Madness at Oregon

posted by Mitzi Ing, a Women Talk Sports blogger
today, October 16, 2011 at 7:46pm EDT

About Mitzi Ing:

Grew up in Hawaii, former Div. I Softball player at Fresno State, worked the past 6 years in Japan in international relations and law, and now I am obtaining my MBA at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Cent...more

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The University of Oregon took the common pep rally for the kickoff of basketball team practices to another level and had its first ever “Matt Knight Madness” at the Matthew Knight Arena on Friday, October 14, 2011.  I was excited to check out the Women’s Team coached by Paul Westhead and to personally experience my first Midnight Madness.


Oregon knew how to draw fans to the event: there were going to be free Pit Crew (the name for the rowdy student section at games) t-shirts for the first 1,000 students, the chance to win special edition Pit Crew Air Jordan 3’s designed by Nike VP of Innovation Design and Special Products Tinker Hatfield, and for those who like to give and not receive, there was the opportunity to donate canned goods for Food for Lane County.  Hundreds of people came to the $200M arena named after Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s late son, who died at the young age of 34 in a scuba-diving accident.  The arena is state-of-the art with practice courts, locker rooms, a lounge and nutrition bar for the players, and seats 12,541 people.


All five freshmen were excited to get a taste of the adoring Oregon fans and when I asked what brought them here, it was no surprise that Coach Westhead, “The System,” and the facilities were all in their replies.  Just sitting in the second row from the court designed with Northwest trees, looking up at the 8 (yes, eight!) jumbo screens, and feeling the electric buzz of the crowd gave me the chills and made me wish I was a collegiate athlete again.  The team impressed me with their speed – true to Westhead’s system – and precision; they ran the weave up and down the court with each player making a basket in less than 30 seconds on the shot clock.  From that one drill alone, I understood what Coach Westhead wants from his players: the ability to play well together, focus and be under control in pressure situations, and to be in top shape.  And you know what?  They made their baskets with 7 seconds to spare.  For their first official practice, Wow.


I spoke with Coach Westhead after the event and asked through all his years of coaching, what made him excited about this team.  He answered, “The three seniors, Amanda Johnson, Jasmin Holliday and Nia Jackson.”  They’re “the core” and what makes the 2011-12 team so special because all three are not only good players, but also leaders.  Johnson is an Academic All-American, Holliday is mature and well-spoken, and Jackson displays personal strength in her recovery from not one, but two knee surgeries.


Although I didn’t win a pair of Jordan’s, I walked away with a smile knowing that Oregon's Women's Basketball Team is in good hands with Coach Westhead and that the players are geared up and ready for a fast-paced season.  I for sure will be rocking my Pit Crew t-shirt in the front row cheering on them on this season, starting with their opener on November 10th.

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