Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Imus Effect

Sylwia Kapuscinski for The New York Times
C. Vivian Stringer and her Rutgers players at a news conference last year. They made an impression on recruits with the way they handled Don Imus.

C. Vivian Stringer had her biggest recruiting year ever at Rutgers -- five, count 'em, FIVE McDonald's All-Americans have committed to Rutgers for next year.

Way to go Viv.

On the October morning Chelsey Lee awoke with her decision made, her destination clear, she summoned Shirlene Horne into her room and said, “Mommy, I’m going to commit.”

Connecticut or Rutgers? Geno Auriemma or C. Vivian Stringer? Horne had promised to withhold her opinion until her daughter, a 6-foot-3 center from Parkway Academy in Miami, disclosed the one that mattered most.

“Rutgers,” Lee said.

Horne hugged her and whispered, “I was feeling that, too.”

In Crawford, Miss., April Sykes, a 5-11 guard/forward ranked as high as No. 2 in the country by some scouting services, got on board the same northern-bound train as Lee, her A.A.U. teammate. A 5-9 point guard from Pasadena with the splendid positional name of Nikki Speed was also feeling Rutgers, over Duke. In Fort Worth, Brooklyn (no relation to the borough) Pope, a 6-2 forward, was resisting in-state pressure, opting to weather the comparatively daunting winters of central New Jersey.

Add Jasmine Dixon, a 5-11 guard from Long Beach, Calif., and Stringer has what every college basketball coach dreams of in a single incoming class — five McDonald’s all-Americans from across a continent she now calls her recruiting base.

Thank you, after all, Don Imus.

“He pretty much put Rutgers on the map,” said Janice Pope, the mother of Brooklyn.


[] Then came last season’s run to the final, falling short of Stringer’s first title against Tennessee, followed by the seismic event of Stringer and her players, most notably Carson, standing up on national television for themselves and for young African-American women everywhere.

“Hearing E speak, oh my goodness, it was amazing,” Nikki Speed said, already relating to Carson on a first-initial basis. “We still talk about that now, but when I was watching it, I remember thinking, that’s what I want to learn, that’s how I want to carry myself, like a proud African-American woman.”

Brooklyn Pope had another thought that day, concentrated on Stringer, during the coach’s characteristically eccentric but emotionally irresistible appeal.

“When I was looking at the television that day, I was like, ‘Dang, that’s not a coach, she’s like their mother,’ ” Pope said. “She defended them like they were her own children.”

In separate telephone interviews, three of the Rutgers recruits — Pope, Lee and Speed — all spoke of the close-knit family Rutgers appeared to be on television, and later, upon visiting, in real college life.


Bruce said...

Before the NCAA Womens final in 2007 no one even paid attention to Rutgers University. That was until Imus made that unfortunate comment that he paid with his job and reputation.

Now Vivian Stringer is writing and publishing a book and will do well.
Has the biggest recruiting drive for Rutgers Womens Basketball. Good for her and the team.

I call that "The Power of J. Donald Imus"

Good luck Vivian

Keith said...

hey, don't forget it was Imus and his show that covering the Rutgers' Cinderella run every morning during the sports section of the program, for weeks before the "remark"--- despite the I-Man's words, he was an earnest supporter of their's as well, long before...