Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Huskies of Honor Part Two

by Erin Semagin Damio

This is the second and last installment of the ‘Huskies of Honor’ Speeches. We left off last time with Kara Wolters, but I’m actually going to begin this by going back to Kerry Bascom, since a Uconn fan, Stephen Philbrick, had the speech on DVD and offered the transcript to me.

A quick note before the speeches:

On Saturday, Uconn and Tennessee will meet in Hartford.

Because of staffing shortages in the wake of this week's layoffs at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Mel's other role as the lead writer of the very hot Drexel men's team, who play at home, the Guru has informed, reluctantly, he won't be on the scene.

But I'll be there in his stead…

So here goes as he has allowed me to create my own shot the same way he's done for the others on our team and I'd like you to get involved, also, as I'll soon explain.

There’s been a lot of press leading up to this game, as being the biggest rivalry in women’s basketball.

The two teams lead the NCAA in championships, by a large margin. Tennessee has six, Uconn has five, and the University of Southern California, Stanford, and Louisiana Tech have two trophies each.

I love watching competitive rivalries, and I think that Uconn and Tennessee often bring out the best in each other for an exciting game.

In honor of tomorrow’s game, I’d like to ask readers of this blog to post comments about their favorite rivalry memories – not necessarily just Uconn and Tennessee, just your favorite memory about two teams in a fierce rivalry.

We’ll post some of the comments as an entry sometime Saturday. The Guru thanks you and I thank you for your participation.

Kerry Bascom’s Speech

(thanks to Stephen Philbrick)

“Thank you very much

“I just want to start off by saying, actually, that I think the crowd here tonight equals the crowd that I had for four years that I played.

“But in all seriousness, I want to thank the University for this incredible award, and I'm very honored. It is a privilege to stand up here tonight with the rest of the players who are going to be honored, and especially with Coach, who made me the player that I was. Thank you very much.”

Nykesha Sales

Nykesha Sales played at Uconn from 1994 to 1998, playing on the undefeated 1994-1995 team…First Team All-American in 1997 and 1998…

Sales was the 1997 Big East Championship Most Outstanding player…1998 Big East Player of the Year…

Finished her college career as Uconn’s all-time scoring leader with 2,178 points…currently plays in the WNBA for the Connecticut Sun, where she has been the franchise’s leading scorer for all but one season of its existence…Sales’ banner was unveiled by Uconn sophomore Kalana Greene…her speech:

“A lot of people always ask us if the things we took out of Uconn are always basketball and sometimes they aren’t. I was thinking back 10-12 years ago, and if you had told me I’d have to speak in front of one of these sections, I’d probably have asked for a transfer. …

“But that just says a lot about the fans here. They’re so warm and vibrant, and what I’ve learned from the coaching staff – not only basketball, but like Kara said, they teach you a lot about how to act off the court as well. I can say all of us here are … role models off the court. People tonight came from out of town, they’ve all showed continued support, and I want to thank all of you, I hope you continue to come to the games.”

Svetlana Abrosimova

Svetlana Abrosimova played at Uconn from 1997-2001…was a key player in Uconn’s 1999-2000 run for the championship…also Uconn’s first three-time All-American in 1999, 2000, and 2001…

Abrosimova was named a member of the 2000 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team and was the 2000 NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player…also named the Big East Conference Player of the Year in 1998-1999

Abrosimova currently plays for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA, as well as Dynamo Moscow in Russia…has played for the Russian National Team…unfortunately had to miss the ceremony due to a previous commitment in Russia, but will be honored during a game this season…banner unveiled by Uconn sophomore Cassie Kerns…

Shea Ralph

Shea Ralph played at Uconn from 1996-2001 (redshirted one season)…1999-2000 First Team All-American…2000 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player

Ralph was the 1999-2000 Big East Conference Player of the Year…1999 Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player…

Ralph played in the WNBA for the Utah Starzz…currently serves as an assistant coach for the University of Pittsburgh women’s basketball team…couldn’t attend ceremony due to a coaching commitment, but will be honored when Pittsburgh plays Uconn at Gampel Pavilion…sophomore Tahirah Williams unveiled Ralph’s banner…

Sue Bird

Sue Bird played played at Uconn from 1998-2002…won two championships, in 2000 and 2002, when Uconn was undefeated…2001-2002 National Collegiate Player of the Year…2002 First Team All-American

Bird was the 2002 NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player…2001-2002 Big East Conference Player of the Year…started every game she appeared in at Uconn…finished collegiate career with a record of 114-4…

Bird won a gold medal with the USA 2004 Olympic Team…plays in the WNBA for the Seattle Storm…2004 WNBA champion…also playing in Russia for Dynamo Moscow, and flew in from Moscow for the ceremony…banner unveiled by junior Ketia Swanier…her speech:

“I’d like to make a correction to what Bob said about our flight: it wasn’t 18 hours, though it sounds really nice, it’s like your mom and dad saying they walked three miles through the snow to get to school – it was more like 10.

“It’s such an honor to be here in front of you guys. Playing here in Gampel, when I think back, deciding to come here was the best decision I ever made. Not only to play here… The honor is tremendous and I’m just so thankful to be here. Also my mom … my family, I’ve just got to thank them.

“Whether it was players that I played with, Shea and Svet, or the players that came before me, they’re the reason why I’m here, they always will be, and I love you guys.”

Swin Cash

Swin Cash played at Uconn from 1998-2002…part of 2000 National Championship and 2002 Undefeated Season…2001-2002 First Team All-American…

Cash was the 2002 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player…member of the Big East Championship All-Tournament Team in 1999, 2000, and 2002…

Cash was a 2004 USA Olympic Gold Medalist…currently plays for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA…2003 and 2006 WNBA Champion…junior Brittany Hunter unveiled Cash’s banner…her speech:

“Well first of all, I just want to thank all the fans. You guys were great for four years. Having the opportunity to play in here, packed out, every single game, that really meant a lot. To the coaches staff, Coach, CD, JJ, Tonya, I just want to say from that bottom of my heart that you guys made me a better basketball player, but you also made me a better woman. It’s the reason I can do the things I’m doing in the business world, because of what I learned here at Uconn. It wasn’t just about the basketball, it was the total package so thank you.

“At Uconn, we graduate in our degree, and we have to do that for the professors, for the teachers, for the administration. … It’s because of the work they put in day in and day out to help us to graduate, so thank you.

“I want to say thank you to my family, my mom’s here today, I love you guys, so thank you so much… [My family went to all the games in groups of 20 or 30 in Pittsburgh or West Virginia] You guys made it. Even though I cried my whole freshman year, I was so homesick, my mom was always there.

“My partner, (inaudible) is here today, I love you, thank you so much for supporting me. He dropped everything, all his business trips, to be here today and it means a lot to me.

“And last but not least, to the ladies who came before, from the top to the bottom, you guys made it possible, paved the way, laid the foundation, so that we can have all these banners here, for those behind, Diana, you kept it going, and the two ladies that aren’t here today that should be up here next to us, Tamika and Asjha. … Thank you!”

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is often called the best women’s college basketball player ever…member of national championship teams in 2002, 2003, and 2004…Three-time First Team All-American in 2002, 2003, and 2004…

Taurasi was the National Collegiate Player of the year in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004…NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2003 and 2004…Big East Conference Player of the year in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004

Taurasi won an Olympic Gold Medal for the US team in 2004…currently plays in the WNBA for the Phoenix Mercury, where she broke the league single-game and season scoring record in the 2006 season…plays for Dynamo Moscow and flew in from Russia with Sue Bird for the ceremony…banner was unveiled by junior Charde Houston…her speech:

“It really is special to come back – I had to travel 28 hours to get here. It’s great to be back. Coach Auriemma looks great, lost a little weight. It’s good to be back. …

“I’d like to thank everyone here. Hopefully we can add a lot more of those (Huskies of Honor banners) next year. Charde Houston, you’re from California. We’ve been coming back the last two or three years, and we’re getting tired of seeing the same banners. Hopefully this year we can add another special one. I’m looking at the space at center court.”

Geno Auriemma

Geno Auriemma has been coaching at Uconn since 1985, and turned the program into the national powerhouse it is today…record at Uconn stands at 601-116…has coached five national championship teams (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004)…five –time National Coach of the Year…inducted into both the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006…banner unveiled by Uconn co-captains Mel Thomas and Renee Montgomery…his speech:

"Folks are leaving. Come on now, I stayed here for you guys. It’s always tricky to decide how you’re going to this, and obviously it’s important to get it right. Obviously it’s important that we do this the right way. There are, as Jamelle will remind me a lot, Jennifer certainly, there a lot of players whose names are not up there, and they’re not up there yet because I thought it was important that initially we have to recognize those in this room who I think stand out above and beyond what normally a college basketball player would do.

"I would like to think that I coached the same way when I coached Kerry Bascom as when I did Diana Taurasi. I would like to think that, but unfortunately that’s probably not the case. Diana mentioned that I did lose a little bit of weight, and if she’d turn around and look behind her, she’d see where it went.

"It’s incredibly important that those of you that are here tonight will go out and tell everybody basically what you just heard tonight. If you come to Connecticut, you’re going to play basketball in the greatest environment there is in this country, you’re going to play against the best teams in America, you’re going to play with the best players in the country. You’re going to graduate, you’re going to go on and do things, that you would never ever imagine that you’d be able to do when you were a senior in high school. And we tell that to kids, we tell that to their parents, and this is living proof right here.

"Obviously these young ladies have their families here. My wife is here, my son had a big game tonight, and my daughters are old enough now that they feel that they don’t have to give up something that they’re doing for their dad. But other than their family, and for me and my coaching staff – Chris, Tonya, Jamelle, Jack – and anybody else that had an awful lot to do with all this – Jeff Hathaway, Todd, and (inaudible), I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you really really give out an unbelievable round of applause for President Austin and what he’s done for the University of Connecticut.

"And finally, Dee, I know you’re here, I want to thank you for being a mentor to me the whole time I’ve been here. He’s someone that I look up to, and I know Dee (inaudible). He’s a coach’s coach, and a man’s man, and I’ve been fortunate to get to know him.

And finally I’d like to thank the parents of all these players – and the other players I’ve had, but these players in particular. I want to thank them because they believed in us when we told them if they’d just let us have them for four years, I promise you, we’ll do something special with them. I made that promise to them, and I made the same promise to those knuckleheads up there. They took it seriously, so I hope you learned something. But it’s because of the support that these kids got from their parents, while they were here. Because of the support that I got. They didn’t have two coaches when they were here, they had one. They had the opportunity to play for us, to go to school here, and when they went home they got unconditional love, unconditional support, and because of that they are what they are today, so thank you all very much, I appreciate everything."

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