as her favorite things to do. "I did't want to be in a gym 24/7 playing basketball."

Venson calls her biggest motivator her brother. Michael Venson II, has cerebral palsy. In a May tweet, Mikayla said not seeing her brother every day would be the hardest part of going to college. The proximity to family is among the reasons why she chose Virginia over  Rutgers, Duke, West Virginia, Maryland and James Madison. Stanford, Cal and UCLA also showed interest, but, "I wanted to stay on the East Coast," she said. Tennessee, Louisville and South Carolina were the other schools in her final four.

"As soon as I got on campus at Virginia and met the coaches and players, I felt comfortable," said Venson, who will major in psychology. "The academics are great. The campus has a wonderful atmosphere. I just love it."

Mom and Dad promise to be at home games and many on the road, and the bond Mikayla shares with her brother is "unbreakable. He's been with me since the beginning. He can't play any sports, but he's always the loudest person in the gym."

Virginia fans have a lot to look forward to in Venson, who says between now and the first time she wears a Cavalier uniform, "I'm going to become a perfectionist with my game. That's going to make me work 50 times, no, 100 times harder."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From player to coach -- quickly -- that's Liberty's Brittany Campbell

Liberty assistant coach Brittany Campbell promises she'll understand exactly what it's like to be a Lady Flame. Just three months shy of wearing a Liberty uniform, Campbell became Carey Green's newest assistant, replacing Heather Stephens. Campbell is the first Lady Flame to be an assistant at her alma mater since Tiffany Ratcliff (1998-99).

We took the time to chat with Campbell, a four-year captain despite playing in a total of 64 games given way too many knee injuries that kept her sidelined much of the time.

Was coaching in your plan all along?

I'm finishing up my master's in counseling in August (Campbell already has her bachelor's in psychology). The entire time playing college basketball I always had coaches tell me, 'You should be a coach one day.' Well, I love people. I definitely love people and had an interest in counseling, but more and more people said, 'You should really think about getting into coaching.' I put a bug in coach Green's ear about a month after the season that I would love to coach with him one day, and that's how it came about. I was literally blown away when I heard Heather was leaving.

And the fact that your first coaching job is at Liberty ...

It definitely has been a dream. Playing at Liberty was my dream, but I never even thought that coaching there would be a possibility. Coach Green even told me this was my comfort zone and said I needed to go out and be more challenged. So I thought it was a long shot. I didn't think it would really happen.

Coach Green told me one of the reasons why he hired me was the way he saw me handle adversity -- how he saw me handle my injuries and how he saw me handle sitting out. There were so many years I didn't get to play. My understanding of the system and having the leadership skills that I did on my team allowed him to see it would be a good fit.

Talk about how you did handle the adversity that comes with multiple injuries.

I think the biggest part for me was understanding my role. When we started preseason practices when I was injured or couldn't play, I remember telling coach Green in his office, 'Coach, can you please give me a role? I want to have an impact.' He'd tell me, 'Brittany, you have a role. You're such a coach as a player.' He was constantly encouraging me in those aspects and giving me feedback. I'm the kind of person who needs to know I'm contributing.  Coach Green helped me find my niche, and I made sure I was constantly in that encouragement role, and I made sure when I wasn't playing, I was in the game mentally.

Will it be hard to coach players you used to be teammates with?

Coach Green used to call me coach Campbell. We have six incoming freshmen, so they don't know me from Adam. So the returners might call me Brit or coach Brit. I'll be coach Brit, coach Cam, coach Campbell -- any one of those will work for me. It's a different role, but I was always older. I'm 23 and I was playing with girls who were freshmen and sophomores. That's cool, too, because they've always seen me as an older figure teammate.

I told the girls, 'This is a huge plus. I'm going to be able to advocate for you guys in a way that no one else has ever been able to because I was just there.' Just the other day we were talking about our fall running test and I was saying, 'Coach, last year we had this and I didn't like that!' He is really receptive because I was just there as a player.

Your thoughts on recruiting?

I've been out to North Carolina and then I'll go out to junior nationals in D.C. and then back down to North Carolina. It's cool to seek out such young talent and be able to share my story of Liberty with them. Recruiting has been fun so far, and I'm really excited for what it will be like.

What would you tell a potential Lady Flame?

Our environment is so distinct, so different. My personal experience as a player and a student can help sell Liberty to a potential recruit. But I talk about how infectious the environment is, how infectious Liberty women's basketball is; our standards, the values we have on our team and individually are just completely different from other teams. Our passion, our staff and coach Green and what a potential player can learn are just so, so valuable.

What do you consider your playing highlight?

Honestly, my highlight was my senior season and closing out the Big South championship (Campbell made the all-tournament team). That was the first Big South championship I was ever able to play in, which was a huge blessing.

What was important from your playing days that you will incorporate into your coaching style?

I'm such an encouragement person; I wanted more. As a player, I wanted to know that you were invested in me as a person. Heather Stephens was always that coach who asked about your personal life, how things are going. For me, I want to include that in my style of coaching. I want to make you better, but I'm concerned about your life, too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dispatch from Down Under: CNU's Schweers scores 35 and hangs with kangaroos!

Former Christopher Newport University legend Chelsie Schweers is blogging for LadySwish during her season in Australia. Schweers, who happens to be the leading scorer in Virginia women's basketball history, signed with the Toowoomba Mountaineers in April. We love the pics with this post, especially the beach shots and the kangaroos!
By the way, follow Chelsie at Twitter @chelsieschweers

The past couple weeks have been exciting both on and off the court.The Mountaineers got a big upset win in our last game against the Ipswich Force, which put us back into a good place for the playoffs. I scored 35 points for a season high and picked up my first QBL Player of the Week Honors. It was a great team win for us, as everything we have been working toward seemed to fall into place. We took the lead from the beginning of the game and never turned back. It was an exhilarating team win, and we hope to carry that momentum into our next game.
I visited the Steven Irwin Australia Zoo and saw the most amazing animals. They had a few tigers, sharks, crocodiles, and kangaroos, which were my absolute favorite! They had kangaroos lying out in a field, and we were able to walk up to them to feed them and just hang out with the kangaroos. I was expecting them to be more energetic and wild. However, they loved the attention and would lie down so we could pet them, lie on the ground with them, and take all the pictures we wanted! They were enjoying the attention as much as we enjoyed petting them and taking pictures.  This past weekend we went to Sydney! I had such an amazing time spending the weekend as a tourist and seeing all the famous landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The aquarium was fantastic and had a variety of sharks, fish, and sea horses. We also made our way to the beach, which is simply my favorite place to be. Bondi Beach in Sydney is a popular beach for surfers, and has a variety of shows and shops. It was great being able to spend some time at the beach since I am missing summer and the time I would be spending at the beach if I were back at home. We also took a boat tour and saw some of the most expensive realty in Sydney, including one home that recently sold for $54 million! I had a wonderful time touring and sightseeing. Although there is much I have not seen of Australia, I am still reminded of how fortunate I have been and the unique experiences I have had -- all while playing basketball! Until next time,  Chelsie 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The white paper and the women's game: What needs to be done

So we're told the women's game is in trouble, has plateaued and there is an enormous appetite for change, this according to the Val Ackerman report better known as the white paper.

We asked our coaches their thoughts and we have a few of our own. First, they have the floor.

From James Madison's Kenny Brooks: "In a nutshell, I thought it made for interesting reading. It was hard for me to take the report as a whole seriously because as soon as she was reeled me in with good suggestions she would make an outrageous one. I don't think administrators or fans will travel to Europe to see the Final Four nor do I want to inspect my kids body for new tattoos everyday. The adoption of a 24-second shot clock in my opinion would make the game sloppy."

From Radford's Mike McGuire: "We obviously need to take control of our game and become more defined in what we want to become. We need a clear direction and leadership in our game. We have lost focus on our game and as a result we have become stagnant ... from the grassroots to the collegiate level. Over the past few years, I am not sure the focus has been on our game and making it the best product possible."

From Liberty's Carey Green: "It’s great to have somebody with that much basketball knowledge to be a forerunner in reevaluating the direction that women’s basketball has been going over the past several years. I agree with her assessment that it’s time to get a clear mission and purpose for the game. Restructuring efforts will serve to be productive for the game. How effective her recommendations will be is to be determined, primarily because, based on her data, the overwhelming majority of sports enthusiasm is male-dominated. With the primary American sports being football, men’s basketball and baseball, the reality is, 'Where does the game of women’s basketball fit in that niche?' It’s interesting that she evaluated the seasons (fall, spring, etc.) of competition. The format and marketing of the NCAA Tournament, with so many options like a permanent site, dual tournament with men’s basketball or a dual tournament with Division II and III at the same site, with the purpose of trying to stabilize and maximize the event, are all interesting concepts that need to be evaluated. I also agree with her concepts of conference tournaments."

As for our thoughts ...

*One immediate thought: Ackerman talked to coaches, administrators, TV execs, college presidents, NCAA office presidents. ... what about fans of the games and those who aren't fans of the game? Seems like those are two populations deserving of input as well as players and former players. Why not talk to some real people?

*Her "Hertitage" track notes the need for the game to be more fan friendly. We couldn't agree more. We attended the regional in Norfolk, and what a shame it is that the NCAA keeps the athletes at such arm's length from the fans. There is no opportunity to watch practice as there used to be during the national tournament (unless you're ESPN). Skylar Diggins, among the most popular female athletes in the nation, was in town. No autograph session. No time to wish hometown girl Elizabeth Williams well or shake her hand. The teams were all business, a mandate the NCAA seems comfortable with.

*We need parity, right? Surprise! We have it. The sport has good teams like James Madison, Hampton, Marist, Bowling Green, Dayton ... all of whom would have had good chances for "upsets" if given a fair shake. Ask Brooks or David Six who wants to come to their gym to play. If you're not in a BCS conference, you're an outcast in this sport, and nobody wants to play you on your floor because, yowsa! What if they lose?

*Ackerman talks about the need for a younger demographic. We couldn't agree more. Where are the students at women's game, and how do we get them in the building? Is it as simple as having Hotdog night at Virginia? We've always like the idea of involving student clubs or frats in building the fan base. Challenge a select number of student organizations to put butts in the seats and award the "winner" a substantial prize.

*Ackerman favors the top 32 teams hosting, and we're in favor of it, too. The current format compromises the integrity of the bracket too frequently, with lower seeds hosting higher seeds, creating an unfair advantage. As always, neutral courts is the ideal, but we're not there yet, and the current system produces too many advantages for lower seeded teams.

*Two super regionals? Can we get one of them in the Commonwealth? (We're guessing one will always be in Storrs/Fairfield/Hartford/nebulous Connecticut city.

*We have other ideas ... we elaborated on them in an earlier post -- and we're planning another post later this week about what could be done to the actual game to create a better product.

What do you think? Let us know.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A chat with the Lady Monarchs' newest assistant, Jim Corrigan

It's official -- Jim Corrigan remains a Monarch. The former Old Dominion men's head coach is Karen Barefoot's newest assistant, replacing Amaka Agugua, who left for Michigan State last month. LadySwish caught up with Corrigan, who is thrilled about the opportunity to work alongside Barefoot, Trina Patterson and Richard Fortune. Corrigan, who starts his new job on Aug. 10, will now take a left turn instead of a right one in ODU's Athletic Administration building, but otherwise, he already feels comfortable in a place he's called home since 1994.

How did the opportunity with the Lady Monarchs come to be?

They contacted me. I wasn't even aware there was a position open once Trina was hired. They reached out to me, and it makes so much sense for so many reasons. It's a different challenge. They're on their way up, and it's going to be fun to be a part of that and contribute to that.

You've known Karen a while?

Since she was an assistant here. Then when she went to Elon, the athletic director at Elon is a friend of mine who I went to college with. So we stayed in contact through that, and then she came back.

What was your plan before Karen talked with you about the opening?

I was still in a mode where I wanted to be in coaching, but there were fewer jobs out there. It was getting to a point where I got a little bit nervous!

Talk about coaching women for (almost) the first time. (Corrigan coached a youth recreational team that was co-ed many years ago.)

I think the game is the game; you're teaching the same skills, the same mental stuff. I don't think there's a dramatic difference. The size of players might be different, but really, it's the same game. The same skills are important: the ability to dribble, pass and shoot and the ability to think and anticipate, rebound. All those things are the same things that matter in the men's game and the women's game.

Can you talk about transitioning back to an assistant coach after being a head coach?

With the exception of the last eight games last year, I was an assistant coach for the 26 years prior to that. The experience of those games being a head coach will make me a better assistant coach for Karen.

What are you looking most forward to with this ODU team?

I think there's a lot of potential to be a really good team. Just looking at the statistics from last year, they got outrebounded by about five a game, and that's a big issue Karen did a great job of addressing in recruiting and bringing in some kids who have some very impressive numbers. Being a part of helping this team get better in any kind of way is what I'm excited about. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Did your daughter (Keenan, a Duke grad) play basketball?

She played in high school at Western Branch for three years for Kim Aston (ODU alum). She never intended to play in college. She stopped playing after her junior year.

How exciting is it for you to remain part of ODU?

For so many reasons, its' a great situation. Not having to move, I have a son who is going to be a senior in high school. It's really nice and it's nice people are speaking up on Twitter. I truly appreciate all the comments.

Have you ever met anyone as enthusiastic and positive as Karen?

Never! And it's genuine and it's contagious, and I'm looking forward to being around it every day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Remembering ODU intern lost to pancreatic cancer

I didn't know Courtney Erickson that well. He was an intern in the Old Dominion sports information department during the glory years -- 1996-97. I covered the Lady Monarchs, who came a victory shy of winning the national title. I remember chuckling at Courtney's diligence -- his abundant enthusiasm that would often have him deliver first-half women's' basketball updates to media sitting court side ("it's 7-4 JMU. It's early. ...") He was funny. He loved what he was doing, and like so many in sports info, took the long hours in stride.

Courtney died on July 5. He was 44. He had pancreatic cancer.

I despise those two words together: pancreatic cancer. My father died of it July 3, 1997. My father had surgery or near surgery, two months before his death. They saw the tumor when they opened him up. It was cemented to a vital organ. They sewed him up, tumor intact.

Sixteen years later, a man much younger dies and the statistics are so grim, it's hard to believe they're credible. That would be a five-year survival rate of 6 percent. Pancreatic cancer has no warning signs for early detection. Chemo does little. Most patients die within the first year.

I am angry at pancreatic cancer. Angry at it for robbing my dad of seeing his grandchildren. Angry at it for taking the lives of my friend Ellen's mother and my friend Jenna's mom just last week. Angry at it for taking Courtney. He was a young man.

This is a horrible, horrible disease.

Shortly after losing my father, I talked with former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, who overcame pancreatic cancer. I told her of a card written to my dad that told him to "Please hang on. Think of your coming grandchild." Her reaction was the same as mine. He couldn't hang on. If you  have this disease, you can't hang on, you can't fight to beat it most of the time. She told me she knew how incredibly lucky she was. Luck, it seems, is the best hope for pancreatic cancer patients given the unfavorable odds.

Every time I read of another pancreatic cancer death, I take it personally. I want something to be done. I want progress. I want research for early detection, research for a cure. I have so much faith reading about the test the teen developed that seems like a plausible way to detect pancreatic cancer.

Can we do something? Anything? Today? It's not going away if we don't. By 2020, pancreatic cancer is predicted to move from the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths to the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

I volunteer with the Tidewater Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. We will have what we call a PurpleStride, a walk on behalf of pancreatic cancer, on April 5 in Virginia Beach. It will be a morning to walk for my dad, for Ellen's mom, for Jenna's mom, for Courtney, for anyone who has ever lost someone to pancreatic cancer, for anyone who has survived a disease so lethal that it kills 40,000 per year.

Pancreatic cancer. Know it. Fight it. End it. I hope. I hope. I hope. And my thoughts and prayers go to the family of Courtney Erickson.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dispatch from Down Under: What is it really like overseas? CNU's Schweers tells all

Former Christopher Newport University legend Chelsie Schweers is blogging for LadySwish during her season in Australia. Schweers, who happens to be the leading scorer in Virginia women's basketball history, signed with the Toowoomba Mountaineers in April. We asked her to provide some perspective on her overall overseas experience for this post.
By the way, follow Chelsie at Twitter @chelsieschweers

Playing basketball in Australia has been an easier adjustment for me than when I played in Greece last year. There is so much about Australia that is like home that I sometimes forget I am temporarily living in another country. Of course, the biggest plus is the language since we speak the same language! At times in Greece I felt alienated because of the difficulty communicating with my coach and most of the people I encountered. The language barrier made the transition to living and playing in a foreign country somewhat difficult, and it sometimes made me miss being away from home. However, I made a good friend with a Greek teammate and she helped to explain the Greek culture and showed me around the city of Athens and the ancient ruins in Greece.

Taking my game to the professional level has been an adjustment because of the differences in the game vs playing college basketball at CNU. Overall, the game is played at a much faster pace. There is an 8-second clock in the backcourt and a 24-second shot clock. With the shot clock being so short, the offense usually has only a couple passes before the shot is going up, making the transition game very fast. The 3-point line is about a foot and a half farther back than in the NCAA. With the 3-point line being so far out, it forces the defense to cover a lot more space and often leaves the middle open to penetration. Overseas, the offense is a lot more pick and roll based, and less one-on-one. It is a game focused more on fundamentals than athletic ability. The physical aspect of the game is the most aggressive I have ever experienced. Players get away with a lot more pushing off the ball. Cutting through the paint offensively is a battle in its own; no one goes through the paint without being knocked back a step or two. There is a lot more contact on shots and rebounds, and reaching in on the person dribbling the ball. You can't rely on the referees to bail you out of contact. You have to be physically strong and assertive.

While in Australia, basketball is my job. I usually get up in the morning and go to Anytime Fitness to lift weights and get my mind off of anything that's bugging me at the time. When I am working out, I can focus on the job at hand, which is building and maintaining my strength. I generally lift weights for about an hour and a half four days a week. It is important for me to be strong not only for trying to run through the paint, but maintaining and buildinging my strength and agility is critical in the prevention of injuries on the court. After lifting weights, I head to the gym to get shots up and spend time with my teammates.

I am frequently asked what it's like being by myself overseas, whether I get lonely, and how my family handles me being so far from home. At Hickory High School, I felt like I knew almost everyone. While I didn't really know anyone at CNU, we were all there generally for the same thing -- an education. We were all pretty much adapting to the college experience, living in dorms, living away from home, making new friends, etc. so there was a shared camaraderie. I was also only 45 minutes away from home and could easily drop in at home anytme. So, last year when I signed to play in Greece, there wasn't much time to think about it because I signed one day and four days later, I was on a plane headed to Greece, Once on the ground, it was a huge adjustment getting acclimated to a country and a culture that I knew so little about. I had some great experiences in Greece, but I also stayed in close contact with family and friends back home. It took me a rather long time to adapt to being away from home and those I love. I spent a lot of hours on the phone and at times wandering if playing basketball overseas was right for me. It was a new experience for my mom but she was always strong for me and was there whenever I needed her. My mom knew how much playing professional basketball meant to me and while she preferred me to be closer to home, she has always supported and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I know she is there whenever I need her and that is a good feeling. Knowing she is a phone call or Skype away, has gotten me through some rough patches.

I also have a great relationship with my dad. When I need to be told what I don't necessarily want to hear, I call him. He puts me back in check and makes me realize how fortunate I am to be here and that missing home is only temporary. So both my mom and dad keep me balanced and on track. My brother, Justin, is also there whenever I need to talk. We can go a couple days without talking, but we are always able to pick up right where we left off. Whenever I need to relax and get a few laughs, he is the person I call. He gets me and he has seen me happy, sad, and somewhere in between and always knows what to say to make me smile. In addition to my immediate family, I have cousins, aunts and uncles who are a huge part of my support system. Each and every one of them plays such a huge role in my success. I am just so thankful to have them in my life. They say the more you do something, the easier it becomes, and that has been the case this time for me in Australia. Although I occasionally get a little lonely, there is always someone that can help me put things in perspective, and I will once again start thinking about how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to play professional basketball overseas.

Basketball is what I have known since I was 7 years old. It used to be a game I played just for fun, then I got into AAU and it became more serious and competitive, which continued through high school and college. Now I get paid to play basketball and that is a whole new level of responsibility. If I don't perform, I can lose my position on the team to someone else looking for that same opportunity. Overseas teams do not sign you to sit the bench -- they expect you to deliver on the court and on the scoreboard. If you can't deliver, your contract can be terminated and you return home. I am very competitive and that keeps me motivated to work on my game each and every day. Waiting for a contract and waiting on a team to give me an opportunity was frustrating. I remember the feeling I had waiting on my first job overseas, the willingness to do anything to get my first chance and hoping there is a team that believes I can deliver for them and will give me that opportunity. Just as in any other professional sport, there are significantly more players waiting for the opportunit than there are players signed. I am thankful every day and feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to play for the Panathinaikos in Greece and the Toowoomba Mountaineers in Australia. I love the game, but at this level it is also important to recognize this is a business and you are expected to deliver 100 percent when you sign your name on the contract. Everyone has high expectations, including the owner of the team, the coach, your teammates, your fans, and even your agent. I think about what I need to do to meet their expectations every day.

I hope everyone had a Happy 4th of July!

Until next time,

Friday, July 5, 2013

UPDATED: Ohio State, Marist, Duke on tap for ODU but no UConn anymore

Ohio State, Marist, Duke? No doubt Old Dominion fans must like the sound of those opponents even if previously announced UConn isn't in the mix.

The Lady Monarchs will play Ohio State (Nov. 22) in the 2013 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge. Games will follow in Columbus, Ohio, against Bowling Green (Nov 23) and Marist (Nov. 24).

The other campus pool of teams for the first event of its kind will be played at UConn with the defending national champions pitted against Monmouth, St. Bonaventure and Boston University.

All eight teams will play in a Dec. 1 quadruple header at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., starting with Bowling Green vs. Monmouth, Boston University vs. ODU (12:15 p.m.), Marist vs. St. Bonaventure and UConn vs. Ohio State (5 p.m.).

"I really like our bracket," said ODU coach Karen Barefoot. "I know it will be competitive and good for our team."

Last August when the tournament was originally announced, ODU was in the pool of teams hosted by the Huskies, and Monmouth was in the Ohio State pool. Barefoot said the switch was made to avoid Monmouth having to play Marist three times in a season as both of those teams are in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.  The Huskies figure to be the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every poll.

ODU will play at Duke on Jan. 2. The Blue Devils fell to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, a game played at the Constant Center, in March. The home-and-home series will bring Duke to the Constant Center the following season in what will be an opportunity for Virginia Beach native Elizabeth Williams to play in front of friends and family.

ODU will also host Virginia Tech and play VCU and William and Mary.

ODU, which officially joined Conference USA on July 1, has not announced its full 2013-14 schedule, but already Barefoot has upgraded the nonconference slate (ranked 207 in last season's RPI) significantly. Last season's opponents included Maryland Eastern Shore, USC Upstate, North Carolina Central and South Carolina State.

"We want to break into the Top 25," Barefoot said. "And we wanted to keep our local rivalries. I think our fans will love this team. We're growing and ready to turn the corner."

In other ODU news, Barefoot said she hopes to hire an assistant coach by mid-July. It will be an emergency hire, she said, meaning traditional NCAA hiring procedures can be bypassed to ensure the position is filled quickly. Barefoot's former assistant, Amaka Agugua, took the assistant coaching position at Michigan State on July 1.

Maury High's Woods thrilled with opportunity at Virginia Tech

How excited was Jermaine Woods to land an assistant coaching job at Virginia Tech. Well, let's just say after chatting him up about his new post the other day, we weren't sure if he'd actually driven to Blacksburg or just floated there upon getting the news.

"You can hear it in my voice, right?" said a laughing Woods, former Maury High School head coach who is being elevated to what figures to be the toughest women's basketball conference in Division I. "It's an unbelievable opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it."

The addition of Woods to the Tech staff addresses the program's desire (necessity?) to finally gain a foothold on in-state recruiting. For while the Hokies have done a nice job of scouring the world for talent under third-year head coach Dennis Wolff, they have struggled to plant their recruiting flag right here in the Commonwealth.

"Hiring me is a big step in that," Woods said.

Indeed, Woods has packed a ton of in-state hoops experience into his 31 years. He starred as a player for Norfolk's Granby High School and Christopher Newport University, then served as an assistant coach for a state championship boys team at Booker T. Washington High. In his three seasons as the head coach of the Maury girls program, Woods guided the Commodores to a 61-18 record while helping to develop some of the most coveted young talent around.

Woods also comes with an extensive AAU background, as he spent four years coaching Boo Williams' 17-and-under boys "B" AAU. In addition, he has guided players one-on-one individually through his private business, "Gettin Better Basketball."

Virginia Tech apparently wasn't the only school that recognized this guy was on the fast track to a college position. Woods said he was in discussions with two Colonial Athletic Association men's programs when the Hokies came calling.

"I'm not just saying this because he hired me, but Coach Wolff is a great guy, a family guy who treats his staff well," Woods said. "He's got things moving in the right direction with the stuff he's doing to restore the tradition at Virginia Tech, and I want to be a part of that. Plus my wife likes the area, and you know that's an important factor. So really, it was a no-brainer."

Although he just started Monday, Woods' hiring may have already paid dividends. In late June, Maury High's Chanette Hicks, a talented rising junior guard who in May participated in the USA Basketball U16 National team trials, verbally committed to be part of Tech's Class of 2015.

Still, Williams scoffs at the idea that Tech would add Woods solely to mine talent from his old school.

"They're not crazy," Williams said. "Getting Chanette may have helped, but that's not why they hired him. He's young, very enthusiastic and really gets after it. He had good relationships with players, good relationships with coaches. It's a good hire, for a lot of reasons."

Of course, the step from the Virginia High School League to the Atlantic Coast Conference is a considerable one. Fortunately, no one recognizes this more that Woods himself.

"I accept the fact that I've got a whole lot to learn," said Woods, who will undertake his first recruiting road trip this weekend. "So I'm listening, taking notes, asking questions.... But everyone here has been great, helping me with anything I need. It's like going to college and having a tutor for every class. But that's just what I want, because I plan on being great at this."

Woods fills the position vacated when former Hokies assistant Billi Godsey landed the head job at Iona.

Monday, July 1, 2013

ODU in Conference USA: Grab a (plane) ticket

It's after midnight and Old Dominion is officially a member of Conference USA.

Crazy, isn't it? We're not disagreeing with the decision that was made -- football making decisions is no surprise, it's the reality of college athletics, and the CAA unraveling with the losses of VCU and then George Mason didn't make for a stable climate. 

But we can't help but think it was all so tidy once. The CAA was a bus league for a long while -- the farthest trip once upon a time was a six-hour ride to Wilmington. It made all the sense in the world that conference foes and rivalries were with James Madison, William and Mary, VCU and a while back, Richmond and American. How very logical to be playing schools and programs that your alumni are familiar with, that are up the road apiece.

Now the landscape is rather chaotic. The field hockey team is in the Big East. ODU wrestling is in the Mid-American conference. ODU lacrosse is an Atlantic Sun member.

And the sport we write about -- women's basketball -- will have the Lady Monarchs playing North Texas, Rice and Tulane. UAB, Tulsa and UTEP. East Carolina is within reasonable driving distance, but the Pirates will flee C-USA for the league formerly known as the Big East in 2014-15.  So if you're interested in seeing a conference road game, book a hotel. The drive to Charlotte takes a while. Better yet, book a flight.

LadySwish is admittedly a sentimentalist but a realist, too, and it doesn't take an expert on NCAA athletics to realize this decision had nothing to do with women's basketball though it could ultimately be a steppingstone for a program vying to becoming nationally relevant again.

But there was a time not too long ago when a game against James Madison was must-see, when a conference game against the Dukes was often a precurser to the CAA championship. Particularly in the last few years of ODU's historic 17 consecutive CAA title run, there were times when hanging on to that CAA title seemed a matter of life and death even disbelief. Remember ODU's whole front line fouling out, a walk-on in as point guard, a sizable halftime lead by Delaware and alas, Shareese Grant's 35 points ensuring the streak would live on? Good times for women's basketball in the CAA and an elevated game thanks to ODU setting the standard so high.

Maybe the competition will be better in C-USA, maybe all the sports and the school will one day be better off, maybe this is the first step to the big time that is so attractive to the decision makers in college athletics. 

Right decision? Who are we to say. We don't cheer it; we don't jeer it. Road trips aren't road trips anymore; they're plane trips. Yes, ODU will go on without the CAA, and the CAA will go on without ODU. But tidy, logical, simple? That's over.