Thursday, February 16, 2012

Williams bolsters coaching staff with former Pitt star

By Justin Walters
Collegian Editor

Unintentionally, some head coaches in sports tend to undermine the diligent work of their colleagues because of the unprecedented spotlight in the media. On the contrary, head coach Jeff Williams is one that never forgets to pay homage to his esteemed coaching staff.
As the women’s basketball team continues their eccentric run this year, there may be one unfamiliar face in Williams’ coaching box that has attributed to some of the team’s recent accomplishments. Although she is the newest member to join Blue and Gold family, Shayla Scott is no stranger to working alongside Williams. Before Scott was recently announced as the assistant women’s basketball coach at La Salle, she was playing at the University of Pittsburgh where Williams previously served as associate assistant coach.
“I’m excited to bring Shayla into our family, she’s the perfect fit,” Williams said. “She played for me for three years at the University of Pittsburgh and was a four-year starter. She also helped get the program to two Sweet 16 appearances and has a phenomenal intellect of the game, and I’m excited about her joining.”
Coming from a huge basketball family, Scott always knew she would ultimately wind up playing the sport deeply exalted by her relatives. What she didn’t know was that her collegiate career would end up being in the same gymnasium that she grew up in.
Before the Gateway High School product joined the sideline of the Pittsburgh Panthers, she was also a ball girl for the same team at a younger age. “When I was ball girl, the head coach at the time for women’s team was my uncle, Kirk Bruce,” said the former Panthers collegiate star. “At that age, I would always used to say that I was going to play for them [Pittsburgh] and beat whatever team we lost to.”
That same statement made when younger actually became a reality for Scott, who continued the Pitt legacy in her family following her mother Jennifer Bruce Scott, the second all-time leading scorer in Pitt – men’s or women’s – history. With big shoes to fill, Scott was no foreigner to the big stage during her four years at Pitt. From two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances to being ranked fourth all-time at Pitt in 3-pointers made, it’s safe to say that Scott has had a tremendous amount of experience on her resume as a player.
“I had a great experience there [Pittsburgh] and had the opportunity to start and play since freshman year,” Scott said. “It was eye opening to take a chartered plane to New Mexico for the NCAA tournament,”
Despite leading Pitt to three-straight postseason berths which included a WNIT bid her junior season, Scott would now have to serve in a new role as coach rather than player. Brought in to work primarily with the Explorer post players, Scott admitted to how worried she was entering into her new responsibility.
“Although I’m a higher authority, I have to admit that I was a little nervous because I’m so close in age with the players” said the 22-year old.
Even though the age difference has caused some uneasiness, Scott mentioned the positive side of it is having her players come straight to her for advice seeing as she just graduated from Pitt in 2011. Her players respect her work ethic and are aware how valuable of an asset she is to the team.
“It has been an amazing experience working with her because she just graduated from college and has played the exact position as me,” freshman Ruvanna Campell said. “Not only have I had the opportunity to learn some of her tremendous moves, but actually sit down and talk to her about her experience at one of the top schools in the nation.”
Along with getting to know her players on and off the court, Scott has also had the pleasure of picking at the brain of her former coach. It’s been a totally different experience for Scott who now has had a clearer lens on why Coach Williams use to preach certain things to her as a player.

“I now understand why he was so mad and angry with me at times,” Scott chuckled. “Working alongside of him has clarified how he coached me as a player.”
Even though she was a workhorse on the floor, Scott constantly embodied the importance of the term “student-athlete” while in college. In addition to her accolades on the court, she also completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years, earning her bachelor’s in media and professional communications before completing a master’s in health and fitness. With all her success in the classroom and gym, it’s understandable why Williams added her to his team.
“Most importantly, Shayla is a student-athlete and the type of person I want mentoring our kids,” Williams told “She has a great character and she knows what it’s like to be a student-athlete and compete at a high level both on the court and in the classroom.”
In the big picture, Scott is just another key component as Coach Williams looks to accomplish his long-term goal of transforming La Salle into a top-20 perennial program. As the aphorism states, all good things come in due time, and Williams is confident that with his competent staff that he can help build this program into a powerhouse.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coach Williams’ ‘No. 1’ recruit has been nothing less than advertised

By Justin Walters
Collegian Editor

Introduced to the game of hoops by her godfather, redshirt junior Brittany Wilson never imagined how much of an influence basketball would actually have on her life. Wilson was only eight years old when a basketball was first put into her hands, and now it seems like the leading scorer for the La Salle women’s team can never be seen without one.
Despite making her varsity high school basketball team as a freshman, Wilson never grasped how good she was until she started receiving letters from the top-tier programs in the nation. Although her name would be spoken of favorably in high school, Wilson was oblivious to the praise and was just in the moment of playing the game to which she felt attracted from an early age.
“No one ever sat down with me and said how amazing I actually was. I just used to hear people say it, so I automatically assumed I was decent,” Wilson said.
From Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year for 2008 to leading her Bay View team to three consecutive state championship games, Wilson used her unprecedented success to continue her hoop’s journey with the Northeastern Huskies.
For two straight years, Wilson’s transition into the NCAA was flawless. She led her team in nearly every category from points to steals in her sophomore year. In her eyes, Northeastern was her second home as her team’s bond on and off the court seemed impenetrable.
Even though life at Northeastern seemed like paradise, her team’s unbreakable cohesion didn’t always indicate in the win column. Wilson’s preconceived notion was that every team’s chemistry was this strong, but she would soon find out that other universities differed.
With an opportunity for new possibilities, Wilson made the difficult decision to take her talents elsewhere and become a La Salle Explorer.
The main catalyst of this complex choice was none other than Coach Jeff Williams, who was in pursuit of recruiting the Rhode Island local long before she went to Northeastern. Before Williams began his coaching career at La Salle, he was an assistant coach at Pittsburgh where he had a fair share of success in the NCAA tournament along with propelling some of his players to the next level. When Williams started a new chapter at La Salle, Wilson became his first recruit to join him on the sideline.
“Coach Williams and I actually talked before I even went to Northeastern,” Wilson avowed. “His history speaks for itself with the success he had at Pitt, and I wanted to become a part of that.”
Knowing it would be difficult to get acclimated to a new environment, Wilson was still looking forward to the new obstacles that awaited her in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Wilson’s conversion to La Salle would be the worst year of her life according to her.
“Everything was so different. I had to sit out a year, and had no friends,” said the former Bay View star. “It was very difficult to start brand new and fit in with a team that I didn’t know.”
To add insult to injury, Wilson’s rocky road became bumpier after finding out she would have to change her jersey number. Wilson, like many athletes, had always played with the same digits on her uniform since she could remember. For Wilson, that number was 14. Wilson thought it was guaranteed that she would be wearing the same jersey number after speaking with Coach Williams about it.
“I was upset when I saw one of my teammates with my number on. I’ve worn No.14 my whole life” Wilson stated.
To alleviate the situation, Coach Williams informed Wilson that he wanted her to wear No.1. The number was symbolic to him, as she was his first recruit ever. Although her junior teammate Ebonee Jones sports her old number to every game, Wilson is pleased to know how special her number is to her coach.

“I still prefer No.14, but No.1 is cool; I like it,” Wilson said jokingly.
Now as a captain of a team who currently stands sixth in the division compared to their dismal preseason projection, Wilson feels more at home in Philadelphia. Whether it is her team’s continuity which is building each game or her individual goals, her stay at La Salle is panning out much better.
“It took a while to build chemistry because she [Wilson] has a different style of play coming in as a transfer,” junior Nadia Duncan said. “Brittany’s biggest attribution is scoring…Ashley scored a lot of points, and Brittany is taking her place and coming up big for us.”
The average of 14.1 may be a bit undermining to Wilson’s astonishing performances this year, as she’s recorded over 21 points in five games along with her season-high of 31 against Fordham. Though her individual honors are important to her, Wilson’s biggest goal is to improve her team’s chemistry on and off the court, so they can one day reach the dream of heading to the NCAA tournament.
With the 23rd toughest schedule in the country, it would be irrational to assume Wilson in her first year along with the six new freshman would mesh together seamlessly. Wilson understands that nothing is given to you, which is why she is determined to foster relationships with each teammate in hopes that their relationship will bear resemblance to her comradery back at Northeastern.
“For the team that has never played together, I think we’re doing well,” said Wilson. “We have some of the most athletic guards in the conference and I’m sure we’ll reach our dream in the end.”
Even with all the success on the hardwood this year for the women’s basketball team, Wilson’s fondest memory are the connections she made with her teammates off the court during the summer.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Explorers fall hard against 20-2 Bonnies

By Justin Walters
Collegian Editor
With the daunting task of hosting Atlantic 10 conference leader St. Bonaventure Bonnies (19-2, 6-0 A-10), the women’s basketball team was in search of a notable victory after dropping their last two conference games. In addition to riding the second-longest winning streak in program history at eight games, the Bonnies were sitting just outside the top-25 in the Associated Press Poll. Furthermore, St. Bona’s Jessica Jenkins came into this week’s A-10 showdown as the reigning National Player of the Week.
With all these accolades, it’s pretty safe to say that the Explorers would have an onerous task on their hands in the nationally televised contest.
Despite her sensational performances in their past two losing efforts, freshman Jada Payne’s team-high scoring for the third straight game would be recorded in a loss once again.
The No. 27 team in the country proved to the Blue and Gold why they’ve only lost two games all year in the 75-57 routing. Leading the decisive victory for St. Bona was the senior Jenkins with 28 points on 8-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc. Her blistering performance against the Explorer’s defense propelled St. Bonaventure to remain as the only unbeaten team in A-10 play.
In the early midst of the first half, there was fluid ball movement by both squads as baskets were traded back and forth. But as the time winded down in first period, the Bonnies started to dominate the Explorers in every aspect of the game. Being scorched by a slew of three-pointers didn’t benefit La Salle either, which led to them trailing 43-27 at the half.
Though a gallant attempt was made to cut the deficit, the gap was unbridgeable for La Salle as Bonaventure just continued their offensive frenzy in the second half. As Bonaventure Coach Jim Crowley signaled for the reserves with 10 minutes left, it was clear his team had this conference game wrapped up.
The anecdote for success in this contest for St. Bona seemed to be from behind the arc as they went 9-of-24 compared to limited 2-of-7 for La Salle. Although ranked third 3FGM and 3FG percent, the Blue and Gold had troubles in this match defending from long distance.
Payne, the reigning A-10 Rookie of the Week, led the box score total with 11 points while senior Nadia Duncan and junior Alexis Scott added 10 apiece.

Although no team relishes losing repeatedly, it’s a hiccup often faced with a young squad. In the grand scheme of things, Coach Williams did state his team will be ready in January, but that doesn’t mean they will have found their identity. The character of this team is still vast, but improving night in night out.
When asked about their team chemistry, the stellar freshman defender, Ruvanna Campbell agreed about their progress. “Our chemistry has evolved from the beginning of the year to now because most of the team was a bunch of freshman,” Campbell avowed. “We are finally figuring out what it really takes to win and starting to communicate and trust each other more.”
With the acquisition of six new first-year players in his rotation along with redshirt junior Brittany Wilson, Williams will continue to hunt for a core starting lineup.
Despite the disappointing loss at home against the nationally-ranked Bonnies, the Explorers responded in positive fashion, recording a win against Fordham in their next matchup played on Wednesday afternoon.
The game was tight from start to finish. The difference in the contest ended up being a pair of go-ahead free throws knocked down by sophomore guard Michae Bryant with 2.7 seconds left in regulation. The Explorers ended up winning the game with a final score of 56-55.
Senior Nadia Duncan led the youthful cast scoring 15 points in addition to seven rebounds off the bench for the Blue and Gold.
The maxim of crawling before walking is the best fitting description for this young, resilient team. Already ahead of their preseason prediction of finishing tenth overall out of the 14-team conference, Williams and the Explorers are bound to enter their second straight tournament appearance if they keep up their current dauntlessness.
“We control our own destiny,” stated Duncan, one of the few experienced players the team has. “We have the ability and we are the only ones stopping ourselves.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The way a SuperBowl shouldn't end

Hopefully this evening's game doesn't result in this.

Giants trail despite dominating first half

Who would ever think that in 2012 little brother Eli Manning would have the chance to outshine and surpass his big brother Peyton?
Welcome to Super Bowl XLVI!
In a rematch from 2008, the New York Giants were clearly amped and demonstrated that in their play with a 9-0 lead entering into the second quarter. Despite the New England Patriots being slightly favored in this contest, the Giants looked more like the superior unit from the early beginning.
After an ill-advised intentional grounding which led to a safety, the “G-Men” followed up with a striking march down the field to add more points on the board. From imposing their will to dictating the time of possession, it was all Giants in the first quarter, and the same script transferred over to the second.
As they’ve done all year, the Giants' defensive line came up with big third down stop forcing Tom Brady and the Pats to settle for a field goal on the opening drive in the second period. Although there were no sacks recorded by this thumping defense, they caused continuous ruckus for the Patriots offensive.
Unfortunately for the Giants, a six-point deficit wasn’t enough to restrain the Patriots from eventually gaining the lead. In a half that was controlled by the New York throughout, the Patriots got the last laugh after an impressive drive from Brady. After a touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead, New England would take a slight 10-9 lead entering into the half.
Similar to the Patriots defense that has been criticized all year, yards only matter when they produce points. The stat sheet may be in the favor of the Giants, but the momentum lies in the hand of the Pats.
The Patriots get the ball to start the second half, and I’m sure that Coach Bill Belichick will have his unit ready to capitalize.
I see this game eventually being determined by the aptitude of each defense. Whichever squad holds the opposing offensive to field goals or off the field will win this game.