Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Changing Addresses in College Hoops

Every season there are impact players joining major college basketball programs from the junior college ranks or other big time schools. In this week's Inspin column, I list several who deserve your attention this season.

Click here to read "Changing Addresses"

Monday, October 30, 2006

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 17: "Talk Soup"

Four F gets taken down a peg by his grandfather after the Civil War debaccle, and Conrad, thrust into filling in for the injured Troy on the "Ferret Forum" radio show, turns to Freddie for help. Surprisingly, Freddie lets Conrad down.

Click here to read "Talk Soup"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good News: Overcoming Obstacles At Home and Abroad

Thanks to the VCU official sports site:

One may think leaving their home country and traveling almost four thousand mileofficial s across the Atlantic Ocean may be difficult. That part of senior Solveig Haaland’s (Bergen, Norway/Mosjoen Viederegaende) journey to VCU has been one of the easier parts of her transition.

Haaland has been playing soccer since she was old enough to kick a ball around and has a passion and love for the world’s most popular sport. The senior defender for the Rams’ women’s soccer squad had been playing for several years with the Norweigen Youth National team when she learned about the oppourtunity of a scholarship at a school in the United States.

“I knew that this could be a great opportunity for me,” Haaland said. “I wanted to take advantage of every chance I got and so I contacted some people that I knew through the national team to see what exactly I could do.”

What followed was a rollercoaster of events that not many people could have made it through. Haaland came in contact with a university in Florida and received an offer to play, so the senior defender decided to take advantage of her opportunity. However, Haaland’s eagerness to play at a university in the United States had to be held off after complications with the paper work and the university fell through and her plans had to change quickly.

“I was very disappointed about the situation,” said Haaland, “I knew I couldn’t just sit around and be upset, so I decided to keep pursuing all my opportunities.”

Solveig decided to stay in Norway and take classes, while remaining on the Norweigen Youth National team roster and continuing to develop her soccer skills. She decided to take her chances the following year and try to come to the United States again.

Her plans finally came the spring of 2001 as Solveig met Rams’ co-head coach Denise Schilte-Brown and was given a second chance at a golden opportunity to further education and improve her soccer skills.

“Denise and the coaching staff welcomed me with open arms,” Haaland said. “They were all extremely nice and they made it very easy to relax and feel comfortable in a new environment.”
Haaland made an immediate impact on the Black and Gold as she saw action in all 20 games for the Rams during her freshman season in Richmond. She got the starting nod in three contests as she netted four goals and three assists on the season and became a steadying influence to the back line for VCU.

She started 14 games during her sophomore season recording a goal and an assist for the Black and Gold. The pinnacle of her career came during her junior season when she started all 22 games for the Rams while helping the defense to allow just 23 goals all season. She also assisted in guiding VCU to its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament and first-ever CAA Championship.

“The experiences that I’ve had here are irreplaceable,” Haaland said. “I love my teammates and the coaching staff and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Her rollercoaster ride went back down the hill last season as she suffered a knee injury that proved to be season-ending after just playing two games in 2005.

“I was disappointed about my injury, but when I found out about the red-shirting possibility I focused all my energy on getting my health back and getting back on the field with my teammates,” said Haaland.

After hours of dedicated rehabilition and training throughout the summer, she came back for her fifth year ready to guide the Rams to a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Rams had won three straight and had an overall record of 5-2-2 as Haaland and her teammates prepared to start their CAA portion of the regular season schedule with an away game at UNC Wilmington on September 22.

A quick cut in the second half of the 1-0 win over the Seahawks turned into a devastating turn of events as Haaland suffered an injury yet again.

“I told Chris [Brown] right away that I would not play again this season. I just felt right away that it was a bad injury,” Haaland said. “After a while the knee wasn’t bothering as much and I thought that I might be able to fight through the injury, but after the flight to Georgia State, I woke up and my knee was swollen.”

Haaland’s gut feeling was right. She had torn her ACL and torn her meniscus. Her VCU soccer career was over.

“I was devastated,” said Haaland. “I decided that I would not be able to help the team by just being unhappy all the time and I realized I could help the younger centerbacks like Myriam [Bouchard] and Karin [Tersteeg].”

Solveig has proven to be essential influence to the youthful Rams’ defense as they have held their past 11 opponents to an average of just eight shots a game and held opponents to a 0.63 goals against average over that 11-game span.

Not only has Haaland been a star on the pitch, she’s excelled at a high level in the classroom as well. The senior carries a 3.8 cumulative grade point average in one of the toughest undergraduate programs at VCU, Fine Arts. The VCU Fine Arts program was ranked as the #1 public university school of arts and design in the country by U.S. News & World Report (2005).

Maybe we can all take a note from Solveig’s story as she faced disappointments and obstacles over and over again. But Haaland has taken them head on and made the most every opportunity given to her. Instead of pulling down the team, she’s decided to do everything she can to help her team. Now if only some of today’s professional athletes would do the same.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Terps Book is Out--And I'm In It!

Johnny Holliday, the voice of Maryland Terrapins football and basketball since 1979, has again joined forces with author Steve Moore to write, "Hoop Tales: Maryland Terrapins Men's Basketball." This book is part of a series published by Globe Pequot.

The book begins with a forward by the preeminent sport author of this generation, John Feinstein:

"There is no one more qualified to be your tour guide through any kind of history of Maryland basketball, whether it focuses on last season or twenty-five seasons ago, than Johnny Holliday. Not only has he been there all those years, but he really does know all the people who have been a part of the ups and the downs the program has gone through, not just the coaches but the players, the doctors, trainers, (and) heck, even the reporters who have covered the team."

Johnny and Steve were kind enough to ask me for a contribution to this book. I wrote about the thrill of watching the Terps finally win the national championship. You'll find it in the chapter titled, "True Believers." This piece represents my debut in the book publishing industry.

The book will be in stores soon. You can order it on Amazon.com.

For more information on the book and Johnny Holliday check out his website.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Rouse's Past Makes Him Strong Leader"

For more than three years, a father sat behind iron bars in a maximum security prison in Virginia, wondering whether the son he hardly knew would ever forgive him.

Virginia Tech senior Aaron Rouse barely knows Roosevelt "Tim" Newby, who was in and out of his life while Rouse, his mother and his siblings grew up in the tough housing projects of Virginia Beach, Va. What Rouse remembers most is his father not being there after he had promised his young son he would never leave again.

"It's not like I can forget growing up without a father," Rouse said. "But being a man, I forgive him. I grew up without a father, but look at where I'm at now."

Click here to read the rest of Mark Schlabach's ESPN column.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 16: "The Day After"

In this week's installment of "Tales of the Fighting Ferrets," Conrad makes a personal connection with the man who saved him from further harm and prepars to dive into the cause of the accident at the football game.

Click here to read "The Day After"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Impact Freshmen in College Hoops

In my latest Inspin column, I look at some of the freshmen who will make an immediate impact in college basketball season. Most if not all of them would be playing in the NBA if the league had not changed it's draft rules, and I am curious to see if this incoming class will make a noticable difference in the game. My list has a decidedly ACC flavor to it.

Click here to read "Impact Freshmen"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

College Hoops' Annoymous Stars

In my lastest piece for Inspin, I look at some college hoops stars that aren't well known yet but will be after this season.

Nick Fazekas of Nevada and Nate Funk of Creighton head my list.

Click here to find out who else I think are the breakout stars for this upcoming season.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 15: "Losing the War"

Seeking to create some excitement around the abysmal football team (and give Frederick Farnsworth IV, a.k.a Four F something to do), Farnsworth held a Civil War day around one of their football games, complete with a halftime reenactment.

There were casualties.

Click here to read "Losing the War" and find out what happened

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Back in a few days

I'm off for a desperately needed respite from a lengthy crunch at work. I'll have some new material on Monday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Good News: Sun Belt Administrators Help Rebuild New Orleans

A group of over 30 athletic administrators from the Sun Belt Conference have taken an active role in helping rebuild New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina's destruction last year.

Working through Habitat for Humanity, the group of administrators was in town for their annual meetings and scheduled a full day to visit the neighborhood of Bywater. One of the photos on the conference's web site shows the president of Middle Tennessee State University, Dr. Sidney McPhee, with hammer in hand working away.

Click here to read about the Sun Belt administrators lending a helping hand in New Orleans

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tales of the Fighting Ferrets: Part 1, Episode 14: Questions and (some) Answers

Why did Frank dress up as Frankie? Why didn't anyone tell Conrad? Will Freddie ever stop laughing at these developments? And what stunning turn of events gets Conrad off the hook with one of his biggest challenges at Farnsworth?

Click here to find out in "Questions and (some) Answers"

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Good News: Hawkeye Whitney Comes All The Way Back

Hawkeye Whitney had a bright future when he left North Carolina State in 1980 as a first round NBA draft pick. Sadly, he tore up his knee during his rookie season for the Kansas City Kings and never fully recovered. He gardually slid into a life dominated by cocaine and alcohol and hit bottom when he was involved in a kidnapping. He served nearly six years in prison and was released in 2000.

He has since worked hard to successfully rebuild his life.

Click here to see how Hawkeye Whitney has made it all the way back

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Good News: Wearing Your Inspiration On Your Write

KaMichael Hall, the leading tackler on the Georgia Tech football team, wears two wristbands on the field. The one on his right wrist reminds him of his football goals, but the one on his left shows his most important motivation.

Click here to read "Hall wears inspiration on his wrist" in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, October 06, 2006

Good News: From Brain Surgery to the Soccer Field

Christie McDonald is not a brain surgeon, but she needed one herself in April when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

On September 17, she scored a goal for the Duke women's soccer team, on a header.

Click here to read the story of Christie's remarkable recovery in the Duke Chronicle

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

College Hoops Coaches on the Hot Seat

Coach K's coaching tree is in danger of withering up and dieing. Michigan's Tommy Amaker and Notre Dame's Mike Brey, who both coached with Coach K, are on the hot seat entering this season.

Click here to find out what other coaches' jobs are in jeopardy

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stevens Tech Women Run For Children

The women's basketball team and coaches at Stevens Tech recently participated in a 5K Run/Walk in honor of Stephen Stiller, a firefighter who was killed in the Twin Towers on 9/11. Other coaches and student-athletes also volunteered to serve food and help out with the logistics of the run. They raised funds for the Stephen Stiller "Let Us Do Good" Foundation which was created to help children who have lost one or more parents.

The atmosphere and locale of the race deeply moved several of the team's participants, and you can read their thoughts right here on the school's website.