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NOV./DEC. 2016


IN THIS ISSUE From the Athletic Director’s Desk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Keishawn Bierria knows the true meaning of tough. . . . . . . . . . 4 Former Olympic gymnast Elise Ray charts a new path at UW. . 11 Courtney Schwan leads UW volleyball to the NCAA Tournament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Scholarship dinner brings together donors, student-athletes. . . 16 Soccer’s Handwalla Bwana understands the meaning of gratitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 From the death of his father to his mother’s own battle with cancer, Keishawn Bierria has developed a fighting spirit. STORY ON PAGE 4

Markelle Fultz, Kelsey Plum bring star power to the court. . . . 23 The Shot: Indelible images. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28



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his fall, we have seen some incredibly successful performances by our sport programs, including men’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, as well as Husky football! We are rooting for our Huskies to continue their great run and to compete for conference and national championships in all of these sports. Fall is starting to blur into the Northwest winter, and our winter sports teams have been practicing with a dedication and intensity that promises great things. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are very talented and there is a lot of excitement building around them — remember the excitement of last year’s trip to the women’s college basketball Final Four? Coach Neighbors has the Huskies primed for another great season. The gymnastics squad is poised and prepared to compete with the best in the nation this year with new head coach Elise Ray, whose remarkable personal journey you can learn more about in this issue. With the guidance of coach Metcalf, the men and women of the indoor track and field teams will leave the cross-country trails for the track and look to turn in record-setting performances this season. Make sure you check out the schedules on and plan to come out and cheer the Huskies to victory! Thank you for all of your contributions to the

Jennifer Cohen

Husky community. Part of what makes Husky athletics so exciting is your passionate pride and commitment to support our teams. Your active engagement with all of our programs is a huge part of our success and forms the foundation upon which we can build strong programs for generations to come. I will be looking for you out on the fields and in the gyms. GO HUSKIES!





Keishawn Bierria may be the toughest Husky on the team — but he has nothing on his fellow family members





imonne Bierria started to laugh. She was talking about her son, Washington standout Keishawn Bierria. She was looking back on the beginning, the very beginning — the moment the linebacker was born. The third of Simonne’s four boys, Bierria’s birth was the shortest, but it was also the “worst labor I ever had,” she says. Thinking about that moment and looking at the person and player her son has become, that sparked the laughter. “He came out built,” she says. “He came out with that six-pack.” He was a fighter from Day One. He had to be. To get to this point, he had to take more punches than most. As a child, his father, Lowell, beat cancer once, a fight he couldn’t win the second time. And now, during his career at Washington, he has been forced to watch as Simonne spent years battling and then beating leukemia. It wasn’t easy. But Lowell was a fighter. Simonne is a fighter. Bierria only knows one way to live his life. “Today’s never promised,” he says. “Tomorrow isn’t promised. Experiencing adversity in my life has shown me that what I’m going through right now could be a lot worse and it’s definitely going to get better than what it is right now.” Six games into his junior season, Bierria is second on the team in tackles. He leads the nation in fumble recoveries. He is a leader, a three-star recruit coming out of Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif., who has become a vital contributor for the Huskies. He is here because, through all of the hard times, he kept pushing forward. “No matter what you do, don’t give up,” Simonne says, talking about the mindset she helped instill in her children. “You do it the best you can do it, to the best of your ability. That’s all you can do. Then you let God take you the rest of the way.” Bierria is here, because he refuses to stop fighting for his future. “You’ve got to fight,” Washington coach  Chris Petersen says. “You’ve got to keep doing what you can do. You’ve got to battle. That’s what Keishawn does. That’s what he’s done. “He’s one of those unique special guys who can stay strong and focused,” he continues. “It’s a story we can all learn from.” As far as Simonne is concerned, Bierria has been this way since the day he was born. That brutal birth, the day the fighter was born, well, it was July 26, 1995 — his father’s birthday. And, now that her son is a man, Simonne sees her husband in Bierria. In fact, she sees Lowell in each of her

four children. “My husband is not gone, because I see him in all four of those boys,” she says. When the boys — Marques, Dominique, Keishawn and Trevon — were younger, participating in sports was often “everything we did as a family,” Simonne says. They traveled the West Coast with basketball and baseball teams. Life was good. Lowell would make the journey to Alaska to work on fishing boats and Simonne had a beauty-and-barber shop. Her youngest children — Trevon is now a safety at San Jose State — played on the same basketball team as their cousin, Junior. And, when the three boys were on the court together, it was like they were their own team within a team. They drew the ire of some of the other parents who

“You’ve got to fight. You’ve got to battle. That’s what Keishawn’s done,” says head coach Chris Petersen. “It’s a story we can all learn from.” had children in the program. Lowell asked the boys to include the other players on the team. “You guys need to pass the ball to the other kids,” he says. Bierria looked at his father and said, “They don’t want to win, dad.” It was another early glimpse of the fighter he is today. But, for all those moments that still make Simonne smile, there were just as many tough times. Lowell developed an abscess in his mouth. It was diagnosed as osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He went through chemotherapy. He beat it back. “He was good,” Simonne says. The cancer went into remission for five years. As Lowell fought the cancer, the family worked through a series of financial hardships. Simonne had to go to court to fight a fallout with her business partner (“I won,” she says), the family had to move and the kids were

pulled from private school. But, “we just stayed prayed up,” Simonne says. Once the cancer went into remission, Lowell started working in construction. “Back to work,” he told his wife at the time. Things got better. Simonne started working at a college. They bought a new house. They kids were back in private school and, “life was pretty sweet,” Simonne says. The family seemed to be back on track when Lowell’s cancer returned. This time it was in his spine. At one point he spent three months in the ICU. He had three major surgeries in a week and, eventually, he was paralyzed. “It just ate him up,” Simonne says. He died in 2003. It was Christmas Day. Simonne brought her husband home a few days earlier to spend time with his children. People close to the family made the holiday a memorable one. There were gifts stacked up all over the living room. “The kids had an awesome Christmas,” she says. It was a time for Lowell to say goodbye to his family. They spent the day together. He died that evening. “My husband took his last breath at 6:43 p.m.,” Simonne says. Lowell spent the final hours of his life watching his children play in the backyard. Then it started to drizzle. Trevon, Bierria’s youngest brother, ran inside. He grabbed his father. “Daddy, I love you,” he says. A few minutes later, Lowell was gone. Bierria was 8. “It didn’t seem real at first,” he says. “I didn’t understand what that really meant. I cried a little bit and then asked if I could go outside and play.” It wasn’t until weeks later that reality set in. That realization hit the family hard. “The day she lost her husband, my father, she thought she would never find anyone else, nobody else would hold her down like he did, because he was her rock,” Bierria says. As the months passed, Simonne couldn’t fight off the depression.  “It just really hit me he wasn’t coming back,” she says. A religious woman, Lowell’s death shook the foundation of her devotion. “I couldn’t see it,” she says. “I was mad at him (God) for taking my husband, taking my kids’ father, taking a good man, a provider.” Simonne didn’t know how to communicate the grief to her children. Before Lowell’s death, when she would drive her children to school, they would recite the Lord’s

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Continued from page 5 Prayer together. The kids knew when to begin — “Our father, who art in Heaven” — so they would say the last line as they pulled up to school. But, in the years that followed, “my mom wasn’t really able to be there mentally and physically.” As Simonne processed her grief, family and friends helped keep Bierria and his brothers pointed toward a positive future. They moved in with their grandparents, James and Michelle Whitmore. Marques and Dominique set an example for Bierria and Trevon. “My older brothers took care of me,” Bierria says. “I took care of my younger brother. That explains our relationship now. We’re really close. We’d do anything for each other.” Family friends filled any gaps, like Bierria’s godmother, Mattie Jones-Gill. “That woman stuck with my kids from beginning to end,” Simonne says. “There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him.” There was a time a family friend brought the boys home. When Simonne opened the door, the woman was crying. The children were on their way to McDonald’s when they passed a flower store. There were people out front with a sign asking for money to help pay for their father’s funeral. Simonne’s boys asked to stop and give the people money. “I have never met kids as gracious as yours, who are willing to help anybody,” the woman said. When Bierria was younger his mother always said,


“Today’s never promised. Tomorrow isn’t promised,” Bierria says. “Experiencing adversity has shown me that what I’m going through right now could be a lot worse, and it’s going to get better.” “Be a blessing to somebody.” The linebacker and his brothers listened. “It’s a beautiful thing when you know that, through the hard times, they’re still smiling,” Simonne says. While Simonne worked to get her life back on track, her boys did what they could to help. “We tried to just be there for her, just be an inspiration to her,” Bierria says. Over the years there were tough times, what Simonne described as “trials and tribulations.” There were AA meetings and NA meetings as she worked to find her faith. “It hasn’t been a glory ride,” she says. But, through it all, regardless of what she’s dealt with, Bierria and his brothers always had what they needed. “It was really a community effort,” he says. “She

made sure we had everything we needed, but mentally she wasn’t there. She made sure we were never hurting for anything, but she really couldn’t be there for us, because she was going through it.” Over time, things started to get back on track. Bierria earned a scholarship to Washington. Simonne had regained her faith. Then, before Bierria moved to Seattle, Simonne was diagnosed with leukemia. She waited to tell her younger sons. She didn’t want them to worry. “I was sneaking behind their backs to get chemo, because I didn’t want them to think, ‘Oh, my God, if I leave, something is going to happen to my mom,’” she says. “I waited until they got good and settled.” Bierria remembers the day he learned the news. It was a shock, another obstacle to hurdle. “She’s a warrior,” Bierria says. “She’s been fighting it the whole time. She really doesn’t want to leave us, so she’s done everything she can.” In the hospital, after receiving her diagnosis, Simonne was at peace. “It is what it is,” she said to herself. “I’m good.” In that moment, she had a conversation with a higher power. She began to make sense of her journey. “When I look back at my life, Lord, when I didn’t think You cared, I understand that these journeys we have in life, these episodes we go through make us the person we are today and that is all because of You,” she says. “There’s no

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Continued from page 6 way I could have done it without You.” Simonne went through two-week cycles of chemotherapy and then had two weeks to rest. She needed a bone marrow transplant, but couldn’t find a match. “Last year, I opted for a trial with the umbilical cord from a newborn baby,” she says. And today, well, “I’m leukemia free.” There have been a few setbacks along the way, and a trip to the hospital where she was on life support for three days. But, after “fighting for her life,” Simonne is now able to watch her sons play football. Her first chance to watch Bierria play for the Huskies was during last season’s win at USC, just a few days after being released from the hospital following the transplant. “She’s a trooper,” Bierria says. She’s a fighter, just like Lowell, just like her children. Their journey hasn’t been easy, but they’re still smiling. “Nobody wants to go through any adversity, certainly not that type,” Petersen says. “For a guy to be resilient, optimistic and positive, to not let something like that derail him from doing really good things in his life, it’s so cool, so inspiring. “It doesn’t matter who you are, those things are life changing,” he continues. “It’s hard on anyone. He’s just always been so strong in those aspects.” After all of the struggles, things are back on track for Bierria’s family. The linebacker is having a strong season for one of the nation’s top teams, his mother is healthy

Bierria can at times be a one-man wrecking crew on defense, and led the nation with five fumble recoveries through the season’s first seven games.

and his brothers are doing well. There is success after the struggle.   “I’m very proud of them,” Simonne says, talking about her children. “When I see them smile, when I see them doing certain stuff, I’m very thankful. It’s an awesome feeling.” She is proud of them. They are proud of her. She provides inspiration for Bierria. He returns the favor.

“She’s everything to us,” Bierria says. “She’s the reason I work so hard. I just keep pushing, keep focusing on moving forward and trying to get better in whatever I’m trying to do.” To get to this point, Bierria has taken more punches than most. But a fighter from Day One, he survived. Just look at him now.






From the highest success to the lowest failure, Husky gymnastics head coach and former Olympian

Elise Ray

can call on a lifetime of experience

BY BRIAN BEAKY Editor, Dawgs Digest

hen first-year head coach Elise Ray meets with her Husky gymnasts says. “I have a vision of Washington gymnastics as a top-notch, professional program. after practice each Saturday, she asks them to reflect on the week So much of that comes in the details, and so many of the details just aren’t where I and deliver examples of times they saw or exhibited one of the team’s want them yet. I want everything to be at this high standard — and especially this four core values: Grit. Respect. Unity. Excellence. year, I kind of have my hand in everything, to make sure my vision is reflected in evIt’s a way to bring the team together, and focus on the qualities that Ray believes are erything. It’s very time-consuming to dive into those details, so that’s where I’ve had most important to a gymnast, and a program. Ray moderates the discussion, but mostly to prioritize.” it’s on the gymnasts to recognize the positive traits in themselves and their teammates. Ray’s main focus, of course, is the 15 girls on her roster, who Ray says have been Because while millions around the world watching gymnastics on TV every four years at “unbelievable” in response to changes she’s made to the program — changes that inthe Summer Olympics may marvel at the flips, twists clude tougher training and more intense workouts and other eye-popping moves that seemingly defy the than many of these young athletes have been exlaws of physics, it’s the stuff between the ears that posed to before, all part of developing that “grit” “That’s one of my favorite parts truly separates the good from the great. that Ray says is essential to success. of the job, going into the gym “Gymnastics is 80 percent mental,” Ray says, re“I’m so excited and so lucky to have this group and seeing girls doing my skills,” calling a time when she was training for the 2000 USA for my first year,” she says. “They want it just as Nationals — a meet she would go on to dominate, en bad as I do. I’m putting a lot of my passion and Ray says. “Because it makes it all route to the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. energy toward them and nurturing them in this worth it, right? As an athlete you “I trained really, really hard mentally, and was really change, but then really pushing them, too, in ways disciplined with regard to what I was thinking, what I that are different than it’s been before. And there’s have a million bad days. But in the was journaling, what I was doing. And it made all the been no pushback, it’s all buy-in. They’re really risbig picture, when you’re able to difference in the world. It was the best competition ing to the occasion.” leave your mark on a sport, that’s of my life. One way is by embracing Ray’s core values. Of “It was a big moment for me, because I realthe four, she says “respect” is the easiest to develop pretty incredible.” ized how powerful your mind is, and how powerful — “they’ve had that ever since I’ve been here,” Ray thoughts are and how powerful discipline is,” she consays — and “grit” the toughest. tinues. “And that’s a life lesson that I use every day in my life.” “Physically, these girls are top-notch, talent-wise, but their mental game needs In the six months since she was elevated from the position of associate head coach to get better,” Ray says. “That’s the difference between a good gymnast and a great by athletic director Jennifer Cohen, most of those days have been spent trying to prioritize gymnast, and a good program and a great program. So we’ve been talking a lot about the things Ray wants to accomplish. A product of the highest level of gymnastics training what it means to be a tough athlete, and I’ve been pushing them a lot and putting — Ray’s youth coach was the legendary Kelli Hill, and her training partners as a teenager them in situations designed to toughen them up and make them grind and grit it out. included some of the most recognizable gymnasts in the world at the time — she’s work- And I’ve been so impressed.” ing to create the same environment at Washington, which she believes can be just as strong, and just as successful, as any program in the country. Continued on page 12 “The biggest challenge so far has been simply prioritizing what to tackle first,” she




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ay knows a thing or two about grit. In the summer of 2000, just weeks after achieving the high point of her athletic career at USA Nationals, Ray headed to Sydney for what was supposed to be the crowning achievement of all the work she had put in over so many years — the hours and hours in the gym, the pain, the putting off of friends and other activities to focus on becoming the greatest gymnast she could be ... this was the reason. This was Ray’s time to make her dreams a reality — just as Kerri Strug and the rest of the “Magnificent Seven” had done four years before in Atlanta. At least, that’s the story in which Ray thought she was playing a central role. As it turns out, her story was something different entirely. In the weeks leading up to the Olympic Games, internecine politics began to tear at the psyche of the U.S. team. Hill — who had coached both Ray and fellow team member Dominique Dawes for years, and had been named head coach of the U.S. women’s team in Sydney — was forced to share decision-making power with the legendary Bela Karolyi, who had coached the U.S. team to gold in 1996 and was brought out of retirement to be a “team coordinator” and help turn around a squad that was perceived as struggling after a sixth-place finish at the 1999 World Championships. The partnership was a failure — Karolyi made drastic changes to the team’s training, diet and workouts, throwing the team’s physical and mental preparation into chaos; his sheer force of personality and celebrity, plus the authority given to him by USA Gymnastics, left Hill helpless to intercede. Karolyi forced the team to stay away from the athlete’s village, and wouldn’t let them participate in the Opening Ceremonies. “I had never even met him, and he was telling me what to do in workouts. I didn’t know what to do,” Ray told Seattle Times writer Larry Stone, in a recent feature that goes in-depth on Ray’s Olympics experience. “In Kelli didn’t know how to handle it. We were all out of sorts.” Things only got worse when the competition began. Incredibly, meet officials set the vault apparatus five centimeters too low — a massive difference in a discipline where every step, every hand plant has been trained thousands of times, to exact precision. Ray was one of the first competitors on the vault and crashed repeatedly during warmups, one time coming just inches from landing on her head. Despite avoiding serious injury, Ray crashed again on both of her subsequent competition vaults. “I thought it was nerves,” she says. “I thought it was something I had done. I totally blamed myself.” Imagine that — preparing your entire life for a certain moment, refining your physical and mental preparation over tens of thousands of hours to the point that you are certain of your eventual success — only to wind up, quite literally, falling all over yourself in the most public and humiliating way possible. It would be a psyche-shattering moment for even the most hardened individual — much less an 18-year-old. The mistake was eventually caught and the gymnasts who competed on the improperly set apparatus were allowed to retake their attempts, but it’s no wonder that by then, Ray’s mental game — and her Olympic dream — was long gone.


hen Ray talks to her team about grit, about the power of mental fortitude to pull light from the darkness, it’s because she’s lived it. The first crack of light came immediately after the Olympics, when Ray enrolled at the University of Michigan. Her first two years at Michigan, all she thought about was returning to the Olympics in 2004, and getting a second chance at the experience she felt she’d been denied in 2000. The more time she spent at Michigan, though — surrounded by teammates and coaches (including former Huskies head coach Joanne Bowers, then a Wolverines assistant) who loved and supported her, and immersed in an academic environment played to her strong mind — the more she began to realize that the happiness she had expected to find in an Olympic gold medal, had instead found her. “I just got to a point where I was like, ‘I’m so happy right now, doing what I’m doing. Why would I want to change that?’” she recalls. “I came to the realization that that part of my life was over. It was just one part of my larger story, and that was O.K.” Actually, it wasn’t entirely over. In 2010, Ray and her teammates were notified that the Chinese team, which had won the bronze medal in the all-around in Sydney — one spot ahead of the U.S. — was being disqualified for entering an underage gymnast in competition. A few weeks later, the members of Team USA were awarded bronze medals at public

At the 2000 USA National Championships, Ray established herself as the face of American gymnastics, earning the captaincy of the 2000 Olympic squad.

ceremony during a meet in Connecticut. As the national anthem played, Ray was flooded once again with the pain of her Olympic experience — pain she had worked so hard to flush away. Besides taking it out for photo shoots or the occasional curious visitor to her home, the medal rarely leaves the box it came in. After graduating from Michigan in 2004 — as a 14-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion — Ray spent three years performing in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil, before returning to Maryland to work alongside Hill in her old gym, and do occasional commentary for the Big Ten Network. At the time, Ray had no long-term interest in coaching — “I had dedicated my whole life to gymnastics by that point,” she says. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to it as well.” — but when Bowers called from Seattle in 2011 offering a job on the Huskies’ staff, she figured it would be a fun challenge. Five years later, it still is. “Within my first couple of weeks of coaching in college, I knew I had a passion for it,” she says. “And it truly is the girls. They’re in this really interesting period of life where they’re growing and changing and learning — oh, my goodness. It’s just such a special time to teach them things that are going to be there when they’re done with gymnastics.” Ray says that when she walks into a gym to meet with recruits, many don’t know right away who she is — in a sport dominated by teenagers, 16 years is truly a lifetime ago. But then their coach will point out that one of the moves the recruit has been training is named after Ray — she has three such moves named after her in gymnastics’ Official Code of Points — “and their eyes will light up,” she says. Many then go on YouTube deep-dives, then report to their coaches how excited they are to be recruited by Ray. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the job, going into the gym and seeing young girls doing my skills,” she says. “It’s a really, really, really cool feeling. And it definitely gives me an advantage, because it helps them remember me, and helps them understand, too, that I get it, because I’ve been there, I’ve done it. “Every time I go to a gym and that happens, I text my old coach and say thanks,” she continues, “Because it makes it all worth it, right? As an athlete you have a million bad days, and a million bad turns. But in the big picture, when you’re able to leave your mark on a sport, that’s pretty incredible.” It’s a perspective that taken Ray years to accept. And as she turns her attention to her current group of Huskies — a group she believes has tremendous potential — and tries to instill in them her core values of grit, respect, unity and excellence, it’s that lesson more than any that she hopes to convey. “Gymnasts tend to be very Type-A — we have a goal, and we go for that goal, and we don’t stop until we get it,” she says. “ But that’s not life. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you want them to. You can do everything right, and focus every day in training, and listen to everything your coaches say, and go for that gold medal, but things happen that are out of your control, and that take that away. And that happens. “But that doesn’t lessen the value of everything that I did to get to that point,” Ray says, slipping into the first-person. “And that’s the point of it — it’s the journey to get there that makes you who you are, not the end result. It’s O.K. to have setbacks. It’s O.K. if things don’t go as planned. It simply means that there’s another path open to you, and it might have something wonderful waiting.”






IMPROVING Volleyball’s Courtney Schwan is driving the Huskies towards the NCAA Tournament



ourtney Schwan learned at an early age that frustration is a pivotal part of success. Back when the Washington volleyball standout was 12, she started playing in reverse, co-ed, adult, 4-on-4 tournaments. With teams typically made up of two men and two women, “the guys have to attack from behind the 10-foot line if they’re going to hit,” Schwan says.

Because of that rule, the roll shot was a particularly effective tactic. “The guys would always roll-shot and I would get so frustrated, because it was so hard to see,” she says. “I wanted to do it just like them.” Like a pitcher who throws a nasty changeup, the roll shot can be devastatingly effective. Schwan wanted


to learn the shot, so that opponents could share in her frustration. And now, years later, it is a particularly effective part of the outside hitter’s game. However, while it is a successful shot, it is only part of her game. “We always talk about having a big tool box, being able to hit a lot of shots,” she says. “That’s just an effective one, because I feel like not many people at this level have figured out how to disguise it very well.” Like an elite pitcher, Schwan tries to keep opponents guessing. “If you have a variety of different shots — line, angle and sharp angle — they need to respect those, too, before they can come in and sit on a roll shot,” she says. This is the way Schwan approaches volleyball. She takes pride in her versatility. And, as an upperclassman, she works to set an example for her younger teammates. “We’re always working on new things,” Schwan says. “We always have specific skill sets in every aspect of practice we’re working on. We even write our names on the board and what we’re working on for each part of our game. There’s always something we can get better at.” Now in her third season, Schwan maintains a constant dialogue with Keegan Cook. The coach expects a lot from his outside hitter and Schwan appreciates his direct approach. “He gets on me when I need it,” she says. “I don’t need somebody to sugarcoat it.” She also doesn’t need any added motivation. A three-sport athlete growing up, Schwan picked up a


strong work ethic at an early age. Her parents, Paula and Kurt, are police officers. When she was younger, they didn’t give her much of a curfew. They didn’t need to. “Playing three sports (volleyball, softball and baseball) growing up, I didn’t really have time to go and mess around,” she says. “There wasn’t really room for that.” As a bonus, “I felt very safe when I was at home,” she says. Schwan is such a gifted athlete she had the opportunity to join the Huskies’ softball team as a freshman. However, between school, volleyball, beach volleyball and softball, Schwan’s obligations were “overwhelming.” She has lofty goals as a volleyball player and knew she would have to make a sacrifice. “I loved playing softball,” she says. “I loved the girls, but I know this is where I need to be to get to where I want to go and accomplish my goals.” In addition to the daily drive to improve as a volleyball player, Schwan has also started to dabble in videography. She was inspired by a friend and found an old camera at her parents’ house. “Can I use this?” she asked. Schwan is also into music, so she started to cut clips that matched a certain portion of a particular song. “I just really thought that clicked,” she says. “I really enjoyed it and made a couple. I showed some people and they enjoyed them.” The positive feedback pushed her to continue creating. “It’s like that feeling when you take a picture of someone and it makes them feel good, you’re like, ‘Yes!’”

she says. She has made a point to utilize the resources provided by the university, reaching out to Trenton Cotten, the athletic department’s Design Director of Digital Media Content.  “Being here opens up a lot of doors for you,” she says. “It’s just fun to sit down and talk with him. He’s so welcoming. It’s awesome.” And, while she knows there are resources to further her growth as a videographer, her focus is currently focused on the Huskies’ season, which wraps up this week before the NCAA Tournament begins in December. Schwan wants to one day play professionally overseas. She wants to try out for the national team. She wants to be an All-American. All of those goals require hours spent in the gym. “Those are all things you’ve got to work for,” she says. “I’ve got a long ways to go.” Like learning the roll shot, there will be frustrations along the way, but Schwan is determined. She’s focused. She wants to improve, while helping her teammates along the way. There is “a lot of good stuff,” in store for Schwan in the future, but the payoff will only materialize if she invests the required time and energy. “I’ve just got to keep getting better and know there’s always something to get better at,” she says. “I also have to look at the people around me and focus on the things right now. I can’t get to where I’m going in the future unless I work now.”


Annual Scholarship

ENDOWMENT DINNER Pairs Student-Athletes with Donors


y now, it’s clear to the entire nation that head coach Chris Petersen has the Husky football team built for success on the field. Their success, though, is a tribute to Petersen’s true philosophy — “Built For Life,” an organizational culture that sets the tone for the team’s approach to football as part of balanced living. “Our purpose is to build a team to win championships and build young men to excel in life,” Petersen says. “In our program, we emphasize accountability, work ethic, goals, values and education. They can play football at the highest level and they can do everything else at the highest level, too. But, we wouldn’t be able to serve our purpose without so much support from so many critical donors.” Petersen was referencing Tyee Club Scholarship Endowment donors, whose giving covers tuition and other costs for Husky student-athletes. These donors were recognized last month at UW’s annual Donor Appreciation Scholarship Dinner in the Don James Center at Husky Stadium. Petersen, along with Director of Athletics Jennifer Cohen, addressed the crowd and set the stage for comments from student-athletes Destiny Julye and Jeff Lindquist. “I decided to come to U-Dub because of people like all of you,” said Julye, a sophomore on the Husky volleyball team, to the room full of donors. “It’s because you care that I have a scholarship and can earn an education at one of the best universities in the world. It’s because of you that — as the only freshman on the team last year, away from home for the first time, in a big city and an unfamiliar environment — I had access to so much academic and personal support to make that transition easier for me.” Julye’s sentiments were then echoed by Lindquist, a quarterback from Mercer Island who grew up dreaming of wearing the purple and gold, and recently earned his degree from the Foster School of Business, graduating with a 3.5 grade-point average. “As Coach Pete likes to say, life is ‘Plan A’, and football is ‘Plan B,’” Lindquist said. “All of you have chosen to make a difference for student-athletes like me. By supporting scholarships, you are giving each and every one of us the chance to develop our ‘Plan A.’” Scholarship Endowment donor Kerry Sawyer then offered closing remarks, speaking about the gratification and fulfillment felt from providing student-athletes with such unique opportunities. “We believe the coaches and staff we have here at U-Dub are building a championship culture that will impact this University and community in a positive way for a long time to come,” Cohen said, following the event. “But none of that happens without critical donor support like scholarship endowments. We are so fortunate to have such a committed group of individuals who are dedicated to building something special here at Washington.” To learn more about endowing a scholarship at Washington, visit www.uwtyeeclub. com or call 206-543-2234.







DIVINE COMEDY Handwalla Bwana had to go through hell to get to heaven — in this case, warm food to eat, clean water, and a future filled with hope


andwalla Bwana apologized for In the hot, expansive, open space in northwestern being late. The freshman had Kenya, Bwana said newcomers to Kakuma build mud BY MASON KELLEY just finished class and had to huts wherever they can find room. GOHUSKIES.COM cross campus before making his “There’s sand, nothing else,” he says. “Just open way down to Dempsey Indoor for a photo shoot. space.” Wearing a black hoodie over a plaid shirt with dark jeans purposely scuffed at the With the help of family members, Yassin and her two sons built their home and knees, he looked like any other college student. then spent years “surviving” as they waited for their American dream. He smiled. That expression comes easy these days, because for the midfielder, There was the six-mile (roundtrip) walk in 90-degree heat for water and nights after surviving hell, life at Washington is a dream come true. filled with terror as the family worried about who might walk through the door. They “I’m grateful for what I have,” he says. “Being here is – I don’t know how to de- had the rough equivalent of a fence to keep people out, but there were daily dangers scribe it – I have everything.” in the camp.   Born in Mombasa, Kenya, Bwana doesn’t remember much from his time in the “Every day you heard shooting,” he says. “Every day you heard that someone had country’s second-largest city. His father, Mohamed, left when he was two years old been robbed. Every day you heard someone had been raped. It was tough. It was scary, and by the time he turned five, he was living at an Islamic boarding school learning especially for women.” Arabic with 20 to 30 other children, “in the middle of nowhere.” On one of the scariest days for Bwana, he was at the mosque. He was praying. While living at the boarding school, Bwana only saw his mother, Fatima Yassin, All of a sudden there were gunshots. A family member was wounded. Bwana was once a year. 10 feet away. “It was tough there, but at the same time, it helped me grow without my mom, “It was hard to live over there, really hard,” he says. without my family,” Bwana says. “I grew up fast. Instead of being a baby, it was like The United Nations provided flour and oil to those living in the refugee camp, I was a teenager. My mom wasn’t there. It was my responsibility. I had to take care so Yassin tried to be creative with her cooking. The family ate a lot of uji – a type of of myself.” porridge designed to provide energy in the morning – and chapati – an unleavened, After a few years at the boarding school, his mother made a decision. She decided pan-cooked bread. her family’s future was in America. But to get there, Yassin, Bwana and his younger “We got used to the same food every day, but I guess food is food,” he says. “You brother, Musab, had to first spend the better part of a decade living in the Kakuma should be grateful for it.” refugee camp. “She didn’t want us to stay there for a long time, because of what was going on Continued on page 20 in Kenya,” Bwana says.





“A lot of people complain about homework, about this or that. They don’t know there are kids out there who would kill each other for this opportunity,” Bwana says. “I’m grateful for what I have. I never, ever complain.”

Continued from page 18 On Fridays, food would be brought in from the city, making the meals a bit more memorable. “As a Muslim, Friday is a special day, so my mom would make something really nice,” he says. For Bwana, the days were long and hot, dusty and dangerous, but he always had soccer.

“When I was younger, he (his father, who now lives in Bellingham) kind of forced me to love the game, but at the same time, as I grew up, I picked up the game,” he says. Growing up, it was truly a game. It was a way to find fun in an otherwise bleak situation. After getting water in the morning and going to school, the children in Kakuma spent the rest of the day playing soccer. With four players to a team, they weren’t focused on fundamentals. They were simply looking for an escape. “It steadied our minds,” he says. “We didn’t have to think about family or struggling. It was just, ‘OK, we’re going to play and have fun with it.’” As difficult as life was in the camp, Yassin had a plan. She was determined to provide a better life for her children. “She wanted her kids to get the best education they could and the best education was in America, because there were more opportunities,” he says. “If you’re poor, you have the opportunity to get a scholarship. This is where she wanted us to be.” It took about seven years for Bwana’s family to make it to America. Their journey west started in Atlanta, Ga. “We got really lucky to be able to come here to America,” he says. The transition wasn’t easy. “We had no idea what was going on,” he says. “We just didn’t know the life in America.” The family moved to Seattle after three months. Yassin had a cousin in the city, so it seemed like a good fit. Bwana said that first year was the “worst of his life.” He spoke four languages – Somali, Swahili, Bajuni and Arabic – when he arrived in America, but since he didn’t speak English, he struggled to interact with his classmates. “I didn’t have any friends,” he says. “I was stressing. I had no idea what to do.” Bwana wanted to help his mother. He didn’t know how. Soccer saved him. He learned the language by playing a game he understood. He picked up English quickly, while learning how to play on a team. From Ballard High School to the Sounders FC Academy, Bwana grew his game.


His mother got a job at Goodwill to support her children. They put the nightmare of the refugee camp behind them. They cherished little things most people take for granted, like being able to get a complete night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, to eat a pizza (Bwana’s favorite) or a sandwich from Subway — his brother’s meal of choice. For Bwana, his journey has provided perspective. He went from having to walk miles for water that wasn’t always clean to living in a country where a fresh, cold drink is rarely more than a few feet away. “A lot of people complain — complain about homework, complain about this or that,” he says. “They don’t know there are kids out there who would kill each other for this opportunity.” So, whether it’s an assignment for aclass, a grueling practice or an afternoon photo shoot, Bwana is quick with a smile. After all, he is the first member of his family to travel this path. “You’re going to do things that nobody in our family had done,” Bwana’s mother told him. “Take advantage of it. If you get the opportunity to go to college and play ball, take it. Just don’t fail. The worst thing you could do is fail. Take the opportunity. Make the most of it. If it requires you to not get sleep at night, do it, because at the end of the day it’s going to pay off.” Early in his college career, Bwana is finding success both on the field and in the classroom. In fact, he is currently the team’s leader in goals (four). After making it this far, he sees no reason to slow down. “We come from a poor village and we’re living the life now,” says Bwana, who makes sure to call Yassin every day to check in, even though they only live about 12 miles apart. “I’m grateful for what I have. I don’t complain. I never, ever complain.” About five years after moving to Seattle, Bwana is getting a free education while playing soccer in the Pac-12. This is the life Yassin wanted for her son. This opportunity validates their struggle. “It was just a tough life, but it paid off in the end,” he says. Then he smiled, again, because for Bwana, this is a dream. He went through hell, but he survived. Now every opportunity is something to seize.


Bwana led the Huskies in scoring through Oct. 26, tallying four goals to lead the Dawgs to a 10-4 overall record.








usky fans will file into Alaska Airlines Arena this season to watch two of the nation’s top talents bring the ball up for the Huskies. Both prolific scorers with the ability to break defenses, pull up, dish it off and finish near the rim. The difference? One has spent the past three years perfecting her game to bring the women’s program to new heights,


whereas the other has yet to even step onto the floor in purple and gold, but already has Husky faithful stirring. As one of the top incoming players in the country, many believe Markelle Fultz will be the next to join Lorenzo Romar’s long list of former players who are now playing in the NBA. On the contrary, Plum enters her senior year as one of the best players the Husky program has ever seen, and a sure-fire contender for National Player of the Year. While the respective cultures of the

men’s and women’s game clearly differ, Husky fans have a lot to be excited about this season. Plum led Washington to its first ever Final Four appearance last year, was named a WBCA All-American (the first player in program history to receive such recognition) and was named an All-Pac-12 First Team

Continued on page 25



HUSKIES IN THE BIG APPLE 2017 The Huskies open the 2017 campaign on the road in New Jersey against Big-10 foe Rutgers University. The game is scheduled for Labor Day Weekend, allowing for time to experience New York. It’s been more than a few years since we had a non-conference game worth traveling to. In addition to the group events you’ve got a great selection of optional tours to experience while in New York. Saturday we’ll board motor coaches for the 60 minute drive to New Jersey for the game, arriving in plenty of time to see the campus and tailgate near High Point Solutions Stadium.

THIS PACKAGE INCLUDES • Three night accommodations in mid-town Manhattan with tax (additional nights available for longer stay) • Welcome Cocktail Event Friday Evening-Meet and Greet for Huskies in New York • 7-Day Transit Pass, valid on the entire MTA system, including buses and subways • Game day transportation from our Manhattan Hotel to Piscataway for the Big Game • Parking and Pre-game tailgate near the stadium • Tailgate on the lawn near High Point Solutions Stadium • Access to optional group events* • Game tickets (credit applied if ordering tickets on your own) * Optional group events include Baseball at Yankee Stadium or Coney Island (Brooklyn Cyclones), Hop on/off Bus Pass, Seinfeld Manhattan Tour, group admission to the WTC Memorial and Museum, and a private charter Manhattan Island Cruise. Prices start at $885 per person. For all the tour details, optional flight information and reservations, visit and Click on the Huskies at Rutgers tab.

OTHER TOURS AVAILABLE AT NWTRAVEL.COM INCLUDE: Mariners Baseball at NY & Baltimore • August ‘17 History & Civil War Tour of Virginia • April ’17 Rhone River Wine Cruise • May ’17 Gardens of Ireland with Ciscoe • September ’17 Spain & Portugal River Cruise • April ’18

Northwest Travel Service 4271 257th Place SE • Issaquah, WA, 98029 (425) 313 1691 •


Continued from page 23 honoree for the third-consecutive season. Her 25.9 points per game led the Pac-12 and was fourth overall in the nation. Head coach Mike Neighbors knew he had something special in her from the beginning. “A West Coast kid, staying on the West Coast, coming to a place that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in a few years, wasn’t in the Final Four talk ever ... to make that leap of faith and then to attract other people along the way, the other pieces needed to become a team,” Neighbors says, “is a legacy that she will leave, regardless of what records she does or does not break this year.” Above all, beyond just her pure talent and presence in the record books, Plum will leave her legacy as part of a team with undeniable chemistry. Perhaps supported by the culture of women’s basketball, where players primarily spend four years working and growing together as a team, Plum and the Huskies are united on and off of the court. “I don’t think it is necessarily all about talent, but putting the pieces together,” Plum says. “That’s our job as leaders. As competitors, we can get feisty sometimes, but at the end of the day it’s just rolling it back together and being able to be a competitive family.” In comparison, the appeal of forfeiting eligibility to play professionally poses a threat to the men’s game


“I don’t even think about the NBA,” says freshman Markelle Fultz. “I think when people play like they have already made it, they don’t play as hard. I am [focused on] this season, helping these guys out, and becoming the best player I can be.” and the Huskies’ ability to develop the same type of team cohesion as the women. Last year alone, Washington lost two of their starting five in freshman stars Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray, who declared for the NBA Draft following the conclusion of their first seasons at Washington. While many believe Fultz will be the next to follow in similar fashion, that is not where his focus lies as the upcoming season looms.

“I don’t even think about the NBA,” he says. “I think when people play like they have already made it, they don’t play as hard. They think that everybody is supposed to respect them. I play to win each play and possession. I hate losing, so I am not worried about the NBA. I am worried about this season, helping these guys out, and becoming the best player I can be.” The freshman guard, a product of DeMatha Catholic High School in Upper Morbolo, Md., was ranked as the No. 5 player in the class of 2016 according to, adding his name to a long list of top-rated recruits to come to Washington under Romar. In fact, Fultz is the sixth ESPN Top-100 player to join the program in just the last two years alone. Sure to make an impact right off of the bat for Romar’s young squad, Fultz will likely bring the ball up at the point-guard position, but is also more than capable to play the two or three as well. “In the country, I think he’s one of the best coming in. You watch him play, you watch him for two or three minutes, the way he moves on the floor with his size, you realize he’s pretty good,” Romar says. “But what you don’t see behind the scenes is the type of teammate he is, the unselfish teammate that he is. Those things, those intangibles, go a long way in terms of his character and what he’s about to do to help your team be the best they can be.”

Continued on page 26



Kelsey Plum was all smiles after leading the Huskies to a berth in the Final Four in 2016, the first in program history.

Continued from page 25 Despite having only been on campus for a couple of months, being a part of the Washington program has been everything and more for Fultz. “I didn’t expect it to be as good as this. I expected it to be good, but just coming here and seeing how well we get a long together, even the coaches and the players, and how we come in every day competing ...” he says. “We’re friends off the court, but as soon as we step on the court it seems like we hate each other because we’re going at it so much. It’s just fun.” Regardless of the different makeups of these two teams, there will be no shortage of star power this season in Alaska Airlines Arena with Fultz and Plum running the show. With Plum hoping to keep Washington in the national spotlight and Fultz looking to help the men snap a five-year NCAA Tournament drought, the future is bright for Washington basketball.





Quarterback Jake Browning (Sophomore, Folsom, Calif.) prepares to take the field prior to the Huskies’ 44-6 win over Stanford on Friday, Sept. 30.


Photographs by RED BOX PICTURES

To purchase Husky Athletics photography, visit



We’re with the Dawgs.

Dawgs Digest Nov./Dec. 2016  

The Official Season-Ticket Holder Publication of University of Washington Athletics

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