Being On President Obama’s Mind Has Every Hen Honored And One Head-Hen Worried
By: Matt Janus
Little Rock, AR- Not often in life do you get the opportunity to have the President of the United States of America discuss you on national television. The University of Delaware women’s basketball team got to experience it on Friday though. Cross another item off the Blue Hens’ bucket list.
President Obama ran through his women’s NCAA tournament projections with ESPN’s Dorris Burke on Sports Center. The president not only picked Delaware to reach the elite eight, but mentioned CAA Player of the Year Elena Delle Donne by name.
“It was amazing and obviously, I am still smiling about it,” Delle Donne said on Saturday. “Not many people have the president speak your name and it is an honor. We were just thrilled about it, that the president was talking about our team. It has been a motivator to go out there and do the best we can.”
Delle Donne is not the only one pleased to be on the mind of her commander in chief. Word spread of President Obama’s prediction through the team plane on the runway at Little Rock International Airport on Friday morning. Players were mighty excited to hear how far the prez had them headed.
Delaware guard Lauren Carra was amazed by the whole presidential segment.
“It was incredible yesterday to sit down and watch that,” Carra said with a huge smile draped across her face. “He even brought our name up and hopefully we are going to play and get some more attention.”
Delaware is six wins away from more than just hearing the president mention its name. Each year the national champion is invited to the White House to meet the commander in chief. The Blue Hens had the chance to meet Vice President Joe Biden when the Delaware graduate attended a game at the Carpenter Center earlier this season. So it is only natural for the team to dream of an up-close encounter with the other half of the executive branch.
But Tina Martin said it would be premature to let your mind wander in that direction. The UD head coach was honored to have her team on the president’s mind, but wanted her players focused on nothing other than their opening round encounter with UALR
“Obviously we are thrilled, but we have to take it one step at a time,” Martin said. “I think Mr. Obama was having Vice President Biden’s back with that one (Obama picking UD to upset Tennessee in the Sweet 16). It’s really nice that he mentioned us certainly, but we can’t worry about that. Those are tapes that they can show their grandchildren when they are 80-90 years old. Right now we’ve got to live in the moment though and get ready for Arkansas Little Rock.”
Blue Hen forward Danielle Parker is focused on the task at hand, but she was still able to realize not only is being on the president’s radar screen a sign of just how big the Hens have become, but that it is also something to be savored.
“It is amazing to be part of a team that the president is talking about,” Parker explained. “It is a blessing to be in this position and just have people around the world take notice.”
Delaware Confident Maturity Will Help Them Survive What Will Be a True Road Game on Sunday
By: Matt Janus
Little Rock, AR- Delaware took the floor for the first time at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday, site of the Blue Hens’ NCAA tournament opener on Sunday afternoon. Delaware, which arrived in the Razorback state on Friday morning, practiced later that afternoon at a local high school. Saturday’s 90-minute workout marks the first time Tina Martin’s team has shot in UALR’s beautiful on-campus facility.
Delaware’s opponent in the first round will have to deal with no-such inexperience shooting at those same rims. As a host school, UALR received a home game despite its 14th seed.
The Hens know a road tournament game will not be a simple task, but at the same time they are aware it is something they cannot concern themselves with.
“The fact that this has been three straight years [in the NCAA tournament] and they are on their home court, yes I am very concerned about that, and I think that gives them a little bit of an advantage,” Martin said. “But the bottom line is everybody is playing for the opportunity to advance. You can’t get caught up with that.
“You have to push any doubt that you might have or any fears that you might have aside. We deserve to be here. We’re our conference champions and we are just going to play as hard as we can.”
Delaware senior Jocelyn Bailey thinks her team’s maturity will get them through what is certainly a unique situation.
“It’s a little bit odd,” Bailey said. “But I feel that we are a mature enough team to do what we are supposed to do and not let it bother us. We may not have as many fans there as some of the other games, but I’m pretty sure they will be there with us in spirit and in heart. We are playing for them so I’m confident we will handle it well.”
UALR head coach Joe Foley knows a road game won’t cause Delaware to shrivel up in fear, but he is hopeful it gives his underdog Trojans an advantage.
“I think it’ll be huge,” Foley said. “I think anytime you’re playing in the NCAA tournament, the runs are what help you. Everybody is capable of making runs when you get to this stage. Everyone’s a good ball team. So the crowd can kind of pick you up and get you going. Sometimes they might help stop a run if you make a good defensive play and get your kids pumped up. So I think crowds are very important.
“In the men’s game you’re watching Duke and all those teams and there’s not much of a crowd because they’re playing on different courts. But when you get to play on your home floor, and a lot of them are your home crowd, I think that’s a big factor.”
The Trojans were a good team at home, winning 11 of 16 games at the Jack Stephens Center, but Delaware was even better on the road. The Hens went 18-1 away from the Carpenter Center and won 14 out of 15 true road games on the season. The only loss came at top-five ranked Maryland, and Delaware is undefeated on the road during the 2012 calendar year.
Still, Little Rock will show Delaware plenty of hostility on Sunday. How the Hens deal with it will determine how long their stay in Arkansas’ capital will last.
Hens Use Family Bond On And Off The Floor To Lift Them To Unprecedented Heights
By: Matt Janus
Little Rock, AR- The seventh-ranked University of Delaware women’s basketball program landed in Little Rock, Arkansas on Friday morning with high spirits and even higher expectations. Delaware will play a true road game to begin their NCAA tournament on Sunday against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. It might bother some teams to achieve so much in the regular season only to be placed in a hostile atmosphere to open the postseason. But this group of Blue Hens is not fazed by it even a bit.
It is exactly that attitude that in many ways has allowed this particular team to be so successful. Nothing seems to bother them, not a lack of national attention, not physical play, not even poor officiating.
One of the biggest reasons for this resilience is the close-knit nature of these Hens. It’s easy for a team that wins to be happy, but Delaware’s camaraderie goes much deeper than that. These girls like each other and as corny as it sounds have come together to form a family. That tight bond allows them to easily move past any petty adversity that might creep up.
This was evident even before the season started when transfers Akeema Richards and Trumae Lucas became eligible and Kayla Miller returned from back surgery. Their additions meant that playing time would all but disappear for players who got multiple starts in 2011. This would have led to drama on many teams and would have been fatal to the team chemistry of others, but for UD in 2012 it was a virtual non-factor.
Most of the credit for that goes to Vanessa Kabongo and Meghan McLean, who accepted their new roles on the bench without even a word of dissent. Not an easy task for two seniors who went long stretches without ever touching the floor in their final collegiate season.
Why were they able to get through it so smoothly? Because those two players cared more about winning games than their final line in the box score. It is a common trait amongst every Blue Hen and it is what makes them so special.
"I think this team, they get it," said Delaware head coach Tina Martin. "I’ve had some teams where chemistry-wise we were good teams, but we struggle a little bit in certain areas. This time I haven’t had to struggle, once we sat down and talked about what our roles were going to be and what we needed to do as a team.
"This team is special in that they really understand what it means to be a team. And so this team is the best team I’ve ever coached at Delaware."
Some groups are tough, others are oober-talented, others still are unselfish. Rare is it to find a team that displays all three characteristics. But then again, how often do you see a mid-major program earn a three-seed in the NCAA tournament?
This Delaware team spits in the eye of the expected and they do it together as one. The result has been a one-of-a-kind season.