Monday, April 15, 2013

Congratulations, Dawn Staley!

I am realistic in knowing that no matter how much I would like to, I will never be inducted into a sports Hall of Fame of any kind. But, at least I can now say I know and have interacted with someone who will be and that someone is Dawn Staley. Dawn Staley was selected to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last week along with Gary Payton, Rick Pitino (Who just won an NCAA Championship with the University of Louisville), Guy Lewis, Jerry Tarkanian, Sylvia Hatchell, and Bernard King.

Dawn and I attended the University of Virginia (UVA) where she was a star point guard for the UVA Women's Basketball team from 1988-1992. Dawn was incredible to watch! She was a highly skilled player who was annually one of the best college women's basketball players in the U.S. and was named Women's Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992. Dawn was a leader and a floor general. She was vocal and lead by example with her quick, scrappy, and determined play. Dawn was a year ahead of me at UVA and I remember going to the games my first year and the arena being nearly empty.  But thanks to outstanding players like Dawn, Tammi Reiss, and the 6ft. 5 Burge twins (Heather and Heidi), UVA Womens Basketball quickly garnered a large following and for my remaining 3 yrs. at UVA, women's basketball games were rarely empty arena affairs. After the games one could meet the players and coaches and I will never forget how appreciative and thankful they were for the fan support. I enjoyed attending the games because I love the game of basketball, but I also enjoyed supporting my friends/classmates who were on the team.

In my second year at UVA, Dawn and I became classmates. We took a Public Speaking class together. It was a small class (about 20 students) that took place three times a week, therefore, the class got to know one another fairly well and it was great getting to know Dawn. It was interesting because for as vocal, confident, and in the spotlight Dawn was on the basketball court, she tended to be reticent and not that vocal in class. But, it was cool to witness how over the course of the semester, Dawn transformed into a confident and strong public speaker. There was this one speech Dawn gave, I believe it was our last one for the semester that I will never forget. The premise of Dawn's speech regarded an interview she and her mother gave to Sports Illustrated magazine. Dawn felt that the journalist used some questionable/unethical tactics in trying to obtain his story. Dawn described how the journalist had scheduled to meet with them at their home for 6 pm, but showed up at 3 pm (Trying to catch them off-guard), he misquoted Dawn in the article, and Dawn just did not like his line of questioning, as if he had a certain agenda. As Dawn was presenting this experience to the class, one could visibly see her anger and she used this emotion for emphasis, in addition to expressions and everything else our instructor had taught us over the course of the semester. It was one of the better end of semester speeches of the class and Dawn got a great round of applause afterwards. That class served me well and I look back on it fondly and considering Dawn's career after UVA, I think it served her well considering all the public speaking she has done since graduating from UVA.

After UVA, Dawn played basketball professionally  in the American Basketball League (ABL) with the Richmond Rage in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. My dad and I attended many Richmond Rage games and after games, I would see Dawn just like back at UVA and she would always have time to talk and catch up. During that one year that Richmond Rage was in Richmond, Dawn lead the them to the 1997 ABL finals. After the season concluded, the team moved to Dawn's hometown of Philadelphia, PA. Then, not too long after the ABL folded, Dawn was drafted into the WNBA. In 2005, Dawn retired from the WNBA and in 2011, fans voted her one of the top 15 WNBA players in league history.

In addition to being a star professional player, Dawn was a three-time Olympian, winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics and she served as the flag bearer for Team USA at the 2004 Olympics.

I am extremely happy for Dawn. I feel fortunate that I got to witness Dawn's incredible athleticism and talent on the court and got to know her on a personal level off of it. Congratulations, Dawn!

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