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.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Part III: Richmond's Celebration of Life Tributes to Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis

By Mel Greenberg

Here is the transcript of the remembrance speech made by Ginny Doyle's good friend and Richmond athletic department co-worker Cathy Rossi at Saturday's memorial service.

Still to come are women's basketball coach Michael Shafer's opening and possibly, if they desire, the remembrance from Natalie's parents.

I would first just like to thank everyone for coming today to help us to remember and celebrate the lives of these two extraordinary women.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Cathy and I’ve been friends with Ginny ever since I’ve known her.

I know that might sound strange, but Ginny was the type of person that you could be fast friends with and I can’t actually remember a time where I didn’t consider her my friend.

Being a basketball junkie myself I knew that Ginny and I would have a lot to chat about; little did I know that Ginny would ALWAYS have a lot to chat about.

Most people do know that Ginny was an epic story teller so I hope that I can do her a little bit of justice in telling just a part of her story here today.

Ginny and I were co-workers here at the University of Richmond, and me being the socialite that I am I was always organizing some sort of social outing or gathering.

There is a popular series of Bud Light commercials out right now that use the tag line “Up for whatever”, and I can’t help but think of Ginny because she was always up for whatever I threw out there.

We probably went to over 20 concerts together and I know there were times where she might not have known more than one song of the artists but she’d just say “yeah, I’m in”.

Even when she had her latest knee surgery, Darius Rucker was playing out at Innsbrook (who I’m pretty sure we had seen twice already together) and since Ginny couldn’t hobble out to the show we listened to whole set from the back deck of her house, with her mom too……and told stories.

Ginny reminisced about how her parents used to make her and her brother Joe dress up and entertain them and their friends with renditions of the Kenny Roger’s classic “The Gambler”.

I didn’t even know Ginny had musical talents!

I also had the pleasure of going to see the Steve Miller Band with Ginny and her 3 siblings-Joe, Ray and Pat. I remember Ginny being so excited to have everyone out together and visiting at the same time.

As dedicated as Ginny was to coaching, she was even MORE dedicated to her family.

But whatever you threw out there Ginny was always in, as long as she didn’t have to go recruiting or watch game film which was always a priority.

Being a basketball coach was so much of who she was, but she was so much more than that.

Everything that she was as person is what made her a great coach. She was so humble and giving…..and selfless and loyal.

Knowing that I was going to be speaking to you all today I had reached out to a few other friends of Ginny and just asked them what they would say about her if they had the chance to speak to you all today.

There were so many positive responsive it would be impossible to share them all today but they were things like, “we always had a LOT of laughs”, or “she was so giving and appreciative of others”, and “She was not only my coach but my friend and mentor”.

I always knew that Ginny was a great friend to me but I quickly learned that she was great friend to everyone she met.

Another friend (and former player of Ginny’s) talked about how she took the time to know her players off the court AND their families. And that trait didn’t stop with coaching. She was always willing to take the time to get to know other people, and know THEIR story.

Coach (Stephanie) Gaitley, who was one of Ginny’s coaches, shared a funny story with me that when Ginny was playing for her she could hear all the ladies on the bench whispering and chuckling and saying “you tell her”, “no you tell her”.

So finally Ginny came up to her and said, “Um, Coach your shirt is tucked inside your underwear.”

(Coach Gaitley did approve me sharing that with you all today btw)…But that’s who Ginny was……she was the type of friend that would tell you if you had food all over your face or your underwear embarrassingly showing.

She had a huge heart and a tremendous sense of humor too, even dressing as a Nun one Halloween, which now has me wondering if God is appreciating her sense of humor as much as we did?

When I look around and think about the outpouring of love and support the Doyle family has received over these last few months, it amazes me to know the number of lives that Ginny had impacted in her short time here with us.

I could live to be 100 years old and not affect even HALF the number of people that Ginny has touched in her 44 years.

I consider myself SO LUCKY to have known Ginny..…..and very PROUD to be able to call her my friend.

And whether she was your teammate, your colleague, your sister, your aunt, you daughter, your mentor, or your coach…………..she was without a doubt also your friend.

When we leave here today, I just hope that we all understand how absolutely blessed we are to have even had the opportunity to have these two extraordinary women in our lives.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Richmond Celebration of Life Service Tributes to Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis

By Mel Greenberg

Complete texts from two of the three speeches made -- both on behalf of Richmond basketball operations director Natalie Lewis, also a past star swimmer for the Spiders -- have arrived and we promised to share them with you from Saturday's Celebration of Life Service.

Special thanks to Kelly Shuman, who is the Richmond media contact for women's basketball, for keeping the Guru and Richmond sides connected as the Guru attempts to complete coverage, as promised, of the entire event.

In-depth reporting began in the previous blog and thanks to Richmond for putting in a link at their basketball website.


Here is the first, which is a remembrance from Matt Barany, who is the Richmond Swim Coach:

Natalie gave me a Thanksgiving Day card.

And I said, “Nat, who gives cards on Thanksgiving?”

She replied, “I do” with her big smile.

Well, her card was written with repeating sentences of “Thank you Matt for…” If Nat were here, she’d have hand-written notes in the mail this afternoon thanking us for being together today.

She’s inspired me to deflect attention and show appreciation for a few people in true Natalie fashion. Here are my thank you notes.

Dear Richmond Community: Thank you for adopting these women and thank you for loving us during this time.

Dear President Ayers and University of Richmond: Thank you for your hard work in establishing a place where young women can develop into great people. Thank you for your energy and your support.

Chief McCoy
Chaplaincy Craig Kocher
Counseling Pete LeViness
Keith Gill
LaRee and Brynn

Members who made sacrifices to support and mourn with us: We know these losses are felt deeply and we wish could reciprocate the love you have showered upon us.

Masters Team: Thank you for transitioning Natalie into life after swimming and making our “community” strong.

Dear Athletics: This is not a unique loss to swimming and basketball, but for all of us. The lessons from Natalie and Ginny are meant for all of us. We appreciate your understanding and graciousness. Please honor these women by winning the right way.

WBB team and staff: We will forever be linked. It’s a good thing…it’s a strong thing. Please know that we support you, always. Thank you for your love.

Dear former swimmers & divers & coaches and your families: Thank you for your service to our university. Thank you for loving each other; thank you for establishing bonds that will last; Thank you for loving me. Please hold each other as tightly as you need and please don’t let go, ever.

Dear current swimmers & divers & coaches: Even though you see the tears…I really am a tough guy! Wait until next week! Thank you for being here & now. We have a challenge ahead of us…it isn’t winning…it’s winning the right way.

Dear Doyles: The swimming family recognizes and honors her athleticism and her commitment to UR. We will honor her desire to win. Thank you.

Dear Michael: I’ve missed you. Through the pain, understand she loved you with all of her will. We know when she willed something, she willed well.

Dear Lewises: There is a hole in my heart and I can’t imagine the pain your heart feels. You have been a source of strength for me and I will forever be indebted to you.

Dear My Family: Thank you for giving me the greatest gift…the ability love and receive love. Thank you for being there for me at all costs.

Dear pregnant wife, Sam: Thank you for being my romance partner, my teammate, and my dearest friend. I am sorry I don’t sleep.

My 3 minutes (of allotted time the speakers were given) start now! I have one more note to write. The best way to honor Natalie is to pass her spirit along. I have a note for my daughter.

To My Daughter:

There is a person whom you’ll never meet, but you will feel her love every day – I promise.

When we found out we were pregnant with you, I said to your mom “Natalie will be so excited!” When we bought a house in April, I said “We’ve got to be prepared for Nat to pop in to play with the baby.”

I will be a great dad because of Natalie. She showed me how to be a positive source of happiness. She cheered, encouraged, and prayed for me to be successful. Even when she was tired, frustrated, lonely, stressed…she found ways to lift others up. She made the decision to give. She just gave gave gave us her love. I can’t wait to love you like Nat would.

It was important for Natalie to celebrate the small things…food, pictures, sunsets, her own smile, and PEOPLE. Her treasure was her family, her Michael, and her friends. She put all of those before herself. You’ll be my small celebration and you’ll be at the top of my list.

Baby girl. I learned about love from a 24 year old bright star named Natalie. I will be the best dad because she said I would. She was my believer.

I’ll see you soon and I’ll bring Nat’s love with me.

One last point… Natalie made a decision to be kind; it’s a decision we all can make. She also made a decision to love well; it too, is a decision we all can make. Don’t wait.


And here is another remembrance, which is the presentation made by Katie Sieben, a 2010 graduate and close friend and teammate of Natalie's.

It is amazing to see so many people here to honor two beautiful lives. When I walked in the chapel, Natalie popped into my head and said, “All of these people are here for Ginny and me?! This is so great.”

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Katie Sieben. I graduated from the University of Richmond in 2010 and was a part of the Spider swim and dive team. Natalie was my best friend, but she was much more than that. As I told her back in April, she was my family.

My first vivid memory of Natalie was from the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship swim meet back in 2007 in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.

I was a freshman in college and she was a senior in high school.

Natalie wasn’t even on the team yet, but she was at the meet, already showering us with her support and homemade cookies decorated with spiders.

This bubbly girl with straight, blonde hair bounded onto the pool deck with a giant smile on her face and happiness embedded into each step she took.

We spoke briefly and, looking back, I realize that was one of the luckiest moments of my life.

When this incredible girl with a heart so big entered my world. We often do not recognize the significance of moments as they are happening, but that moment changed my life forever, because that was the moment that started our friendship.

When we started living next door to each other after college, it was better than anything I could ever imagine.

I walked across the street just about every night to spend time with my Richmond family.

After a long day, I could always count on Natalie to be ready for an hour-long walk, talk and Frisbee toss in our nearby field.

I would walk out the front door of my apartment and Natalie would either already be waiting for me with a huge smile on her face, or she would be walking towards my apartment, in which case she still had a huge smile on her face, but she would also throw her hands up into the air and bob her head back and forth with glee upon seeing me.

There was something profoundly special about Natalie.

She made you feel like anything was possible. She made you feel genuinely loved. She made you feel supported. She made you feel comforted. She made you feel like you always had someone in your corner, no matter what. She made you feel like, with her by your side, you could make it through anything in life.

Being with Natalie meant you spent your days endlessly laughing, learning, cooking, exploring, going on adventures, doing arts and crafts, smiling, and hugging.

We were always astounded by the beauty of our world, whether we were watching a sunset, taking pictures of the fall foliage, or walking through the woods.

We would proclaim that the physical aspects of our world were beautiful, because they truly were. But the world was much more beautiful when you experienced it with Natalie.

Natalie was filled with endless kindness.

One morning I went for run, only to return to a treat she had left on my doorstep with a note that read “A little snickerdoodle for you. Have a good day,” followed by her signature smiley face and heart.

This year for lent, she decided to do something kind for someone every single day, but she didn’t want people to know what she had done for them.

Her gifts for people were almost always homemade, crafted with care, love and meaning.

I have homemade bookmarks, coasters, cards and hand-written letters to name a few.

The amazing thing is, I am not the only person who has examples like this. Her kindness touched everyone she met, whether you knew her for five minutes or for twenty-four years.

Natalie was the happiest person I have ever known.

Every day to her was an incredible adventure. A true gift. She was the light in every room, the joy in our lives.

When I picture her, I think of the way she would smile at me when she saw me.

That genuine smile where her cheeks would get rosy as she squinted her eyes, scrunched her nose, pursed her lips, and shrugged her shoulders. A smile that tells you how much you are loved, without ever needing any words.

I feel so thankful and lucky to have Natalie as my best friend.

She filled me with happiness, hope, and love every single second I spent with her. In 2009, she wrote me a two-page letter during a difficult time.

The last line of the letter says, “So just live your life and love.”

It’s so simple, yet so profound now. So just live your life and love. And that is exactly what Natalie did every single day of her life. I think about those words often as I now try to lead the life Natalie would have wanted me to lead.

Today I would tell Natalie that for the rest of my life, I will spread her kindness, I will sing her song, I will cherish our memories.

And as I continue our walks through our astoundingly beautiful world, I will carry her gently, I will think of her always, and I will love her forever.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Richmond Mourns Loss But Service Reflects the Joy of Knowing Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis

By Mel Greenberg

Though Ginny Doyle, the Richmond associate women’s basketball coach, and Natalie Lewis, the staff’s operations director, were 20 years apart, they became forever linked through the tragic event of May 11 when they along with pilot Daniel T. Kirk died when the hot air balloon they occupied struck a power line coming in for a landing and immediately caught fire, a few miles north of here, near the King’s Dominion Amusement Park.

But Saturday morning also was a time to know that Doyle, who was 44, and Lewis, who was 24, should forever be remembered for the joy and passion their lives brought to all with whom they had contact.

It was in that spirit that Richmond held a Celebration of Life Service inside Cannon Memorial Chapel, an event that was clear to everyone inside the nearly full chapel that in a period of deep mourning that may never end, considering the circumstances of the tragedy and the way in which two productive lives were cut short, thre can be joy in the memories of their presence.

Indeed, throughout the ceremony that lasted less than two hours, followed by a reception in the nearby Tyler Haynes Commons, it was possible for those who knew Natalie, a native of Buffalo, more so as a prolific swimmer for the Spiders athletic program also got to know Ginny a little better.

Conversely, the many who knew Ginny for her basketball stardom at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia and then at Richmond, and her 15 years on the coaching staff at her alma mater, also got to know Natalie much better, as well.

When the visitation service was held in Philadelphia in May on a night that was quite rainy, that was seen as the tears falling from the heaven expressing sadness over the loss.

But if that were to be true, then the likewise the glorious weather of Saturday with a clear blue sky and balmy temperatures under which the Richmond campus was quite vibrant, then that should be a sign that this was a day in which smiles and happiness over having known Ginny and Natalie trumped heartache.

Indeed, the picturesque campus reminded the Guru of that spring afternoon in 2006 at Army when first-year coach Maggie Dixon was laid to rest, having died suddenly of a heart stoppage soon after leading the Knights to their first Patriot League title and NCAA tournament appearance as a first-year coach.

The crowd Saturday was less than the service held a few days after the tragedy, when actually a good deal of the Richmond University population had already left town for its annual summer hiatus, one reason for delaying the formal tribute until this weekend.

But this weekend is also one of the key recruiting dates, a time when Ginny would have been in the gyms with other staffs from across the country.

Still, many who could not come, tweeted comments noting the service being held.

Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade, whose conference Richmond is a member, attended, as did former Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry, who oversees women’s basketball for the conference, as well as other A-10 officials who deal with the sport as part of their duties under McGlade.

This season, A-10 athletes are wearing rubber bracelets that carry signage: A10 Family Ginny-Natalie-Brian, the latter being Brian Moretti, the Saint Bonaventure women’s basketball media contact, who was serving his first year and died suddenly of cardiac arrest on site on the eve of the conference tournament in March, which was held here in the city.

The heart of the service centered on two similar presentations in which on Ginny’s side, remembrances were offered by women’s basketball coach Michael Shaffer, representing the basketball program; Cathy Rossi, a colleague and friend; and Ginny’s brother Joe, representing the family.

Understandably, at times, each struggled with their emotions over expressing the joy but coping with the loss.

Joe sent a copy of his speech, which can be found in its entirety down below, while Cathy and Michael said they will soon send electronic copies, also.

In the interim, the Guru taped everything and if enough is clear, you should see highlight quotes from associates of both individuals before Joe’s speech.

On Natalie’s side, Matt Barany, her swimming coach at Richmond, represented that program; Katie Sieben, a former swim teammate of Natalie represented that phase of Natalie’s life, and then her parents Evan and Tricia Lewis gave a dual offering.

At the end of each set of speeches, video tributes in the form of slide photos, were shown with the background music for Ginny being the tune My Old Friend, song by Tim McGraw while Love Is All Around, made famous by the Troggs, played during the photos of Natalie’s life.

The Procession of Symbols

University chaplain The Rev. Dr. Craig Kocher gave a short opening welcome to get the service under way, followed by a procession of symbols carried by friends and family of Natalie and Ginny, who then placed them on a table in the front below where the choir sat.

“The hope for the service was to create a space for some of those who were close to Ginny and Natalie to give memories, tears, laughter, and other gifts of music and stories as to who they were and goodness in body they inspired and to surround one another with our love and support as we give thanks for the lives of these two,” Dr. Kocher said in his remarks.

Rachel Mercer Perkins, a friend, and Kennedy Perkins, Ginny’s goddaughter, represented her by carrying a candle to start the procession.

Michael Dougher, the fiance of Natalie, next carried a candle.

Ginny’s Niece, Kelly Doyle, carried a a photo of Ginny’s dogs Maggie and Lexi.

Natalie’s brother Evan Jr. carried a family photo.

Ginny’s nephew Michael Doyle, carried memorabilia from Philadelphia while Natalie’s sister Caroline next carried a proclamation from the City of Buffalo that was made in August.

Genevieve, the senior captain of this year’s squad, carried the basketball with which she set an NCAA record at the time for most consecutive free throws that has since been surpassed.

That was the representation of Richmond basketball.

Chrissy Brodt and Nicole LePere, who were senior teammates and classmates graduating the same year as Natalie in 2011, carried a championship trophy.

Then several persons from the past in both sports carried a daisy chain representing Westhampton College, which is celebrating its 100th year and was established for women and is part of Richmond University.

Kate Flavin, a 2005 graduate of the women’s basketball program, and Cara McCracken, a 2009 graduate of the swimming program, carried Spider Paperweights to represent the alumni association.

Finally, Richmond University president Ed Ayers carried a folded UR Flag, which represented the university community.

Athletic Director Keith Gill after the six speeches, gave a brief address detailing some of the plans to honor the memory of the two fallen staff members.

It was at that moment, that the Guru’s tape recorder went into a software update, curious since it does not have communication capabilities, so Gill’s list wasn’t captured.

But the Guru will request a list and then note the plans in a short blog.

Joe’s speech has details about plans to convert the memorial fund established in Ginny’s name to be converted to a scholarship fund so she would always have a presence on the Richmond bench through one athlete.

Memories of Natalie and Ginny

Here are some highlights, for now, from the speeches made recalling the lives of Natalie and Ginny:

Michael Shafer: “I was given 3-5 minutes but what I’m going to do was what we always asked Ginny to do – give a scouting report in the allotted amount of time. So you iknow this is not going to be short.”

“Ginny lasted at Richmond under three head coaches – that right there is a tribute in of itself.”

“When I came, I was the new young head coach and I was going to bring in my own people. Then I met her. Three hours later she remained at the University of Richmond.”

“She was not an employe of the university. She was part of the university.”

“Ginny was probably the hardest worker in America. … She wasn’t working at all. It wasn’t work. She was doing what she loved to do every single day.”

“Sbe still had time to go to the beach .. be with her family .. go to a Phillies game. I know she lived her life to the fullest because I watched her every single day.”

“One day I asked her why she didn’t like staff meetings. She said they last too long. I said that’s because of you.”

“She didn’t sell (when she recruited). She shared her experiences at the University of Richmond.”

“She was entrenched in this community. She loved her family and she was able to love us, too.”

“She took her family recruiting.”

Cathy Rossi : “I asked her friends what they would say if they had a chance to speak. There were so many positive responses it would be impossible …

“She had a huge sense of humor and even dressing as a nun on Halloween.”

“I was so lucky to have known her and call her a best friend. When we leave today I hope we understand how blessed we are to even had the opportunity to know these two extraordinary women among us.”

Matt Barany: “I’m really a tough guy. These tears are all fake. They will all find out Monday morning. And Monday afternoon.”

“If Natalie were here, she would probably go home and write everyone a thank you.”

He then offered a bunch of thank you comments and also commented of sending a note to his yet-to-be-born daughter and who Natalie was.

Katie Sieben: “She was the light in every room. When I think of her, I think of the smile when she saw me”

Tricia Lewis : “She declared me best mom. In fact, I won every single category. She made you feel like you wre a better person than you were.”

Joe Doyle’s Complete Speech

Good morning, I am Joe Doyle, Ginny’s brother; and although many thought that Ginny and I were twins because of our looks and mannerisms, we were not, but we were extremely close in mind and spirit, just like twins. I was please (as well as nervous) when The University asked that a family member speak about Ginny. So on behalf of my Mom and my family, I want thank every one for being here today. We are grateful to Reverend Craig Kocher, President Ayers, Dean Juliette Landphair, the University of Richmond faculty, students, Keith Gill, the athletic department, the women’s basketball team and the entire Richmond community for your kindness, hospitality and support, as we come here to celebrate the life of Ginny and Natalie.

Two families, as well as the University of Richmond family, were forever impacted for the events that took place on May 9th. Literally, life changed. Natalie and Ginny were very close friends and colleagues and we can almost guess that their enthusiastic spirit caused them to take that balloon ride. Neither Ginny, nor Natalie, would have risked such adventure if they knew the true danger or the outcome. They each had too much to live for and they leave all of us steeped in grief, for the loss is still almost unbearable.

My family has been coming to Richmond and The University since 1990 when Ginny began playing for the team. Ginny played for 3 years and coached here for 15 years. Our family lived, Lady Spider Basketball year around; we probably came to 90% of the games over those 18 years. Driving 6-8 hours was never an issue for us…as long as we were going to see Ginny. Ginny was proud to work for the University and extremely proud to be a Spider. Never in our wildest imagination did we ever think we would be here, celebrating her life at the University.

My families’ memories of Ginny will be as a loving, devoted daughter, a strong and fiercely loyal sister, a dotting aunt, and for me, my idol. For others, Ginny will be remembered as a cherished teammate, a formidable competitor, a hard-working colleague, a best friend, an awesome recruiter, an amazing mentor, a player’s coach, and a caring person.

Ginny was welcoming to everyone, thoughtful, approachable, positive, honest, funny, sarcastic and loyal. Ginny could very easily walk into other people’s lives and make a connection that would last for years, we have witnessed that by those that have reached out to us over the past 5 months.

She always gave her time to conversation and when she got to know you, she showed her dry witty sense of humor. Over the years, many parents of the girls on the team would tell my Mom that Ginny was the reason they were entrusting their daughters to the University. Her integrity, character and demeanor spoke volumes to them and they wanted that for their daughters’ lives, beyond their basketball careers.

As a family, we watched Ginny so often in her role as coach, recruiter, and advocate for young women, so the words and stories following May 9th didn’t surprise us. However, as a family, we knew the “other side” of the public persona, so we knew that Ginny was also very competitive, and spoke her mind.

She was patient to a point and extremely generous; lending air miles, reward points; purchasing Phillies season tickets, summer vacations, the latest electronic gadget and of course lots of Richmond gear! Ginny had great expectations of herself and she continually challenged herself, players and others abilities to take the next step.

Although she kept an eye out for head coaching positions (at universities in the south, similar to Richmond) she truly loved her job here at the University. She always said she had the best associate head-coaching job in Division 1 Women’s Basketball.

Ginny lived life to the fullest. When opportunities came her way, her classic response would be, “let’s do it!” Ginny traveled around the US and the world; she never sat still and we have the pictures to prove it! From her earliest years, Ginny looked to athletics for fun, competition and adventure.

She begged her brother Ray to teach her how to waterski when she could hardly see over the deck of the boat.

As a young teenager we shot a be-be gun in the backyard, Ginny very rarely missed the target, which was usually something the size of a coin!

Her accuracy was amazing whether she was shooting a be-be gun or basketball, hitting a tennis ball, driving a golf ball or throwing a football. Ginny had all the athletic talent in our family. She literally excelled at every sport.

In the Richmond community, at the University and in the world of women’s basketball; Ginny will forever be known as “Dead-eye Doyle.”

She acquired this name due to her accuracy in shooting the basketball; she was extremely humble but yet proud to bear the name! As a basketball player, Ginny was a formidable competitor.

She was extremely proud of her 1991 teammates as they secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and hosting their first game; they finished that season 26 and 4.

Ginny played high school basketball at Archbishop Ryan High School for Girls, in the prominent Philadelphia Catholic League.

Teammates have said, you always gave the ball to Ginny when she was open; simply put, she made shots! She surely wasn’t known for her assists!

Ginny held many records; played for four different head coaches, coached under three head coaches at the University of Richmond and I’d be remised, if I didn’t mention her NCAA Division I consecutive free throw shooting record, which she held for 18 years.

Ginny went on to have a ‘friendly’ free throw shooting contest against CBS Sports Commentator Billy Packer, for which she received much national acclaim, as the New York Times in 1992 described, “The Woman Who Outshot All The Men”.

Billy Packer sank 12 for 20 free throws and Ginny sank 20 for 20 free throws, with the men’s ball! My parents remember the crowd in the Robins Center yelling to Ginny, “shoot with your eyes closed” and “shoot with your left-hand.”

She actually could have, and probably would have still won! Packer actually conceded and said “Ginny could shoot whatever size basketball they handed her!” For many years her larger-than-life picture with Billy Packer adorn the corner perimeter of the Robins Center…all the while Ginny was always humble and never bragged when asked about the contest.

Ginny was a hard-worker, on and off the court. As a kid she lived on the courts (on the streets of Philadelphia), my parents often received complaints from neighbors, as the backboard was on a telephone pole in front of their house. My parents received the same complaints about her as she monopolized the local tennis courts. She would play all day and all night. Ginny didn’t like to lose! She was always picked first in pickup games, even before the guys. As a college player she lived in the gym and although she wasn’t the fastest on the court, she wasn’t going to be stopped or be outworked!

Off the court, at her job, Ginny worked around-the-clock. There were so many occasions where we would come to visit and she would be scouting a team, breaking down plays or writing a scouting report for an upcoming game.

She would work hours at home, constantly recruiting; using her time efficiently east coast calls first, west coast calls second. I can’t count the number of times, that we were in her presences, when a player, recruit or AAU coach was calling her; she would abruptly stop the conversation, leave the dinner table and take the call. It didn’t matter to us because we were so happy just to be in her presences.

My brother Ray and I would always go with her on recruiting trips when she visiting the tri-state area...again, we just enjoyed being with her. She was passionate about her work and loved what she did; everyone enjoyed being in her company. In our family Ginny was BIGGER than life itself.

I wanted to explain the meaning of Ginny’s symbols:

The CANDLE, symbolizing eternal life, was carried by Rachel Mercer Perkins, Ginny’s George Washington University college teammate, roommate and best friend and her daughter Kennedy, Ginny’s Godchild.

The PORTRAIT carried by Kelly Doyle, Ginny’s niece, is of Ginny’s Yorkshire Terriers, Maggie and Lexi. They were Ginny’s family! They went everywhere with Ginny, they literally put themselves in her suitcase before every trip! You may have seen them here on campus with her at times!

The PHILLY MEMOROBILIA carried by Michael Doyle, Ginny’s nephew, includes the Philly Phanatic, an Eagles hat, a Philadelphia Soft Pretzel; and her Philadelphia High School All-Catholic

Letters represents where Ginny came from; although she lived a large portion of her life in Richmond and had developed a southern drawl and told long stories; she was a die hard Philly sports team fan and Philly Catholic League basketball and tennis player.

The BASKETBALL carried by Gen Okoro is the actual basketball that Ginny broke the NCAA Division 1 men and women’s free throw shooting record in 1992. Ginny shot 60 consecutive free throws is one season and 66 consecutive free throws over two seasons; Ginny led the nation in free throw shooting percentage at 98.5%.

A special “thank you” to the other symbol bearers, Kate Flavin, Ebony Tanner-Moore and Danielle Bell; colleagues, Richmond Spiders and very close and dear friends of Ginny’s.

In closing, it hasn’t been easy for any of us since May 9th. It hasn’t gotten easier either; in fact our hearts ache for Ginny everyday.

But we know, we are all truly blest to have had the opportunity to be part of her life.

She truly touched many lives and her legacy will live on in our hearts, memories and stories! Through Ginny, our family has come to know so many players, players’ families, coaches, colleagues, Spiders fans and neighbors. We have created many friendships that will last a lifetime.

Ginny’s story encourages us to live our lives to the fullest, as though each day may be our last.

Our family has literally millions of memories of Ginny, as a player and coach, many here at the University of Richmond; likewise, I am sure you do as well!

Our family would like Ginny’s name and memory to always be associated with the University. We are hoping we can convert her Memorial Fund to a Scholarship Fund in her honor so that she never leaves the University of Richmond’s Women’s Basketball Team or the bench in the Robins Center.

Please remember to make a donation in her name; even if you think it is small…every little bit helps! The information to make a donation is on the back of your bulletin!

We miss Ginny tremendously, we think about her constantly, a day doesn’t pass were something doesn’t remind us of her…we see her everywhere…we are comforted in her spiritual presences and our loving memories. The life she led inspired many. To us, Ginny was larger than life. To the team, I know Ginny was very proud and for this year she would say, “let’s do it!” OneRichmond! We love you Ginny. We will never forget you!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

USA Training: Assistant Coach Dawn Staley Reflects Over the Game She Helped Grow

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

One of Dawn Staley’s greatest gifts to the sport of basketball, which she quickly developed a love affair in her childhood, has been sacrificing to help grow the game.

Staley along with 11 other women embarked on a successful year-long tour of the United States in advance of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

While many of the players could have made much more money playing professionally overseas, they decided that playing in 40 cities and six countries in sold out arenas from coast to coast serving as ambassadors would yield a huge payment for the sport they loved.

“Some of the challenges, I remember is just the sacrifice of some players,” Staley said. “They would have loved to go overseas and make a lot more money.

" Some players enjoyed the experience of playing professionally and they gave that up to be part of this opportunity," she explained.

"The good thing was it was like playing professionally here in the United States because we didn’t have a professional league here at the time. It was a challenge. It was a tough experience but a good one.”

Almost 20 years later, women’s basketball is flourishing and in a terrific place thanks to women like Staley, Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, Ruthie Bolton, Sheryl Swoopes, Katrina McClain and Cynthia Cooper.

They were able to reap the rewards because players like Nancy Lieberman and Cheryl Miller before them performed in the shadow of the men’s game but became the rare household names at the time to help give public appeal of the women's game.

The duo, plus Carol Blazejowski and Lynette Woodard, off their scoring prowess, had such superior skills to transcend both genders when it came to hoops.

One of the many stories of sacrificing in 1995 involved Edwards, who turned down a $300,000 contract to play for the USA national team that offered $50,000 for her services for the year, which didn’t include a guaranteed Olympic roster spot at the time.

The 1996 United States Olympic squad paused their normal lives, turned down opportunities to make significantly more money and become trailblazers so that Skylar Diggins and many others on this United States Women’s Basketball national team pool could enjoy the fruits of their labor.

One of most recognizable women’s basketball legends on the planet, Staley, a north Philadelphia native, is one of Geno Auriemma’s assistant coaches on his Philly-flavored USA staff along with Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, a La Salle graduate, and DePaul head coach Doug Bruno.

The 13 members of this year’s national team who survived the first round of cuts departed for Paris on Tuesday afternoon where they will continue training in advance of the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey beginning Sept. 27.

It still was unclear at how many of the seven players that weren’t at the domestic training camp will join the team overseas, although the number is now six since Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles has opted out for health reasons involving her feet.

During practice at the Naval Academy last Wednesday, Staley, who has rebuilt South Carolina's prominence from the sidelines after making Temple nationally-regarded, couldn’t help but marvel at all of the terrific talent gathered in one place.

“You’re like a kid in a candy store with so many great players gathered in one place,” Staley said. “It’s incredible. The true effect what the WNBA has been able to do, players are able to live out their dreams.

"The WNBA has been a carrot dangling in front of these guys and it gives them an opportunity to work hard at their games as youngsters. This is the finished product.”

Not long before some of the players on the current pool were born, the American women capped off a year-long exhibition of dominance with a perfect 60-0 record across 1995-96.

That set the wheels in motion for the creation of the WNBA, which began play less than a year later. It was also the trip lever for the start of the short-lived American Basketball League, which lasted two years and a few months before collapsing caused by bankruptcy.

Staley, who was an All-Star in both leagues, knew she was part of something special during that year.

For 11 months, players lived, trained, battled, laughed and bonded with each other during that experience, which helped prove that women’s basketball could thrive in the United States.

During that time there was no consistent social media presence, which meant all the players had was each other.

Yet, that team was one of most popular in history of organized sports in America.

They sold out the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the gold medal game and played in front of the largest national television audience at that point in time.

Fans flocked to their busses like bees to honey.

“That's probably one of the defining moments of my career because we tried something that had never been done before,” Staley, a WNBA All-Decade Team member, said in article commemorating the 10-year anniversary of that team in 2006 on the WNBA website.

“It was probably the closest thing to competing on a professional level that I had done at the time because we were on a team at the primes of our careers, and we were sort of like the guinea pigs to see if women's basketball could be a draw.”

During its 18-year existence, the WNBA has survived its share of challenges and hardships to thrive as a 12-team league.

League attendance and television ratings were the highest in league history, half of the teams are turning profits, ESPN is fully invested in the league and the playoffs this past season were among the best in league history.

With more and more talent, the road to making the USA Basketball Women’s National Team is more difficult than ever.

While Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings are nearing the twilight of their awesome careers, players like Diggins, Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, Bria Hartley and Chiney Ogwumike are just beginning.

They are part of a bright future of the WNBA and the national team.

Diggins, for one has tried not to be awestruck at receiving instruction from one of her idols in Staley, who also mentored Bird when she joined the national team in 2002.

“She’s one of the best our sport has ever had especially at her position,” Diggins said.

“I get to talk to her and be around her everyday. As a kid she’s one of the players I looked up to and one of the reasons why I wanted to play in the WNBA.

"Everything is coming full circle, which is pretty surreal. When she says something to you, she demands a lot of attention and respect from you. You listen. Everything she says has a purpose behind it.”

With what Staley was able to accomplish during her career and now being able to give back to the game is the ultimate reward for her.

In building South Carolina into a national power since moving from Temple in 2008, she’s loves turning unsure teenagers into mature young women who are productive members of society.

It’s why Staley can sit back with her legs crossed and marvel at the team she’s been blessed to coach.

Everything hasn’t been easy and smooth for Staley. She was part of the ABL’s Philadelphia Rage, which folded. Despite that brief setback, Staley continued to persevere and help grow the game.

“I think that’s what women’s basketball has been about just being able to overcome certain things,” Staley said.

“No matter what has happened or what obstacles we’ve had, we’re still standing strong. These players are better. USA Basketball is in a great place. Players are willing to come out and sacrifice their free time to try and make a world championship team.

“You got Olympians, WNBA All-Stars, college all-stars, you have a lot of talent in one room and a pretty good staff.

"Geno does a good job of getting them to all play as a unit. It’s been a great experience for me. I am learning a whole lot and having fun. I just get to sit back and coach whatever fortunate ones that are able to make the team.”

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Guru's Local College Report: Big Five Dates Are Set as Schools Release Entire Schedules

By Mel Greenberg

Well now that the pro season, WNBA version anyway with USA still to come for a few weeks, the Guru took advantage of the final three of the his PhilahoopsW group of 10 to finish off at least the date part of his winter schedule.

Yes, Penn, the Guru saw the note that two more nonconference games may be coming down the pike, but for this moment, this is as good as it gets to get this much done by Seot. 1.4

Time starts still needed but it is early, in fact, so early this is the earliest to get an overall look at the 2014-15 seasons ahead and unfortunately, for the Guru and those of you who care for more than one team or at least must deal with more than one team, it is not pretty.


Well it appears the Colonial Athletic Association and Big East in their league portions of the schedule are jumping on Friday night, a place once usually occupied by just the Ivy League in recent seasons and perhaps the MAAC.

So that said, there are a lot of conflicts ahead, Sundays are going to be a monster in terms of number games and that gets extended for the Guru, who also has national games to attend.

And conference switches now have Rutgers and Maryland, two of his regular stops, moved from the AAC and ACC into the Big Ten.

Anyhow, out of this work, one does emerge are the ten dates for the local Big Five round-robin.

The Guru will update again when all the time starts are in.

The conference shuffle now causes seven of the ten dates to be done by February.

Unlike last year, Penn will not see tough Big Five action later and definitely not three in a row. but the Quakers, who almost added to making history in other areas, will play all four of their games at home in The Palestra after being the visiting team all four times prior to making a successful run to capture the Ivy title.

LA Salle, on the other hand will play all four on the road, Temple will travel 3 stay home 1, while Sant Joseph's will travel 1, stay home 3, and Villanova will split 2-2.

Here, then, are the Big Five dates for your early planning and when the Guru can look at two screens at once, he will tell you of some of the conflict dates soon.

2014-15 City Series Big Five Schedule

Fri., Nov. 14 -- La Salle at Temple: On a night many NCAAs playing season opener. This used to be late when the Owls were also in the A-10.

Tues., Nov. 18 -- Temple at Saint Joseph's: Likewise, this usually came near the end for the same reason as mentioned with La Salle.

Wed., Nov. 19 -- La Salle at Penn: The Explorers and Owls were two victims of the Quakers, so what more needs to be said.

Sun., Dec. 7 -- Villanova at Saint Joseph's: By the time this game ends we could, but not definitely, know how the race is going to finish.

Tue., Dec. 9 -- Saint Joseph's at Penn: The Quakers had a near-miss last time, while this will be Game 3 for the Hawks out of the four.

Sun., Dec. 14 -- La Salle at Villanova: This will be La Salle's third of the season, so if the Hawks and Explorers are either 3-0 or 3-1, there will be a wait until February to see who wins either outright or tied.

Mon. Dec. 22-- Temple at Villanova: A traditional time that has usually be the local get-away for the Christmas break. There will be the unusual tip on the Main Line of 11:L30 A.M.

Mon., Jan. 5 -- Temple at Penn The Owls are out for revenge. If the Quakers are to win three City Series games for the first time, their first chance is right here ast Game No. 3.

Wed., Jan. 21 -- Villanova at Penn: If Mr. Philly.com sports is in the house showing his Quakers loyalties, something big may be brewing for Penn.

Wed., Feb. 4 -- La Salle at Saint Joseph's In the Atlantic 10, it is the first of two but in the Big Five it could be for all the marbles.

That's it for the moment. Rob says he has more things coming this weekend on USA. The Guru will be back, soon.

-- Mel

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Friday, September 12, 2014

USA Basketball Training: Playing On 9-11 Brings Emotions Beyond Competing For Roster Picks

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

NEWARK, Del. –
Representing their country on a significant day in American history was an emotional experience for the 17 members and coaches of the USA Women’s Basketball national team pool Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware campus.

“This being 9/11 the anniversary, what we're trying to do is make a commitment that our players made to play for USA Basketball and show there's a commitment that these men and women in front of you here, they make every day,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “They make a commitment for our country. They are the greatest team in the world and we aspire to be just like them.”

While they were competing for roster spots and entertaining the crowd as part of a nationally-televised USA Basketball inter-squad showcase event, the Red Team’s 95-87 victory over the White Team became an afterthought following a very special halftime ceremony that touched everybody inside of the arena.

During that time, members of the different branches of the Armed Forces presented each player on the USA women’s basketball team with personalized silver dog tags.

The players and Armed Forces members lined up across from each other and following the exchange, there was only one thing to be said.

“Thank you,” Sue Bird said. “It was really cool to be part of that halftime ceremony. I am sure that the first words out of everybody’s mouth were ‘thank you’ when they met the person standing across from them.

"I don’t know what else to say to be honest. When this day comes, it takes you back really to where you were. That’s one of those moments in time that you’ll never forget. It’s sad but also special.”

Each Team USA participant was sincerely humbled by that extraordinary gesture. It was an unexpected treat and something that will remain with them forever.

Each player sported the symbolic dog tag that featured an American flag on one tag and each player’s name and hometown on the other following the game.

Bird and Maya Moore had their dog tags on during the postgame press conference.

“The moment at halftime brings everything together especially on this day,” Skylar Diggins said. “To be able to share this experience with all the members of the military and for them to give us something is a blessing.

" I feel like we should be giving them something for all that they do for us. This is something I will never forget and something we talked about the other day of embracing the entire experience.

"To be able to have a moment with our Armed Forces is something we won’t forget. We wear these (dogtags) with a sense of pride.”

Wearing the red-white-and-blue uniform of Team USA on 9/11, the ladies understood they were representing an entire country, a distinction that made them proud. Prior to the start of the game there was a moment of silence.

“It was unbelievable especially the ceremony at halftime,” Kayla McBride said. “It’s kind of surreal because you know you’re playing on a special day in this country. It’s bigger than us. To have the opportunity to be part of them presenting us with dog tags is something that will always remain with each one of us here.”

For each player taking the floor for the showcase event, it was also their first time playing in the state of Delaware.

They enjoyed the experience of being able to accomplish all of their goals while playing with heavy hearts. Fans were entertained by the high-flying acrobatics of Angel McCoughtry and the deft passing of Lindsay Whalen. Bird and Maya Moore had nothing but outstanding comments about Delaware.

“The University of Delaware has been great,” Bird said. “I’ve never been here before, but the crowd was into the game and that was good to see.

"I am sure the crowd would have loved to see a certain someone (referring to former University of Delaware standout Elena Delle Donne), but hopefully we were able to put on a good show.”

Delle Donne is excused from the first part of preparations with six other players on either the Phoenix Mercury or Chicago Sky, which is her team, competing for the WNBA championship.

The Mercury leads the best-of-five series and can complete a 3-0 sweep in Game 3 Friday night in Chicago.

Back here the teams were tied at 74 with five minutes remaining in the game before the Red, fueled by six points from Whalen, went on an 11-2 run to subdue the White squad.

The Red team trailed, 65-62, entering the final quarter before finding a way to prevail after yielding a double digit lead it held in the first quarter.

Officials of USA Basketball were pleased with the enthusiastic crowd turnout despite not having Delle Donne’s drawing power.

"The assessment is thumbs up," USA women's head Carol Callan told the Guru early in the night in answering how the brief visit went.

Translate that to probable future return visits the next two years when training for the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 occurs.

Players also expressed their approval of the site at the postgame media availability.

“We were very impressed with the welcome we received here at the University of Delaware,” Moore said. “Everything was very smooth. I thought the crowd was into it.

Overall, it was a great day for basketball, but that was just a small part of our experience. On a day like today, remembering is so important because this puts into perspective how precious life is and what’s really significant.”

Added Tina Charles: “I am always going to keep this dog tag. What the Armed Forces do for our country, any little thing, whether it’s in the office or physically in the field, means something to us and our freedom.”

NOTES: The USA Team will move their training operations up north to Connecticut where they will practice at ESPN Friday afternoon before enjoying an off-day on Saturday.

They will take the 4.5 hour bus ride from Newark to Bristol, Connecticut in the morning to start a four-day segment during which they will conclude their domestic training on Monday with an exhibition against Canada at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

The team will leave the country on Tuesday, Sept. 16 for training in Paris ahead of the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

There were many great individual performances Thursday night highlighted by Nneka Ogwumike, who scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a losing effort.

Charles (18 points), McCoughtry (16), Whalen (15), Jantel Lavender (14) and McBride (14) also had strong games.

“I think in the first half, there were a lot of jitters,” McBride said. “We were missing shots we normally make. We still hadn’t played with each other too much. We calmed down in the second half and started to learn each other. Lindsey Whalen carried the Red team in the second half and gave us that push we needed to win. I feel like the game got better as it went on.”

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

USA Training: Despite Roster Spots Up for Grabs, Players Looking to Have Fun in Intra-Squad Matchup at Delaware

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Odyssey Sims promises one thing when Team USA takes the court Thursday night at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark for a nationally-televised basketball showcase starting at 7:00 p.m.

“We’re going to play hard and give ESPN a little show,” Sims said following Team USA’s final practice at the United States Naval Academy Wednesday morning. “I think there will be a lot of ohhs and ahhhs.

"We are just going to have fun and we are not going to take anything personally. I mean, we are going to play on TV, you’re always excited to play on TV, especially on national TV so we are going to just have fun.”

If the game is anything like the intense 10-minute scrimmage that occurred toward the end of practice in Halsey Gym, then fans will be in for a nice treat.

It was also the first day that Team USA scrimmaged five-on-five as the coaching staff led by Geno Auriemma spent the first two days working on various concepts.

The players, obviously split into different squads, battled each other with Game 7-like intensity.

One of the best plays was UConn incoming junior Breanna Stewart stuffing an Angel McCoughtry shot attempt in the lane.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike was a beast on the boards. There was even a hard-fought scramble for a loose ball that ended with about six players on the floor trying to control it.

“I felt like the first game we played was a little rough,” said Stewart, who is the only collegian in the 24-woman pool, of which 17 are here while the other seven are either with the Phoenix Mercury or Chicago Sky in the best-of-five WNBA finals.

“I think we were a little all too excited, I mean, that was the first time we have really scrimmaged this whole time," Stewart said.

"Once we settle in and especially the second game, we cut it a lot closer we had the lead for the majority of the game.

"So that makes us feel better going into the game tomorrow. Just to be able to get some kind of chemistry with your team obviously that makes you feel more comfortable and confident when you go out there tomorrow.”

So while there are bound to be special plays, just don’t expect the explosion of points that occurred during the entertaining WNBA All-Star Game in July.

In that overtime classic, All-Star records fell quickly. With players battling for one of the 12 roster spots, there won’t be many missed defensive assignments.

“It’s different from an All-Star Game because you’re playing with a purpose,” Ogwumike said. “All-Star Games are fun and give the fans something good to see.

"Here, we’re all playing with a purpose, trying to make a team. It’s a tryout. It’s not about you being the best on the team and it’s about making the best team.

“It’s a blessing to be here and seize the moment. There are key returnees and key players missing so it’s an opportunity for us to show what we got and learn from the best.”

One person missing from the action Thursday night will be Delaware favorite Elena Delle Donne, who is with the Chicago, which is down 2-0 to Phoenix in the best-of-five series going into Game 3 Friday night in the Windy City.

The Bob Carpenter Center was a sellout of just under 5,000 fans in May when Delle Donne and the rest of the Sky beat the Washington Mystics in a preseason game.

That number may not be equalled, but still, the Guru talked to Matt Robinson, chairman of the Delaware Sports Commission, who told him that 2,500 seats have already been sold and over 100 youth and high school coaches are coming in the afternoon to the pre-game shoot-around and clinic prior to the Showcase itself.

Meanwhile, back here following practice, Sims and Ogwumike were snapchatting photos.

Sims also hopped onto Ogwumike’s back at one point as a selfie was taken.

Skylar Diggins had a blast photo-bombing her teammates.

She also found time to treat herself to a pedicure and manicure. Of course, other players like Seimone Augustus continued to make funny faces at her teammates while they were being interviewed.

“It’s been an amazing overall experience here,” Diggins said. “I got a chance to meet a lot of new people.

"Being here really helps you understand the whole USA experience even more.

It’s so much more than basketball or just one player. We are looking forward to playing Thursday so I definitely hope the fans come out.”

Nobody knows when the first round of cuts will occur.

The only guarantee is that by September 26, the 12-man roster for the World Championships will be set.

Team USA will be spending plenty of time on buses over the next two days.

They will drive from Annapolis to Newark Thursday morning and then from Newark to Bristol, Ct on Friday morning where they will practice at ESPN that afternoon.

The final part of the USA training domestically will occur in Bridgeport (Ct.) on Sunday and Monday.

The experience has further bonded many of these competitors.

“It’s been fun here this week,” Sims said. “I am a little sore, but I haven’t been working out because my knee has been bothering me the last part of the season.

"You are surrounded by so many great players. Just being here means a lot."

Sims also is like many former collegians who had to battle UConn nationally but now get the chance work under Huskies Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma and become satisfied customers.

"Geno is one of the best coaches ever," the former Baylor star said. "Some of the things I learned that will help my game going forward are different defensive concepts, learning to move without the ball and how important to get other teammates open.”

During one part of the scrimmage, Auriemma stopped the action after a turnover that was caused by poor spacing and a lack of court awareness since it occurred near the sideline.

Auriemma calmly explained and then demonstrated to his team why making a pass that close to the sidelines would never be a good decision. He ended the mini-teaching moment by telling his team, “don’t let them push you to the sideline.”

“I think everybody got a glimpse of how we’re going to play Thursday night. “That’s the biggest thing is to have fun no matter what happens. We have cuts coming up.

"I don’t think anybody is worried about that. All of us are great here so regardless of what happens after this weekend, you can’t take anything from it but just this being a great experience.”

NOTES: The rosters for Thursday’s showcase are set.

Representing the Red Team will be Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore of Minnesota, Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles), Kayla McBride and Danielle Robinson of San Antonio, Odyssey Sims (Tulsa), Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut) and Stefanie Dolson (Washington). They will be coached by DePaul's Doug Bruno and South Carolina's Dawn Staley.

Competing on the white team will be Seimone Augustus (Minnesota), Sue Bird (Seattle), Tina Charles (New York), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa), Bria Hartley (Washington), Briann January (Indiana), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles) and UConn’s Breanna Stewart.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and special scout coach Jennifer Rizzotti of Hartford and a former UConn star will coach that team.

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USA Basketball Training: Fate Gives McCoughtry a Quick Trip Home for her Birthday

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Angel McCoughtry had the best birthday anybody could ask for.

In addition to playing the game she loves, McCoughtry also had an opportunity to spend some quality time with her family.

With McCoughtry in the area as part of the USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Training Camp, she was able to make the 30-minute trip to Baltimore, her hometown.

“I am glad I am here because it’s kind of like a treat for me on my birthday,” said McCoughtry following the USA’s final practice at the United States Naval Academy Wednesday morning.

Instead of birthday cake, ice cream and balloons, the 28-year-old McCoughtry had one wish as her bones and joints cracked and creaked.

“I need some Icy Hot,” McCoughtry said with a laugh as she was removing her red sneakers. “I am sitting over here aching and just needing to stretch. I feel old.”

McCoughtry, who is young at heart, will be one of 17 players competing in Thursday’s USA Basketball Showcase at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware’s campus. The game begins at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPN2.

She has been encouraged with the training sessions and intense scrimmages against one another. McCoughtry believes the chemistry is already there among this group of ultra-talented players.

“I would say that even though we’ve been practicing three or four days, it feels like we’ve been practicing longer than that because of the high level of play here,” McCoughtry said. “It looks like we’ve been playing together a while. I am excited to play with this group of women. Hopefully I can stay on the team to help.”

While nobody has a guaranteed spot, McCoughtry’s performances for Team USA in recent years would have to factor into a decision to select her to the final 12-player roster that will compete in the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

McCoughtry was a member of the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2012 Olympic gold medal winning teams. The Atlanta Dream forward has helped Team USA compile a 17-0 record in international competition. She made her presence felt during the Olympics in London in 2012 as was second on the team in scoring (10.9 points per game) and steals (2.5).

McCoughtry was also an efficient and ruthless scorer as she led all competitors in the 12-team field in field goal percentage as she shot a ridiculous .620 percent (31-for-50).

The former Louisville all-American set a U.S. Olympic single game record for field goal percentage after going 8-for-8 against China.

“2010 was a great experience and I learned a lot about the how the international game is played," McCoughtry said. “Right after that I started playing overseas.

"I am so excited. The showcase game is going to be a lot of fun. Istanbul is like my second home as I’ve been playing there for five years. This is like a home away from home for me.”

This summer for the Dream, she helped them win the regular season Eastern Conference crown.

McCoughtry detonated for 39 points in an elimination game against the Chicago Sky.

During her career in Atlanta, McCoughtry has helped the Dream to the 2011 and 2013 WNBA Finals.

Even though McCoughtry’s dad, Roi, was a standout player at Coppin State in the late 70s, he never pushed her or her younger sisters into playing basketball.

It just so happened that a friend of McCoughtry’s mom suggested that she play basketball since she was tall.

It was love at first sight and McCoughtry hasn’t looked back since.

While she’s earned plenty of accolades for her basketball skills, McCoughtry is a champion in the game of life as she has become a beacon of inspiration for the younger generation.

She started the Angel McCoughtry Dream Foundation.

The mission of the foundation is to teach and empower youth to recognize their dreams by possessing good character, self-confidence and valuable life skills through trainings based on the fundamentals of sportsmanship, competition and respect which will facilitate their physical, mental and spiritual maturity.

She’s the only female basketball player from Baltimore to earn an Olympic gold medal. It’s something she doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s amazing and an honor to have that distinction,” McCoughtry said. “All of my natural ability comes from my dad.

"Overall, I have great parents that have always been supportive. I don’t think my dad even thought about his girls playing basketball. We were into dainty things coming up. It’s great that more girls are playing basketball than ever before.”

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