Windsor Lancers

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Teammate Reflections of Erika Messam

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 -

"I am very grateful I had the opportunity to play three years with Erika Messam. Erika was such a great player, she made everyone around her that much better. The talent, aggression, and skill she brought to the court was just completely unmatched. I'll never forget playing pick up and always having to guard her. She would talk so much trash to everyone so we would all get mad and play harder. Some days those pick up games felt like the America East championship. No matter how hard we competed against each other on the court we always remained great friends and that is something I will always cherish. The impact Erika made at the University of Hartford will be talked about for a very long time and I can't think of anyone more deserving to be inducted into the Hall of Fame."
- Ikea Witt, Class of 2007

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 -

My fondest memories of playing basketball with Erika Messam were those rare instances in practice when I actually thought I'd tired her out and might be able to accomplish something...anything! Like get a pass off, drive towards the basket, maybe hit a shot, or steal the ball from her when she was on offense.

You have to understand I was often Erika's personal practice partner who got the glorious job of "trying" (notice the quotes) to stop her. My mentality most practices was to attempt to cheat into those passing lanes or "first" options in a play, as I knew every play our red team (starters) were attempting to run. This worked on some teammates...but not Erika.

She was the queen of giving a defender "false hope" because she'd put her hands on her hips and breath heavy and look all tired after scoring or doing a ton of work to get a teammate a wide open shot and you'd start to think, "Okay, I have a chance now...she's tired."

Then Coach Rizz would switch things up and put her on the white team, which I was always excited about no matter how beat she looked. Because that was the thing about Erika Messam, no matter what team she was on they would win...and she loved a challenge! Four starters on the red and her with the white team and she'd start going off (yes, this is right after her hands were on her hips and she looked exhausted).

The best part about being on the same team with Erika was how good she'd make you feel when you did something well. There was no bigger trash talker on our team, but there was also no bigger cheerleader. If you did something well she just about bowled you over with a hug (or one of her stinging high fives) and you couldn't help but grin from ear to ear because she also let you know when you were messing up (in an encouraging...motivating...get it together kind of way).

She read people well, knew how to motivate and totally lead by example on the floor. There wasn't anyone who played with the kind of tenacity that Erika did and we all respected her for it. That's probably why Coach Rizz made her our captain. She was a tenacious, competitive, winner...and we certainly did win during her time at Hartford I couldn't think of a more deserving person to go into the Hall of Fame. Congratulations E!
- Kate (DiDonato) DeLoureiro, Class of 2007

Friday, May 9, 2014 -

Erika was an unwavering teammate. No matter what was going on in her world, she kept it off the court and left her heart on the court. I couldn't think of a more deserving individual for this award-a wonderful player, teammate, mother and person. Like many of the players and friends at Hartford, I consider her a forever friend. With life after Hartford, she has been a sister, mentor and friend. From post player to point guard, much love, respect and honor for this achievement.

- Tanika Price, Class of 2005

Monday, May 5, 2014

Where are they Now? – Nikkia Smith --- Bringing Hartford Basketball to the Nation’s Capital

I can’t believe it has been almost a full year since graduating! But boy what a crazy and exciting year it has been.
After graduating last May, my Aunt graciously opened her home in Bloomfield to me, allowing me to live there through the summer. I continued working at Farmington Valley Transition Academy as a one to one specialist through the end of June.
At the end of August, I officially said goodbye to Connecticut and moved to Washington, D.C. for graduate school. Over the past eight months I have been working as the Graduate Assistant/Assistant Coach for the women’s basketball team and working on my Masters in Public Administration at Gallaudet University. Gallaudet is a private institution for the deaf and hard of hearing in the heart of D.C.
Competing at the NCAA Division III level, Gallaudet competes in the Northeastern Athletic Conference (NEAC). This past season the women’s basketball team finished 15-12 overall and made it to the NEAC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2010-11. Needless to say, it was a really exciting year for our program!

Attending Gallaudet has been a dream of mine for many years. I have truly been blessed with this opportunity to further my education and continue to be involved with basketball at the collegiate level as a coach. Living in D.C. has truly been amazing. I’ve had to make friends outside of sports, use public transportation and even live with people I didn’t know in advance! I know all these probably sound like minor accomplishments, but after being surrounded by wonderful teammates (who had cars) and were also easy to get along with, these are basically major milestones in life.

The players and staff of Gallaudet’s many athletic teams have taken me under their wings. They teach me new signs every day and challenge me even when I’m extremely uncomfortable. I have been able to transfer so many intangibles from what I learned at Hartford. It shocks me sometimes at how similar I sound to my coaches at Hartford.

I knew my coaches were smart while I was there, but they’re even smarter now that I can use some of the very same sayings I heard on a regular basis and see the impact it has on my players. Having the experience of being a Hawk has taught me more about life and management then I could have ever imagined. I am grateful everyday for all the experiences I have had.  


Monday, April 14, 2014

Final Four Creates Lifetime Memories: Alyssa Englert's Nashville Final Four Blog


Wow, the Final Four was quite the experience of a lifetime! I’ve never had so much fun doing so many different activities in an incredible city. If you have never been to a Final Four and are debating on whether it’s worth it to go or not…IT IS!
Sunday was my first full day in Nashville. I started off the morning by attending a “meet and greet” with Beth Bass, the current Chief Executive Officer of the WBCA, with the other nine members of the Good Works Team and their parents/guests.

Beth invited all of us up to her suite in the morning just to better acquaint each of us and congratulate us on making the Good Works Team. It was amazing to hear all the extraordinary things the other girls had done to be involved in their community and even further than their local area. Many of the girls were a Big Sister or Buddy program for 3-4 years like I have been, some helped out at
homeless shelters, and many had run basketball camps.

Several girls had gone to other countries such as Brazil and South Africa to complete missions and/or run educational programs for a few weeks. I thought that was truly remarkable. Not only did some of the girls reach out to their local communities, they also traveled out to third world countries and gave back. Like myself, some of the other Good Works Team members have been impacted somehow by cancer.

One of the team members worked with a nine-year old girl battling leukemia, another had been involved in breast cancer awareness events and helped to raise money towards research. I was blown away by the resume's of my Good Works Team members.

Later that day the ten of us went over to “Tourney Town” to hand out awards to groups in the Nashville area that had given back to their community. These included some local Boys & Girls Clubs, church groups, and YMCA’s. Each group got their award and the representatives went down the line to shake the hands of the 10 Good Works Team members. The kids were so excited and honored to shake our hands which was very cute.
Next up…GAME TIME BABYYY! We gathered in the hotel lobby and walked over together to the Bridgestone Arena to watch the Final Four games. First up, #4 Maryland vs. #1 Notre Dame, who was undefeated. What a great first game to get the night started! Notre Dame had so much talent at the guard position and couldn’t miss! They ended up getting an easy 20+ point victory over Maryland in the end.

Next up was #1 UConn, also undefeated of course, vs. #1 Stanford. UConn is probably the toughest team in the country. So disciplined and relentless to the point where
they seem invincible. This was a very special game because just after halftime, myself and the rest of the 2014 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team were recognized on court.  We walked onto the court during one of the timeouts and were individually announced. This was a truly a wonderful for me because the gym was filled with 85% UConn fans who knew of the University of Hartford. So when my name was announced there was a roaring ovation from the crowd! I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing to hear so many people cheering for me, I’ve never had such a big smile on my face.

The next day was an early morning as we got up to celebrate Allstate WBCA Good Works Day.  We spent almost all day at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. When we first got their we introduced ourselves and got to meet a lot of the staff and directors as they talked a little bit about the hospital and some of its goals and initiatives. Then Allstate and the 10 of us got to present the hospital with a $10,000 check! They were all so happy and grateful and talked about all the great things they could put the money towards. After that we spent the next hour or so assembling over 300 “Wellness Kits” that included a water bottle, hand sanitizer, lotion, chap-stick, sunscreen, and a stress ball all put into a cold-insulated zip-up lunch bag.
We then broke up into three teams and walked around different areas of the hospital to distribute them and visit with patients. I have never been around so many wonderful people in my entire life. I felt so blessed to be able to visit and talk with each of the patients that I had met. They were so kind and courageous going through what was probably the toughest obstacle in their life. But yet, they were so excited and honored to see us. I felt like it was the other way around because I was the one that felt excited and fortunate. The Team and I spent the next couple hours or so walking around the hospital delivering the Wellness Kits and talking basketball smack about the men’s and women’s tournament. After walking around and visiting, all of the staff, directors, Allstate representatives and the Team sat down for lunch and shared a little bit about ourselves. We concluded with a movie that the hospital had made about surviving cancer, living your life to its fullest, and having hope. The entire day at the hospital was so moving and heartfelt. I couldn’t help but be inspired by everyone there. Patients, staff, administrators, everyone was part of this incredible family and I was so glad we were able to go there as part of Good Works Day. Such an amazing time!
That evening was the WBCA Awards Show. We were lucky enough to be announced with the Naismith and Wade Trophy winners and Coach of the Year. Plenty of decorated athletes and coaches were in attendance including Coach Rizzotti who actually presented the Wade Trophy winner. It was a privilege to be in the presence of so many basketball greats.

Tuesday was my final day in Nashville. This was a day filled with a lot more down time until the afternoon. Around 2:30p.m. we all went over to Tourney Town for an autograph session. I felt like a celebrity up on stage signing posters and basketballs for young players and families, getting my picture taken, and having people congratulate me. I was so surprised on how many people were in line to get our autographs but I was so happy and once again had a huge smile on my face.
That evening was the national championship game. The best part of course…watching UConn celebrate as they had claimed there ninth National Championship! I had watched the game many times before on TV, but to be there in person was so cool! Watching the team jumping on each other, jumping on Coach Auriemma, holding up the trophy, and cutting down the nets was thrilling. I felt so lucky to be there and watch it all happen in person.

That concluded my time at the Final Four in Nashville. I know I’ve said it a hundred times before but what an AMAZING experience. Between receiving the award and being involved in all the great things I did while I was down there, I couldn’t ask for anything better. I am so grateful to Allstate for the opportunity and for accommodating me and my parents on our trip. I would also like to thank the WBCA for selecting me as one of five Division I players to be on the Team. And of course to everyone at the University of Hartford that nominated me. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it makes every minute of community service I have ever done, and will continue to do in the future, truly worth it. Again, thank you to everyone that made this all possible for me. I am honored to be a part of the 2014 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Player Profile: Deanna Mayza '17

Deanna Mayza was raised in a family of athletes.  Mayza’s parents both have backgrounds in basketball.  Her father is a coach who set school records as a college player and her mom was a skilled athlete in multiple sports.

“My dad is the coach of a boys’ team and whenever they needed a 10th player I always got to play with them,” said Mayza, a freshman point guard for the University of Hartford women’s basketball team.

Mayza’s older brother, Tim, excels in baseball and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays last year.  He was one of the boys on their father’s team. “Having an older brother around meant I always played with the guys.  My dad and brother have been the most influential people for me as an athlete.  Having my brother there the whole time I was growing up, beating me up in the backyard, just made me tougher.  My dad is the one that got me playing basketball and always helped me work on my skills.”
The strong competition in her formative years only helped Mayza flourish.  By the beginning of her junior year at The Hill School in Pennsylvania, she was being contacted by several colleges.  Mayza, who went on to set records as the school’s all-time leading scorer in basketball (1,222 points) and soccer (67 goals), says the University of Hartford was the one institution that made sure to stay in touch with her beyond the initial contact.

“A lot of the schools just make contact once and then you don’t hear from them again whereas the coaches at Hartford just continued to stay in touch with me throughout the process.  My brother looked at Hartford when he was considering schools so I knew a little bit about it,” said Mayza. 
Mayza wasn’t sure what degree she wanted to pursue and saw that as an important consideration in addition to the opportunity to play basketball.  “I thought that Hartford offered the most options for me to consider since I didn’t know exactly what I wanted.  The coaching staff is great too and knowing coach Rizzotti was here made me want to pursue it. 

With her being a point guard in college and playing in the WNBA it made me want to come here and learn from the best.”
Mayza lived on campus during her senior year at The Hill School, so she was used to being away from home.  Still, she says she has already learned quite a bit in just one semester at Hartford.  As a Division I student-athlete she sees the importance of budgeting her time well.

“During the season we don’t have a lot of free time.  There is a lot to juggle just between classes and playing basketball.  The coaches always make sure that we have time for study hall, even when we’re on the road.  I’m learning how important it is to be proactive with my professors so that I can get things done before we go on a road trip.”

One of the best parts about her basketball experience so far is not what happens on the court, it’s the team camaraderie.

“Our team chemistry off the court is great.  Everyone hangs out and we all have a good time together.  We have a little more free time during the winter break when there are no other students on campus so we’re always together.  We’re either playing Rock Band or doing something else outside of basketball.  We just have fun with each other.”
One of the things the team does off the court is community service work.  It’s something Mayza says she has always enjoyed.

“When I was in high school I used to help out my Dad with youth programs.  We would do basketball clinics and I loved it.  Now that I’m here we’re doing things like going to children’s hospitals.  We go to elementary schools and read to the kids and talk to them.  It’s always nice to spend time with them.”
Mayza describes herself as “feisty” and as a successful student-athlete, it’s not surprising to hear that she’s very competitive both on and off the court.  As a freshman she still has plenty of time to decide on a future career path but she already has a pretty good idea of what she wants to try first.

“Seeing my older brother get drafted and knowing that he is going to live his dream in baseball makes me want to do the same.  Playing somewhere professionally has always been a dream and something I want to pursue.  Whether it’s academics or pursuing something else I feel like I have this drive to do well.  I know that will help me going forward.”
For now, Mayza is enjoying life as a collegian.  Her basketball skills and ambition make it clear that she will be a valuable asset for her Hartford team, and perhaps for a professional team one day in the future. 






Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where are they Now? – Tanika Price --- Making A Difference

The University of Hartford and Coach Rizzotti prepared me for the real world-both during and after college. It was the best of basketball, academics, friends & family, and FUN all in one place.

Now, I work for a non-profit organization named CAMBA, which is one of N.Y. and the United States’ largest non-profit organizations. You can find out more info here: My title is Assistant Director for the Flatbush site of CAMBA. I deal mostly with curricula, budgets for youth & community development as well as implementation of programming. Ironically, I make a return to my roots as my office is located in and services the neighborhood I grew up in. On any given day, we assist anywhere from 1,000-1,200 individuals by bringing them completely free services. 

Our group was recently able to secure a grant for the Brooklyn (Flatbush) area in the form of 1.2 million dollars, which will be used to fund 5-6 projects for the betterment of the community. I would like to use this money for bolstering and implementation of more STEM initiatives, a new computer/technology lab and more academic and athletic based programming.

At my site, we have a wealth of program offerings for children, youth and adults. Some of our programs include:

For Adults:
Financial literacy, GED and ESL, first time homebuyer classes, Computers, Citizenship, Immigration and Legal advice. Also providing small business and loan classes, etc.

For Teens:
A new project called Collegiate Express (specifically for 9th graders) that will put them on the path to college with tutors, mentors, academic monitoring and STEM initiatives. We also have youth council and leadership programs as well as a stellar boys’ basketball team.

For Youth:
Homework help & afterschool programming, STEM initiatives, filmmaking partnerships with the Tribeca Film Festival (our student produced work won an MTV Halo Award and secured $20,000 for a school in Flatbush as well as a $10,000 award for one of our students), karate, acting with Kimball Studios, which is one of the groups that write for Conan Obrien and a number of other TV programs, and of course a really good girls team. I am proud to say that my two Girls teams (ages 10-12 and 13-15) are not only borough champions but NYC champions.

Some of my favorite memories at Hartford have helped to grow and shape the woman I am today. I remember after missing a practice, the coaches held me accountable and I had to run suicides. For any wrongdoings, the coaches held me accountable for my actions. Now, I can appreciate this in a huge way. They didn’t always tell or teach me the lesson I wanted, but rather taught/told me the lesson I NEEDED to hear.

The University has a family-friendly atmosphere, FUN campus living and lasting connections. The Flight Zone is just the BOMB! PERIOD! Hands down they are the best group of dedicated individuals and sports fans I have ever met. I miss them! I had a great time on campus too!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where are they Now? – Danielle Wexler --- Building a Family

After living in New York the past two years I am currently living in Wallingford, Conn. with my husband and baby daughter, Michaela. My life took a dramatic turn last spring when my husband and I welcomed our first child. She has changed our lives in the best way possible.

I love living here; it is such a great place and love not having to commute over an hour to work. My husband was very lucky to have landed a head football job at Maloney High School, while also teaching math at the high school.

I am going into my fourth year as an assistant women's basketball coach at Quinnipiac University. I love coaching and it’s a beautiful place to work. I really wouldn't ask for a better environment to be in. I love coaching the girls and seeing how they develop into young women.

Looking back at my experience as a Hartford Hawk, my favorite memory is beating Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Player Profile: Cherelle Moore '15

If you were to walk by and look into the Chase Family Arena this summer, there’s a pretty good chance you would have seen forward Cherelle Moore '15 taking extra shots. Moore, a Bridgeport, Conn. native, dedicated the off-season to getting in the best basketball shape of her life while completing her summer classes at the University of Hartford.

"Getting in shape was the main goal for me over the summer," said Moore. "My basketball IQ is there, but I realized that I needed to get in shape to become a better player. I worked really hard on improving my basketball skills."

"This was a big off-season for Cherelle and she took full advantage of her opportunity to work hard and get in great shape," said Coach Rizzotti. "She was always a good athlete but she took a step forward when she shed her self-imposed physical limitations."

Moore, a six-foot junior forward with the ability to play the wing or post position, emerged as consistent rebounder for the Hawks down the stretch of last season. She became a key player in the lineup and helped lead the Hawks to the America East championship game. Her teammates and coaches voted Moore the most improved player after the season.

Now an upperclassman, Moore is determined to become more of a scoring threat and leader for the Hawks. “I always want to be a leader on and off the court and I’m hoping to have my teammates be able to look up to me when they need something,” said Moore. “On the court I want to be an offensive threat to our opponents.”

"The confidence Cherelle has in herself right now has correlated to her being more of a vocal leader," Rizzotti added. "She knows she’s an upperclassman now and this is her time to lead by example as well. After two years, she has learned what it means to be fully committed and she is a terrific example to the young players of what working hard and making mental adjustments can do for individual growth."

Moore is excited about the potential her team has this season and is determined to win the conference championship. “With our depth and fast-paced style, we want to be able to run teams out of the gym this year,” explained Moore. "We know what it takes to get to the championship game—it hurt losing in it last year, but it fueled us, and we are coming back angry and determined to be the last team standing."

Hartford opens the season on November 9 against the defending national champion UConn Huskies.