Second Annual Basketball 101 A Success

Oct. 7, 2011

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By Megan Roehm

It's not every day you find more than 70 women getting together to enjoy an evening of learning about the game of basketball and even trying a hand at the game themselves. But at the University of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena, that's exactly what went on last Thursday night.

UC held its 2nd Annual Basketball 101 Clinic Thursday and I was lucky enough to be one of the 78 participants to experience it. Proceeds for the event go to American Cancer Society and on top of being for a great cause; it was also a very enjoyable experience. Not only did I learn even more about the game of basketball, but I also got to show my (lack of) skills to the entire staff of both men and women's basketball and some of the players. However, rather than being judgmental, the staff was encouraging, optimistic and upbeat. Who knew you could have so much fun playing a game you aren't even good at? I for one did not, but that was just one of the many things I learned during the clinic.

To start off the night, dinner was available from Bravo!, along with beverages and dessert. The participants were able to socialize with each other and the Bearcat who made his rounds while they dined. At the end of dinner, men's basketball head coach Mick Cronin and women's basketball head coach Jamelle Elliott spoke to us before we headed down to the court for six different stations for us to experience.

My team, Team Bearcats, started out in the men's basketball meeting room where Coach Cronin talked to us and answered any questions we had about the team, the game or even the uniforms. He was very open and informative and it was great to have a chance to talk to him face to face. Next, we went to the women's locker room where Coach Elliott took us step by step through the typical schedule for a student-athlete, more specifically one of her own players. I always had respect for student-athletes, but after this I have never been more impressed. The players have to be up for morning classes, practice for three hours, workouts, study tables, more classes and homework. On top of that, they have to make (not just shoot--make) 250 3-pointers and 100 free throws a week and maintain a certain GPA. Not to mention they have to eat and sleep at some point too. It's amazing to me how dedicated student-athletes are to the game and to school and I admire them so much more now than I did. We then headed into the media room where we learned about the typical travel itinerary for each team, which is also extremely busy. Though they get to travel to different places and miss classes to do so, it is all work and not much time for leisure. Study tables are still on the agenda and the only "play" time they have is on the court. It was interesting to hear about the aspects you don't normally think about when it comes to being a student-athlete.

Halfway through the stations, it was time for my fellow teammates and I to test our own abilities when it comes to the game of basketball. This was the most entertaining part of the night. We started with assistant women's coach LaRita Wilcher and some of the women's players where we did ball-handling drills across the court. The players made it look awfully simple when they demonstrated, but for the rest of us it was no cakewalk. However, the enthusiasm that came out of the women leading this station made it a lot of fun and a great learning experience. From there, we went to the shooting station where we learned the correct way to shoot the ball into the basket. Everyone seemed to have good form by the end, but when we actually started shooting, it was clear there was still a lot of work to be done. Still we learned a lot and had a blast while doing it. The final station was defense, held by more players and assistant men's coach George Jackson. We learned how to defend our opponent and saw that you really have to be aggressive on the court. Coach Cronin remembered this station from last year, mentioning it to be one of his favorite parts of the first clinic.

"Last year I was watching Coach George Jackson teach box out drills and I was impressed with the intensity of some of the women in the drills," Cronin said. "I was surprised but I was very impressed with them."

Coach Cronin is on the board of the American Cancer Society, so the clinic as a whole is very important to him and he enjoys being a part of it.

"My main charity locally that I work with is Coaches vs. Cancer which is a branch of American Cancer Society as well," he said. "I'm happy that the proceeds for tonight go to such a great cause."

Coach Elliott agrees that this is a great cause. She said she personally has family that has battled the disease and she knows it is important to a lot of people in general.

"I think it would be hard to find somebody that hasn't been touched by cancer," she said. "Unfortunately it's a disease that affects so many people in so many ways and I'm just glad we are able to raise money for such a wonderful cause."

Both coaches also said they view this event as a great way to interact with the community and give them a look at what goes on behind the scenes in the Cincinnati basketball program.

According to Basketball 101 participant and Team Bearcats member Jen Kiefer, this too was a success.

"My friends all decided to come to the clinic and talked me into it, but I ended up having a great time," Kiefer said. "I loved the drills, learning about everything and hanging out with friends and it's a great way to raise money. "

The coaching staffs were teamed up with Assistant AD for Promotions and Special Events Leslie Wenert and the Marketing and Fan Development Department in making the event happen and altogether they made it into a great success. Wenert, who has been behind all of the 101 Clinics for Cincinnati, was pleased with the outcome and is ready to continue the event in the future.

"For year two we are happy with how it turned out, but we want it to keep growing," Wenert said. "We want to give back to a great cause like this and it means a lot to us so I hope we can keep doing this for many years to come."

And quite frankly, so do I. This was a great experience and I was very happy to be part of it. I was able to meet our coaching staff, meet other women that are interested in the game and learn much more about basketball all while having fun and helping a great cause. And with my new knowledge and (questionable) skills, I have never been so ready for basketball season.