Jan. 18, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
"So what exactly is it that you do?"
Invariably, that's the question I'm asked by folks during our travels around the country. Sometimes, I get mistaken for an assistant coach, and considering my lack of a basketball pedigree (or any athletic background, for that matter), that wouldn't be good for anybody. I've also been asked if I'm the team trainer, something that strikes me as particularly funny since the closest thing I've had to medical training is sitting down next to my brother and sister-in-law, the family paramedics, at Thanksgiving dinner.
The best way to describe what I do is this: if there's anything related to media coverage of the Irish, chances are I've worked with those reporters on their stories. If you're wondering about a particular player's shooting percentage, chances are those numbers were crunched in my stat computer. If you read anything about Irish women's basketball here on und.com, it probably came from me.
I'm also responsible for keeping up with the program's record books, and after 30 seasons of basketball, you can imagine that those volumes are starting to get a little thick. They're certainly not at the level of the men's program, which is in its second century of action, but three decades is nothing to sneeze at. So when something happens that sends me to the dusty pages of our past media guides, I'm always excited to find out where the end result.
Twice in the past week, I got sent to the Irish women's basketball library when two of our freshmen came through with notable performances. At South Florida last Saturday, Erica Williamson pulled down 18 rebounds, which turned out to be a record for Irish freshmen, and amazingly, only two boards off the BIG EAST record for rookies. Then, during Tuesday's win over St. John's, Melissa Lechlitner dished out nine assists (without a single turnover, I might add), the most for a Notre Dame freshman in nearly 12 years (Mollie Peirick had the same total in an overtime win at Cleveland State in February 1995). Believe me, I didn't mind doing the research on these records one bit, because it's always great to see players adding new chapters in the program's history.
Speaking of that trip to South Florida last weekend, can I just throw out a quick thank-you to Mike Tranghese and the BIG EAST Conference office for adding USF to the league? A couple of days in the 80-degree weather of Tampa can really do your soul some good. On top of that, we had the tremendous fortune to enjoy a Friday night dinner at the home of Vincent Naimoli, the owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a 1959 graduate of Notre Dame, and a generous contributor to the impending renovations at the Joyce Center. Mr. Naimoli, his wife and family were so gracious to invite us to their home (which is HUGE, by the way), and then the capper came the next day when the Naimolis showed up at our game against USF at the Sun Dome. Mr. Naimoli came in sporting a "Notre Dame Spirit Patrol" season-ticket holder t-shirt and sat front and center behind our bench, doing his level best to help get us a win.
Another familiar face in the stands last weekend was former Irish point guard Le'Tania Severe. A native of Pembroke Pines, Fla. (near Miami), she's is now in her second year of graduate school at the University of Miami and working on her degree in anthropology. Long term, Le'Tania has her eyes on a career in forensic science, and with her Notre Dame degree in film, television and theater, don't be surprised if you see her in an upcoming episode of "CSI: Miami." Of course, with three of our players fouling out in the USF game, we were starting to think we might have to see about getting Le'Tania some extra eligibility and suiting her up in case we went to a second overtime.
When Le'Tania graduated from Notre Dame in 2004, another Irish player was just getting started with the program. Forward Crystal Erwin has been a fan favorite throughout her career at Notre Dame, known for her physical presence in the paint, while now adding a potent perimeter shooting touch this season. Crystal also has been extremely generous with her time, giving back to the community in a number of ways, including her work last year as a mentor with a group of young girls at Dickinson Middle School in South Bend. Crystal is the latest co-contributor on the BasketBlog, so enjoy her thoughts and we'll see you next time ... GO IRISH!!
Hello to everyone in the Notre Dame Spirit Patrol and Irish Nation!!
Never a dull moment with the Irish Women's Basketball team. This past weekend, we traveled to Tampa to take on the Bulls of South Florida. I never thought I would be so thankful for South Florida joining the BIG EAST Conference. We were soaking in 80-degree weather in the middle of January. Coming from California, I couldn't get enough of the sun and warm weather.
We flew into Tampa on Thursday night, practiced at the Sun Dome and went straight to bed because we were so tired from the trip. On Friday, we practiced in the morning and then had some free time to lounge out by the pool, go for a run, read a book or do whatever we liked to relax. It was nice to take a breather before school started this week and we get back to the hectic academic and athletic schedules.
That night we had the tremendous opportunity to go to Vincent Naimoli's home for a team dinner. Over the break, when we are bored in the hotel we are staying at, we pull out one of Coach McGraw's favorite games, "Catch Phrase." For those who don't know, Coach McGraw loves games, so she is a great resource if you ever need a game to play. We have become addicted to the game and proceeded to play on the way to the Naimoli's. I think the bus driver was a little distracted by our yelling and screaming, but it was so much fun.
What was supposed to be a 20-minute trip turned into an hour trip because of our crazy bus driver. I don't think he knew how to drive a bus. We tried to enter Mr. Naimoli's gated community, but the bus couldn't make it throw the gate. We had to back up into traffic only to be honked at by the line of cars waiting to turn. Two of our coaches, Coach Tsip and Angie, and our operations director, Stephanie, had to get out of the bus and back him out, which was nothing but hilarious.
After finally getting a security escort, we made it to the Naimoli residence and were greeted by Mr. Naimoli's wife, Lenda. We walked through the door and had to do a double-take ... we thought we saw Lenda inside the house, too, after she just greeted us on the lawn. It was actually her twin sister Glenda and you could barely tell them apart. We were so confused at first, but grew to love the two of them. The Naimolis showed us great hospitality and we were so thankful to eat at their beautiful home the night before a big game. Bre and I had the chance to talk to Mr. Naimoli about our pursuits after graduation and he gave us some great contacts to help us begin our journey into the professional world. The Naimoli's also invited an MBA graduate of Notre Dame, Andrew, who is an assistant athletic director at South Florida, to join us, so he was able to give us some advice as well.
I think the one thing I learned from Mr. Naimoli is the power of being a Notre Dame graduate and the sense of community you feel even after you graduate. Notre Dame is for life and I really understood that after talking with Mr. Naimoli. He was so passionate about giving back to Notre Dame and supporting the Irish in every way. I realized that it is because of people like him that I am able to go to Notre Dame on a full athletic scholarship.
Getting back to the crazy bus driver ... we were on the bus on the way back from the Golden Corral for our pre-game breakfast on Saturday and the bus driver puts on the Discovery Channel. It was probably one of the most random things to see alligators and birds eating frogs hours before our game. The funny part is that the bus driver knew all about this kind of stuff and continued to tell us stories about animals that he has seen on the Discovery Channel.
Another great part of our trip was that my fiancé, Jammel, lives in North Lauderdale, so he was able to come down to the game to cheer me on. I was soooo excited to see him. I was able to spend Christmas with him as well, so this trip was a bonus ... twice in one month! The outcome of our game against South Florida didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, but we are resilient. I love this team because we are able to bounce back from anything.
Proud to be Irish!
#34 Crystal Erwin