Sept. 22, 2006
Submitted by Chris Masters, Assistant Sports Information Director
In thinking about what I wanted to add to this latest edition of the BasketBlog, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend recently. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, she asked me about my summer and then uttered the magic statement - "must have been nice to have some down time in the off-season." It took me a few seconds to stop laughing before I told her that there were a couple of things wrong with that notion: first off, we don't get any down time during the summer - if anything, it's probably busier than during the season itself. And second, there's not a whole lot that's "off" about the off-season.
This time of year, the players and coaches are going through individual workouts, which involve a lot of one-on-one instruction and polishing fundamentals before the full team practices start next month. No matter what level of basketball you play at, it never hurts to keep those basic skills sharp year-round. Putting a little extra snap on your passes, holding that elbow in on your jumper, keeping the ball high in the post, cutting hard off that screen, staying low on defense - it all seems rudimentary. But it's those teams and players that put the most effort into honing and maintaining those skills that are going to be the ones on the plane to Cleveland for the Final Four in April.
Same holds true for the strength and conditioning work our players go through. Tony Rolinski has been working with the Irish basketball teams for six years now and everyone knows that when Tony says something, you listen. His drill-sergeant voice resonates throughout the gym or weight room as he puts the players through their paces - "come on, push it up ... give me five more ... push yourself ... work to get better everyday." Between the twice-weekly lifting sessions, the sprint work sometimes called "suicides" or "6-4-6s" and the occasional 6 a.m. wake-up call with Tony, our players know exactly what the purpose behind each drill is - to get us back where we want to be on top of the college basketball world.
That single-minded purpose kind of reminds me of a speech that Al Pacino delivered in one of my favorite movies, "Any Given Sunday." Modifying slightly for our team, the core of it goes something like this:
" ... life is just a game of inches. So is basketball. Because in either game, life or basketball,?the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half step too late or to early, you don't quite make it. One half-second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game ?every minute, every second. ?On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch because we know when we add up all those inches, that's going to make the difference between winning and losing ... Now I can't make you do it. You've got to look at the player next to you. Look into her eyes. Now I think you're going to see someone who will go that inch with you. You're going to see someone?who will sacrifice for this team because she knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for her."
The public faces of our program are the players and coaches, whether those faces show up in games at the Joyce Center, media interviews, advertisements or community appearances. But people may forget that there are a whole lot of folks working behind the scenes who also are focused on the same goal as the team - to win another national championship. Tony is one of those behind-the-scenes people, and we all know we wouldn't be the elite program we are without him. We just lost another valuable member of the program recently, when our trainer of the past eight years, Mike Miller, left Notre Dame to take the head trainer position at Detroit Mercy. Mike was a tremendous asset to our players and coaches, and is known for his honesty and dedication, and that's something we're truly going to miss. On a more personal level, Mike has been a great friend to me ever since I came to Notre Dame in 2001, even if there were more than a few times that I ended up as the straight man on one of his many jokes. His departure also means I've got to break in a new roommate on the road this year - just hope whomever it is doesn't snore.
On to some other odds and ends:A lot of folks have asked about when our schedule will be released. While it has been finalized, we're waiting to receive final approval from our Faculty Board on Athletics before we can release it publicly. It shouldn't be too much longer, and I think everyone is going to be very pleased with the variety of opponents we'll be playing, not to mention those 18 home games I talked about in an earlier Blog.
Don't forget those two big events we have coming up next month. First up is the Inaugural Women's Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon on Oct. 11 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Joyce Center. Coach McGraw and WNDU-TV's Tricia Sloma will be co-hosting the event, which is being sponsored by Waterford Estates and Michiana Woman. We're working to get the registration form on the promotions page of our web site, so keep an eye peeled for that. Also, make sure you've blocked out Oct. 28 on your calendar, as the Irish women will hold an open practice at the Joyce Center. The start time and other details are still be ironed out, and we'll have another announcement on that in the near future.
BIG congratulations to Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast on winning the 2006 WNBA championship with the Detroit Shock. It's Ruth's second pro title, to go along with the national championship she won with us here at Notre Dame in 2001, as well as her gold medal with the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team. As for Jackie, she'll be getting some jewelry in just her second season in the pros, with a bright future still ahead of her. Of course, we can't forget about Detroit's head coach and 1979 Notre Dame grad, Bill Laimbeer. One of the original "Bad Boys" with the Detroit Pistons, Bill now has won four pro titles in his career - two as a player with the Pistons (1989-90) and two as a coach with the Shock (2003, 2006). This year's win was a little more special, as one of Bill's assistants was his old Pistons teammate (and another "Bad Boy"), Rick Mahorn.
Notre Dame's other current WNBA player, Megan Duffy, has finalized her basketball plans for the fall and winter. She's signed on to play in Wales with the Rhondda Rebels, the reigning British Basketball League champions who play in the town of Rhondda, which is located about an hour outside of the country's capital of Cardiff (and approximately 2-3 hours west of London). Their season gets underway Oct. 7 and continues well into the spring, and you can follow all of her exploits overseas on the Internet at www.rhonddarebels.com. Last year, the Rebels' roster included three WNBA veterans - British national Andrea Congreaves (who played three seasons in Charlotte and Orlando from 1997-99), Tynesha Lewis (Megan's teammate this past year with the Minnesota Lynx), and Laurie Koehn (the former Kansas State sharpshooter who just finished her second season with the Washington Mystics).
Well, time for a new feature on the BasketBlog, as I bring on a tag-team partner for some other insights (and to give you a break from my ramblings). Our freshman center, Erica Williamson, gets to be the first person to ride shotgun with me on the Blog, so read on, enjoy and remember ... GO IRISH!!
Hey there -
First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Erica Williamson. I'm the sole member of the freshman class who isn't from Indiana. Kind of unique, I guess. If you didn't know, my whole high school, and well, my entire growing up experience was a bit different than everyone else's. I was born in the Philippines. My dad worked for Kodak back then, and my family moved around throughout much of Southeast Asia. Besides living in the Philippines, I also lived in Indonesia and Singapore. When I was about seven, my family moved to the states, to a small town near Rochester, New York. I lived in the next 10 years of my life there, in Honeoye Falls, New York. After my dad took up a new job with Bank of America, my family moved again, this time in April of my junior year of high school (of course, after the basketball season...), to Charlotte, North Carolina.
So there's the geographical background. As for the most important part, the basketball background, here it goes...
As Chris said in another edition of the BasketBlog, I've won two state championships in two different states. My junior year, while in New York, playing for the Honeoye Falls Lima Lady Cougars, with the help of my teammates, we won a State Championship in Class A, the second highest division. My senior year, playing for the South Mecklenburg Lady Sabres, I again won a state championship, this time in 4A, the highest division.
Both state titles really meant a lot. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have played with such great girls on both teams. It doesn't happen often that a person wins two state titles, let alone in two different states. I guess I'm just happy that I was able to play with those girls and experience something others never had the chance to. Winning the state title though, as anyone might assume, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. There's something about the realization that all those hours of hard work you put in paid off, and you have something to show for. The team here at Notre Dame is hoping that our hours of hard work this summer and fall will pay off during the season.
Speaking of which, I guess I should mention Notre Dame women's basketball! The team has been working really hard in our workouts and playing pickup. Just watching from the summer until now, you can see the progress everyone has been making. Everyone is getting stronger and quicker, and working on our skills on the court. Individual workouts started in the end of August, and have been going strong since. If I had to point out one person that has been working extra hard, I don't think I really could. It seems like every single girl on the team is putting in 100%, day in and day out, trying to make our team better.
Basically, everything here is going really well. I can't wait for our season to start. I hear the fans in South Bend are the greatest ever! I'm looking forward to seeing if they can live up to that reputation. With the fans I've met so far, they seem amazing. Classes are going well, too. Most of them are the basic freshman classes, but overall, they are going well.
I guess that's it for now. I hope that since you started reading this, you've been able to get to know me better. I look forward to meeting all of our fans. Feel free to come up and say hi to me if you ever see me around the arena, on campus, or even just around town and you see me. I love meeting new people, as mostly everyone on our team will attest to.
Erica Williamson #52