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

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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.

Is Satoransky finally coming to DC?

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(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

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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?

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(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

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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.

Dear Kobe

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Dear Kobe,

It hasn’t really hit me yet. You’re actually retiring. Tonight.

I remember the first time I watched you play; I was just a kid who knew nothing about basketball. But, I knew what I saw.

Intensity. Domination. Aggressiveness. Dedication.

Someone who was fearless, relentless.

From that moment, you not only commanded my attention, but, most importantly, you had my respect.

And over the course of my life as an NBA fan, you’ve made it impossible for me to not fall in love with you, both as a player and a human being.

You started out as a high school phenom and over the course of your career, you went from being a 20-points per-game scorer to a 30-points per-game scorer, and to even being a 35-points per-game scorer at one point.

You had some ridiculously high scoring games, like that time you scored 81 points in a single game with such an incredible ease that it was almost like something out of a video game.

Over the course of your career, you’ve become synonymous with the city of Los Angeles. To the residents of the city, you are simply more than a player; you’ve become a way of life.

You have even been compared to a lot of contemporary greats — Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, and even the G.O.A.T. himself, Michael Jordan.

But you never batted an eyelash at those comparisons.

However, to me, you have always simply been Kobe Bryant. A five-time champion, MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, four-time All-Star MVP, two-time scoring champion, Olympian.

And most importantly: legend.

I’ve had a lot of fun watching you enjoy your last season, despite all the trials and tribulations that have come with injuries and age. You played the villain for so long, and as much as I love villain Kobe, I love seeing a different side of you: a much more jovial, happy and caring Kobe.  

But as I reflect on your illustrious career that officially comes to an end tonight, I have to say thank you:

Thank you for being a polarizing superstar, an indisputable cultural icon.

Thank you for the countless debates that your play has sparked among me and my fellow basketball fans. (By the way, I always take your side)

Thank you for being relatable (even though I’m not a professional athlete) in terms of work ethic and willingness to do anything and everything to improve your game.

Thank you for the record-breaking performances, the championships, and a lifetime worth of memories. I’ll never forget where I was when you won your first championship and when you won your last.

But most importantly, thank you for not only introducing me to this beautiful game of basketball, but for teaching me to love it the way I do. It’s had more of an impact than I could have ever imagined, and I owe it all to you.

So here’s to you Kobe. I’m really going to miss you.

 

Ingram Continues to Make D-League a Stable Career Option

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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

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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.

Behind the Scenes at Monumental Network

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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.