Windsor Lancers

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Checking In with Coach Rizzotti at the World Championships


Today was the first day of the 2014 World Championships. This is what we've been preparing for the past three weeks. We've only had our full 12 member team together for three days but it's not a terrible thing when a 6-8 player that can dunk is the final piece of the puzzle. 
 
Because I'm one of the team scouts, I travelled to Ankara, Turkey this morning from Istanbul with Chris Dailey to watch the eight teams from the pools on the other side of the bracket. I was a little skeptical traveling away from the group, especially since our team plays their first game against China tonight but after what I just witnessed, I realized how special an experience this really is. I just finished watching France play the home team Turkey. The game started at 7 p.m. local time and the arena was packed by 6:30. I watched the introductions of both teams and then listened to 5,000 Turkish fans proudly sing/shout their teams National Anthem before the game started. It was pretty cool.
 
The game started out kind of slow, but when Turkey's most popular player hit a three to go up two with 47 seconds to play, I couldn't hear myself think. I'm not sure I've ever been in that kind of environment. And this is only the first game of the tournament!  It's going to be a fun ride and I'm so glad I get to be a part of it. Now, back to work! Brazil versus Czech Republic, coming up next!
Go USA! 
 
video
 

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alumni Player Profile: Kathy Behrens


Kathy Behrens graduated from the University of Hartford in 1985 with an extensive resume that included three years of playing tennis, two years playing basketball and a variety of accomplishments off the court such as serving on the senate her junior year and as the Student Government Association President as a senior.  Currently, Behrens is working with the NBA as the Executive Vice President, Social Responsibility & Player Programs.

This past May, the University of Hartford welcomed her back and presented her with the Vincent Brown Coffin Award (professional achievement by a former student athlete) at the 2014 Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner.

“It was a super fun night and great to be back with my friends & family,” described Behrens who recently took the time to reflect on her experiences. “I come back to the University fairly regularly because I’m on the Board of Regents, but to be able to experience the Hall of fame Dinner and go down memory lane was very special. I always think my sports background prepared me for after college because it’s a competitive environment and you have to deliver in a different way than you do on the court.”

Following college, Behrens wanted to learn the ins and outs of fundraising. She did so while working for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo for seven years in various capacities and also with United Way.  In 1995, Behrens began working as the executive director for New York Cares, a non-profit organization still near and dear to her heart.

In 2000 the NBA commissioner David Stern called Behrens, approaching her about becoming the Vice President of Community Relations for the NBA and she accepted.

“With basketball being a big part of my life, I thought it was a great opportunity and a great time in my life for a career change. I loved the sport and I understood how much of an emphasis the NBA wanted to place on community service and how much it values the work it’s players and teams do around the world.”

In fourteen years Behrens role with the NBA has changed and expanded. She has pioneered a number of important NBA community service initatives that have made a huge impact around the world. In 2005 she spearheaded the NBA Cares program, which she describes as “an umbrella to connect our players, teams and employee’s and capture the different things they were doing.” Through NBA Cares, the NBA & WNBA have traveled to over 900 places around the world renovating homes for veterans and the elderly, going into schools and Boys and Girls Clubs, and performing a “day of service” each year during the NBA All-Star Weekend. One of her proudest memories was the day of service in New Orleans’s after Hurricane Katrina. 

Behrens has developed and overseen numerous initiatives such as NBA Fit, a program to help children lead active and healthy lifestyles, Share Our Strengths, which provides children access to nutritious food and prevent hunger, and Basketball Without Boarders where NBA & WNBA players travel around the world growing the game of basketball and demonstrate the commitment to giving back. Under her leadership, the NBA & WNBA have also worked with programs focusing on ending homophobia in sports. 

“Respect, inclusion and diversity are things we feel really strongly about,” explained Behrens.

Despite her tireless work and busy travel schedule, Behrens still finds time to give back and support the University of Hartford.

“I loved the University of Hartford and I still come back and participate because I’m still connected. I made life long friends. The things I did athletically and with the student government were transformative for me.”

Behrens also credits the University of Hartford for distinguishing a culture of giving back to the community. “Being a leader in the community is part of the culture at Hartford. It’s not just about the people your helping, it’s also important for the people doing the helping. It’s a real differentiator for Hartford and it can really change the culture your trying to create when community service is in your DNA.”
 
 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Christie Michals Summer Blog – It’s Not Just Work, It’s Philanthropy

This summer has been very exciting and full of great opportunities. 

I have had the chance to work an internship position at the Newman’s Own Foundation, where I am currently working with my former teammate, Alex Hall. The foundation is based on philanthropy and they donate all of the profits from Newman’s Own Inc. to charities all around the world. My job at the foundation has included researching, organizing, and creating briefing documents on a number of small projects.

I was also fortunate to participate in a business trip with Newman’s Own to New York City, where I helped the foundation with a conference they hosted for other small businesses that also donate their entire profits to charity.

What I enjoy most about my internship is being a part of a company that does so much good for others. My temporary job with them is much bigger than myself; I thoroughly enjoy working for a company that works for an amazing cause by helping others.

Another thing I thoroughly enjoy is being with my team. Summer session is an amazing opportunity for putting in hard work in the classroom, on the basketball court, and in the weight room. It is so helpful to have all the players and coaches together with a common goal of getting better and spending time together.


This is a great adjustment period for the new freshman. Everyone is fitting in perfectly and we are catching them up to the new speed of college basketball. Being back on campus with the team is such a blast and an amazing privilege to be able to continue our scholastic studies as well as coming together as a unit. The girls have been amazing, everyone is extremely focused, working hard, and having a great time together. This is a great beginning to what will be a great year for Hartford Women’s Basketball.

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


VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH ALYSSA & COACH RIZZOTTI

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.