Wednesday, January 31, 2007

These Guys Really Are Student Athletes

There are some great things going on at Butler University in Indianapolis these days. Their men's basketball team is ranked in the Top 25, sporting a 20-2 record, but their players are also getting the job done off the court.

Nine Butler players have been recognized as Josten's Scholar student-athletes. To qualify, athletes must achieve a 3.25 grade-point average (B-plus) in the spring or fall semester, or have a cumulative average of 3.25.

"If you're disciplined enough to go to class and you're ambitious enough to do well, you're usually going to be the same way on the basketball court," (Butler head coach Todd) Lickliter said.

Click here to read the Indianapolis Star story "Student-athletes? They excel at both."

Thanks to Double A Zone for the tip.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A California Girl Loves Iowa, and Iowa Loves Her

Lyndsey Medders found her way from the sun and warmth of Santa Monica, California to the cold Midwestern winters of Ames, Iowa where she is the leader of the Cyclones' women's basketball team.

Not only has Medders adapted to her different environment, she has embraced the community of Ames and won the hearts of young and old alike. She's taken a path less travelled, but what would you expect from a basketball player who cites "The Inner Game of Tennis" as a strong influence on her athletic career.

Click here to read Mechelle Vopel's feature "California girl Medders embraces all things Iowan" on

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ga. Tech Baseball to Shave Their Heads For Charity

This press release is from Georgia Tech's official sports website. Thanks to Wreck Ramblin for the tip.

Georgia Tech's baseball team has joined forces with the St. Baldrick's Foundation to raise money to find the cure for childhood cancer. The Yellow Jackets have agreed to shave their heads as a part of the St. Baldrick's event, setting the lofty goal of raising at least $5000 by March 17, 2007, and are asking for the fans' assistance in helping them raise the funds.

For every $250 donated by Georgia Tech fans over the next two months, one player on the team will have their head shaved following the Yellow Jackets' game against Boston College on St. Patrick's Day. Donations can be made by going to the St. Baldrick's website and clicking "find an event," searching for the Georgia Tech Baseball Private Event in Atlanta, Ga., or by clicking here.

St. Baldrick's began in 1999 and is now the world's biggest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer. Events have taken place in 10 countries and 42 U.S. States, raising over $20 million and shaving more than 26,000 heads.

It began when a group of Irish friends were trying to find a way to repay their good fortune by giving to others. They decided to turn a St. Patrick's Day party into a benefit for kids with cancer, but struggled to find what would turn heads - and open the wallets - of their colleagues. One friend suggested shaving another's head, since kids typically lose their hair during cancer treatment, and another said that he would gladly pay to see the man bald. Thus, St. Baldrick's was born.

The largest St. Baldrick's Foundation grants have gone to the Children's Oncology Group, the world's foremost childhood cancer research organization, consisting of 230 research institutions working cooperatively to find cures. Six fellowships have also been funded to encourage the best and brightest new doctors to pursue careers in childhood cancer research. Twenty-six other grants have been made to local institutions for research.

As part of the St. Baldrick's Day festivities at Russ Chandler Stadium, the Yellow Jackets are inviting young cancer survivors from the Atlanta area to the game, with the kids escorting the team to the field prior to the playing of the national anthem.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"A Fumble, Then Recovery"

Ike Whitaker arrived at the Virginia Tech campus in the fall of 2005 as a highly touted quarterback who would surely lead the Hokies to many victories over the years. He also arrived in Blacksburg with a drinking problem. Whitaker has recently completed alcohol rehab and will compete with Sean Glennon for the starting quarterback positioin in spring practice.

Click here to read the Washington Post story about how he bottomed out and has begun the recovery process.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gant Has Struggled to Get Back On His Feet

A year ago, Khaliq Gant was practicing as a member of Cornell University's basketball team when he got into a pileup with two teammates going for a loose ball. They got up, but he didn't. Gant had suffered a 50% dislocation of two vertebre and was paralyzed.

Last week, he was seen shooting a basketball in that same gym. It was a long, difficult road over that Gant had to travel over the past year to rise up out of his wheelchair. Click here to read the story.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drive 4 The Cause With Alabama Gymnastics

The University of Alabama is prepping for it's third annual "Drive 4 The Cause" gymnastics meet on January 26th.

"The monies that we are raising are going for disadvantaged women in the West Alabama communities,” said (gymnastics head coach Sarah) Patterson. “My goal is that no woman, because of financial restrictions, would be denied help or treatment in their fight against breast cancer, along with the educational process.”

This is more than a nice gesture. Gymnastics meets are a big deal down in Tuscaloosa, frequently drawing more than 12,000 fans for a meet. In conjunction with a golf tournament and other fundraisers, the school will present a check for $225,000 to the DCH Breast Cancer Fund at the meet (vs. arch-rival Auburn.)

Click here to read how this wonderful idea got started on the NCAA's official website.

Here is more information from Alabama's official website.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pearl Gives His School the Shirt Off His Back

University of Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl made a statement Monday night (not a fashion one, though) during the Lady Vols' basketball game with #1 Duke. Pearl spent time in the student section rooting on the girls, and he did it sans shirt. Yes, Pearl showed up with orange paint all over his torso and arms with a powder blue V painted on his ample belly. The attached AP story is complete with a photo if you're into that kind of thing.

You've either got to love this or hate it, and I personnally love it. I think it's great that Pearl wanted to show school spirit and connect with some of the students. We could have a spirited debate regarding whether or not he should have worn a shirt, but I think this was a great reminder that the whole college sports experience should be fun. In the AP picture, Pearl and the fans around him sure looked like they were having a good time, and isn't that the whole point of attending a game?

Monday, January 22, 2007

"The Real All-Americans"

When you think of schools that produce Division I All-American baseball candidates, far down the list of colleges that come to mind would be Army and Navy. This coming season, however, that's where two of the top players in the nation play.

Army's Milan Dinga and Navy's Mitch Harris are dual threats, excelling both on the mound and at the plate. Click here to read CSTV's report about the interesting stories of their recruitment and the new rule in effect at the military academies that could enable them to have lengthy professional baseball careers while still fulfilling their service committment.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rebounding to Become a Great Rebounder

Rashad Jones-Jennings, a senior forward at Arkansas-Little Rock, is the leading rebounder in Division I men's basketball. You might find that fact alone mildly interesting. It turns out he was rejected as a walk-on candidate at Tennessee State by former coach Nolan Richardson III and had to dominate in junior college ball to get a real shot at playing D1.

Click here to read the story of a player who rebounded big-time to become a big-time rebounder in CBS Sportsline's story, "Jones-Jennings--classic tale of rejection and triumph."

Friday, January 19, 2007

"The Shot" Still Resonates in Natchitoches

When a school's sports program doesn't have a lot of positive history to look back on, one moment is the spotlight can make an amazing difference. Such is the case at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was Jermaine Wallace's last-second three-pointer that led the Demons to a shocking 64-63 victory over Iowa in last season's NCAA men's basketball tournament and gave the school their "One Shining Moment."

This moment still shines brightly well into a new season, and this column by Kyle Whelliston on shows what an impact it has made on the school and the men's basketball program.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It Only Took 28 Years to be an Overnight Sensation

That's the story of Middle Tennessee University's first-year women's basketball coach Rick Insell. After 28 years as a successful high school coach at nearby Shelbyville Central High School, Insell has the Blue Raiders in the Top 25 for the first time since 1988.

Read about how he's done it and the excitement building in Murfreesboro in the USA Today article "Insell embraces big dreams at Middle Tennessee State."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Taking the Long Way to Connecticut

Hasheem Thabeet is a freshman basketball player at the University of Connecticut. He stand 7'3" tall and has used that height and surprising athletcism to rank fourth in the nation with 4.3 blocked shots per game.

He first learned the game on the playground of a big city, but unlike most of his current teammates and opponents, his home was in Tanzania. He left there in 2005 and came to the United States and now finds himself playing for one of the top college basketball programs in the nation.

Like most good stories, Thabeet's has some twists and turns and is only starting to develop.

Click here to read more about Thabeet's path from Tanzania to UConn in the USA Today article, "Thabeet finds his way home to UConn."

Thanks to NCAA Hoops Today for the tip!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ekene Ibekwe's Worldwide Growth

Senior forward Ekene Ibekwe is a model of the progression coaches hope an athlete will make throughout his college career. Born and raised on the West Coast, Ibekwe's geographical transition was parallel to his physical and emotional development.

Ibekwe's maturity is also evident in his attitude towards his school work. He credits his parents with stressing academics as he was growing up, and understands the value of a college education off the court. He said, "A good education is something you need to have in life, so that you have something to fall back on. It's hard to balance with basketball, but it needs to be done and I think I've done a good job of it."

As such, Ibekwe is a three-time LeFrak Foundation Scholar, awarded to University of Maryland athletes "who exhibit extraordinary athletic leadership and academic achievement."

Click here to read ""Ibekwe's Worldwide Growth, On and Off the Court" on Maryland's official website. There, you can find out how he fared against Dirk Nowitzki in last summer's FIBA World Championship tournament as a member of the Nigerian national team.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Terry Stepping Back So Tar Heels Can Step Up

Reyshawn Terry had a breakout season last year for North Carolina's basketball team, averaging 14.5 points per game. His average is down to 9.1 this year, but that doesn't mean the senior is not playing as well. His all-around game, particularly his assist-to-turnover ratio and his defense, are significantly improved.

Tar Heel coach Roy Williams said about Terry, "He couldn't guard his lunch when he first got here," Williams recalled. "He's worked extremely hard, and every success that he has makes you feel really good because I know from how far he came, how much he's worked in the offseason."

In a culture where more and more players are transferring away from big-time schools because they don't get enough minutes or have a big enough role in a team's offense, Terry is a player who goes against that trend, putting the team first.

Click here to read the Raleigh News & Observer's article, "Terry 'mans up' to be a team player."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tre' Kelly Overcomes, Well, Everything, to Star on the Court

Growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood is tough. Having your mother murdered in that neighboorhood makes life much tougher. Tre' Kelly, though, made it through those obstacles and others to become the leader of South Carolina's basketball team and one of the better guards in the Southeastern Conference.

“He has a quiet confidence, but he’s gritty tough,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “He’s the kind of person and he’s the kind of basketball player that when tough times come, you want to be in the trenches with him.”

Click here to read more about Tre' Kelly on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' "Sharing the Victory" magazine.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Young Hero Leaves Behind a Lasting Impression

Anthony Ford may have just been nine years old, but his remarkable zest for life will be forever remembered by those who met him.

Ford was a youth ice hockey player who was stricken with leukemia and passed away last April. But before he left this world, Ford made an impact on several people’s lives, and especially on members of the Minnesota State Mankato men’s ice hockey team.

Click here to read "The Hero I See" on the NCAA's official web site. There, you can find out how you can support the Anthony Ford Foundation, established to provide scholarships to underprivileged youth hockey players.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

UT Tyler Baseball Recognized for Ongoing Community Service

The University of Texas at Tyler baseball team has been awarded the Jostens/National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) award for the best on-going community service project in the nation for the team’s Sports Cards for Kids program.

Click here to read about this successful program on the Texas-Tyler official athletics website.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Classic Good News: A Groundbreaking Athlete & a Rhodes Scholar

That's the story of Suzanne Perles, who was a member of Princeton's first varsity field hockey team, then later was named a Rhodes Scholar. She also has crossed paths with another famous Princeton athlete and Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, on more than one occasion.

Click here to read about Suzanne Perles on the Ivy League's "Ivy at 50" series.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dentistry and Hoops in Minnesota via Nepal (and other places)

That's the fascinating journey Jesse Hollander has taken. Hollander is a senior captian on the Macalester College ( St. Paul, MN) basketball team, but that only scratches the surface of his college life.

Hollander spent part of his youth with his family in Nepal, and attended high school with students from 37 nationalities. He also played varsity golf at Macalester, carries a 3.55 GPA, and received an internship for predental students that took him back to Nepal along with Thailand and Oregon.

Click here to read more on "MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Jesse Hollander."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy to Be Home For the Hollidays

Two members of the Southern Illinois University golf team, Kelly Gerlach and Lauren May, probably appreciated having time with their families this holiday season more than most. Not long ago, neither one was assured of having that holiday. Both have survived accidents that could have ended their lives. After extensive therapy, both Gerlach and May rejoined the Salukis' team this past season.

Click here to read "Holidays a special team for Kelly Gerlach and Lauren May" on the Southern Illinois official athletics web site.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cabrini College Hosts "Hoops From the Heart" Clinic

From the Cabrini College official athletic website.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy will be the featured speaker at the 6th annual Hoops-from-the-Heart basketball clinic for boys and girls in grades 1-8, hosted by Cabrini College on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 15, and benefitting needy families in Delaware County.

The clinic, conducted by the coaches and players on both Cabrini teams, will run from 9 a.m. to noon at Nerney Field House, located in the college's Dixon Center. Drop-off and check-in will begin at 8:15 a.m. Each child will receive a free Hoops-from-the-Heart T-shirt.

The $30 fee will go directly to the Community Action Agency of Delaware County, a nonprofit organization that has provided housing, job training and other services to the needy since 1979. Last year's clinic, attended by nearly 250 area children, raised $5,300 for the agency.

"This is a way to raise money for a great cause and give young kids something fun to do on a day off from school," said Cabrini women's coach Bobbi Morgan, a former Haverford High coach who founded the clinic in 2002. Morgan will run the event along with Cabrini men's coach Matthew Macciocca, a former Radnor High star.

The clinic, co-sponsored by the Radnor Township and Haverford Township recreation departments, will group players by age and ability and provide instruction in such basketball fundamentals as passing, shooting, defense, ballhandling, rebounding and team play.

Players are encouraged to bring one non-perishable canned good for the Community Action Agency. The organization runs homeless shelters and provides other social services for the poor, including employment counseling and domestic-abuse counseling.

Check the link for more information.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Leadership On and Off the Court

That's a brief description of Courtney Gomez, a junior point guard for the University of Hartford.

Gomez carries a 3.55 grade point average and has already helped her team win two American East championships. She is also Co-President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee for the past two years. Through her involvement with SAAC she has twice attended the America East Leadership Conference and has been able to assist with numerous community service events. Some of those activities include Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warrior, and Any, where student-athletes sent care packages to soldiers overseas. "I have really learned about leadership and delegating through SAAC," said Gomez. "Instead of just leading by example, I had to learn how to lead by being verbal and delegating."

"Courtney wants to excel off the court as much as she does on," said coach Jennifer Rizzotti. "She is a great student who wants to be involved with SAAC and many extracurricular activities."

Sounds like the definition of a TRUE student-athlete. Click here to read the release on the America East official website.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"No Ordinary Joe"

Here's a description of a student at the University of Wisconsin:

o Two-time academic all-Big Ten
o Winner of an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship
o A 3.49 grade point average
o Described as "a big teddy bear" by his fiancee

His name is Joe Thomas, an offensive tackle for the Badgers. He returned to action only eight months after tearning his ACL, and he is regarded as the best offensive lineman to ever play at the school.

Click here to read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, "No Ordinary Joe."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

That's a good way to describe Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. He played his last game for the Cardinals in their Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest. Where many student athletes are just beginning their collegiate career at 19 years old, Okoye just finished his. Amazingly, he was a 16-year old freshman playing big-time college football, and in April could wind up being selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Okoye's success on the field, while impressive, is only a small portion of his story which has taken him to Louisville via Nigeria and Alabama.

Click here to read "Louisville early bird graduates at 19."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Classic Good News: Archie Griffin Still the Face of Ohio State

Archie Griffin remains the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, earning the awards in 1974 and 1975 when he starred in the Ohio State backfield. He retired as the leading rusher in NCAA history and put together a still unbroken record of 31 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Griffin is still a very visible presence in Columbus even today as the president of Ohio State's Alumni Association after serving seven years as an associate athletic director.

Most importantly, he is still one of the genuine good guys in sports. Don't take my word for it, check out this column in the Palm Beach Post and read the testimonials from some of the people who know him the best.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Not Too Small to Have a Big Impact

Jazzmin Walters is the smallest player in Old Dominion women's basketball history. Don't, dare I say, sell her short.

Walters has cracked the Lady Monarchs' starting lineup in this, her sophomore season, and is providing excellent defense and energy on the offensive end.

"Jazz is no bigger than a minute," said Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry, who won her 500th game earlier this season. "Her heart is bigger than her body. She has a great deal of passion for the game."

Walters knows that refining her point guard abilities is one key to her success -- both for her as an individual and for her team. "I just want to keep everybody involved and stay consistent," said Walters, who must work on her assist-to-turnover ratio. "I can't do it myself, but I want to try and help bring people together. A lot of my teammates look up to me."

Click here to read Nancy Lieberman's column "One of game's smallest making big impact at ODU." Make sure to check out the pictures of Walters and ODU men's player Sam Harris, who stands 7'3".