Sophomores Pay It Forward

When I walked into the gym yesterday to see who might be in there I was happy to see three of our freshmen, Haley Reynolds, Shannon Jackson, and Asia Jordan all working out. At one basket several cones were arranged in a tight diamond formation and Haley was working on her ball handling while Shannon and Asia were practicing back to the basket and face up post moves at another basket. All three players were completely drenched in sweat and had obviously been working very hard.

But what made me smile the most was watching the one player in the gym NOT working out - sophomore Deanna Tupai. Dee was moving back and forth between the two stations yelling out instructions and providing feedback after nearly every repetition. She looked - and sounded - like a real coach and the freshmen responded by continuing to work harder and harder.

No one slowed down when I walked in and started watching. Eventually Haley finished her ballhandling and started shooting jump shots both off the catch and off the dribble. Right about that time Samantha Thornton walked into the gym and immediately stepped out onto the court and helped Dee rebound for Haley. Not only did the two sophomores rebound and pass but they also constantly encouraged Haley to hold her follow through, stay on balance, keep her feet still, and concentrate. A couple hundred shots later, the workout finally ended and there were high fives all around.

Watching the whole experience unfold was a proud moment for me because it reflected the culture that we work so diligently to establish here at UCC; everyone looking after each other and all working hard to help make themselves and each other better. Dee and Sam didn't have to help the freshmen and the freshmen didn't have to listen to them. After all, they will undoubtedly never all be on the same team again. But the sophomores DID help and the freshmen DID listen and respond and in the end everyone was a little better than when they started.


Samantha Thornton to Play in Alaska

Umpqua sophomore Samantha Thornton has accepted a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Alaska next year. Thornton, who attended Olympic High School in Bremerton, Washington, averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Riverhawks. For her efforts, she was named 1st Team All Southern Region and was selected to play in the NWAACC All Star Game. Click here to read the article released by the University of Alaska, including quotes from the Nannoks coach Cody Burgess :


Swim,Thornton,&Tupai Play Well in All Star Game

Umpqua sophomores Kristen Swim, Samantha Thornton, and Deanna Tupai all represented themselves and UCC extremely well in the recent 2012 NWAACC All Star Game. Tupai had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Swim had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Thornton had 9 points and 3 rebounds. Thornton, who sprained her ankle in last week's NWAACC Championship Tournament, was doubtful that she could play right up until game time. Combined, the three Riverhawks were 14-24 from the floor (58%), 6-8 from the free throw line line (75%) and 1-1 from the three point line.

Former Riverhawks Named 1st Team All Conference

Three former UCC Riverhawks (Mykiea Russell - Montreat College; Chelsey Christensen - Warner Pacific University; Gretchen Owens - Linfield University) have all recently been named 1st Team All Conference in their respective conferences. This was the second straight year that seniors Russell and Owens received this honor since transferring from UCC. Russell was also named as her conference's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year.

UCC has long had the reputation of developing and enhancing strong offensive skills and this season once again proved that to be true as all three former Riverhawks lead their teams in scoring. Christensen and Owens also lead their teams in rebounding as well and Russell lead her squad in both assists and steals.


Umpqua Sophs Named to All Academic Team

Umpqua sophomores Samantha Thornton and Brooklyn Norman were recently named to the NWAACC 2011-12 All Academic Team. Norman, who is from Sutherlin, OR, currently has a 3.28 gpa and Thornton, who is from Bremerton, WA has a gpa of 3.31. Both players are science majors who have aspirations of eventually entering the medical profession.

Congratulations Sam and Brook!


Born To Be Basketball Players

Several years ago we were in a playoff game and everything was going wrong. We were 31-1 and were in danger of being upset by a team we thought we should beat handily.Our best shooter, Jennifer Harney wasn't getting many open looks and it looked like an unbelievable season was going to come to an unexpected and disappointing end. Trailing by two and with the clock quickly winding down, Jen caught the ball on the left wing and hit a 3 with a hand in her face that won the game, avoided the upset and kept our season alive. Three games later we cut down down the nets after winning the championship and finishing the season 35-1.

Three years later we were back in the Final Four and ahead by one point with about 30 seconds left to play. When our opponent scored with 10 seconds left we immediately inbounded the ball and raced down court. (We had prepared for situations like this dozens of times before and so everyone knew exactly what to do.) With four seconds left we got the open shot we wanted but unfortunately missed and their center rebounded the ball. There was a mad scramble and suddenly the ball seemed to squirt straight up in the air and into the basket with .2 seconds on the clock. Those of us on the bench had no idea what happened other than we won the game and would once again play for the Championship the next night. Only later in the locker room did we find out that when their center rebounded our miss and pulled the ball down back over her head Nicole Quinn reached up, grabbed it and somehow threw it up and in right before the final buzzer!

Three years later we were again in a playoff game and again found ourselves needing a miraculous finish. During a timeout right at the end of the game we drew up a play that would hopefully give us a chance to send the game into overtime. Instead of hitting a game tieing 2, Sarah Coleman ran off a double screen and drained a game winning 3. Four games later we cut down the nets after winning the NWAACC (Pacific Northwest) Championship with a 29-4 record. (We've called that play "Sarah" ever since.)

Three awesome finishes taking place three years apart made possible by three great players. And if that's not special enough, each of those game winning heroes share something else in common, even though I don't think they have ever met each other.

They were all born years apart on February 6th! Happy Birthday Jen, Nicole, and Sarah! I'm thinking about you!


Mykiea Russell Named Player of the Week

Umpqua alumni Mykiea Russell, now playing at Montreat University, has been named the Appalachian Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week for the second time this season. Below is the press release from the AAC and can be found at
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Mykiea Russell of Montreat (N.C.) is the Appalachian Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week, the league announced Monday.The 5-foot-2, senior guard from Los Angeles, Calif., helped the Lady Cavaliers to a pair of double-digit, conference victories last week. Montreat defeated Columbia (S.C.) 89-74 and Milligan (Tenn.) 81-70. Montreat is 14-6 overall and 7-4 in the AAC.This marks the second time this season Russell has won the award, having received it once before on Jan. 9. She joins Lindsey Waters of Union (Ky.) as the only repeat winners this season.Russell averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists on the week. She netted only seven points against Columbia, but she tied her own school record for assists in a game with 13. Against Milligan, she added 34 points and nine assists. In addition, Russell was a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range and 17-for-17 at the foul line.On the season, Russell leads the conference in assists (6.25 per game) and steals (2.45 per game). She also leads Montreat in scoring at 14.45 points per game.
Congratulations Mykie!


Chelsey Christensen Named Player of the Week

Umpqua alumni Chelsey Christensen, a 5-9 junior who is now playing at Warner Pacific University has been named the Cascade Conference's Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. Christensen, WPU's leading scorer and rebounder totaled 38 points and 16 rebounds in a pair of victories over the weekend.

After averaging 6 points a game at Central Catholic High School, Christensen averaged 9 points a game as a freshman at Umpqua and then 23 points as a sophomore. She holds the Umpqua and NWAACC Championship Tournament records for most three point shots made in a single game with 11.

One of the runner ups for the Cascade Conference's Player of the Week was Southern Oregon University post player Cassandra Tiggett, also an Umpqua alumni, who recorded 23 points and 15 rebounds in her game last Saturday.

Congratulations to both players! UCC is proud of you!!

Linda Gets One of Best Assists Ever

Many of you know that I have been blogging for about various basketball related topics. Below is part of one of my most recent posts:

After an exhausting but fun week of recruiting in California I found myself playing some pickup basketball last night with several other college and NBA coaches. I have no idea why but for some reason I ended up guarding Eric Spoelstra, the coach of the Miami Heat. Eric had the ball out on the wing and I was in a great defensive stance and “D’ing” him up pretty good. He ripped the ball through from right to left and when he did I managed to get my hand on the ball. The ball squirted loose and started heading straight to the sideline. Without hesitating and without ever coming out of my stance, I took one long and low step and dove head first for the ball. Then right before I hit the floor and skidded out of bounds, a hand grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me back.

A split second later I woke up and found myself hanging over the side of our bed while my wife Linda let go of my shirt and asked, “What are you doing? Are you okay?” When I told her that I was diving to keep a ball from going out of bounds, she started laughing so hard that she nearly fell out of bed!

Thankfully, Linda probably kept me from breaking my nose. . . but I still almost got to the ball!


What Would You Do?

Most of the time, Umpqua sophomore Chelsey Christensen is a typical college basketball player. She goes to class every day, lifts weights, goes to study hall, does individual workouts in the gym, and has a work study study job because she qualifies for federal financial aid. She eats more Top Ramen than she really wants to;not by choice but out of necessity.

Chelsey and I have an arrangement. Once or twice a week, I give her $3 and my Costco card and she drives a mile or so down the road and brings us back hot dogs for lunch. She gets and I pay. That's the deal. It saves her a couple bucks and saves me some time.

Last Friday I saw Chelsey anxiously hanging out by the entrance of the athletic offices and then saw a man around 40 years old walk towards the building. Chelsey rushed out and yelled "Are you Sam?" Chelsey handed him something, they talked quietly for a few minutes, and then they hugged before each turned around and headed back to where they started.

When she walked back into the offices, Chelsey told me that the day before, when she made our Costco run, she found a wallet in the parking lot that contained a social security card, a credit card, a debit card, and $280 IN CASH!!!!

So she did what every (well, probably not EVERY) poor college student who has little or no extra money would do - she used Sam's driver's license info to contact him and gave him back the whole thing!

Chelsey could've told Sam that she had found the wallet without any cash in it and I'm sure Sam would have still been happy that his credit cards and I.D. had been returned. $280 is a fortune to a "starving" college student. That much money could've bought a new ipod, some Jordan's, or nearly two year's worth of Costco lunches for Chelsey and her favorite basketball coach.

Instead, the $280 bought her the peace of mind that comes from knowing that she did the right thing. She even refused a small reward. I don't know how she did in class last Friday, but Chelsey Christensen passed her integrity test with an A+