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Mykiea Russell: Don’t Believe the Height (Part 3)

Mykiea Russell is the new point guard for the Umpqua Community College women’s basketball team. She began showing what she was made of the moment she got there.

In a scrimmage against Linn-Benton CC a couple months ago, Mykiea scored 19 points and collected nine steals. As the team has begun their regular season, she has usually been the second-leading scorer.

Her coach, Dave Stricklin, wrote in her team profile that at 5’0″, Mykiea is the shortest player to ever don a Riverhawks uniform, but she might also be the quickest. He predicted she is “destined to be a UCC fan favorite.” Similarly, a reporter for the Roseburg News-Review noted her “knack for getting to the basket” in a recent story.

But why is Mykiea there? Because some coaches believed the height.

“As we talked to (college) coaches last year, some had an issue with my height,” Mykiea said. “They were worried about me getting posted up on defense.”

Her longtime club ball coach Michael Brox called up a well-respected coach he knew – Stricklin – and told him about Mykiea. Stricklin came to Los Angeles last March for a ceremony inducting him into the California JCC hall of fame (he coached there before going to Umpqua). During that trip, he paid Mykiea a visit at her home.

“We just hit it off right away,” Stricklin explained.

Right after Labor Day, Stricklin got a call from Mykiea.

“‘I’m coming up,'” Stricklin recalled her saying. “I said, ‘for a visit?’ and she said ‘no, I’m coming up to stay.'”

Mykiea arrived the first weekend in September, about three weeks before school was to start, and before any of her teammates. Stricklin did the only thing a coach could do: he put her up at his house with his family. And it wasn’t long before she “became part of the family.”

In fact, Mykiea fit in so well with Stricklin’s teenaged children that when he took her along when registering one for school, the secretary thought he was also enrolling Mykiea.

All last-minute notifications aside, to understand the sheer bravery involved in Mykiea’s move, first consider that the population of Roseburg is 20,117, and the number of people in Los Angeles is 9,948,081. Then, realize that the area where Mykiea went to high school is virtually all African-American and Hispanic, while Roseburg is 93.56 percent white and .3 percent African-American.

Unsurprisingly, Mykiea discounts those differences, and scoffs at the notion the she is brave.

“I don’t see it like that,” she said.

Indeed, Stricklin told her what to expect on his visit.

“I told Mykiea about the non-racial diversity, and she said ‘I don’t care,'” he said. “I also told her that Roseburg is not a party house. That if you’re looking for a wild atmosphere, this isn’t the place.”

Mykiea has adjusted the way any evolved inner-city kid would: she is jonesing for her Christmas visit home, but she likes where she is going to school, likes her team, and is cool with where she is right now.

“Roseburg is the most boring place on Earth, but on the other hand I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing, and there are no distractions,” she said.

Culturally, though, Mykiea has had to make some adjustments. Roseburg is populated with older people – many of whom are lifelong Roseburg residents. Mykiea said she has felt, at times, that some residents “have never seen a black girl in their lives.”

“I’ve had to answer questions – a lot of questions,” she said.

For her fortitude, Mykiea finds herself in one of the most successful junior college programs in the Northwest. Stricklin, with a 586-112 record in 21 years, has produced 12 regional championship teams. Every year the goal is the same: win another championship.

“Practice is so hard – oh my goodness,” Mykiea said. “The first practice he told us we were going to go as hard as Tennessee.

“He wants 100 percent the whole three hours, and nothing less. Even if you mess up, you have to mess up going hard.”

Stricklin said he and assistant coach Linda Stricklin – his wife – also keep player’s futures in mind.

“We work so hard to get them to the next level,” he said.

Mykiea said she might not have ever thought of a junior college as a possibility if it weren’t for one of the most famous graduates from JC ranks – Tennessee’s Shannon Bobbitt. Mykiea called Bobbitt, who is also infamously short, “my inspiration.”

While playing ball, Mykiea is taking a full class load and majoring in film – the other love of her life. Stricklen also set her up with a work-study job, so she has some extra money in her pocket. Life is good, although the weather is a little colder in Oregon than what the young baller is used to.

Mykiea doesn’t consider herself brave, but I am old enough to be her mother, and I know better. I teach high school in South Central Los Angeles, and not many kids there would pick up and go to a place they’ve never been to, that is so different from what they’ve known. Indeed, most only go as far as Southwest Community College, just down the road from Mykiea’s alma mater, Washington Prep High School.

And most kids with Mykiea’s skill level – who had made the LA All-City first team two years in a row – that couldn’t get to a D1 school simply because of their height, would be at least a little depressed or bitter.

Not Mykiea. She is positive, optimistic, hopeful. She laughs a lot. And she is working hard.

“I just finally, really got in shape,” she said last week. “So I’m going to stay in shape.”

I know she will. And I have no doubt that she is kicking ass at the Clackamas Tournament in Portland this weekend. I just wish JCCs got more love and it was easier to get scores and stats from up there.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep being a Mykiea fan. Stricklin said he’ll send me an Umpqua CC women’s basketball T-shirt and team poster when they’re ready, and I’ll happily wear the shirt around Los Angeles.

Go on with your bad self, young lady. You remind me why I’m a women’s basketball fan in the first place.

Mykiea Russell: Don’t Believe the Height (Part 2)

Russell became Mykiea to me last year, as I had the pleasure of getting to know her a bit. And Mykiea had an amazing senior year playing for the Washington Prep Generals.

Buoyed by their success the previous year, the team came out strong and immediately started racking up victories. Their only real opponents in the Marine League were Narbonne, back from suspension and fully loaded with five Division I-level seniors.

In addition to her incredible quickness, Mykiea is an expert at handling and distributing the ball. If she wasn’t finding the perfect Washington player for the assist, she was taking the ball to the rack herself – at 5-foot-nothing – and scoring. In fact, Mykiea was the leading scorer on her team last year, despite being the shortest by far.

On an offensive set, the ball always seemed to come back to Mykiea. Such a natural point guard I have hardly witnessed. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, racing around the top of the key with the ball, head slightly forward, like a vulture waiting to pounce.

She gave opponents fits.

I told Mykiea recently that at least one opposing coach last year admonished her team at a timeout to clamp down on Mykiea, because she said “the offense runs through her.” Mykiea seemed surprised.

“Noooo, it didn’t!” she protested.

I told her, “but it seemed like it did.”

Mykiea had a career-high 10 assists and scored 16 points in a Jan. 11 game against King-Drew, and posted 12 steals and collected four boards against Gardena Jan. 23. In the Jan. 16 Carson game, she had seven rebounds, eight steals and 11 points.

Here’s a highlight reel to show what the girl can do:

In Washington’s first matchup with rival Narbonne on Jan. 18, Mykiea poured in a season-high 25 points as her team came close to upsetting the Gauchos at home. The Generals hadn’t beaten that team in 12 years, but it felt like they were getting close; Washington was visibly hungry. As the players went through the hand-slap line after the game, I felt a sense of foreboding.

On Feb. 6, Narbonne traveled to Washington for the second meeting. This is where I fully understood the uniqueness of that school.

Washington Prep High School stands in the heart of one of the roughest areas of South Central Los Angeles. It is in “Crip” gang territory. Two years ago there was a shooting on campus; last spring there was another one.

Yet, the school has tremendous pride in its athletics programs, among other things. The night of the Narbonne game, the Washington gym had a healthy crowd that was loud, as usual. A group of boys ran the pre-game warmup music, including D4L and the Pop It Off Boyz – hardcore selections. The crowd stood fully behind its girls team, and cheered every basket like it was the national championship winner.

The Prep girls also had fun on their team. When shooting free throws pre-game, they had a ritual they always performed: once the shooter shot, the rest of the team would chant “Preeeep!” while they simultaneously slid over one to the left. Once they got to their new spot, they’d pick up their left knees and do a little “uh uh” dance bop thing. They always turned heads when they did that. And when I took my basketball girls from the school where I teach to see Prep play last December, I think they wished they were on that squad.

So in the February rematch game, Narbonne started out with a small lead, and by the second and third quarters, it had grown to as much as 10. Prep shrunk it to five and then the Gauchos blew it back up to 10, twice. But in the fourth quarter, the Generals clawed back and caught up. A free throw put the score even, at 44 points.

It wasn’t any specific play that lead to the outcome, but a series of circumstances that kept repeating themselves. Narbonne couldn’t rebound much, and they weren’t boxing out. In fact, Mykeia out-rebounded the two Gaucho posts twice. The entire Washington squad seemed to be rebounding machines, and they made brilliant passes. They finished their plays and scored, while the Gaucho defense lagged.

It was a Mykeia three-pointer from the top of the key that put them up 47-44. A play later they had another girl at the FT line, and she sunk one shot: 48-44. Narbonne’s Reiko Thomas unleashed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was too late: 48-47. The Gaucho era was over.

It was a monumental accomplishment for Washington to wipe out a 12-year-old losing streak to Narbonne. But they showed their class by calmly and stoically going through the handshake line while their fans were screaming and jumping around. Whatever celebration the team might have had, it was in the locker room.

Two weeks later the two teams faced each other yet again – ironically, for the same right to play for the city championship that Washington had played Dorsey for the previous year. It was the same flippin game. And this time it was at Washington, because they’d been seeded higher than their opponents.

Narbonne came out strong and took an early lead, which was a switch from the two previous games against Washington where they’d been slow out of the gate. The Gauchos built a 14-point halftime lead, but the Generals came out blazing in the third and went on a 10-0 run. Narbonne also got in foul trouble. Prep was behind by four, and things were scary for the Gauchos for a bit.

Then Narbonne turned on the gas and started to build some more points. It went up to a 10-point lead, which Washington cut to 6 a couple times. The Generals were relentless. But after a Gaucho timeout, the team held on to win by eight.

Mykiea was calm and relaxed after the game; no sign of the flower-banging aggravation of the previous year. She said she wanted to play ball and study film in college, as those were her two main passions in life. She also wanted to get out of the ‘hood.

“It’s just so negative,” Mykiea said wistfully, but added that maybe someday, she’d like to come back and help out the area somehow.

She didn’t know where she was going to college yet; there was a lot of uncertainty there. As if to mitigate such feelings, Mykiea smiled and said, “well, I’ve had a great high school career.”

A week later, Washington again lost in the first round of the state playoffs. For the second year in a row, Mykiea was named to the all-city first team (she had made second team as a sophomore) – a tremendous accomplishment in a city the size of Los Angeles.

I provided a couple names of college coaches I knew that might be interested in Mykiea. Every time I talked to the Washington Athletic Director, I asked her if Mykiea had found a school yet. The answer was always no.

Why wouldn’t a school be interested in someone like Mykiea, with more heart than an organ bank and the skills to match? I was truly puzzled.

In August I again talked to the AD, who informed me that Mykiea was going to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR. And she was going there “blind” – not having taken a visit first. I was dumbfounded.

Why was a player like Mykiea going to a junior college instead of Division I? Why a small town in Oregon? And why didn’t she take a visit there?

Three months later, I discovered the answers to these questions.

Mykiea Russell: Don’t Believe the Height (Part 1)…..aka the best high school basketball game I’ve ever seen

It was Feb. 23, 2007 – a chilly Friday night. The high school basketball team I had helped coach for the second consecutive year had finished its season two weeks before, leaving me free to check out playoff games. Armed with my coaches pass, I drove to Dorsey High School.

I’d been intrigued by both Dorsey and Washington Prep – the two teams matching up that night. Both were good squads of players with exceptional skills, from reputable programs. Still being new to Los Angeles, I wanted to see the faces to the names I’d heard.

The winner of the game would advance to the city finals eight days later, and Dorsey was the favorite by far. They had won their league, and seemingly everything else. They also had a couple of highly-touted players – one of them a senior point guard – who carried the team.

Prep was playing in the game because the champion of their league, Narbonne, was serving a suspension that year for playing an ineligible player (Morghan Medlock, now of Baylor) the year before. Washington, known for their athleticism, had a few name players – one of them being their pint-sized point guard Mykiea Russell.

The general attitude before the game was that Prep was lucky to be there, and Dorsey would scald them.

The Dorsey gym has a round roof, and windows on both ends of the court. You can literally walk right outside the gym and watch the game through the window. Double doors are also at one end of the court, between the windows. Occasionally when a player goes flying out of bounds and can’t stop, she hits the door and lands outside. I’ve never seen anything like it.

One thing was apparent immediately: the Dorsey Dons are serious about basketball. Giant picture posters of the girls basketball team lined the wall on one side of the court, while the boys team was on the other side.

The requisite cheerleaders were in place and ready to go with their sassy attitudes and “bring it on” cheers. For example, during the game when Washington missed a free throw, the Dorsey cheerleaders would clutch their hearts and mockingly moan, “aww!” I loved it down to my toes.

The guy I sat next to ended up becoming a friend of mine. But I suppose it would be hard not to bond with a fellow basketball nut when you happened to see the best high school game of your life together.

I wish I could provide an entire game play-by-play, but I wasn’t armed with a notebook that night and some of the details have fuzzed in the almost two years since. But here’s what I do remember: Dons PG Erica Inge and Russell went at it all night long. So did their teams.

What was supposed to be a blowout was a back-and-forth game of heart-stopping proportions. Dorsey would score, Washington would answer; Washington scored, Dorsey answered. One team would make a small run and then would be stopped by the other team. Back and forth, back and forth. Dorsey was ahead once by six points, but that lasted all of eight seconds. For the rest of the time it was one point, two points, three points, or a tie.

Then, the last 20 seconds.

Washington had the ball. Their 2 guard fell to the floor and almost lost it as the Dorsey guard tried to claw it out of her hands. But the 2 somehow dished it to Russell, who streaked up the court and somehow cut through two guards with this crazy little dribble weave move. She went all the way to the rack for the score, and it was 54-53, Washington. Dorsey got the ball, but the Generals deflected the pass out of bounds. Timeout. Dorsey inbounded from the side and tried this play that didn’t work. The crowd had been on its feet since 30 seconds to go. The tension in the gym was thick.

Washington inbounded from the baseline, but it was deflected, and the second Washington player tried to chase it. She couldn’t get to it, and the ball went out of bounds. Dorsey ball with 6.5 seconds to go. The Dons were passing it around the key when Russell lunged, seemingly from out of nowhere. It was a total shock, and you could hear the cries in the crowd. She hauled ass down the court and laid it up and in as time expired.

Washington, 56, Dorsey, 53, said the scoreboard. Then came the thunderous explosion of screaming, as Prep cheerleaders started jumping up and down and the crowd of red-clad fans poured onto the court.

I sat there, mouth hanging open, while the rest of the Generals piled onto Russell. My new friend Don sat in stunned silence as well. To our right, two of the Dorsey seniors had fallen to the floor in grief. Friends surrounded them, trying to talk them into getting up, but they just laid there, inconsolable.

It was quite a scene, and it exemplifies the reason I love the high school game so much: there’s an incredible amount of passion there. It seems like life and death much of the time – for sure in the playoffs, but at other games, too.

The Generals and their people began taking their celebration out that door I mentioned before. Don and I walked down to the court. I knew one of the Washington coaches from another school, and I asked her what grade Russell was in. She told me she was a junior.

Don and I exchanged info and said goodbye. But on my walk out, the Prep players were running around, giddy, while some adults males shouted sporadically, “who’s house?”

I saw Russell to my left, with two teammates, giggling. I stopped and smiled at her.

“Congratulations!” I said. “You’re amazing – your team couldn’t have done it without you.”

Russell’s smile got a tiny bit bigger.

“Thank you, maam!” she said cheerfully, before turning back to her hyped-up teammates.

I walked to my car chuckling. Geez – she can play ball and she has manners too, I thought.

The following weekend I went to the LA Coliseum to watch the full day of games that would culminate in the city championship. Unfortunately, Washington was no match for the powerful Taft team, stacked with seniors. Taft was ahead by 10-12 for long stretches, but in the fourth quarter, the Generals turned it on and began to catch up. It was too little too late, though, and they lost 36-39.

In an emotional awards ceremony, the Washington principal thanked Coach Ricky Blackmon and told him how important he was to the school. Each player got a boquet of red roses, and I watched Russell bang hers on the floor during the trophy presentation. Petals scattered, but she didn’t notice. She looked both grieved and irritated.

Three days later, the Generals lost in the first round of the state playoffs. But Russell and her team had captured my attention.

Guess who got married two weeks ago?

CP did.

And from the video, you can see she’s cut her hair. Love the double-finger point at the end:

Much happiness to ya, girl.

More weirdness

Here are the current Pac-10 standings.

Oregon State ahead of Stanford and Arizona State? Washington State at 6? USC at 9?

I know this won’t last for long, but I have to laugh right this minute.


Team Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
California 0-0 – 3-0 1.000
Oregon State 0-0 – 2-0 1.000
Stanford 0-0 – 3-1 .750
Arizona State 0-0 – 2-1 .667
UCLA 0-0 – 2-1 .667
Washington State 0-0 – 2-1 .667
Arizona 0-0 – 3-2 .600
Oregon 0-0 – 2-2 .500
USC 0-0 – 1-1 .500
Washington 0-0 – 1-2 .333

Oh, I guess it’s the parity

I ran a search engine for parity in women’s college basketball, to see if anyone had any theories about what had happened this past week. I found one story from the Oct. 6, 2008 edition of USA Today which doubted parity existed. Stories from 2005 and 2006 were more pro-parity, ironically. In one piece, Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer attributed the trend to more AAU teams, more clinics and more specialized attention for young people. You can’t argue with that.

A generation ago basketball was a one-season sport; now it’s year-round. And if your kid isn’t dribbling with both hands before she’s got Elmo’s name out of her mouth, she’s way behind.

So it’s interesting that although it’s the flooding of young girls into the sport, and intense development of them for play that has laid the groundwork for parity – that parity would first be seen at the professional level.

The first six years of the WNBA, the league had only two champions. In the six years since that time, there have been four more. Most all the teams that once lived in the basement of the league are near the top now (and one went back to the bottom after that). This past year we saw every single playoff series go to the maximum three games for the first time. Fresh faces were everywhere, and there were games when it seemed like any team could beat any other team at will.

So now it looks like it’s trickling down to the college level. Unranked teams are beating ranked teams; highy-ranked teams are tumbling down like cards. (And it’s funny that myself, who was raised by a father who always went for the underdog but grew up to love Tennessee is enjoying all of this immensely).

High school has to be next. Hell, old standby Christ the King of New York isn’t even in the top 25 this year. It’s schools like Woodson High of Washington D.C. and St. Michael’s Academy of New York who are there instead.

This is an exciting time in women’s basketball.

So unsurprisingly, today’s top 25 is much different than last week’s:

AP TOP 25 – Women’s College Basketball

1. Connecticut 3-0
2. North Carolina 5-0
3. California 3-0
4. Oklahoma 3-1
5. Stanford 3-1
6. Baylor 4-0
7. Louisville 3-0
8. Texas A&M 3-0
9. Tennessee 3-1
10. Maryland 3-1
11. Texas 5-0
12. Duke 3-1
13. Rutgers 2-2
14. Notre Dame 3-0
15. Auburn 4-0
16. Virginia 2-1
17. Vanderbilt 4-1
18. Oklahoma State 2-1
19. Purdue 3-0
20. Ohio State 3-1
21. Arizona State 2-1
22. TCU 4-0
23. Old Dominion 3-1
24. Michigan State 5-0
25. (tie) Iowa State 3-0
25. Xavier 2-2

And if you look real quick on the SEC page today, you’ll see some standings you might never have seen before, nor might ever see again:

School SEC PCT. H A ALL PCT. H A N Last 5 Streak

Arkansas 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 4-0 1.000 4-0 0-0 0-0 4-0 W4
Auburn 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 4-0 1.000 2-0 2-0 0-0 4-0 W4
Ole Miss 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 4-0 1.000 1-0 1-0 2-0 4-0 W4
Miss. State 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 2-0 1.000 2-0 0-0 0-0 2-0 W2
Vanderbilt 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 4-1 .800 2-0 2-1 0-0 4-1 L1
Florida 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 3-1 .750 2-0 1-1 0-0 3-1 W3
Tennessee 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 3-1 .750 2-1 1-0 0-0 3-1 W2
Alabama 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 2-1 .667 1-1 1-0 0-0 2-1 W1
Georgia 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 2-1 .667 1-0 1-1 0-0 2-1 L1
Kentucky 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 2-1 .667 2-1 0-0 0-0 2-1 W2
LSU 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 0-1 .000 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-1 L1
S. Carolina 0-0 .000 0-0 0-0 0-2 .000 0-1 0-1 0-0 0-2 L2

Crazy, huh?


I attended my first high school basketball game this afternoon. Just checking things out. It was literally the first high school game in LA today. More will begin tomorrow and Wednesday.

Tomorrow I’m going to check out my girls as they and their JC team have another in-town game, at a college across the city. Wednesday I’m going to another high school game.

It’s the holiday season.

What in the name of basketball is going on?

I’ve never seen so many upsets in one week in my life as we’ve seen this week.

Today, despite Stanford losing PG JJ Hones for what sounds like will be the season, the Cardinal destroyed Rutgers, 81-47. I turned it on after the Tennessee game and couldn’t even watch it after a few minutes. Granted, I think the Scarlet Knights were overrated at 2, but I didn’t see annihilation coming.

Michigan upset number 12 Vanderbilt. Florida upset 21st-ranked Florida State. Number 20 Auburn took down 18th-ranked Ohio State. And though neither is ranked, it’s somewhat surprising that Temple beat Illinois.

So what’s up?

Please, share your thoughts.


Some of my favorite Pac-10 teams won today, as Washington State beat Montana State and Arizona defeated UC Santa Barbara.

I wish Oregon had seen the same results, though. With their loss to South Dakota State today, they are at .500 on the season so far.

UCLA lost to Maryland today, and I’m less surprised by that. Those who were there said the Bruins looked good in the second half, as usual.

Candace Parker sighting, college scores

CP is back in Los Angeles.

After traveling to Connecticut last week to film her ESPN spot – and god knows where else her jet-setting self went – my girl Monique spotted our superstar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina Del Rey. The Sacramento Kings are in town to play the LA Lakers, and CP was following their bus in her vehicle. Everyone pulled up in front, and CP had the luggage in the back.

I guess she is staying with fiance Shelden Williams. Hopefully someone will capture a picture of her sitting courtside during the game.


The scoreboard lists games involving the top 25 teams on its first page, and there are only five of those games tonight. Nothing major there, unless you consider Detroit defeating 23rd-ranked chronic under-achieving Georgia an upset.

When clicking on the “all scores” tab, the reader sees that 71 other games were also played today. That’s when I start contemplating (basketball) life.

I wonder what has happened to North Carolina State if Yale can beat them. (Once again, I didn’t know an Ivy League school had a team).

I see that Miami, Ohio defeated a team called IPFW. But clicking on the IPFW tab still doesn’t tell me what the letters stand for, nor where the school is (though from their schedule I am guessing Midwest).

There is a Madonna University? Well good lord. No pun intended.

Quinnipac defeated Vermont. Quinnipac? I hadn’t heard of Longwood, Kennesaw State, Wagner, McNeese State, IUPUI, Lehigh, Coker, Towson or Campbell, either.

So all this makes me wonder what it’s like to play for a small D1 school. I suppose it wouldn’t be too much different than playing for one of the Jucos I’m writing about for my other gig, as many of the top schools are in small towns. We do all tend to forget that there are hundreds of D1 schools across the country, way beyond the top 25. To all you young women out there playing for a small D1, hats off to you. And I think I have my next story idea………

Finally, I see that Seattle’s own Jacqua Williams lead her Georgia Tech Yellowjackets in beating Mississippi Valley State tonight. Way to do it, girl.

Upset City! (and a not-quite upset)

I was here at the casa listening to the Vols grind one out against Chattanooga. That is, I was pacing and cussing – almost ready to get in the fetal position – as Tennessee crawled back from a deficit, missed a bunch of free throws, and hung on for dear life to win, 66-63. They hadn’t yet won when word came through on the Summitt board that fourth-ranked Duke had been upset by unranked Hartford. That’s the third major upset in six days.

The CBS College Sports announcer doing the play-by-play commented that the women’s game is becoming like the men’s game in that, on any given night, one team can beat another regardless of the ranking. A true and exciting statement.

THEN. Checked the scoreboard as the Tennessee game ended and #24 Old Dominion was about to beat #11 Virginia! Final score was 78-70, ODU.

Very interesting. And the Cal-Rutgers game doesn’t start til 8 p.m. It’s a free-for-all, y’all. I like it. (As long as the Vols don’t lose)

Dawn Staley wastes no time in getting ’em signed

Staley Inks Early Signees for Top-10 Class

COLUMBIA – University of South Carolina head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley announced that Ieasia Walker (Copiague, N.Y. / Copiague) and Monique Willis (Savannah, Ga. / A.E. Beach) have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University and play basketball for the Gamecocks.

Both players will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. The duo’s signing prompted The Collegiate Girls Basketball Report to rank the ninth-best recruiting class in the country.

“I feel very fortunate to bring to the University of South Carolina Ieasia Walker and Monique Willis,” Staley said. “Both of these young ladies are equally great people. We can’t wait for the day they put on their South Carolina uniforms.”

Walker is rated as high as the 17th-best player in the 2009 class by Blue Star Basketball. The All-Star Girls Report tabs her as the 19th-best, and tips her as the 10th-best point guard in the class. The 5-foot-8 Long Island product posted 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 5.1 steals per game in 2007-08, leading Copiague to the Suffolk Class AA semifinals. A three-time All-Suffolk County and all-conference selection, she earned a spot on the New York State Sports Writers Association Class AA All-State Third Team.

“Ieasia is a consummate point guard,” Staley said. “She has the qualities that I look for to manage our team. She has a natural feel for the game and will instantly make us better when she steps on campus.”

At 5-foot-8, Willis is rated No. 24 in the 2009 Class by All-Star Girls Report, and Blue Star Basketball has her at No. 59. She helped the A.E. Beach Bulldogs to the program’s fifth-straight Region 3-AAAAA championship in 2007-08, posting a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds in the title game. For her efforts her junior year, Willis earned a spot on the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-Class AAAAA South team.

“Monique is a player that somewhat went under the radar,” Staley said. “We are extremely pleased that she chose us over other SEC and ACC schools. She is electric on both sides of the ball. She brings a level of athleticism that is second to none.”

– by, posted Nov. 20, 2008