VU Women’s team hoopin’ it up in China

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on July 20, 2011 with No Comments

There is little doubt a select group of young women who are students at Valparaiso University will have the bragging rights when students gather on campus this fall to compare “What I did last summer” stories

The Crusaders take off in early August for a tour of China

Coach Keith Freeman says the trip is as much about cultural exchange as it is about hoops.

“First off, let’s credit the school administration for this opportunity,” he said. “What an experience for our team.

“Obviously, for many kids, it’s the only time in their lifetime where they’ll be in China.”

A first for the coach, as well. Freeman is a veteran of scouting the European teams, the real hotbed of overseas basketball for Americans.

But Japan has also always had a special place in their hearts for women players from the U.S. Turkey, Russia and Greece always pattern their seasons to attract the WNBA players in their homeland off-season.

The point is, women playing hoops is becoming huge overseas. Division 1 teams, under NCAA rules, are allowed one trip such as this every four years.

“This will be completely different in many ways,” said Freeman.

“We’ll do clinics for the little kids and for coaches.

“I am not really sure about the teams we will actually play against. There will be different levels; games against club teams, a couple of professional teams.

“But the competition is a secondary thing; the primary thing will be to do the clinics.”

Valpo will be visiting Hangzhou, where the team will be playing its games, before spending the final few days in Beijing visiting Tiananmen and the Great Wall.

Of course, the great advantage to Valparaiso will be the extra time together as a team, especially one with five newbies.

Two of the newcomers are veterans of the junior college circuit, Charae Richardson and Ieva Jansone. They each have two years of eligibility.

The freshmen are Indiana All-Stars Mallory Ladd and Jessica Carr. Shaquira Scott is an Illinois all-star.

“This class is very strong, athletic and has versatility, said Freeman. “All of these players can score in a variety of ways.”

Richardson is a 5-6 guard from Vincennes University where she averaged 11.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.  She added 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 81percent from the free throw line, helping the Lady Trailblazers to a 28-4 record.  A native of Lafayette and Jefferson High School, Richardson earned NJCAA Division I All-Region 12 honors.

“Charae is a very smart player who can defend, handle the ball, and score,” Freeman said.  “She has the ability to get to the free throw line. She will add strength to our perimeter.”

Jansone is a 6-0 guard from Miles Community College.  She helped lead the Pioneers to a 25-7 mark this past season, averaging 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.  The Riga, Latvian native earned NJCAA Division I All-Region 9 honors for both the regular season as well as being named to the All-Tournament Team Jansone also was named the Most Valuable Player of the Mon-Dak Conference.

“Ieva is a very versatile player,” Freeman said. “She is an excellent driver and can defend multiple positions.  Her athleticism and ability to score will provide a positive impact on our program.”

Carr is a 5-7 guard from Arcadia, Ind. She averaged 16.4 points and 5.5 assists per game last year for Hamilton Heights High School.  She hit 53.4 percent from the floor, 81.3 percent from the free throw line.

She earned First Team All-State honors by Hoosier Basketball Magazine after earning Second Team accolades as a sophomore.  Carr was the Hamilton County Player of the Year and is a three-time All Mid-Indiana Conference selection entering her senior season.

“Jessica is a tremendous combo guard,” said Freeman.  “As a member of the Indiana All-Star Team, her ability to think the game and communicate will give us a versatile player in the back court.  She is an excellent shooter and passer.”

Ladd, a 6-0 forward from Evansville, averaged 22.1 points and 14.1 rebound per game for the State Champions of Memorial High School.  She shot 86 percent from the free throw line and 37 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Mallory was on the Core 6 Junior All-Star team representing Indiana,” Freeman said.  “Last year when I went to watch her play I saw her score 39 points.  Her ability to rebound and shoot the ball plus her competitive spirit makes her a great addition to our team.”

Scott, a 5-10 guard from Wilmette, Ill., played at Loyola Academy.  She was the Most Valuable Player of the state championship game for Driscoll High School, leading the team to the state title and a 33-1 record.

“Shaquira is an athletic slasher,” Freeman added.  “She has really improved her game over the past 12 months.  She is a left-hander who has a knack for getting to the foul line.  Shaquira is a perfect fit for Valpo as she is a great student who will make an impact on our program.”

Those players will be able to find their roles well before the upcoming season. They’ll learn the plays. Right now, the ones in the second summer school session are also doing some running work with the strength coach.

“Everything we’ll do, we’ll do together as a team,” said Freeman.

“We get 10 extra days of practice from the NCAA; that’s good for us. It’s kinda like having a trial run, seeing what these kids can do well.

“We’ll get to know each other. And the goal is to get them all in good shape.”

But the amazing worldwide perspective is just as important to the veteran coach.

“I pretty much learn something new every time I travel,” Freeman said.

“Our kids are gonna remember this for the rest of their lives. It will give them a life perspective.

“The cultural differences alone are crazy. But they will have a vision of what the world really is.”

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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