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STARTING LINEUP

CONTENTS

FEATURES 14 WORLD OF SUCCESS

Mixing a strong group of internationals with a solid core of national and local players has led to three-straight Big Sky men’s tennis titles and a resurgence with the Wildcat women’s program. BY CORIE HOLMES

20 FAMILY AWAY FROM HOME

Nearly 7,000 miles from her home in Israel, Yarden Danan has discovered a new family playing basketball at Weber State. BY CHRIS J. MILLER

28 TRACK TO SUCCESS

Once an international track & field recruit for Weber State, Javier Chavez has called Ogden his home for nearly 40 years. BY JIM BURTON

33 FINDING WILDCATS AROUND THE GLOBE

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The practice of recruiting international student-athletes presents some unique challenges for Weber State’s coaching staffs, but it also comes with some great benefits for the program and the university. BY DARIN HOGGE

40 DIGGING OUT A NEW LIFE

Thamires Cavalcanti endured a tremendous amount of change from her club volleyball career in Brazil to collegiate volleyball in the U.S., but the junior libero is hoping for a new life in America after graduation. BY CORIE HOLMES

46 LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS

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Venla Makarainen and Pihla Hokkanen, a pair of distance runners from Finland, moved nearly 5,000 miles from home last year and experienced an amazing year of changes. BY JUSTIN JOHNSON

DEPARTMENTS 4 FROM THE A.D. 6 SNAPSHOTS 12 PLAYIN’ ON PURPLE with Jake Ness 19 COMPLIANCE CORNER 45 CREATE A LEGACY 52 NAME GAME

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56 TOP TWEETS

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uring our periodic planning meetings for each issue of Bleed Purple Magazine over the last year, we often discussed doing stories on one of the international student-athletes that is currently competing for Weber State. These athletes, coming from different countries around the world, and at times vastly different cultures, often have very interesting stories about their path to Weber State and the adjustment that comes with moving to a foreign country for school. As a few of these stories got added to our pool of ideas, we decided to dedicate an entire issue to international student-athletes. In addition to reading the stories of international student -athletes from women’s basketball, tennis, track & field, cross country and volleyball, this issue features an inside look at the process of recruiting internationally. The coaches that choose to look outside of the U.S. for talent find that benefits to the program and the university come beyond just adding an additional source of talent to the roster. Weber State has not traditionally recruited international players in vast numbers, with the exception of tennis, but several of the internationals that have plied their trade for the Wildcats have had great careers. Seven of those players are enshrined in the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame in Carmen GardunoBerlinerblau (track), Wendy Compton (tennis), Javier Chavez (track), Jonas Ehrlin (tennis), Anna Gunnarsson (tennis), Carito Villaroman (golf), and Bruce Covernton (football). Add to that list Elizabet Wahlquist, WeberStateSports.com

who was a member of the 1982 Women’s Golf Team that is enshrined and football’s Halvor Hagen, who was born in Oslo, Norway, but moved to Seattle at age nine, and the list expands to nine athletes. In this issue, you will be able to read a great piece on the story of Chavez, one of those Hall of Fame athletes, who came to Weber State from Mexico in 1977. After Javier’s great track career, he chose to make his home in Ogden, and he has gone on to become a very successful businessman with a chain of restaurants and has been a very philanthropic member of the community. Many other international athletes have chosen to become part of the Ogden community as well. Compton and Ehrlin both chose to stay in the local area and are former Weber State head tennis coaches. Tennis’s Brad Ferreira found his way to Weber State from South Africa in the ‘80s and opted to stay in Utah. Ferreira opened the Eagle Ridge Tennis Club in North Salt Lake and made a positive impact on many local young athletes, including some who went on to become Wildcat tennis players themselves. Four years ago, Ferreira made a move to make an even greater impact on Weber State tennis, taking over the head coaching position of the men’s team, and eventually becoming the Director of Tennis for the Wildcats. In Ferreira’s tenure, the men’s squad has put together three-straight Big Sky Conference regular season titles.

Darin Hogge

Director of Digital Media and Publications

THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF WEBER STATE ATHLETICS presented by

Volume 2, Issue 2 Editor in Chief

Darin Hogge

Executive Editors

Paul Grua Chris J. Miller Corie Holmes

Creative Director

Darin Hogge

Contributing Writers

Chris J. Miller Jim Burton Corie Holmes Darin Hogge Paul Grua Jerry Bovee Becky Thompson Justin Johnson Will Pridemore

Photography

Robert Casey Darin Hogge Justin Johnson

Ad Director

Dave Champlain

EMAIL: WEBERSTATESPORTS@GMAIL.COM WEBSITE: WEBERSTATESPORTS.COM FACEBOOK: facebook.com/WeberStateAthletics TWITTER: @WeberState INSTAGRAM: WSUWildcats

Copyright © 2016 by Weber State Athletics Publications All Rights Reserved Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Summer 2016

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From the A.D.

A Message from Jerry Bovee

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new school year is quickly approaching and thus the second year of “Bleed Purple Magazine” is ready for distribution. The 2015-2016 season was an amazing one for Weber State Athletics as four of our teams won Big Sky Championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In addition, nearly each of the 16 teams participated or qualified for Big Sky Tournament play and 12 of the 16 sports finished in the top five in Big Sky Conference standings. Among some of the achievements was the Wildcat women’s basketball team setting a new school record in wins with 23 and earning a trip to the championship game in the Women’s Basketball Invitational; Women’s Cross Country won their fourth Big Sky title in the last five years and had their third-highest finish at the NCAA championships; and Men’s Tennis made their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. These accomplishments make us proud that the hard work, dedication and efforts of our student-athletes and coaches translate into success. It’s been rewarding to see the community pride in the accomplishments of our teams. This edition of “Bleed Purple” features the experiences of student-athletes who have come to Weber State from other countries looking for an opportunity to play their sport and get an education. 4

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I’m asked occasionally as to the reasons we would offer students of other countries scholarships to play a sport at Weber State when there

“Having a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and cultures improves the educational experience within the athletics program as well as the general student-body at Weber State. It serves a vital role of the overall mission of the university and improves the cultural diversity of the educational experience for every student.”

are plenty of local or regional students-athletes who could be given those same opportunities. The ultimate consideration a coach determines in recruiting studentathletes is can the recruit help the program to be successful in competition and in the classroom. There are, however, other outcomes that add to the successful culture of an athletics program from foreign student-athletes. Having a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and cultures improves the educational experience within the athletics program as well as the general student-body at Weber State. It serves a vital role of the overall mission of the university and improves the cultural diversity of the educational experience for every student. As you’ll see in some of the following articles, these studentathletes have made and continue to make worthwhile contributions to our community. It is just another aspect of what truly makes Weber State great, great, great! We’ll see you at the games, go Wildcats! Until next time, go Wildcats!

Jerry Bovee Weber State Director of Athletics

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The Weber State softball team celebrates following a home run by Aubrey Whitmer during the Wildcats’ 6-0 win over Idaho State in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference championship tournament. (Photo by Robert Casey)

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Members of the Pittsburgh pep band filled in for Weber State at the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament after the Wildcat’s band was unable to attend the game due to a scheduling conflict. (Photo by Darin Hogge)

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Weber State’s Desirae Cruse clears the bar in the high jump and appears to be swallowed up by the mat during the team’s Twilight Meet in May. (Photos by Robert Casey)

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with Jake Ness Get to know men’s track’s Jake Ness, a freshman from Salisbury, England as Lexie Albi met up with him for the latest edition of Playin’ on Purple.

Playin’ On Purple: What is something Americans do that you think is weird? Jake Ness: Probably the way they talk is the weirdest thing. P.O.P What is the biggest difference between here and home? J.N. The chocolate is really bad here compared to European Chocolate. P.O.P. Walk us through your recruiting process and why you decided to come to Weber State. J.N. Well before last summer I was looking at places to go and I actually got a scholarship somewhere else, but my GPA dropped so they dropped my scholarship. The last month of the summer, I was in a mad rush to find a place and Coach Isaac Wood approached me and spoke to me and offered me a scholarship and so I came to Weber State.

P.O.P. If you could play any other sport collegiately what would you play and why? J.N. I’d play soccer because as British people we play soccer a lot. My childhood was all about soccer. P.O.P. If you could witness any athletic event past present or future what would it by and why? J.N. I would go to the Bejing Olympics and watch Usain Bolt smash the world record. POP: What is your favorite cereal and why? J.N. Weetabix, because you can eat a lot of it and it tastes good. POP: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been too? J.N. Probably Five Finger Death Punch because it’s a metal concert and the more

bruised you get the better it is and my buddy was covered so it was really fun. I actually crowd surfed up to the stage and had to get hauled off by security but as I was leaving the lead singer took off his shirt, signed it, and then gave it to me.

POP: Do you have any plans for after college? J.N. I’m going to go back home and hopefully work for a private sports clinic and hopefully use the degree that I’m getting here.

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Weber State University

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WORLD OF SUCC

Mixing a strong group of internationals with a solid core of national and local players has led to three-straight Big Sky men’s tennis titles and a resurgence with the Wildcat women’s program.

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By CORIE HOLMES ennis is a sport that’s known around the world, a fact that is apparent by the nine international student-athletes on the Weber State tennis squads. These Wildcats are from all over the globe, from Poland to Indonesia and all sorts of places in between. On the women’s team this past season were four international athletes: senior Agata Bachanek from 14

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Gdasnk, Poland, sophomore Dominique Beauvais from North Vancouver, Canada, sophomore Devi Hasan from Jakarta, Indonesia and freshman Morgan Dickason from Stellenbosch, South Africa. On the men’s side of tennis there were five international student-athletes: seniors Jakub Gewert from Gnlezno, Poland and Todd Fought from West Vancouver, Canada, juniors Shao-Po Yin from Kaohsiung City, Taiwan and Stefan Cooper from

Plymouth, England, and sophomore Hou-En Chen from Keelung City, Taiwan. The nine international players had combined for 402 career wins over singles and doubles play, helping the Wildcat tennis programs enjoy successful seasons as of late. The women’s program has finished in the top four of the Big Sky Conference each of the last two seasons, while the men’s team has won threestraight conference regular season WeberStateSports.com


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titles, and this past year advanced to the NCAA tournament as a team for the first time in school history. Each of these athletes started playing tennis at a very young age and competed in varying tournaments before getting recruited at Weber State. For Bachanek and Hasan one of the main reasons they looked at coming to the United States was for the opportunity to be able to study and get a degree while competing. WeberStateSports.com

Todd Fought has been one of the top players for the WSU men’s tennis team for the past four seasons, and wrapped up his career this spring with nearly 100 wins.

“Before, it was either I was going to go pro or I wasn’t going to do anything,” Bachanek said. “I didn’t realize there was a middle ground. I could only pick school or tennis, but I couldn’t have both. Here in the states it’s amazing that I can do both at the same time.” Hasan agreed that coming to the states and playing college tennis is an amazing experience. “I heard about this program where you could go to the states and

go to school and play tennis at the same time, so I knew I wanted to come to the states and get my degree and learn to speak English because that’s pretty cool,” Hasan said. “Back home you can’t play tennis while you study, you have to choose one of them. Coming to the states and playing college tennis is really cool.” Most of the international student athletes for the tennis squad had some type of connection to Weber State that drew them here. Summer 2016

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For Yin and Chen it was an assistant coach for the women’s team in 2014-15, Annie Hwang. “Last year the assistant coach on the girls team, Annie, and Hou-En were here,” Yin said. “I was at Lewis Clark State in Idaho and my high school coach asked me if I wanted to come and transfer to Weber State to be with them and I said yeah.” Dickason’s connection to Weber State was the coaches in Brad Ferreira and Mark Roberts who are both from South Africa as well. “I wanted to come to Weber State because both the coaches are from my state and Utah looked like a cool place,” she said.

Beauvais was drawn to the athletics program at Weber State and wanted to continue her life as a student-athlete. “I was interested in Weber State based on the tennis program,” Beauvais said. “I’d heard it was really great and I really enjoy the aspect of community they have within athletics. I get a lot of support through them and that was something that I was drawn to.” Being able to travel is another opportunity that the international student-athletes aren’t able to take advantage of. “Here we drive six or seven hours and we’re in a different state that isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen

before,” Chen said. “Here we go see a different state and it’s nothing like Taiwan.” “It’s cool to play matches and travel. It’s one of my favorite things because I would never get a chance like this at home,” Hasan said. “When I look back at this moment from the future it’s going to be really cool to see all I did with tennis and with school. It will be fun to look back and see all the traveling I did and the places I’d been.” Road trips do more than just expose student-athletes to the different states. The teams can bond and come together on road trips. “I look forward to all the road trips because the team gets closer and we gel together,” Cooper said. “It helps our team chemistry which helps us compete better as a team.” The concept of a tennis team is something that several Wildcat netters have had to adjust to as tennis is primarily an individual sport, but it’s something that has become one of their favorite things about being at Weber State. “My favorite part of being here at Weber State is just being part of the team,” Fought said. “Since my freshman year I’ve lived with the tennis team, I eat with the tennis team, I go out with the tennis team, I play with the tennis team. They have become family.” “Being a part of a team is completely different than individual tournaments,” Dickason said. “I really love it. I love that we cheer each other on and if someone is having a bad day then someone else can pull through and Bachanek (right) has held the No. 1 singles spot for the Wildcats for the last three seasons. Her main doubles partner, Hasan (left) posted double-digit wins this past season across the 4-6 singles spots.

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we can still get the win and that’s my favorite part of Weber State is the team environment.” Tennis at Weber State has also been a blessing for many. The easy access to facilities and injury treatments is not something many have. “The biggest difference between tennis here and tennis in Taiwan is the treatment to get healthy,” Chen

Hou-En “Eddie” Chen recorded 19 wins for the Wildcats this past season, including a 7-2 mark in Big Sky singles play.

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said. “Here if you get injured you have a trainer to help you and he’ll give you 100 percent to take care of the treatment. In Taiwan athletics aren’t that important and if you get injured you probably just take a quick two hour rest and then go hit again.” “The freeness and easiness of life here was the biggest difference for me,” Cooper said. “On the tennis side there’s not as many public courts and it was hard to gain access to those kinds of things. Over here there are more tennis facilities and

it’s easier to access.” “Everything at Weber State is just really great,” Bachanek added. “The facilities and school are just really awesome. There’s nothing like this at home.” There are plenty of adjustments that have to be made when uprooted from one culture and placed in another. For most of the international students on the tennis squad the food and language in America were the biggest culture shocks. “The food is very unhealthy here compared to back home,” Dickason said. “That is one thing I’ve had to get used to.” “The language is the biggest thing I’ve had to adjust to, and the land,” Yin said. “Everything is big here, big mountains, big rivers, lots of land. Everything in Taiwan is tiny.” “Learning English has been a big thing for me,” Bachanek said. “When I came I couldn’t really speak English at all. I couldn’t understand people and they couldn’t understand me, so it took a while before I even felt comfortable going out.” Hasan wasn’t so specific when she expressed her major cultural adjustments. “Everything is different,” Hasan said. “The food, the language, the people, everything. It’s just really different.” One thing all nine tennis athletes agreed on was how much they love being student-athletes at Weber State. “I love being a student-athlete at Weber State,” Beauvais said. “I’ve been a student-athlete all my life so I can’t really picture myself being anything else. I really wouldn’t change anything. I love being an athlete and it’s been an incredible opportunity to do that here.”

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Compliance Corner

Occassional Meals

One of the missions of the Weber State Office of Athletics Compliance is to educate those who support our athletics programs. You may or may not know that NCAA rules control what a booster can and cannot do with recruits and current student-athletes. Improper interactions between a booster and a current or future student-athlete may jeopardize the student-athlete’s eligibility. According to NCAA rules, you are a booster if you 1. Have participated in or have been a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s athletics program (e.g. Wildcat Club); 2. Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization; 3. Have assisted or been asked to assist by the athletics department in the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete; 4. Assist or have assisted in provided benefits to student-athletes or their families; OR 5. Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program. It is important to remember that once you trigger booster status with an institution, you are always considered a booster.

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n the world of athletics compliance, we often hear of of business’s desires to somehow work with student-athletes. While it is impermissible for student-athletes to endorse commercial product or services, there is still a way that your business could be associated with studentathletes. NCAA rules permit a business to use a student-athlete’s name or picture, or the group picture of an institution’s athletics squad, to appear in an advertisement of a particular business, commercial product or service, provided that several conditions are met. Those conditions are: 1. The primary purpose of the advertisement is to publicize the sponsor’s congratulations to the student-athlete or team; 2. The advertisement does not include a reproduction of the product with which the business is associated or any other item or description identifying the business or service other than its name or trademark; 3. There is no indication in the WeberStateSports.com

makeup or wording of the advertisement that the squad members, individually or collectively, or the institution endorses the product or service of the advertiser; 4. The student-athlete has not signed a consent or release granting permission to use the student-athlete’s name or picture in a manner inconsistent with the requirements of this section; and 5. If the student-athlete has received a prize from a commercial sponsor in conjunction with participation in a promotional contest and the advertisement involves the announcement of receipt of the prize, the receipt of the prize is consistent with the provisions of Bylaw 12.5.2.3.3 and official interpretations. So, if your business would like to place an ad congratulating one of our athletics teams for a Big Sky Conference championship, you can do so provided the above conditions are met. Should you or your business want to take advantage of this rule, please remember our motto of asking

before you act. The athletics compliance office will work with you to determine that your actions do not jeopardize the eligibility of our student-athletes. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Sincerely,

Will Pridemore Director of Compliance williampridemore@weber.edu 801.626.8552

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FAMILY AWAY FROM HOME Nearly 7,000 miles from her home in Israel, Yarden Danan has discovered a new family playing basketball at Weber State.

By CHRIS J. MILLER

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eaving her close-knit family in Israel to come to the United States may have been the toughest thing Yarden Danan has had to do in her nearly 20 years of life. But the results have been rewarding to her, her family and the Weber State community as well. And guess what? Yarden has found out she has a wonderful big family here in Utah as well. Danan just finished up her freshman basketball season at Weber State, and after spring finals, anxiously prepared to leave for home in Rehovot, Israel, located just 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv. She was all smiles at the thought of seeing her siblings, hugging her parents, and connecting with the comforts of home. But after 10 months in Ogden, Danan will miss her friends here, and the great experiences she has gained as a student-athlete at WSU. “She always has a smile on her face. Ya has done a great job soaking up the whole college experience,” assistant basketball coach Matt Thune said. “It has been fun to watch her grow in her first year at Weber State, and we will be looking forward to seeing the player and woman she will become during the next three years.” “Yarden is a great kid who loves WeberStateSports.com

her teammates,” said head basketball coach Bethann Ord. “Ya is someone that people gravitate to on campus.” “Yarden is a student who likes to learn and have fun at the same time,” said instructor Maria Mortensen. “She has a good attitude about life and loves to play basketball, her true passion.”

Life in Israel Yarden is a basketball natural. Her first name is Hebrew for Jordan, a significant river of Biblical fame, but also one of basketball royalty. She grew up in Ben Shemen, Israel, where her father managed a zoo. Her father and mother had known each other since childhood,

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“In Israel, I played with Asia Taylor, who had played for Coach Ord and Coach Thune at Louisville. She encouraged them to follow my career, and I am glad they did.’’ growing up in the same larger home, and were married after her father returned from his studies at Yeshiva University in New York City. When she was 8 or 9, Yarden’s father, Miko, became manager of a collection of age-group basketball teams in Rehovot, coaching three of the 20 squads. “He was my first coach, but after one year (perhaps sensing her talent), he told me to go and join another team that would treat me differently than he would,” Yarden remembers. “It wasn’t long before I was living in a different city, in an apartment, playing basketball and studying at Kiryat Sharet Holon. It was tough to be away from my family, but good for my basketball.” Danan’s family observes Shabbat, “my mother practices her religion

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and stick with her on that,” Yarden said. While not all Israelis encourage young women to pursue college and athletic goals, Yarden’s family and friends advised her to follow her dreams. She has some pretty knowledgeable advisers, for sure. One is Shay Doron, perhaps the most famous Israeli female basketball player. She was a standout in high school in New York City, played college ball at Maryland, and a enjoyed a short stint in the WNBA before returning to her native country. “I played one season with Shay, and have known her for many years,” Yarden said. “In fact, her pro women’s league team just beat our team for the Israel championship. “She advised me to go to college

in the United States, and I listened to her. I feel like I had an advantage, in that my English is much better than many others, and it helps me. It’s not easy to be away from home.” Danan also was drawing attention for her play with the Israel national U16 team, helping her squad win the B Division title at the European Championships. Finding Ogden After deciding to pursue college basketball dream, Danan received several offers from around the nation. Including Weber State. “In Israel, I played with (WNBA player) Asia Taylor, who had played for Coach Ord and Coach Thune at Louisville. She encouraged them to follow my career, and I am glad they did,” Yarden said.

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After Israel’s success at the European Championships, Danan had plenty of choices. “Coach Ord was persistent that they wanted me to come to Weber. I never visited Ogden, but she showed me around campus when we Skyped. Her father is Jewish, so I felt it would be good to be around someone who understood me and my customs,” she said. “It wasn’t too long before I decided to come to Weber.” “Asia had great character for us while we were at Louisville, and recommended we follow Yarden, because of her potential, but also because of her character,” Ord said. Ord and the WSU staff saw lots of film of Danan competing in the European Championships and other regional tournaments. “We saw that Yarden had the desire to get better. She was good offensively, we saw she could shoot, but were impressed that her passing was above and beyond.” Still, recruiting an international player has its challenges. “We want it to be the right fit – a great opportunity for the student-athlete. It’s important to me to talk to Mom and Dad and grandparents as well,” Ord added. With the blessing of her parents, Danan came to Ogden. First season excitement While Danan may not have known much about the history of WSU women’s basketball, her goal was the same as with any other team. “Before the season started, we said our goal was to win a championship. I knew Weber was a small team, but I was still surprised when I got here and found, that at 5-foot-10, I was one of the tallest players,” Danan said. WeberStateSports.com

After several down seasons, the Wildcats -- under Ord, Thune, J.D. Gustin and Devan Newman – are starting to see results. WSU jumped out to a fast start on the season, then after suffering a couple of key injuries, regrouped and battled to one of their best Big Sky campaigns in many seasons. “The way this team came together this year was impressive,” Ord said. “Even with the injuries and bumps in the road, this season was a lot of fun.” As the ’Cats built some late-season momentum, so did Danan. “I feel like the team worked hard, especially after we lost Gina (Regina Okoye) and Joss (Jocelyn Adams). Everyone picked up the slack and did the best they could,” Danan said. “It was awesome at the end of the season.” Awesome, as in nearly making the Big Sky Conference semifinals, then stringing together three straight victories in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, before falling 87-85 in double overtime in the WBI championship in Lafayette, La. For the season, Danan averaged about 15 minutes a game, scoring 5.3 points per contest with big

Yarden came up big for the Wildcats in the Big Sky Conference tournament, averaging 20.5 points over WSU’s two games in Reno.

performances toward the end of the season and in tournament play. The Wildcats finished with a school-best 23-12 record, and great optimism for the future. “As the season went on, I got a few more minutes. I felt great with my shot at the end of the season. And I should spend more time at my position next year,” Danan said. “I need to work hard on my shot this summer, so I’ll be ready to pick up right where we left off in Reno. “The coaching staff is amazing,” she said. “I love them. They are always there if we need to work out.” New student-athlete Danan remembers being homesick only once. “It was usually bad when it was snowing,” she said. “I had one time, when basketball wasn’t going well, and I started thinking how I wanted to be with my friends and family, but I soon got over that.” While she didn’t enjoy Utah’s cold Summer 2016

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weather, she warmed up to everything else. “The basketball players lived together this past year, and it really helped us become friends and be close,” Danan said. “I have made friends with girls from other sports as well. It’s awesome that all the athletes get along. “Really, all I’d heard about Utah was that it was cold and there would be a lot of Mormons. I didn’t even know what that meant,” she joked. “But I found that Mormons like Jewish people, and it’s been great here.” “We are a diverse group. We tell our team that as a family we appreciated the differences everyone brings to the table and we have a lot to learn from one another,” Thune added. While Danan says her culture is warm and friendly, she found Americans need their space. “It took some time to get used to that. I have enjoyed going to some of my friends’ homes.” Maintaining her kosher diet was also a challenge. “That was hard, but I get kosher meat from a store in Salt Lake and it has really worked out,” Danan said. “It was just a matter of adjusting. “People in Utah have been very respectful of my religion. Before I came to Ogden, my father checked out the synagogue in Ogden, where 30-40 people attend each Friday and Saturday. Many of them have come to my games and supported me. They have invited me for Shabbat and holidays too. “I have a lot of people around me that support me. A family from Salt Lake have also kind of adopted me. It’s been great.” “I think I’m going to start calling her Tuna. Yarden eats kosher and 24

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had a little bit of a difficult time adjusting to the food choices when she first arrived,” Thune said. “She probably ate 200 tunafish sandwiches. It was unreal. “I’ll probably have one in her locker when she gets back from Israel,” Thune joked. Danan’s family has visited as well. “My grandmother came to visit me on Christmas break, and my parents were here for 10 days in February,” Yarden said. “When my mother Liat was here, she was freezing the whole time. But she liked where I lived and who I had around me.” “We have some really sweet families in Ogden,” said Ord, “they don’t care what religion you are, the people of Ogden will welcome and support you.” Danan earned academic honors during her first semester. “I am studying physical therapy and wellness,” Danan said. “The language has been tough to keep up with the deeper we get into my studying. I have put so much more time into studying than in Israel.”

Yarden volunteered at Dee Elementary School in Ogden as part of a community class with Weber State.

Professor Mortensen thinks Yarden excelled despite the time challenges of college athletics. “Teaching international students has been a great joy because they bring so much into the classroom. They bring their traditions, languages, and experiences into the classroom … but they are also learning about American culture,” Mortensen said. “Yarden knew there would always be homework waiting for her when she was away playing basketball, but she managed to do all she needed to. I wish her well in the future.” For one class, Danan and the other students had the opportunity to volunteer for 18 hours in a local elementary school. Mortensen said Danan really excelled in her efforts at Dee Elementary School. “I was told that at recess Yarden was always surrounded by students, WeberStateSports.com


teaching them how to play basketball. She loved tutoring the children who were waiting for her every Friday and she had a great time.” Ord’s fondest memory of Danan this season involves her own father. “My father is Jewish, and my mother Catholic, so I was familiar with a lot of things,” Ord said. “I’d even asked Yarden to teach me a few words. “My parents came to Ogden to see me, and Yarden was so sweet with my Dad. She would walk with him, and sing him songs in Hebrew as they walked. It was wonderful.” Summer plans Danan left Ogden on April 29. On May 1, she began working out with

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the Israel U20 national team. “I hope to spend some time with my brothers (Yahali, 16, and Ori, 12) and sister (Agam, 9). My sister is so excited to see me,” Yarden said. “I’ll be working out at the main training center in Israel, and I hope to be able to stay at home during that time,” Danan said. “Our goal for this year is to make the top three in the European B Division, which would move us up to the A Division. Then a top placement down the road gets you into the Olympic qualifying.” Both Danan and the WSU staff knows the style of play is different on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. “The style is much different in Europe,” Danan said. “It took a while

to adjust over here, and my coach told me it will take a few weeks to get back into the groove of how they play as well.” Women’s basketball in Israel is relatively new. “I hope we can get there in a few years. Women’s basketball improves a little bit every year,” Danan said. “We are excited to see her go home and play for the national team,” Ord said. “We’re glad to see her go home, and know she’ll be working hard.” Yarden would recommend Weber State to other players. “I tell girls I play with in Israel, “ ‘Go for it. Get a degree, combined with the basketball. It is great.’ ”

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‘Cat Tales

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by PAUL GRUA ven 17 years after he led Weber State to an upset win over North Carolina, Harold ”The Show” Arceneaux is still recognized as one of the stories of March Madness. But Arceneaux is not just known in the United States; he truly became a worldwide show, playing professional basketball in just about every corner of the globe. Arceneaux is not alone. Over the last several years, many former Wildcat men’s basketball players have made a name for themselves playing professionally on every continent. Despite not making it to the NBA after his standout two-year career 26

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Wildcat hoopsters make names around the world

at Weber State, Arceneaux had a long professional career. From summer leagues in the NBA to minor professional leagues in the United States, and to countries near and far, Arceneaux continued playing basketball. He played for professional teams in Austrailia, France, Portugal, Argentina, South Korea, Phillipines, Brazil and Mexico. In the final few years of his career in Mexico, he spent time as a player and a coach for Lechugueros De Leon in Leon. It’s a long way from Hammond, Indiana, to Ogden, Utah, and even farther to Poland and Japan, but basketball has taken Wildcat Hall of Famer Jermaine Boyette to lots of places around the world. Basketball and his experience at Weber State

have changed his life. Boyette grew up on the tough streets of Hammond, a suburb of Chicago. It’s an area known for its high crime and tough way of life. But Boyette was given a chance to attend college and spent three years as a star for the Wildcats, including leading WSU to a perfect Big Sky record as a senior in 2002-03. That season he was named Big Sky MVP and led the ‘Cats to the NCAA Tournament. Following his playing career with the Wildcats, Boyette set out to continue his basketball dreams and someday play in the NBA. He had multiple summer league camps and tryouts with NBA teams, including a couple of stints with the Utah Jazz summer league team. He was the WeberStateSports.com


last player cut one season with the Jazz. But his tryouts with the NBA did open opportunities for him to play all over the world. “I went on to play in Poland,” he said. “I came back the next year to the summer league with the Jazz but I had a thumb injury and wasn’t able to play much. From there I went to the CBA were I played for the Idaho Stampede. Then a team in France wanted me so I went over there midway through the CBA season and played two years in France. Then I went to Italy and played there for four or five years. I also played in Venezuela and Israel and spent the last few playing years in Japan.” Boyette, who this year was inducted into the Weber State Athletics Hall of Fame, had great experiences playing in those many places across the globe. A number of other Wildcats also continued or are still playing professionally across the world. After this three-year career at Weber State, Scott Bamforth signed to play professionally in Spain where he has played the last three seasons. He spent last season playing for BC Sevilla in the Spanish ACB league where he averaged 12.5 points and 2.4 assists per game. WSU’s career leader in 3-pointers also shot 44 percent from 3-point range. The ACB League is considered one of the most competitive leagues in all of Europe and Bamforth has played with and against some great competition. One of his teammates at BC Sevillia was Kristaps Porzingis, now with the New York Knicks.

Bamforth and his wife Kendra are raising their two sons, Kingzton and Jaxzton in Spain. One of Bamforth’s teammates at Weber State, Kyle Tresnak, has spent the last two seasons in Europe as well, first with Spain and last year in France. During the past season he led his team, GET Vosges, in scoring at 12.2 points and grabbed 5.9 rebounds per game. Other Wildcats still playing professionally overseas include

Lindsey Hughey and Daviin Davis. Former Big Sky MVP’s David Patten and Kellen McCoy and former Wildcat Frank Otis also spent several years playing professionally all over the world. While Damian Lillard has proven himself as one of the best players in the NBA, and now Joel Bolomboy plans on joining him in the NBA, other former Wildcats have been able to have great careers and visit all corners of the Earth.

Harold Arceneaux (opposite) and Scott Bamforth (right) are just two of the many players from the Weber State men’s basketball program to play professionally in foreign countries. WeberStateSports.com

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Track to Success Once an international track & field recruit for Weber State, Javier Chavez has called Ogden his home for nearly 40 years.

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by JIM BURTON s the story goes, Javier Chavez arrived in Ogden in 1977, a humble young man from a farming community in central Mexico. Speaking almost no English and possessing almost no money, he showed up to claim his Weber State track scholarship with the clothes on his back and a few other items stuffed in a duffle bag. Yes, as the story goes, Javier Chavez – track champion, restaurateur, successful businessman, beloved philanthropist, WSU Hall of Famer and distinguished alumnus – had nothing when he first set foot on campus nearly 40 years ago. That’s the story, but it’s not exactly true. The truth of it is, while Javier arrived in Ogden with precious little in the way of monetary value, he was as far from poor as Zacatecas, Mexico is from Mt. Ogden peak. WeberStateSports.com

In fact, he was richer than most people ever imagine. He had within in himself something more valuable than monetary wealth, because money, gold and jewelry can be squandered. In addition to the clothes on his back and the things in his duffle bag, Javier had an incredible work ethic, a will to compete and win, and most importantly, an indomitable sense of positivity. Poor? Not hardly. Javier was never poor … ever. Not on his family’s farm in Mexico, not when he missed making Mexico’s 1976 Olympic track team by a fraction of a second, and certainly not when he was running track at Weber State while trying to save up enough money to buy his first restaurant. Back then the inside of his wallet may have seemed as desolate as the Mojave Desert, but his innate ability to find the good in every situation was as lively as the Amazon. “It was hard, tough, tough,” Javier

said, referring to that first year at Weber State. He was far away from home, living in a different country and speaking a different language. He was running for longtime track coach Chick Hislop, whose wife would give Javier English lessons. And to make matters worse, there was snow on the ground. “We had to run in the snow and the cold,” he said. “I was missing my family. I cried.” A deeply religious man, Javier said he turned to God then, and he continues to do so now. “I said, ‘Why, why (did I come to) the United States,” he admitted. “Now I say, “Thanks God, thanks!” That story explains a lot about the man who grew up on a farm in a small Mexican village. There was no electricity, no running water. As the second of 12 children, he learned the importance of hard work at an early age. Whatever he got, he Summer 2016

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“Javier is the gold standard of what the possibilities are for a student-athlete at Weber State. His story and life of never quitting and never giving in is what we hope is an outcome for all our student-athletes.”

-- Jerry Bovee

earned and he appreciated having it. “Imagine with no light, no power, no gas, no nothing,” he said, grinning at the very memory of his childhood. “We loved the moon because in the

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evening we played and the moon, it was so beautiful.” Seeing now that unstoppable combination of hard work, gratitude and positivity, it’s no wonder Javier

has been so successful. Whether he’s thinking back on his childhood or remembering those early days at Weber State, running in the snow, learning English, going to school and working part time to earn a little extra money, Javier always manages a smile. “It was a challenge for me, but I made it,” he said. “It was hard, but I did okay.” He did more than “okay.” He became one of Weber State’s all-time great athletes and is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. Javier’s athletic career – as well as his subsequent career in the restaurant business – is well known to those who bleed purple, or who simply enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine. He was Mexico’s national champion in the 800 and 1,500 meters and was later recruited to Weber State where he won numerous track titles, including the Big Sky Conference’s indoor mile title in 1979, and the 1,500 meters in the conference’s 1980 outdoor track championships. Of course beyond the quantifiable things he did on the track, he has impacted the Ogden area in untold ways. Indeed, if his athletic career was special – and it was – his work as a business owner, a restaurateur, a coach and a mentor is world class. Walk into one of his Mexican restaurants in and around Ogden, and it’s easy to see what Weber State WeberStateSports.com


Javier’s daughter Amada carried on the Chavez track legacy, becoming a star middle distance runner for the Wildcats.

has meant to him. It’s easy to see that he is proud to be a Wildcat. A closer inspection reveals a loyalty that runs both ways. Javier has a love for all things Weber State and it should come as no surprise that the Wildcats – students, faculty, staff and fans – feel a connection to him. First of all, because he’s one of them, and secondly, the food served at his restaurants is first-rate. But the connection goes beyond alma maters and enchiladas; on a strictly human level, there is an appreciation for his happy smile, gregarious personality and unconquerable spirit. “Javier is the gold standard of what the possibilities are for a student-athlete at Weber State,” WSU Athletic Director Jerry Bovee said. “His story and life of never quitting and never giving in is what we hope is an outcome for all our student-athletes. “The experiences gained through participation in intercollegiate athletics at Weber State translate into real life settings that hopefully lead to the success that Javier has earned.” Javier’s backstory is very much a testament to the positivity of perseverance. And it’s very inspiring. He was drawn to baseball at an early age and he played the game with the same joy and competitive fire he displayed as a runner. In fact, running was his favorite aspect of the game. “I was a good player, but I didn’t bat too good,” he said with his usual WeberStateSports.com

smile. “But I liked to run and steal bases.” His baseball coaches encouraged him, but the track coaches coveted him and eventually they convinced him he needed to become a runner. Blessed with an athletic ability to make hard things look easy, Javier took his smooth stride and positive disposition to the world of running. He took to the sport quickly and soon became Mexico’s national champion in the 800 and 1,600 meters. That eventually led him to the Olympic trials, which eventually led to the heartache of coming close to his dream, only to come up a few seconds short. A track coach at BYU told Javier there were opportunities for him in the United States, and he pointed him toward Weber State. And that brings us back to 1977, when Javier – who was 28 at the time – showed up with nothing of real monetary value, just a few bucks, the clothes on his back and

a duffle bag. Of course we know by now that he also carried within him the will to compete, the strength to succeed and the power of positivity. “In an era when we talk of closing borders, dashing the hopes and dreams of a better life here in the United States, Javier’s life would be a case study in fulfilling those hopes,” said former Weber State Sports Information Director Brad Larsen. “He came to Weber State almost sight unseen to run for the track team. He left with numerous honors, and is now a member of the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame.” Still smiling at the memories, Javier said he owes everything to Weber State. “I always will be Weber State,” he said. And Weber State – and for that matter the entire state of Utah – is richer for having Javier Chavez in the community.

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FINDING WILDCATS AROUND THE GLOBE

The practice of recruiting international student-athletes presents some unique challenges for Weber State’s coaching staffs, but it also comes with some great benefits for the program and the university.

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By DARIN HOGGE idsummer means the offseason for all 16 athletics programs at Weber State, and with no games, matches or meets to prepare for, the Wildcats’ coaching staffs find more time to focus on recruiting in this time of year. Recruiting is what fuels success WeberStateSports.com

at the college level. Successfully recruiting talented student-athletes who are a good fit for the program translates into success on the field, making it a vital part of what goes in to creating a winning program. For the majority of the athletics programs at Weber State, the search for those quality student-athletes begins in the local area and expands

regionally and nationally around the United States. With the exception of tennis, recruiting beyond the borders of the United States has been rare at Weber State, but in recent years the practice has grown, and nearly every program has featured at least one international student-athlete on its roster over the past few years. The theory is simple: find the Summer 2016

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highest quality of student-athlete that is possible who will also be a good fit within the program, the university and the community. “The biggest reason I look out of the country is to try to find kids that are better prepared for college than we can get in-state or regionally,” said assistant coach Isaac Wood, who has handled the bulk of the international recruiting for track & field and cross country under head coaches Dan Walker and Paul Pilkington. “If we can find an athlete out there that is better than what we can get here locally, then we are going to do our best to try and go get them.” The 2015-16 season saw 20 international student-athletes from 12 different countries competing for Weber State, led by men’s and women’s tennis, who combined for nearly half of the total with nine internationals. “With tennis being such an international sport, for us to be competitive we really have to go international with our recruiting,” said Director of Tennis Brad Ferreira. “Our preference would be to always take Utah kids, but the top Utah kids will often choose to go out of state or to one of the other Utah schools, forcing us nationally or internationally with our recruiting.” Track and Field has also made a push recruiting internationally of late, with four such student-athletes this past season, and is finding the foreign pool a great place to supplement a local-heavy roster.

“There is a lot of talent in the state of Utah, but there are also a lot of good college programs around that they can decide to go to,” said Wood. “It’s nice to have some national or international athletes that you can kind of work with as the recruiting season goes on, so that if you don’t land some of the local athletes that you really wanted, you can go after these foreign kids

that you have been working with.” Director of Golf Scott Erling has found that recruiting international athletes removes an often inherent bias that is often found when recruiting locally or nationally. “A lot of American kids view all of college athletics through the major sports such as football and men’s basketball,” said Erling. “Sometimes you go after kids that

Lee Shepherd, from Mansfield, England, is one of 20 international student-athletes that competed for Weber State athletics last season. 34

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“They really view this as a special opportunity to compete at a whole different level and they are just really hungry for the opportunity to come and get a chance to do that. And so sometimes you are getting a higher level talent-wise because they just want a chance to show what they can do here.”

-- Scott Erling

could really thrive in our environment, but they never give it a chance because they don’t view us as being on the same level, even though we are a Division-I program. And you never get a fair opportunity, I feel, to change their mind. With international kids, they don’t grow up watching those sports, so there’s not that bias that’s built in.” “Another thing that’s come to pass when I’ve talked with international kids is that they are so eager for the opportunity,” added Erling. “They really want to come to America, get an American education, play in an American sport system. They really view this as a special opportunity to get a chance to compete at a whole different level, and they are just really hungry for the opportunity to come and get a chance to do that. And so sometimes you are getting a higher level talent-wise because they just want a chance to show what they can do over here.” In addition to providing a much larger pool from which to find quality student-athletes to add to the roster, mixing international athletes into a program often enhances the program in other ways. “Another thing I’ve enjoyed about recruiting international kids, and getting a couple on the team, is that it really helps round out the experience,” said Erling. “We’re predominantly made up of kids from WeberStateSports.com

Utah, which I think is great and is something that we will always try to do here, but when everyone’s from the same place, their life experience can be a bit narrow sometimes. So I think it has been great getting some international kids in that they can show what things are like in different parts of the world. And it works both ways. They get to have a different life experience too, so I think it’s beneficial to everyone involved.” While recruiting outside of the United States provides some great benefits, the process definitely comes with some challenges, the biggest of which is not having the opportunity to go and watch them compete and meet them in person. “Everything that we’re doing is kind of through email, through Skype, checking their progress in tournaments, things like that,” said Erling. “It’s missing that sit down, face to face, actually getting to see them. So that can present some challenges.” Another challenge comes in the way of extra steps and paperwork in the application process. Both Wood and Ferreira noted the administrative obstacles that need to be navigated in bringing in an international athlete. “The paperwork is a huge challenge,” said Wood. “Trying to stay in compliance and trying to get them into school and all those things. It

can get to be a real nightmare keeping everything on the right track and communicating with them all the things that need to be done. Especially if they don’t speak English as a second language, they need to understand that X, Y and Z need to be done before A, B and C. So that can be a little hard.” “The International Student Center on campus is very good to deal with,” said Ferriera. “But we have to worry about not just the school application process, but also them being eligible to get a visa. They go through the application process here, then they have to get a form submitted, and then they have to go to their embassies to try and get student visas to get here. Once they are in, we have to always make sure they are on track with their studies in order for them to keep their visas.” Technology has definitely made an impact for the better in regard to solving many of the difficulties coaches encounter as it enhances the process of research and communication. Coaches can view results of players online, watch videos posted to YouTube to see playing styles and mechanics, and the use of Skype turns phone calls into faceto-face conversations. “A lot of our recruiting is Internet based,” said Ferreira. “There is a Universal Tennis Rating that was developed about three years ago in Summer 2016

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which the rating system is the same for every kid in the world. That system makes it very easy to compare talent between U.S. players and players from various foreign countries. So with YouTube videos of players, combined with the rating system, combined with talking with recruiters and other players who know the athlete we are looking at, you can find a lot out about a kid before you even contact them.” Coach Wood spends hours scouring track and field results from various countries on the Internet, using national association sites as a starting point. He also subscribes to various

results services that help him be efficient with his research. From there, he identifies athletes that he can perform some targeted research on. “Once I find an athlete with good results from a particular meet, I try to find results from that athlete in other competitions to make sure that it wasn’t just a one hit wonder,” said Wood. “After I solidify that they are worthy to be recruited, I will typically find them on social media. Social media has changed the game on recruiting. I can just find an athlete we’re interested in on there and start a conversation.”

Internet research is helpful in that it can work both ways. Not only can coaches get to know potential recruits better without bringing them on campus, but recruits can check out the university, the campus, the athletics facilities, and the Ogden area without making a visit. “A lot of the kids we contact get very intrigued by Ogden and Utah,” said Wood. “A lot of the research of what it looks like, and what the environment is, and what it’s like here, they do it on their own. Which is nice, so by the time I’m talking to them a second time, they’re saying ‘Ogden looks like a great place.’ A lot of the selling happens on its own, especially because Ogden is a great place to live and to train.” This situation is night and day from when Ferreira found his way to Weber State as a tennis player in the mid 80’s from his home in South Africa. Recruiting internationally was a crapshoot, with coaches often taking on a player based mainly on results and referrals. Often players sent letters to several schools, hoping to catch some interest. “In my case, I sent a letter to a player I knew who was at the University of Utah,” said Ferreira. “He wrote a letter back saying that the coach at Weber was looking for a player and he had a phone number. I ended up calling him, so I got here really on a referral basis. I was lucky that it worked out for me. I had sent about 60 letters and only got about four replies when I was applying for schools to play at. Weber wasn’t even

Internet technologies have vastly changed the international recruiting process since WSU Director of Tennis Brad Ferriera found his way to Weber State in the 1980’s. 36

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WSU men’s golf head coach Scott Erling has primarily recruited places like England, Australia, and Canada, but has looked in places like Central America and Southeast Asia, and admits that “There’s nowhere that we wouldn’t look for kids.”

on the list of 60 schools, because as an international all we knew about was California and New York or Florida. Unless you know a place for some certain reason, no one knows where states like Utah are or what they are like.” Recruiting services also help the process greatly in that they can assist in identifying players, get coaches in contact with potential recruits, and help navigate the eligibility process. “There’s some really good services where all they do is work to get kids placed, so they do a lot of the leg work for these kids and their families,” said Erling. “It’s really helpful in that they understand the NCAA and the system. Erling sees this as a benefit that a lot of American high school athletes haven’t received, someone who has sat down with them and explained WeberStateSports.com

how the NCAA eligibility process works, what classes they need to have in high school, and the best way to be prepared to sign with a college athletics program. “Sometimes if an American high schooler is lucky, there’s been a counselor at school that’s had some experience with other student-athletes and can point them in the right direction,” said Erling. “But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with someone and they’ve never heard of the NCAA clearinghouse, they’ve never heard of the core requirements in school, things like that. They just don’t know. No one has ever told them, and the recruiting services do a pretty good job of getting the foreign players going.” Coaches can develop good relationships with the foreign recruiting service personnel, and they can often turn into an unofficial recruiter

for a program. “A lot of times, I can just deal with one person at a service about multiple kids,” said Erling. “As you build relationships with these guys, they learn what you’re looking for and they can begin to weed out players that they feel just won’t be a good fit with your program. That really helps, because then you don’t have to waste their time or your time trying to figure out if a player is going to work here.” While the use of technology and recruiting services have vastly changed the practice from the way it was done decades ago, one way it hasn’t changed since Ferreira came to Weber State is that the process is still helped greatly by referrals. “Word of mouth helps tremendously,” said Ferreira. “For instance we have two Polish kids in Kuba (Jakub Gewert) and Agata Summer 2016

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(Bachanek) who just finished up with us, and now we are bringing in another Polish kid who was a referral from Aga, and we have another Polish girl who we are looking at that Aga is helping us with. “The Polish kid sent us information, we said we were interested and started recruiting him. At one point, he had decided to go to a different school until Aga talked to him and said ‘Look, this is why Weber would be a much better fit for you.’ So because we had Polish kids who could talk to him and tell him what was good about Weber State and the state of Utah, he changed his mind instead of signing with another school. “We have a South African girl here now, and we’ve got three or four other South African girls that we are now recruiting, and we’ve got a South African boy coming in next year, all because of the girl that we have now. So good referrals really go a long way in not only finding good international players, but in helping out with the recruiting process along the way once we identify someone we would like to sign.” Erling feels that when someone from another country comes over here and has a really positive experience, they are the best salesmen for the university and for the program. “Someone who has had a great experience here is really invaluable, particularly for a program like ours,” said Erling. “Golf is such a tight-knit

community, it’s not real hard to find someone who played at a particular school and ask them about their experience. If that player has had a good experience, it goes so far in convincing someone that this might be a good opportunity for them. “We try to point out that while golf is a big part of coming here, it is just a part. We want them to get a great education and have a great university experience. So when a player gets home, they’re going to get asked about the golf, but they’re also going to be asked about the school and the campus, all that stuff. So they can do so much good for everyone. We really work hard to make sure that every player has as good of an experience as possible,

and we hope that when they look back at their time here, it is something that really stands out as a really impactful, great time in their life.” “It’s amazing to see how foreign athletes really find Ogden as such a wonderful place as we do,” said Wood. “It’s why we love working here and being here. To have them feel Ogden and Weber State is as neat as we do, and for them to embrace the culture here and embrace what Ogden is all about is awesome. When people in Finland or Austria or Spain can talk to people about Weber State and Ogden and what a wonderful place it is only does great things for the university and Ogden as a whole, so I think that’s neat.”

Word of mouth referrals from players like Agata Bachanek, who have had positive experiences at Weber State, greatly help in the recruiting of international student-athletes and spreads the brand of the university across the globe. 38

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Ogden Courtyard by Marriott

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DIGGING O

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OUT A NEW LIFE Thamires Cavalcanti endured a tremendous amount of change from her club volleyball career in Brazil to collegiate volleyball in the U.S., but the junior libero is hoping for a new life in America after graduation.

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by CORIE HOLMES “Volleyball, volleyball, volleyball. It’s my life. I’ve never really done anything but volleyball.” Thamires Calvacanti, a junior on the Wildcat volleyball team, and a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the first South American volleyball player

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to come to Weber State. Volleyball became a huge part of her life around the age of seven. She had family members encourage her to play volleyball and soccer. Once she started playing volleyball at a local club, volleyball quickly became her passion.

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“I kind of just want to get a job and live a normal life. After college I want to stay here in America. I want to make money and be rich and be happy. I want to give a better future to my parents and family.” “My parents got divorced when I was five or six.,” Cavalcanti said. “My mom and I went to live with my grandma. There was a park outside right by our house and I would go play volleyball every day.” When she was a junior in high school she was playing in a tournament when former Weber State assistant coach Brian Scott first approached her about coming to the states to

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play collegiate volleyball. “I told him I couldn’t because I was just a junior,” Cavalcanti said. “He told me they would wait for me and for the next two years he stayed in touch with me and I just couldn’t say no.” Having the opportunity to play volleyball and go to school is something she was excited about and something that influenced her decision.

“In Brazil we have clubs, we don’t have college volleyball like this,” Cavalcanti said. “You can go to school and play volleyball at the same time but it’s really hard. The professors are not understanding. They don’t care if you miss class because you had to travel because it has nothing to do with the school. It’s hard, and once you hit age 21 in a club you have to stop playing or you have to go play professional. There’s no other option.” At first it was hard to adjust. Cavalcanti spoke Portugese and knew very little English and the food was very different than what she was used to. “When I first came here from Brazil I gained almost 20 lbs” Cavalcanti said. “I was freaking out. In Brazil I don’t even eat half of what I eat here. It was a big adjustment for sure.” “I had no idea how to cook anything because at home my grandma would cook for me,” she said. “Now I know how to cook and I can even make some Brazilian things which helps a lot.” Competitive volleyball is a little different in America than in Brazil and it was an adjustment Cavalcanti wasn’t expecting. “The biggest difference between volleyball in Brazil and volleyball in America is how much they like to run and work out,” she said. “We never did that in Brazil. I would just play volleyball. We never worked out or ran. If I wanted to I could, but WeberStateSports.com


it wasn’t a requirement. If you were good enough you played even if you weren’t in shape. That was the biggest difference for me and it’s still hard for me to adjust too.” “I understand now the need for all the conditioning and weight

training,” she added. “It definitely helps in games. If a game goes into five sets and you weren’t in shape you’d be too exhausted to function.” After coming to Weber State she was excited for the opportunity to play so many different teams at all

“My grandma is my favorite person in the world. She’s my second mom. She took care of me, she took me everywhere with her, she cooks for me, she calls me everyday to make sure I’m ok. She’s just amazing and her past was not easy and she overcame so much and is just so inspiring.” WeberStateSports.com

different competitive levels. “Honestly, in Rio we don’t have a lot of teams,” she said. “We play the same three teams every year over and over again. Which sucks cause you want to play different people and here you play so much and you play so many different teams and you play way better teams. That excites me and it’s always different.” Cavalcanti is majoring in business administration and hopes to be successful enough to support her family in the future. “When I was young I wanted to be a professional volleyball player but now I’ve been playing for 14 years and I don’t know if I want to play professional,” she said. “I kind of just want to get a job and live a normal life. After college I want to stay here in America. I want to make money and be rich and be happy. I want to give a better future to my parents and family.” One of her biggest inspirations in life is her family. Which is why she wants to give back to them for everything they’ve done to support her. “My grandma is my favorite person in the world,” she said. “She’s my second mom. She took care of me, she took me everywhere with her, she cooks for me, she calls me everyday to make sure I’m ok, she’s just amazing and her past was not easy and she overcame so much and is just so inspiring.” She isn’t getting ahead of herself though she’s excited for her final two seasons as a Wildcat. “This spring season for volleyball was so good,” she said. “Our team has grown so much as a team and it’s made me so happy. It’s really fun to see how much our team has changed since last fall and I’m so excited for this fall I can’t even tell you.” Summer 2016

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“My scholarship has given me the opportunity to play Division I college volleyball, and to get a degree in the United States. I am so grateful for this great opportunity.� Thamires Cavalcanti - Volleyball Rio de Janiero, Brazil Class of 2018

Join the Wildcat Club and help support WSU Student-Athlete Scholarships 44

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Call 801-626-6576 or visit WeberStateSports.com for more information or to join. WeberStateSports.com


Create a Legacy

F

undraising events are a great way to raise money, raise awareness and just have fun! The Wildcat Club hosts several fundraising events each year. Consider this your invitation to join us for an opportunity mingle with fellow Wildcats and support our great student-athletes and programs. February 16th, 2016, we lost our beloved Coach Jeff Smith. His sudden death left a huge void at Weber State, in our community and certainly in the hearts of so many. The Jeff Smith Memorial Golf Scholarship Fund was established in his name. So far, $21,000 has been raised, and we are hoping to raise $35,000 to reach an endowment level. On Friday, August 26, 2016, the first annual Jeff Smith Memorial Golf Tournament will be held in his honor, at The Barn Golf Course. If you have ever received a Golf City bucket of balls, a golf tip, golf lesson, a pat on the back, or that famous “Hey, Hey, Hey” from Smitty… here is your chance to pay it back. Join us as we remember and honor the legacy of a golf great and our friend “Smitty.” Call the Wildcat Club

at 801-626-6576 for more information. On May 16th the Wildcat Club hosted the Crompton Golf Classic, at the Ogden Golf and Country Club. It was a great day of renewed friendships, great food, fun prizes, oh and a little golf! Proceeds from this event supported the WSU student-athlete scholarship fund. Special thanks to America First Credit Union for sponsoring the event. The Ogden Eccles Conference Center, Sonora Grill, Swire Coca Cola of Ogden and Golden Beverage Co, LLC made sure all the participants were well fed. Thank you to all who sponsored and supported this great event, click here to see a full list of sponsors Next year the Crompton Golf Classic will be held on Monday May 15, 2017. Exciting news…the annual Cat Bash Dinner and Auction is on the move! New date, new venue, join us on Friday, November 4, 2016 at the Marquardt Field House, (located west of the Dee Event Center). All proceeds from this event benefit the student-athlete scholarship fund, last years’ event raised over $70,000.

Parties with a Purpose

This promises to be an event the community will talk about all year long; you don’t want to miss it! Please call us at the Wildcat Club, 801 626 6576 if you would like to serve on the Cat Bash committee or donate auction items.

Director, Wildcat Club Athletic Fund

For more information on becoming a Wildcat Club Athletic Fund member, please call us at 801-626-6576 or visit WeberStateSports.com

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LONG DISTAN

Venla Makarainen and Pihla Hokkanen, a pair of distance runners from Finland, moved nearly 5,000 miles from home last year and experienced an amazing year of changes. by JUSTIN JOHNSON 46

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NCE RUNNERS L

eaving familiar surroundings is never easy. Adding in thousands of miles, language, and cultural differences, and it becomes even more of a challenge.

I thought that the best way to learn a language is to live in the target country.” While Makarainen had previously briefly visited the United States as a youth, new teammate Pihla

to Utah to join the Wildcats last fall. “At the beginning, the different language was the biggest step to me, and it took some time before I felt okay,” Hokkanen said. “My first memory was when my coach (assistant

“I hadn’t been in the United States before I came to Weber. I was interested in running and studying in the U.S. It was a good opportunity to go abroad. My first year was amazing and I really enjoyed it.” -- Pihla Hokkanen

It was, however, an opportunity for a pair of Finnish athletes, to realize a sought after dream. “I had dreamt of studying and doing my sport abroad for a long time,” said Weber State distance runner Venla Makarainen. “Some of my running friends attended an American school, and their positive experiences, especially about competing and group training, fed my interest. “I wanted to grow as an athlete and see if training in the United States could bring something new into my running. Also, I have always had a vast interest in languages, and

Hokkanen’s first experience in the country came when the two traveled

track and field coach Isaac Wood) picked us up from the Salt Lake

Right: Pihla and Venla take time for a quick selfie together. Opposite: Venla running during the cross country season and an aerial shot of the 15th century Olavinlinna castle in Pihla’s hometown of Savonlinna, Finland. WeberStateSports.com

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airport, and I didn’t speak English very well. I remember wanting to talk with my coach, but I didn’t because Venla spoke English more. We listened to Ed Sheeran’s (song) Photograph on the drive. “I hadn’t been in the United States before I came to Weber. I was interested in running and studying in the U.S. It was a good opportunity to go abroad. My first year was amazing and I really enjoyed it.” With thousands of miles and an ocean between their home country and Weber State’s campus nestled in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains, both Makarainen and Hokkanen relied on Facebook and Skype to keep in touch with Coach Wood as they went through the

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“My hometown, Kuopio, like my whole county, is known for its thick forests and thousands of lakes. I’m a huge nature lover and the forest is my therapy place. In Ogden, I love to hike in the mountains instead. There are no mountains in Finland; we live almost at sea level.” --Venla Makarainen

process to become eligible to compete at the NCAA level. “It’s really exciting for me to recruit and find talent internationally,” said Wood, who serves as the Wildcats’ recruiting coordinator for both cross country and track and field. “It’s great to have our university’s name out there in different areas of the world, as it establishes a pipeline so to speak. It’s great to learn about the culture and lifestyles the athletes come from and to watch them live and learn in the wonderful culture and expectations we have set here at Weber State.” One of the challenges that both runners mentioned was going through the paperwork process,

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which included applying for a Visa to come to the United States, NCAA paperwork, transcripts, and finding a place to live. “The whole American college system is very different from the system in Finland,” Makarainen. “Back home, we do sports in clubs and competitive sports have nothing to do with school. One major difficulty for me was that I had already studied two years in a Finnish university, and it was unclear at the beginning how long I would be eligible for NCAA.” Hokkanen said it took about three months for her to go through the process and admitted it was a stressful time, but both enjoyed their first season with the Purple and White. Going from one of the world’s smallest countries, both by total population (113th) and by land area (64th), was also a challenge. Another difference that both mentioned was that in Finland, where the distances were smaller, more people used public transportation and bicycles to get around. “My hometown (Savonlinna) is so small,” Hokkanen said. “One difference between Utah and my home town is definitely that people use more public transport to get around.” Much of Finland is at or near sea level, which was another initial challenge for both runners. “My hometown, Kuopio, like my whole county, is known for its thick forests and thousands of lakes,” Makarainen said. “I’m a huge nature lover and the forest is my therapy place. In Ogden, I love to hike in the

mountains instead. There are no mountains in Finland; we live almost at sea level. “Winter is usually long, cold and dark (there is only about four hours of daylight during the darkest time), and we love to do winter sports, especially cross-country skiing.” Hokkanen and Makarainen arrived at the height of Utah’s scorching summer heat, which presented yet another early challenge for the two. “It was surprisingly hot and dry in Ogden,” Makarainen said. “It’s very humid and quite cool in

Finland, so I got exhausted at first because I didn’t drink enough water to handle the temperatures here in Utah. “I remember clearly the long run that we had on my first day in Utah,” she added. “We started at seven in the morning, and I had arrived very late last night. I was quite a bit jet lagged, but excited as well because I saw my team for the first time. I was adjusting to the altitude and felt like the speed of my teammates was killing me. But I survived and fell immediately in love with Ogden trails.”

Right: Pihla gets in some cross country skiing at home in Finland. Opposite: Venla’s hometown of Kuopio, Finland. WeberStateSports.com

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Friends. Football. Food.

Feed Your WildCats! GameDayGreats.com 50

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Name Game

Smitty called an ‘angel’ on many friends’ shoulder.

By CHRIS J. MILLER

W

eber State Director of Golf Jeff Smith has been accorded many tributes the past few months as his many friends and colleagues have sought ways to express their grief over his sudden passing. Smith, ‘Smitty’ to everyone he came in contact with, died on Feb. 16 following a two-year battle with leukemia at the age of 61. An Ogden native, Smith graduated from Weber State in 1980, and spent 24 years as the head women’s golf coach at his alma mater. But he was a friend to all WSU athletes, fans and coaches. Former Wildcat star Damian Lillard tweeted his thoughts as soon as he heard of Smith’s passing. “R.I.P. Smitty... When I talk about those people I crossed paths with at Weber State that impacted my life it’s people like this guy that I’m talking about. Great Person and a great Golf coach... You will be missed my friend... #ThankYouForTheSupport

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#WeAreWeber #WeberFamily #BleedPurple” Members of the current WSU basketball squads dedicated the remainder of their seasons to Smitty, wearing patches with his name on their uniforms. Both teams earned postseason berths. In late April, fellow Big Sky Conference coaches honored Smith

posthumously, unanimously voting him the 2016 Coach of the Year. It was the third time he had received the honor. Fellow Ogden native and WSU graduate Guy Yocom, now a senior writer for Golf Digest, visited Ogden shortly after Smith’s death. He spoke to the golf teams, recalling how he met Smitty and appreciated his friendship. “I felt like Jeff was an ‘angel on my shoulder.’ All who got to know Smitty felt that way,” Yocom said. New Big Sky boss The Big Sky Conference announced on April 29 the appointment of Andrea Williams as its new commissioner. Williams, who will replace outgoing commissioner Doug Fullerton, comes to Ogden from the Big Ten Conference headquarters, where she most recently worked as associate commissioner. Williams, who will WeberStateSports.com


be the Big Sky’s sixth commissioner, takes over on July 1. Fullerton will be completing his 20th year as Big Sky boss in June. Familiar faces Jeff Linder was named the 19th head coach of the Northern Colorado men’s basketball program on May 1. Linder coached on Randy Rahe’s Weber State staff during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Linder immediately hired current WSU assistant Steve Smiley as the Bears’ associate head coach. Smiley spent the past two season on Rahe’s staff. Another former WSU basketball assistant, Phil Beckner, recently took an assistant coach job at Boise State. Band on the run The Weber State pep band was unable to attend the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament game against Xavier in March due to a scheduling conflict. But WSU Director of Athletics Jerry Bovee reached out to an old friend, Scott Barnes. Barnes, the current AD at Pittsburgh, spent several seasons as athletic director at Utah State. So after the Pitt band played their hearts out during the Panthers’ tough loss to Wisconsin on Friday, the band put on black WSU golf shirts and supported the Wildcats

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during their tough loss to Xavier. The group gave it their all, and nailed the WSU fight song. See what you think: YouTube. com/watch?v=OQk8dzrxMZwm.

The WSU athletic department and band later sent a big thank you to Barnes and the band. Tidbits Lillard was invited to the join USA Basketball’s pool of 31 players under consideration for the 2016 Olympic men’s team in Rio de Janeiro, but ultimately pulled out of the games, choosing to rest and rehab a left foot injury that he played through during the 2015-16 NBA season. Weber State defensive back Devonte Johnson has signed a free agent rookie contract with the Atlanta Falcons. … Congratulations to the Weber State men’s tennis team, which Summer 2016

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threepeated as Big Sky Conference season champions, then punctuated the performance by beating Idaho State 4-3 in the championships match and earn the school its first team trip to the NCAA Tournament. WSU will meet UCLA on May 13. … 34 Weber State athletes in winter sports earned Academic All-Big Sky Conference honors earlier this year. … WSU softball coach Mary Kay Amicone recently coached her 600th victory as the Wildcats closed in on a Big Sky conference title repeat. … WSU senior golfer Michael Johnson was named Playmaker of the Month for March by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. Johnson

coordinated a card-making night for 200 Wildcat student-athletes, who made the cards in support of a fellow

athlete whose father was suffering from a fatal brain tumor. … Weber State play-by-play radio announcer Steve Klauke, who calls baseball games for the Salt Lake Bees during the summer months, recently got the call-up to work three games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in early May. The Angels are the parent club of the Bees. Hear the call on the video link above… The University of Idaho announced its plans to join the Big Sky Conference in football, completing its return to the league after 20 seasons. Idaho was a charter member of the Big Sky in 1963, and on its July 1 return, will become the 12th member of the conference.

Chris J. Miller, a 1986 graduate of Weber State, is a former Weber State Signpost sports editor and editor in chief, as well as a former longtime sports editor at the Standard-Examiner. He can be reached at cjmiller62@outook.com. Follow him on Twitter at cjmsports.

Coach Mary Kay Amicone (left) recently reached 600 career wins and led the Wildcats to their second-straight Big Sky Conference title. 54

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TOP

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Recent highlights from our Social Media Channels

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Bleed Purple Magazine - Summer 2016  

The official magazine of Weber State University Athletics.

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