ACC Women's Basketball Players Shine on World Stage
Sept. 4, 2009
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Over the past few months student-athletes from several Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball programs have been busy traveling the globe and showcasing their skills on the world stage. For most of the athletes it was the first time they have had an opportunity to travel outside of the United States, much less face international competition.
One ACC women's basketball player, University of Miami sophomore Shenise Johnson, thought that she missed her chance to play for the U.S. National Team during her senior year of high school when she wasn't able to attend tryouts because of school. Hurricanes women's basketball head coach Katie Meier knew Johnson was disappointed, but assured her that if she came to Miami and had a good freshman year in the ACC, she would get another chance.
"I believe everything that my coach says and I believe in everything that we're doing here. So when she [Meier] said that, I knew that I would have the opportunity to play again," Johnson said.
Meier was right. Johnson put together an impressive freshman campaign where she led the Hurricanes in scoring, rebounding and assists, while starting all 29 games. That performance earned her an invite to try out for the FIBA U19 World Championship team.
Johnson - or Momo as she's known to those close to her - wasn't the only ACC student-athlete invited to try out for the team. North Carolina sophomore Chay Shegog was also impressive in her first year of Atlantic Coast Conference play, and joined Johnson in Colorodo. The selection process was very competitive, but both made the team. The tandem had also made the ACC All-Freshmen team together.
The 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship featured 16 national teams from around the world and was held in Bangkok, Thailand. It was the first time Johnson had ever been outside of the U.S., where she was exposed to a different culture and different way of life.
On the court, she helped the U.S. bring home a gold medal. After losing to Spain in the opening round, Johnson, Shegog and their U.S. teammates bounced back in the finals and avenged the loss with an 87-71 rout of Spain in the gold medal round. Johnson contributed a double-double in the finals.
"All of our hard work paid off," Johnson said. "That's something nobody can take away from us."
Another ACC women's basketball player, Florida State senior Jacinta Monroe, got to fulfill one of her dreams when she was picked to don the red, white and blue as a member of the U.S. women's basketball team at the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. When she first made the team she admits that she didn't realize the enormity of the situation. After boarding the flight to Belgrade it started to hit her and she finally realized how fortunate she was to have this unique opportunity.
At the athlete's village, where Monroe was staying, she was able to meet many people from around the world, and got the chance to spend a lot of time with her new teammates.
"It was amazing how fast we gelled and how good the chemistry was," Monroe said. "I didn't think that it was going to be that fun. We meshed well on the court and did everything together off the court."
Going into the tournament the U.S. team definitely had a goal to go undefeated, but the coaches didn't really stress it in those exact words. Arizona State and U.S. head coach Charli Turner Thorne just wanted the team 'to empty out' - give it their all on every possession.
The team did just that and the result was perfection. Monroe was a major contributor to the team's success, finishing ranked near the top in many team statistical categories. With an 83-64 win over Russia, the U.S. finished with a perfect 7-0 mark.
"It felt great. It was like I was living a dream and didn't want to wake up," Monroe said. "I kind of wanted to tear up, but I'm a tough one so I had to keep that on the inside. It was amazing, and it's hard for me to even put into words how it felt."
Now Monroe wants to treat the ACC Championship like another gold medal. But before she got her chance to take a run at a conference crown, she was back on the road - this time with her Florida State teammates - for a tour of South Africa, where the Seminoles got to see the sights while going a perfect 3-0 against international competition.
Two other ACC women's basketball programs did some traveling outside of the U.S. this past offseason. Clemson took a trip north of the border with an exhibition tour that pitted the Tigers against some of Western Canada's best. Clemson returned to South Carolina with the respect of its neighbors after going 4-2 on the road trip. Georgia Tech tested its skills on an 11-day, two-continent tour that took the Yellow Jackets to Port EL Kantaoui, Tunisia and Paris, France.
"The most important part of it was the opportunity for our kids to travel because they don't get the opportunity to travel abroad like that and visit a foreign country," Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said. "They got to live in and experience different cultures. It's amazing to hear them talk about how they can't wait to go back to Paris. They're always like 'one day I will go back to Paris,' they all want to travel more."
The Yellow Jackets cruised to a 3-1 mark on the court during their trip, and found time off the court to enjoy a camel ride in Tunisia, a tour of Paris, visit the Louvre - in search of the Mona Lisa - and make it to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Joseph and the Georgia Tech staff began planning the trip three years ago with the goal of giving the team this unique chance to see the world.
Georgia Tech junior guard Deja Foster was very appreciative for her chance to travel and play against international competition in Tunisia and France. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech and playing in the ACC, traveling was something that Foster didn't think she would ever get the chance to do.
"I never thought that I would ever get to go outside of the U.S. It was an experience of a lifetime to see the real world and what it's really like," Foster said. "You always hear about how Paris is so beautiful and I actually got to see it. Those are things that you only think that you will see in movies or in pictures."
In the upcoming 2009-10 season, Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball teams will welcome a number of international players.