wednesday 01/26/11 | MACE & CROWN | C3
Part of the Surge
Tia Lewis and Lady Monarchs Rolling Through CAA
All about winning
Danielle Buxton Mace & Crown “He’s a real sneaky kind of cat, Coach Taylor said. “He may not make the basket; he may not get the assist. But he may make the call that leads to a basket.
Senior point guard serves as ‘Floor General’ by
Jake Ullrich Staff Writer
When it comes down to it, Darius James just isn’t too worried about the stats. He’s sixth on the team in points per game, seventh in rebounding, third in assists and fifth in minutes played. However whenever James is on the floor, the Monarchs run like a welloiled machine. “[Darius] has got a lot of really good qualities,” Coach Blaine Taylor said. “Very, very competitive. Talented. But the bottom line is he’s a winner.” And that’s all he seems to do. James took over the starting point guard role in the 2008-09 season and has since led the Monarchs to two consecutive 25 or more wins seasons and a postseason birth in back to back years. It’s a quality he says he picked up playing in the neighborhood. “I remember playing in my neighborhood, in College Park,” James said. “Playing with older kids all the time. I started playing rec with the 8-yearolds when I was 6.” While he may not be the biggest or strongest player on the court, James plays with a drive that shows his commitment to winning. He’s constantly throwing himself on the floor for loose balls or attempting to shut down the opponent’s primary scorer. James grew up in Virginia Beach
and led the Tallwood Lions to the Eastern Region Finals his senior year. He was named first-team All-Tidewater and second team All-State. Even with the impressive resume, James was too heavily recruited. “It was either here or Appalachian State,” James said of the recruitment process. “One of my brothers went to Old Dominion so I was familiar with the school. I knew Ben [Finney] and Frank [Hassell] already. Plus it was close to home so it was a no-brainer.” It wasn’t just an easy decision for James. Coming off his senior year, Coach Taylor knew he wanted James as his future point guard. “I felt like Darius would be part of a winning program and contribute in the right ways,” Coach Taylor said. “He’s had a really nice career to this point. One of the things I really like about him is his bottom line is the scoreboard at the end of the night.” Luckily for the Monarchs, that scoreboard usually ends with a victory. However as a senior, James knows how important it is to keep his team motivated even if they end with a loss. “It starts with us, all the older guys cause we know [the freshman] are gonna look at us first,” James said. “[The freshman] gonna take the character of how we’re dealing with it. They’re gonna respond like we do so just keep your head.” James epitomizes the “pass-first” mentality many point guards can’t understand. He is always looking for the open man to lead to an easier basket. It’s a quality forward Keyon Carter is appreciative of.
“We look to Darius to keep us in flow offensively,” Carter said. “He keeps us organized and really enters us into the offense. “Being as unselfish as he is is another attribute that adds to our team. We know he can score and make open threes but he’s assist conscious and that makes us all better.” It’s a quality that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Coach Taylor. “He’s a real sneaky kind of cat, Coach Taylor said. “He may not make the basket; he may not get the assist. But he may make the call that leads to a basket. Or the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the basket. “There’s not really a stat for being savvy and he’s very, very savvy.” Coming to Old Dominion, James knew he had to make a change on how he played. While at Tallwood, he was the team’s main scorer and was able to get a shot whenever he wanted. Now, he’s surrounded by talented players and needs to get them all involved. “When I was in high school I use to score a lot,” James said. “But now I got people like Kent Bazemore on my wing, Frank Hassell down low and Ben Finney on my other wing. With me being able to get them involved it makes the team better.” When it comes down to it, James is just interested in the win. And with three and a half seasons under his belt, James has just one wish to finish his career. “Just take care of business, just win another CAA Championship.”
Greg Arnold Staff Writer
When ODU junior Tia Lewis takes the court, at 6 feet 3 inches, she is one of the most intimidating people out there for either team. But when she is sitting behind a desk talking about the game she has fallen in love with, her smile would disarm even the most standoffish. Unfortunately for the other team, when she puts on her headphones for pregame warm ups, the smile goes away. It wasn’t till sixth grade that Lewis would actually start playing basketball. Before this she was floating about, not interested in much at all. She would not go out and play with other children after school, perhaps just come home and read a book by herself. Then she was pushed into playing basketball. “In sixth grade I was forced to play basketball, because there was nothing I liked to do. Then I became good at it and it was my way to get an education, and get my parents out of Georgia. I started with it and fell in love with the game,” Lewis said eagerly displaying her smile. With basketball would come some of the best relationships of her young life. One of these relationships, some would say friendships, is with Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry. Of this Lewis said, “It’s great, I love playing for Coach Larry. We have a relationship on and off the court.” Lewis did not feel she had this same type of relationship with her coach at the University of Central Florida, where she spent her freshmen year of college. “Things weren’t going well at UCF,” Lewis said, “I wasn’t satisfied as far as coaching and style of play.” She also was not happy with how the game was played either, “I wasn’t satisfied as far as coaching Rachel Chasin Mace & Crown
and style of play. I wanted to be a leader on the team, but not as much as when we lose, I was the cause of it. Being that I had a double-double I didn’t do enough.” With the help of her fellow Lady Monarchs Lewis does not have the pressure of being the one who has to carry the team anymore. Helping with some of the duties is senior guard Jasmine Parker. Parker is scoring a team leading 13.6 points per game. She is also averaging 3.8 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Another player coming to the aid of Lewis is senior forward Alena Voronina from Brisbane, Australia. Voronina is scoring 12.3 points per game and is shooting tremendously accurately, shooting 61 percent from the floor. Lewis is having a great season as well. She is averaging 12.1 points a game. She is leading the team with 7.5 rebounds a game and 16 blocks throughout the season. In the CAA Lewis is in the top 13 in scoring, scoring pct., rebounding both offensive and defensive, and blocks. Lewis likes to be a contributor to the team’s success, “it’s something that I focus on, I put it on my goal sheet. My field goal percentage, rebound, scoring… all of that it important to be.” Lewis also enjoys watching her fellow teammates get into a hot streak as senior guard Kquanise Byrd is currently doing. Byrd scored 16 points against JMU and a career high 22 in the win over Delaware. Lewis said of sharing the ball with the hot hand, “I love it. It’s a momentum change for us. We feed off each other’s energies.” ODU will try to continue in their winning ways as they go against Georgia State Sunday at the Ted. Lewis said of keeping their momentum, “it feels good, but we know we have a little target on our backs. It feels good, we got to keep going, everybody is going to be able to play us, it’s not going to be easy.” When asked if she will be doing any special preparation for yet another CAA rival the same smile came out, “We play everybody the same they can all take an L!”
Jan 26, 2011