Eleven Things You Didn't Know About the GW Women
(Note: I realize the headline might be a little much. Like, for most of you, I could list the team's top 11 players, and those would be 11 things you didn't know about the GW women. But hey, they're 20-2, they deserve a little run.)
1) Of the 14 men's or women's Division I teams with two losses or fewer, only two are in our area: the GW women (20-2) and the James Madison women (21-2). I'm writing about the GW women for two reasons: they have a head-to-head win over James Madison, and I couldn't expense a cab ride to Harrisonburg.
2) I asked center Jessica Adair if any of the Colonials had distinctive nicknames. She said not really. Then she told me that her nickname is Jess Blaze (after hip-hop producer Justin Blaze), and that her sister's nickname is Jazze Phizzle (after producer Jazze Pha), and that point guard Kimberly Beck's nickname is Kayslay (after the DJ of the same name), and that guard Faith Peters's nickname is Master Pizzle. Not sure exactly what goes for a distinctive nickname nowadays if none of those qualify.
3) Coach Joe McKeown is still on crutches after rupturing a patella tendon in a December practice. (His kneecap, he told me, was "on the other side of my leg.") McKeown tried to convince me today that he was injured when guard Sarah-Jo Lawrence took out his legs during a drill. Lawrence told me that he injured himself, untouched, while in a layup line.
"He tried to be Michael Jordan and make this move," she said. "He thought he was 26 in his mind, but his body said, 'No, we're 48 right now'."
"Forty-eight, I like that," said McKeown, who's 50.
"I didn't do anything," Lawrence continued. "He did it. He was trying to be Mike."
4) "Did he tell you the story about him and Mike?" Lawrence went on. "He always does. He played Michael Jordan one-on-one or something, and Mike dunked on him....No no no no, he was shooting threes better than Mike, and then Mike was like, 'Can you do this?' and he went and dunked, and Coach McKeown was like, 'uhh, I can't do that'."
"No, I said, 'Let's go play golf, I'll give you two a side'," McKeown interrupted. "These guys will tell you, Coach can shoot the ball."
"He shoots the lights out," forward Whitney Allen agreed.
"There's different levels of shooters," McKeown went on. "Jordan's not in my league."
I thought they were joking, but they were all serious. We discussed the participants in this year's NBA three-point shooting contest. I mentioned
"He would fry Damon Jones in a three-point shooting contest," Allen said.
5) The Colonials call their 1-3-1 matchup zone "the Blizzard." You might think this is because of its swarming nature. You'd be wrong. It's because McKeown once offered to take his 1987-'88 New Mexico State players to Dairy Queen if they played good defense. They did, and he did, and the team entered the NCAA tourney with a 26-2 record, and the defense became the Blizzard, after the frosty dessert, although one former Colonial always wanted to call it the Tornado. The players I asked, though, had no idea about the name's origins.
"I didn't know anything about that blizzard, I thought he just made it up off the top of his head," Allen said.
"They don't listen," McKeown said.
6) There's a rumor that 6-foot-1 forward Lora Mitchell can dunk. I know this because Daily Colonial sports editor Josh Meredith, who has covered the team for four years, told me so. Today at practice the rumor was tested when Coach Joe McKeown asked Mitchell to try to dunk a volleyball. She came very close, twice. She's dunked off a lob before, but never in a game. Teammates think 6-2 freshman forward Ivy Abiona will be dunking soon, and say she has more vertical potential than Mitchell. Also, Mitchell has attended Sunday School classes taught by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Not sure whether Reid can dunk.
7) This is the 10-year anniversary of the school's last trip to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight. People often ask how this team compares to that team. "I just think with our team, we knew how to get to our potential," assistant coach Tajama Ngongba said. "I don't think this team has even scratched the surface of what they can do."
8) I asked Taj whether she thinks about the '97 team.
"All the time," she said. "I have the highlight tape in my office."
Actually, her three-year old daughter Naja had a snow day on Monday, and Taj forgot her "Dora the Explorer" tape, and so during a meeting she tried to keep Naja entertained with the 1997 highlight tape. "Mommy you're on TV" Naja kept shouting. "Mommy there you are again."
9) McKeown calls Allen "The Junkyard Dog," because "she's mean, she'll do whatever she has to do to win," he said. Ngongba calls Allen "Get Down and Dirty with a Capital D." Allen said she's not mean.
"I mean, maybe a little, on the court," she allowed.
But she got her style of play from growing up in Columbus, Ohio, where she was the only girl who played against the boys during recess. She said she had to be tough to stay on the court. I asked whether she could hang with the guys then, and she looked at me like I was nuts. "I can hang with the guys now," she said.
10) Allen graduated in three-and-a-half years with a sociology degree, is in grad school for secondary education and wants to become an African-American history professor. Senior Kenan Cole has a 3.92 GPA in mechanical engineering, although McKeown usually rounds up and calls it a 4.0. I asked him if Cole was smarter than he is.
"It's better to be aware than smart," he said, dodging the question. I asked again.
"She's smarter than everybody," he said. "But she still turns the ball over when she shouldn't."
11) Despite the 20-2 record and the No. 8 ranking (second-best ranking in school history, best since 1992), the Colonials are averaging 627 at home games. Jessica Adair did a presentation on the attendance problems in her public-speaking class, attempting to persuade classmates to come to more games. I asked if it worked.
"No," she said, "but I tried."
"It's poor, very poor," she said of attendance. "I don't know if it's favoritism or what."
"Honestly, we have a little chip on our back with the students," Lawrence said. "I understand that women's basketball is sometimes not as big as men's, but when you're top 10 in the country, having a great year, come support your school, regardless if it's women's or men's."
"I just feel like the Colonial Army doesn't support us like it should," Allen said of the student fan club. "But it doesn't matter, we have our blue seat fans."
"And we're thankful for them," Lawrence said.
"We'd rather have people who want to be at the games," Allen said.
"Yeah, I don't want to force anybody to come," Lawrence said. "Please, don't come if you don't want to. But I would be excited about being top 10 in any sport, water polo, swimming, anything."
(Here's a bonus, unnumbered item, since that last one was a downer. Today McKeown made his players coach the team during practice, something he often does at the end of the season, "so they can see why we're so crazy." Sophomore forward Jamila Bates was a particularly enthusiastic coach, running the sidelines, yelling and jumping and screaming. Finally, her team hit a three-point an instant after the buzzer that would have given her the win. It was waved off, correctly.
"We want an instant replay," she insisted. "Can we get a one-minute overtime???"
"I know how you feel, coach," she said after the game.
"You feel my pain?" he asked, satisfied.)
February 9, 2007; 7:04 PM ET
Categories: College Basketball
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