Row, Row, Row Your Boat: An Inside Look at AU’s Rowing Club

Sports
Rowing Picture

Photo Credit: Emma Ashooh/American Word Magazine

(This article was originally written for American Word Magazine)

At 4:00 a.m., most students at American University are either sound asleep or working hard on homework as they pull all-nighters.

However, about 40 students are just starting their days by waking up and heading to practice. American’s Rowing Club leaves at 4:30 a.m. every weekday morning and heads to the Anacostia Community Boathouse on the Anacostia River.

Practice starts at 5:00 a.m., so the team must be ready to work when they arrive. First, they take care of a few chores, such as sweeping the docks or picking up trash. After that, the athletes receive their lineups from their coaches and go out on the boats for about two hours.

This routine also takes place on Saturday mornings, with practices starting at 8:00 a.m. and running until 11:00 a.m. Even though they are a club sports team, the rowers are expected to commit a lot of time.

A student’s first year of collegiate competition is known as his/her “novice” year. This group of rowers participates in a separate category of racing, which gives them the chance to learn with less stiff competition.

“Rowing is one of the most difficult sports, so not just anyone can make it,” said Jasmine Gardner, a member of the women’s varsity team. “Novice year gives those people a chance to see if they can handle the sport before they start competing at higher levels.”

The club is broken up into four sections: women’s varsity, men’s varsity, women’s novice and men’s novice. Each of these sections practice and compete separately during their fall and spring seasons.

The fall season from August to November is a “5k season,” also known as the long distance race for rowing. “Basically, equivalent to the cross country [season] for track,” explained Eileen Anderson, another member of the women’s varsity team.

The spring season begins in March and lasts until May. Even though it’s only a 2k season, it is the more competitive of the two. Anderson said that this is the race that people usually come out to watch.

In between these two seasons, the team participates in winter training, which Anderson described as “a physical and mental hell.”

“One, we are in our erg (rowing machine) room in Letts nearly every morning, rather than being on the water. Two, there are no competitions in our sights, and three, it’s our off season, which means conditioning,” she said.

The team usually attends about three to four regattas (series of boat races) per season due to expenses and the amount of preparation they require. Although the club does not compete in a specific conference, they do compete in the same regattas as many of the Division One schools.

“Rowing is an interesting sport because many competitive programs nationwide are clubs. Olympic gold medalists have walked on to their college teams with no experience,” Gardner said. “Both varsity and club teams race at many collegiate regattas, so funding and resources are one of the only differences between the club and varsity programs.”

While the club gets some funding from the school’s club sport budget, it is nowhere near enough to cover all of their expenses; equipment, regattas and travel all rack up a considerable bill . Therefore, the team charges $300 in dues per semester and holds a variety of fundraisers.

One of their biggest fundraisers is their Rent-a-Rower program. According to their website, for $20, somebody can rent one of the club’s members to help move to a new space, help with yard work or anything else one might think of.

But the club does not let their lack of funds define them. “All that matters is how hard the athletes work and how fast the boats go, not the amount of funding a program has, and I think that that is one of the best things about the sport,” Gardner said.

The dynamic between the team’s members is instead what defines their club.

“The team is a family,” Gardner said. “Even outside of practice, we spend most of our waking hours together, and I’ve met many of my best friends at AU from rowing.”

Anderson agreed. “The AU Rowing team has made me feel a new type of love that I have never felt with anyone else before – one where no matter how different or annoying or distant someone is, you love them unconditionally because they pull you down the river every morning, no matter what exam they had the day before or what kind of week they have had.”

Of course, there are plenty of days when rowing is not easy. “There are definitely hard days where you would rather do anything than sit in a boat or on an erg. It can get monotonous, and it is painful and private a lot of the time,” Gardner said.

But Gardner and other club members would agree that the rewarding aspects of rowing outweigh its challenges.

“I think we all put in the hard work and push through the tough times because sometimes, everything falls into place on the water: the boat is gliding, your body feels good, the sunrise is beautiful, you are perfectly in time with your seven best friends, and you know you would not want to be anywhere else,” said Gardner.

Interested in joining the team or learning more about them? Email them at americancrew@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Is Satoransky finally coming to DC?

Sports

satoransky

(This article was originally written for WizardsXtra)

When Tomas Satoransky, the Washington Wizards’ 32nd pick of the 2012 draft, signed a four year extension with FC Barcelona in March, everyone believed that he was out of the Wizards’ the picture for the near future.

However, according to an report from Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops, the Wizards are actively pursuing the option of bringing over Satoransky for the 2016-2017 season. He writes, “according to Eurohoops sources from the US, the Wizards have decided to offer a multiyear guaranteed deal to Satoransky and pay the buy out of his new contract with Barcelona. The price of the buy out clause for this summer is $1.5 million.”

The possible deal is something to keep an eye on this off-season, as it carries some interesting salary cap implications for this summer. According to the CBA FAQ:

NBA teams signing international players are allowed to pay a buyout to the player’s team or organization in order to release the player to sign in the NBA. The buyout amount is a matter of negotiation between the player and the international team or organization. NBA teams are allowed to pay up to the Excluded International Player Payment Amount, and this amount is not charged to the team salary. Any amount above the Excluded International Player Payment Amount comes out of the player’s (after-tax) salary, and therefore is included in the team’s team salary.

It is a common misconception that a buyout cannot exceed the excluded amount. On the contrary, buyouts can exceed the excluded amount, but any amount above the excluded amount essentially comes out of the player’s paycheck. For example, if a team’s second round pick in 2011 has a $1 million buyout, the team can use its (Non-Taxpayer or Taxpayer) Mid-Level exception to sign the player. […} The amount above the excluded amount is charged to the team’s team salary as a signing bonus.

If Satoransky does join the team this summer, he is expected to give the bench unit a much needed boost right away. 

In an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic, David Pick, one of the leading international basketball reporters, said, “He is already one the toughest, best two-way guards in Europe.”

For FC Barcelona this past season, Satoransky averaged 9.6 points, 4.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 24 minutes in 58 games while shooting 38.9 percent from behind the international three-point line. 

The 24-year-old also has a skill-set that is transferable to the NBA. At 6-foot-7-inches, he has the length that is necessary to be effective defensively. He also has court vision that is considered to be top notch overseas.

Since the Wizards are looking to getting younger this off-season, adding Satoransky to the roster would make sense as he would be added to the team’s core along with Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris in the frontcourt and Beal and Wall in the backcourt. 

Of course, there are still plenty of questions regarding his game and ability to be an NBA player. Even though none of this is guaranteed yet, it seems if though Washington is ready to finally give him a chance.

Wizards Introduce New Head Coach Scott Brooks

Uncategorized
Wizards

Picture taken by Bryna Kramer

(This article was originally written for WizardsXtra)

The Washington Wizards officially introduced Scott Brooks as the franchise’s new head coach during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

The Wizards and Brooks agreed to terms last Thursday after Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Vice President Tommy Sheppard visited Brooks in California to seal the deal. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, both parties agreed to a five-year deal worth $35 million. Brooks, 50, is now one of the six highest-paid coaches in the NBA.

During his time as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he had a .620 winning percentage during the regular season and made three trips to the Western Conference Finals plus a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012. He was also named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2010.

Here’s a summary of the major points from today’s press conference:

On hiring Brooks:

Grunfeld, who spoke first at the press conference, said that Brooks was the organization’s top candidate. “We just felt like he was right coach for our situation,” he said. “His record speaks for itself. He’s been where we want to be and where we want to go to.”

Ted Leonsis, the majority owner of the Washington Wizards, echoed these sentiments. “Ernie and I really believe that this was the right hire for our team,” he said. “We thought that, in this off-season, bringing Scott in, who was the most sought after coach out there, was the right thing to do.” 

On Brooks’ decision to sign with the Wizards now rather than waiting:

Brooks took last season off after he coached the Oklahoma City Thunder for six-plus seasons.

During this time away from the game, Brooks said he had “the luxury to really reflect on the things I’ve done in the past, and what I want to accomplish in the future.”

He said he came away from this time off knowing that “you have to have an outstanding owner, and we have that in Ted, you have to have a great leader in your general manager and president, and we have that in Ernie, and you have to have a great roster.”

Brooks said he looked at these things and realized that this is the team, when it became available, that he wanted. “I got everything I wanted. I wasn’t looking for anything else. This is where I wanted to be.”

On Brooks’ coaching style and player development:

One of the issues with the Wizards’ squad this past season was that all players were supposedly not being held accountable. When asked about this and what Brooks would do to change this culture, he said, “I love our players and you have to hold your players accountable.  But I always felt that the best teams in the history of this great sport have been teams that have held each other accountable. We will have that and we will work on it on a daily basis.”

Brooks, prior to joining the Wizards, had a reputation is being a players’ coach; he is credited with helping develop the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. However, he was regularly criticized for his offensive sets, lineup configurations and substitution patterns.

In terms of his plans for player development with the Wizards, Brooks said, “I love developing players … Once we are all committed to being an NBA player, we’re NBA players. Once you get drafted or you get picked up, you’re an NBA player. I’ll coach everybody from the guy that plays the most minutes to the guy that doesn’t play a lot minutes. I will coach them with every thing I have and I will build a staff that believes in the same philosophies that I believe.”

Brooks elaborated on the what that looks like: “Developing players isn’t just on the court. It’s off the court, its in the film room, its in how you talk to each other. It’s a variety of things… it’s challenging at times.” 

On John Wall:

With John Wall being the leader of the Wizards, Brooks was asked about his expectations for the three-time all star. He said that he expects all players, including John, to come back after this summer as better players. “I think John has another level. He’s been a three time All-Star. That’s incredible in itself… He has another level. Maybe even two or three more level.”

Brooks elaborated on this by specifically talking about his relationship with Wall moving forward: “Point guards are the coach on the floor. We will have a connection. We won’t agree on everything. But John and the rest of the guys will understand one thing, that we will find the best way to move forward in all situations. A lot of times it won’t be my way, it’ll be our way.”

On KD2DC:

Eventually, someone asked question on everyone’s mind: Is Brooks going to help sign upcoming free-agent Kevin Durant?

Brooks and Durant’s close relationship has sparked speculation that he was hired solely to help lure Durant back home to Washington this summer. Prior to the press conference, Grunfeld made it clear that he hired Brooks for reasons other than Durant; he wanted a coach that could foster the Wizards core’s development, rekindle their defensive identity, and had experience winning.

At the press conference, Brooks deftly avoided the question by focusing on the current team. “I’m excited about the team,” he said. “This is a great group of guys. I understand the question, but I’m excited about the group of guys we have here.”

On Washington, D.C. and Wizards’ fans:

Another topic at the Brooks was the Washington, D.C. community, specifically his thoughts on the impact he might have in the community.

“I love [the DMV area],” he said. “This has always been one of my favorite places to play as a player and as to coach in this great community. It’s a great fan base. They love their basketball. I’m thrilled and excited, honored and humbled to be in this community.” 

Later on, he ended the press conference by answering a question about Wizards’ fans, specifically why fans should not give up on the team after they did not make the playoffs. “Fans deserve to have a team that competes every year in the playoffs. We’ve had great fans over the years. We will put a product on the floor that they can be proud of, because that’s important. It’s important for our players to understand that our job is to play hard for our fans every night. This market is incredible. We have a global fan base and we can reach all over the world. We have an obligation, night in and night out, to play at the level that we are capable of playing at. I’m looking forward to continuing to connect our team with our fans.”

Which D-League Players Should the Wizards Look At?

Sports

ts_150413vanderblue

(This article was originally written for WizardsXtra)

It is clear that the Wizards are going to be making some changes this off-season. Last summer, the front office failed to build a team that could run with John Wall and somewhat resemble the modern pace-and-space game. Instead, they opted to re-sign their veteran players and add others that were already past the prime of their respective careers. It hurt the team and, as a result, the Wizards did not make the playoffs. This summer is already looking to be different. With Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris, who are all under the age of 26, making up the team’s core, it seems as if the Wizards might finally be shifting towards a youth-centered identity.

However, they need to add some other fresh talent to fill up the remaining roster spots instead of adding more, to put in bluntly, “washed up” veterans.

If they really want to add fresh talent, they should look at the NBA’s Development League (D-League). It is the perfect place try and find new pieces since its purpose is to groom and develop players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front office staff for the next step into the NBA.

Here are four D-League players that I think the Wizards should strongly consider.

Andre Ingram: Ingram played in all 50 regular season games this year. In 26.4 minutes of play, he averaged 10.4 points while shooting an impressive 49.0 percent from the field and 49.6 percent from three. Back in February, Ingram competed in the D-League’s three-point contest during the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada. Through two rounds of the contest, Ingram hit 39 of 50 attempts (78.0%), scoring 27 points in the final round to defeat Westchester Knicks guard Jimmer Fredette and match Klay Thompson’s, a member of the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors and one of the best shooters in the NBA, score in the NBA’s version of the contest later that night.

Ingram would be a great addition to the Wizards because of his shooting ability. He’s one of the best shooters in D-League history, as evident by the fact that he is the all time D-League leader for made 3 point field goals with 583 and counting. Even though at 30 years old he might be considered too “old” to earn an NBA call-up, he has the experience and the skills that would make him a great teammate for the Wizards’ young core.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes began the 2015-2016 season with the Miami Heat, playing 16 games on assignment with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, before being traded to New Orleans on February 18 and waived by the Pelicans one day later.  He joined the Skyforce’s roster permanently on February 27. In his 28 total games with the Skyforce, Stokes averaged 20.6 points in 30.7 minutes of play while shooting an exceptional 67.0 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from three. He also earned some accolades this season as he was selected to be a 2016 NBA D-League All-Star and was named the 2015-16 NBA Development League Most Valuable Player by the league’s 19 head coaches. 

Stokes would be a great addition to the Wizards because he’s a big man with impressive offensive skills. He’s able to use his body inside the paint to command a double team. But, his finesse allows him to slip past a double team for a basket or set up a teammate for an open shot. While at 6’ 9” he is a bit undersized for a center, he would make a great backup for Marcin Gortat on this squad.

Cory Jefferson: Jefferson joined the Bakersfield Jam this season after being waived by the Phoenix Suns and then later leaving the Suns after not being offered a contract following two ten-day contracts with them. In 19 games with the Jam, he’s averaging 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds on shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. His play helped lead the Jam to a 10-6 record after they were just 12-19 before he joined them.

Jefferson would be a great addition to the Wizards because he provides front court depth. At 25 years old, he’s a young, versatile player which makes him the perfect addition to the young core the Wizards already have. This season he has added a workable jump shot into his game while also getting back to his roots as a scorer in the post, both of which would be useful for the Wizards as they move towards a more pace-and-space centered offense.

Vander Blue: Since he joined the D-Fenders in the 2014-2015 season, Blue has been a two-time NBA D-League All Star. In 48 games this season, Blue is averaging 26.3 points on 44.0 percent shooting from the field and 33.0 percent shooting from the three in 38.3 minutes of play.

Blue would be a great addition to the Wizards because he has become the most dynamic scorer in the D-League. Night in and night out, he either looks for his shot by moving without the ball or creates his own shot if one is not available. At the same time, his play is not selfish; he also uses his creativity to help create opportunities for others. Just take a moment to watch some clips of him on Youtube. Then, picture him out on the floor with John Wall. Yeah, that would be a lot of fun to watch.

Staying or Leaving? Wizards Unrestricted Free Agents

Sports
Wizards 8

Photo Credit: Monumental Sports Network

(This article was originally written for WizardsXTRA)

Now that the Wizards are officially in the off-season, the team has already started to make some big changes including firing their head coach Randy Wittman.

But the Wizards will make some major changes to the roster as well. While the Wizards are expected to be active in pursuing free agents from other teams this upcoming summer, they will also have to make decisions regarding their 9 free agents.

Let’s take a look at who does, and does not, have a shot at returning.

Alan Anderson

2015-2016 Season: Anderson averaged a carer low 5.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in only 13 games this season, after he signed a one-year $4 million deal in the off season. His left ankle required bone spur surgery this past summer, something the Wizards knew about when they signed him. Once he started working out again, it continued to irritate him and he was nowhere near ready for training camp. There was a second left ankle surgery in October to remove a loose bone fragment which pushed back his return until after the All-Star break. 

Thoughts about next season: While Anderson’s personality and leadership off the floor has been an asset to the team this past season, his future in Washington remains unclear. John Wall has already endorsed him as one of the three players he would to have back on the team. Anderson has also made it clear that he would like to be back in a Wizards uniform this fall. However, can the Wizards afford to take a risk on him again? My gut reaction says no, but I would not be upset if he did return.

Jared Dudley

2015-2016 Season: Dudley averaged 7.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 81 games. He ended the season shooting 42.0 percent from the three, which landed him in the top 10 across the league. As a stretch 4, Dudley was able to hit big shots, deliver great passes, keep the offensive flow going, and defend perimeter.

Thoughts about next season: Though he was also one of players that Wall said he wanted back, it is unclear how much the Wizards would be willing to spend on him moving forward. Dudley made just over $4 million this past season, but he could make a lot more than that this off-season on the open market. Dudley is open to coming back as long as the price is right. My gut feeling is that the Wizards will try to keep him around for another season.

Jarell Eddie

2015-2016 Season: Eddie averaged 2.4 points in 26 games this season after signing in late December when Ryan Hollins was waived from the team. Most of his appearances came at the end of blowout games.

Thoughts about next season: Despite the garbage playing time, he proved himself in the time he got. He does have a non-guaranteed contract for minimum salary next season, which, combined with his potential, makes him seem like he could be a good option off the bench for the Wizards moving forward.

Drew Gooden

2015-2016 Season: Gooden averaged 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in only 29 appearances this season. He didn’t play from Nov. 17 to Jan. 1 because of a calf injury only to re-injure it later on. When he returned, he could not crack the rotation and he was not able to play at the same level that helped make the Wizards into the postseason the last two seasons.

Thoughts about next season: While he has a non-guaranteed contract for next season, it’s a only a team option to meet CBA requirements when he signed the deal last summer under Early Bird Rights. Therefore, despite Gooden recently telling CSNmidatlantic.com that he was not planning on retiring, he will most likely not return to the Wizards this fall.

Nene

2015-2016 Season: Nene averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 57 games this season. Despite missing a significant amount of time this season due to injuries, he remained the team’s best post scorer and best passing big man.

Thoughts about next season: He made $13 million in the final year of his deal and definitely will not command anywhere near that in the open market. While it’s unclear whether or not he is looking to play another season or retire from the game all together, one thing is clear:  Nene will not be back in a Wizards uniform this fall.

Ramon Sessions

2015-2016 Season: Sessions averaged 9.9 points and 2.9 assists in 82 games this season. In his first full season with the Wizards, he was able to fully embrace his role on the team, as a facilitator off the bench. He was even able to play a role this season by playing side by side with Wall in the backcourt during Bradley Beal’s absence.

Thoughts about next season: Sessions has proved himself as a reliable backup point guard and scoring, meaning he will definitely get offers from other teams in free agency. Due to his consistent play and health this season, the Wizards should offer him a slight raise in order to keep him on the the team as the number two option behind John Wall.

Garrett Temple

2015-2016 Season: Temple averaged 7.3 points and 1.8 assists in 80 games this season. Temple finally got his chance to shine when he started 43 games for Bradley Beal, who was out with injuries. Temple was respected by both his teammates and Coach Wittman for his defense-first mentality, work ethic and improved three-point shooting.

Thoughts about next season: Temple was the last player that Wall said he wanted to have back on the team next season. Because of this, his improvement this season, and the fact that he comes relatively inexpensive, he will most likely be back with the Wizards for another season.

Marcus Thornton and JJ Hickson

2015-2016 Season: Thornton averaged 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in only 14 games while Hickson averaged 4.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in only 15 games. Both Thornton and Hickson get lumped together because they were brought on to the team late in the season. Hickson was signed to an open roster spot after Kris Humphries and Dejuan Blair were traded as part of a package to Phoenix in exchange for Markeiff Morris. Thornton was signed after Gary Neal was released and Bradley Beal was still out injured.

Thoughts about next season: It’s difficult to assess exactly where these players stand given their little time here, respectively. But my guess is that neither player will remain a Wizard moving forward.

Ingram Continues to Make D-League a Stable Career Option

School, Sports

Andre Ingram(This article was written as an assignment for my Sports Journalism class)

Andre Ingram’s path in the NBA Development League has been the road less traveled.

Typically, the NBA D-League, the NBA’s official minor league, is not a stable, long-term gig. Players in the D-League only sign one-year contracts with the league compared to the multi-year deals that NBA players are able to sign with the individual teams. The D-League prepares players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front office staff for the NBA and acts as the NBA’s research and development laboratory, implying that things are constantly changing.

At 30 years old, Ingram has played with only two teams over the course of eight seasons. Ingram was drafted in the 2007 NBA D-League Draft by the Utah Flash with the 94th pick.

The number of teams is not what makes Ingram’s journey unique; it’s the number of years that he has played in the league without ever receiving a call up from the NBA or taking his career overseas.

Despite the typical instability of building a career in the minor league, Ingram has made the D-League his.

Ingram’s Previous Road

When he came out of American University in 2007, Ingram did not have a lot of buzz. Part of this is due to the fact that despite being a former Patriot League Rookie of the Year and earning other awards and forms of recognition from the Patriot League, he did not play at school that is known for producing future NBA players.

As a result, he went undrafted. He did not even receive that many overseas deals. This left Ingram with questions about the path his career might take.

“I thought the D-League was my best route,” Ingram said. “One, from a financial standpoint, I thought it would be the best way for me to get a deal overseas that would be worth going for. Two, loving basketball and loving the NBA period and [me] wanting a shot at that.”

In his rookie year with the Utah Flash, Ingram had a decent season. He played in all 50 games that season and shot 49.4% from the field and 44.8% from three.

Ingram’s production on the court was enough for Utah to sign him for a second season. During this sophomore season, his production increased significantly. His playing time was almost doubled, going from 14.9 minutes per game to 27.5 minutes per game in the 2008-2009 season; this helped his production in all other aspects of his game double as well.

Ingram’s second season gained him some attention from the NBA; the Utah Jazz took notice and offered him a spot on their Summer League team in 2009.

“Going into that third season was probably the most critical season because if you want to make an overseas push at all, that is around the time you want to do it,” he said.

After his stint with the Jazz’s Summer League team, Ingram had to make a decision regarding his road in the D-League.

He received a “really good” offer to play for a team in Australia. But, at the same time, the Jazz told him that there was a good chance that they would call him up during the upcoming season, meaning that he would have to go back and play for the Utah Flash one more time in order to give it a shot.

Ingram, in the end, turned down the overseas offer. “I chose to stay in the D-League and I don’t regret it,” he said.

However, even after a another great season in which Ingram shot 45.6% from the field and 40.3 from three in 34.0 minutes per game, Ingram still did not get called up to play in the NBA.

Ingram said that the possibility of a chance to play in the NBA is one of the things that drove him, not only then, but now too. “Not all guys do [get a chance] and so when I had a shot, I wanted to take it,” he said.

His love of basketball also has pushed him to keep trying to make it to the NBA.

“I love playing ball and so I kind of decided that I was going to go until the wheels fall off,” he said.

Ingram’s Current Road

Ingram’s current season has by far been his most impressive. So far, he’s played in 41 games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and started 11 of them. He’s averaged 9.2 points on 48.0% shooting from the field and 48.9% from three in 24.5 minutes per game.

His shooting abilities even got him selected to participate in the D-League’s three-point contest at the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada. He made headlines when he not only won the contest by hitting 39 of 50 attempts (78.0%) in both rounds, but scored 27 points in the final round.

For reference as to how impressive that actually is, Klay Thompson, a member of the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors and one of the best shooters in the NBA, tied that score later that night in the final round of the NBA’s version of the contest to beat his backcourt mate, reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, for the title.

As a result of his three-point contest victory and his performance on the court during the regular season, people have started to notice Ingram more. He’s had some contact with overseas teams about the possibility of playing as early as this summer once his current D-League season is over.

If this season has done anything, it has proven to Ingram that, at 30 years old, he can still significantly contribute to a team, something he hopes an NBA team will take note of.

“I still feel pretty good. I feel like I have many more years left in me,” he said.

Ingram does not know what future road his career will take him down. But, jut like his time in the D-League so far, he will make that future road his.

Academics, Lack of School Spirit Among Key Parts of American’s Athletic Department

School, Sports
Billy Walker

Athletic Director Billy Walker speaks at Bender Arena shortly after he was hired in 2013. Photo Courtesy of AU Athletics

(This was written as an assignment for my Sports Journalism class)

Billy Walker, the current athletic director at American University, made it clear at a recent press conference that the specific culture at the school influences the experiences of its athletes. Walker was specifically referencing the focus on academics and the lack of school spirit for which American is known.

Positive Focus on Academics Makes American’s Athletics Shine

Walker, in his press conference with a sports journalism class about the state of athletics at the university, praised the evolution of the department over the past three years that he has been in charge and the department’s current image.

The students asked a lot of questions about the role of academics in the athletic experience. Walker, on his own, mentioned it often throughout the press conference, clearly showing how important it is to Walker and how committed he is to keeping it an important role in the athletic community.

The focus on academics is something that everyone has to buy into. For example, Walker said that he would never hire a coach that does not buy into this.

This focus even plays a role in the American’s athletic recruiting process which shows just how much academics influences the experiences of athletic community on every level.

Walker said that he talks with all the students and coaches prior to each school year which ensures that they are all on the same page in terms of academics and that they remain committed to this focus as well as their focus on athletic competition. “I want our student athletes and our coaches to understand that our student athletes are coming here to get a great education,” he said.

He believes that athletics and academics are not usually exclusive. In fact, he said that they are usually complementary. “Having a great athletic experience is part of your overall education here if you’re an athlete.”

Megan O’Keefe, a junior and a member of the women’s soccer team at American, agreed that academics has been a major focus of her experience as an athlete.

“American is not typically a school that fosters a lot of professional athletes, so everyone involved in athletics is aware that it is important to prepare yourself for life after college, when it may not include your sport,” she said.

The focus on the classroom pays off for American’s athletic department year after year.

The recognition that American’s athletes receive for their academic achievements seems to occur each school year in multiple sports. Most recently, volleyball player Monika Smidova won the Patriot League Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year award in Fall 2015.

“That’s the most important recognition that our student-athletes can get. I really take great pride, even though I have nothing to do with it, I take great pride when our athletes are recognized by the league as student-athlete of the year,” Walker said.

For a few of American’s current athletes, recognition for their focus in the classroom has happened multiple times in their college careers. Jesse Reed, a current senior on the men’s basketball team, has won the Patriot League Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year for two consecutive seasons while Smidova has won the Patriot League Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year for three straight years.

With all of the accolades, American’s athletes are proving to Walker that they can be top performers both on and off the court.

Lack of School Spirit Hurts American’s Athletic Community

O’Keefe believes that Walker has been a great addition to the athletic community because of his personality and his willingness to take on an active role.

“He genuinely wants to get to know everyone and know all of our names … He is passionate about sports and is very eager to create the best experience for us as student athletes,” she said.

However, this spirit does not seem to translate to the rest of the school.

American is not known to have a lot of school spirit, which fosters a particular culture at the university and ultimately influences the athletic community.

“Sometimes, those of us who are interested in sports are not the right people to ask because it seems like a no-brainer,” Walker said.

O’Keefe agreed, believing that it is all about one’s perspective.

“There are probably a lot of non-athlete students who come here for a specific major and do not even consider the sports at the school, because quite frankly, they aren’t nationally known to be as popular.” She said if she were not an athlete, the lack of school spirit would not concern her as much.

Walker thinks that school spirit has increased in his three years as athletic director, but wants to work on increasing it more.

He discussed how the department struggles compared to other schools with a Division 1 football team, because they have to hook the freshmen when they arrive to campus in August with the soccer and volleyball teams instead. “That’s hard to do,” he said.

He mentioned that the athletes are good about supporting each other. But, Walker believes that the school spirit has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the school spirit from the rest of the student body.

These two elements are not only a major part of the culture at American, but specifically have been a major part of American’s athletic community during Walker’s tenure. As a result, it will be interesting to see how Walker incorporates them into his future plans for the department.

Erasing Race from The Oscars… Again

Lifestyle, Pop Culture

Oscars

(This article was originally written for The American Word)

Who will take home a gold statue at this year’s Academy Awards? This question is usually debated at length, but the focus this year will be on who won’t be taking home an award.

The Problem

In the weeks since the Oscar nominations were announced, the lack of diversity in this year’s acting field has dominated the conversation. For the second year in a row, all 20 of the actors nominated in the lead and supporting categories are white. Before 2015, this had not happened since 1998. BroadwayBlack.com managing editor April Reign created the trending Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite as a response to last year’s omissions, and the popular hashtag was revived this year.

Based on the amount of praise and awards that movies such as “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” received, many expected these movies to get multiple Oscar nominations. However, each movie only received one Oscar nomination each. Sylvester Stallone received the supporting actor nomination for “Creed,” and Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff received the screenwriting nomination for “Straight Outta Compton.” The problem? They are all white. Many were also shocked to see that “Beasts of No Nation” was shut out from the nominations entirely – Idris Elba, who won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in the film, was expected to receive a nomination for supporting actor.

The History of the Oscars’ Lack of Diversity

Only 14 black actors have won an Academy Award in the show’s 88-year history. The first to win was Hattie McDaniel for “Gone With the Wind” in 1940, and the most recent was Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave” in 2014.

For other minorities, there are even less Academy Award winners. Only five Latino actors and three Asian actors have ever won an Oscar.

Looking at past viewership data, the lack of diversity in nominees has had a noticeably negative effect on the Oscars’ ratings.

The Daily Beast did a study on this topic using ratings data that broke Oscars viewership down by race. They found that the largest percentage of non-white viewers tuned in to the Academy Awards in years when the most nominees of color and films featuring people of color were nominated.

They also found the years with the highest percentages of non-white viewers also had the highest rated Oscars telecasts overall, which means that people of color have been a major force in providing big ratings for the Oscars.

One example noted by The Daily Beast was the 2005 Oscars telecast. This specific telecast had the highest ratings among black viewers, with 5.3 million people tuning in, amounting to 12.5 percent of 2005’s total viewers. It was also one of the highest rated Oscars ceremonies in the years that The Daily Beast writers examined, with 42 million total viewers. Six nominees were actors of color that year: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”), and Jamie Foxx, who won for “Ray” and was also nominated for “Collateral.”

Simply put: history has shown that the more diverse the nominees are, the better the Oscars’ ratings will be.

What To Expect At This Year’s Show

At this year’s ceremony, there will be some notable absences from some of Hollywood’s most famous black actors. Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Tyrese Gibson are among the African American stars who will not be attending this year’s event.

Will Smith, on a recent Good Morning America appearance, called diversity “the American superpower” and said that attending the Oscars, given the lack of diversity among the nominees, would be “awkward.”

“[There are] so many different people from so many different places adding their ideas to this beautiful American gumbo,” Smith said. “At its best, Hollywood represents and creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country, and make our Hollywood community, great.”

But, there are also unknowns as to what will happen at this year’s ceremony. Will the winners address the controversy in acceptance speeches? Will curiosity attract a whole new crowd of viewers who might not typically tune in?

However, it’s what Oscars host Chris Rock does that might turn out to be the most exciting part of the night. Many people have speculated about how Rock will address the controversy during this year’s telecast.

Rock, who is one of the sharpest comedians when it comes to race observations, previously wrote an essay about Hollywood’s race problem. In December 2014, he wrote, “It’s a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is… But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don’t really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is. I’m a guy who’s accepted it all.”

Should People Care?

The question is simple: Should people care that there are no actors of color nominated for the Oscars in the acting categories?

Russell Williams, a professor of Film and Media Arts in AU’s School of Communication and a two-time Academy Award winner for his sound work on “Glory” and “Dances with Wolves,” said that the response to the Oscar nominations is not without merit.

“The tone seems to imply, if not explicitly state, that the only reason these actors were nominated is because they are white and not talented,” he said. “Even with the handful of roles that were played by diverse cast members, there were of course even more ‘non-diverse’ actors whose names weren’t called that morning either: Tom Hanks being one of them, for example.” In other words, there were also other white actors who were deserving of a nomination but ultimately left off the ballot.

Many people would argue that the Oscars’ struggles with diversity are important because of the issue of representation. Roger Streitmatter, a Journalism professor in the School of Communication, said that the biggest problem with having no nominees of color is what that means for young people.

“Movies are enormously important in this country, as well as around the world,” he said. “If you’re a young African American girl or Latino boy and you’re sent the message that all the best actors in Hollywood are white, that pretty much says that this isn’t a field for you.”

Williams, a voting member of the Academy himself, agreed. “As the commercial, artistic and entertainment worlds have blended seamlessly, many viewers and listeners take their cues from these various presentations to evaluate their own self-image,” he said. “If this ‘looking glass’ does not appear to value your contributions to society, it can have a negative influence on how you see yourself.”

However, Williams said he does not favor having more diverse stories on screen just to have them on screen; they have to be told as well as other stories.

Although receiving acclaim through awards and nominations is a part of representation, it is important to remember that the biggest issue within the industry is not the number of nominations but the number of opportunities that minority actors and filmmakers actually get in order to be nominated in the first place.

There is only one way for there to be better representation for people of color when it comes to award season: making more movies by, with and about people of color.

It is also important to remember that the issue of lack of representation and opportunity is not something that only matters during awards season; it is a problem 365 days of the year.

So this outcry, anger and rage will only be useful if there is some kind of action behind the emotions year-round and not just in the form of Oscars boycotts.

Solutions?

After the enormous amount of backlash that the governing body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which officiates the Oscars, has received, they knew that they needed to take action, and take it quickly.

They recently announced plans for a “sweeping series of substantive changes” to help increase diversity among its members.

The board said in a statement that their goal was “to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.” The changes also include 10-year limits on the voting abilities of new members of the Academy, which will be removed if the member is not “active in motion pictures” in the intervening time.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who herself is African American, said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

But, is it enough?

“That’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Streitmatter.

However, many also believe that there needs to be additional changes because of the increasing role of diversity in American society.

One potential change is to bring back the Black Oscars.

Officially, this ceremony was called the Tree of Life Awards, but most people remember it by its informal name, “The Black Oscars.” This annual event was launched in 1981, a time when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rarely recognized black achievements. By 1981, only 27 African Americans had been nominated in the 52-year history of the Oscars, with only three winners.

The Black Oscars became a way for black actors ignored by the Academy to receive acknowledgment of their talents and accomplishments. In addition to the The Black Oscar nominees, many other important and influential members of the black community were also attended. The Tree of Life Awards ended in 2007.

However, Streitmatter believes that one solution is as simple as making choices to see certain films.

“Hollywood is all about the bottom line,” he said. “If we go see movies that feature actors of color, more movies with actors of color will be made.”

Williams echoed similar sentiments: “None of this is sustainable though if the audience doesn’t show up.”

Behind the Scenes at Monumental Network

School, Sports

This piece was a project for my Digital Skills course. Digital Skills was a course that was split between two professors. In the first half of the course, I learned about the fundamentals of audio, photo and video storytelling which help to create compelling and informative content. The second half of the semester focused on learning the basics of Web design, including basic HTML and CSS skills.

This project was for the first half of the course and originally contained audio and photos mixed together in a program called SoundSlides. The purpose of this project, our first one in this course, was to practice the fundamentals of gathering clear, compelling sound, shooting expressive photo/video, and practicing creative digital editing. In addition, these skills help enhance my storytelling abilities with audio and video. However, I could not upload the final product so I have put up the audio file and some of the pictures I included in my project.

For my project, I contacted Hayley Milon, a network host for Monumental Network, and did a behind the scenes look at her job. Monumental Network is a digital platform that serves as a hub for Washington’s sports and entertainment news. It was launched by Monumental Sports and Entertainment which also owns the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics franchises.

On this particular day, Hayley was working the Washington Wizards, which means she was hosting the American Express Home Court Advantage, the live pre-game show before every home game that is broadcast on the Internet. In addition to interviewing her, I got the opportunity to shadow her, in order to take pictures for my project, as she prepped for the show, ran through a practice show, and filmed the live show with her co-host Jumoke Davis.

This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve worked on in my time as a journalism student. While I am not on a broadcast journalism track with my major, I know how important of an addition audio and video content is to a written story as it creates a different experience. Even though I don’t do many stories in my other courses that contain audio and video elements, I look forward to include them in future stories that I may write in my career.

Can DC Rise Once Again?

Uncategorized
IMG_1124

John Wall, point guard for the Washington Wizards, prepares to shoot a free-throw in a game against the Houston Rockets on March 29, 2015. (By Bryna Kramer)

(This article was originally written as an assignment for my Digital Skills class.)

Despite a losing record since the All-Star break ended, the Wizards were able to officially clinch a playoff spot on Monday, March 30th when the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Boston Celtics, 116-104. This didn’t come as a surprise seeing as last season they qualified for playoffs for the first time in six years.

But, there is a huge difference between where the team is now with only a few games remaining in the regular season and where they were at this same point last season.

The Wizards went 18-11 after the All-Star break in the 2013-14 season. The current season is not quite over yet. But so far, the Wizards have gone 11-12 since this year’s All-Star break ended.

Last year’s team was on an upward path that led them to a first-round upset of the Chicago Bulls and pushed the number one seed Indiana Pacers to six games in the second round of the playoffs. This year’s team is slowly limping to the finish line.

The team’s recent play has left people to ask:

What has gone wrong for the Wizards, particularly in the second half of the season?

One of the biggest problems for Washington this season has been injuries. Bradley Beal has not been able to play consistently this season due to multiple injuries. He missed the first nine games due to a broken left wrist and eight more games in the middle of the season due to a mild stress reaction in his right leg. Kris Humphries missed 16 games after the All-Star break due to a groin injury. Garrett Temple has been out for the last 12 games due to a right hamstring strain. Martell Webster also missed the first 30 games while he was recovering from an off-season back surgery.

This does not even count all of the minor injuries that other players sustained throughout the season.

Another major problem has been their ability to regularly defeat quality teams. For the season, Washington is 12-22 against teams with a .500-or-better record. They are also a combined 3-10 against Eastern Conference contenders Atlanta (0-3), Cleveland (1-2), Toronto (0-3) and Chicago (2-2), all of which they have a chance of facing off with again in the playoffs.

The Wizards’ play this season, especially over the past two months, has left many fans with mixed feelings.

Brendan Smith, a longtime Wizards fan, said, “Their play really took a decline after the All-Star break. Losing to the likes of Minnesota and Philadelphia in a row just isn’t acceptable.”

Other fans, like David Dunn, disagree. “Wizards season appears to be a tale of two seasons, but it was actually one of consistency,” Dunn said. “Take out the outliers, and the team performed up to their talent level. This allowed them to dominate bad teams, compete with mid-tier teams, and struggle against the cream of the crop.”

However, most fans agree that the Wizards have to improve their game for the playoffs.

“To be successful in playoffs this year, the defense and just general effort needs to increase and Bradley Beal is going to have to have some of the progression that we all expected out of him this year,” Christopher Thompson, a lifelong Wizards fan, said.

If the Wizards cannot escape their troubles from the regular season, then it is possible that DC will not rise again this season.