FOLLOWING VCU AT THE SUMMER OLYMPICS

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There will be two former Rams competing in the Summer Olympics in London: Quanitra Hollingsworth (’09), who will be suiting up for Turkey’s women’s basketball team, and Hayley Moorwood, who played women’s soccer for the Rams in 2005 and will be wearing the colors of her native New Zealand for the second time. She also competed for New Zealand in Beijing in 2008.

Opening ceremonies will be held on Friday, July 27, while the first competitions will take place on Wednesday, July 25. Unless they are going to play those games in a time machine, I believe that means they are actually before the opening ceremonies.

Here are the game times and TV listings for both Hollingsworth and Moorwood.

QUANITRA HOLLINGSWORTH (WOMEN’S BASKETBALL – TURKEY)
Group A (FIBA Ranking):
Angola (27), China (7), Croatia (31), Czech Republic (4), Turkey (21), USA (1)
Group B (FIBA Ranking): Australia (2 tie), Brazil (6), Canada (11), France (8), Great Britain (49), Russia (2 tie)

**Top four from each group advance to quarterfinals**

Saturday, July 28
Turkey vs. Angola, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Quanitra Hollingsworth starred for VCU from 2005-09

Monday, July 30
Turkey vs. Czech Republic, 6:15 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Wednesday, Aug. 1
Turkey vs. United States, 5:15 p.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

Friday, Aug. 3
Turkey vs. China, 11:45 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Sunday, Aug. 5
Turkey vs. Croatia, 3 p.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Aug. 7-11
Elimination Rounds (NBC; NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

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HAYLEY MOORWOOD (WOMEN’S SOCCER – NEW ZEALAND)
Group E (FIFA Ranking):
Great Britain (9), New Zealand (23), Cameroon (50), Brazil (5)
Group F (FIFA Ranking): Japan (3), Canada (7), Sweden (4), South Africa (61)
Group G (FIFA Ranking): United States (1), France (6), Columbia (28), North Korea (8)

Hayley Moorwood is set to become the first Ram to appear in two Olympic Games (2008, 2012).

Wednesday, July 25
New Zealand vs. Great Britain, 11 a.m. EST (MSNBC)

Saturday, July 28
New Zealand vs. Brazil, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

Tuesday, July 31
New Zealand vs. Cameroon, 2:45 p.m. EST (Tape delay, 7:45 p.m., NBC Soccer)

Aug. 3-9
Elimination Rounds (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

CHANNEL LOCATIONS

NBC Sports
Comcast 226; Dish 159; DirecTV 603; Fios 590 (HD)/90 (SD)

NBC Basketball
Fios 594; Comcast in Richmond Area 847

NBC Soccer
Fios 596; Comcast in Richmond Area 843

MSNBC
DirecTV 356, Dish 209, Fios 103 (SD)/603 (HD)

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HOLLINGSWORTH, TURKEY LOCK UP OLYMPIC BID

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Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games to help Turkey to its first-ever Olympic bid.

ANKARA, Turkey – It’s official. Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth and Turkey are headed to the 2012 London Olympics.

Hollingsworth scored 12 points and added eight rebounds in Turkey’s 72-58 win over Argentina Friday in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament Quarterfinals to send the Turks to the Olympic Games for the first time.

In three games – all victories – Hollingsworth has averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Turkey. The Turks advance to the tournament semifinals on Sunday, but it’s essentially academic. Turkey has already locked up one of five Olympic bid available in Ankara.

Hollingsworth, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Turkey, will be one of two Rams to participate in the Olympics in recent years. Hayley Moorwood was a member of New Zealand’s women’s soccer squad at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.

A member of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, Hollingsworth starred at VCU from 2005-09 and led the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 2009. Hollingsworth ranks third in school history in points and is second in rebounds and double-doubles.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND (OF THE LAST 17 YEARS…)

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With VCU’s decision to bolt the Colonial Athletic Association still fresh in our minds, maybe now is a good time to take stock of the 17 years the Rams spent in the league. It was a good run and frankly, the CAA’s Virginia-centric appeal was one of the things that made it fun for VCU fans. I can honestly say it’s one of the things I’ll miss, times change.

VCU has won 42 CAA championships since joining the league for the 1994-95 season. The Rams’ 36 titles in men’s sports are the most in league history. The VCU Baseball team will have a chance to add to that mark later this month. The Rams have won 13 championships in men’s tennis, eight in golf and five each in men’s basketball and baseball. Other sports were not as fortunate, but still enjoyed a great deal of success. Here, I’m going to look at the best team from each VCU program of the CAA era.

BASEBALL: 2003 (46-13, 17-3 CAA, CAA Champions, 1-2 NCAAs)
This was a legitimately hard decision. You could make compelling arguments for the 1998 and 2001 teams. This is one of the few picks that required some back-and-forth debate.

But for me, the 2003 squad was a shade better. Not only did they dominate the CAA regular season and sweep the conference tournament, but the Rams also led the country in ERA that season (2.54). Four pitchers, Cla Meredth (6th), Justin Orenduff (1st), Sean Marshall 6th) and Brian Marshall (5th), were selected in the first six rounds of the MLB Draft.  Four other players were also eventually drafted. Sean Marshall and Cla Meredith played in the majors.

MEN’S BASKETBALL: 2010-11 (28-12, 12-6 CAA, NCAA Final Four)
While I’m picking a non-CAA champion here, I doubt I’ll get few arguments. VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011 pretty much trumps everything. During the regular season the Rams were equally magnificent and maddening, but flipped a switch in March. VCU reached the CAA Championship Game, upsetting ranked and heavily-favored George Mason in the process. Despite losing to Old Dominion in the title bout, VCU received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Rams toppled USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on the way to history.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: 2008-09 (26-7, 15-3 CAA, NCAA First Round)
The Rams didn’t win the CAA crown this season (Drexel did), but behind eventual WNBA first round pick Quanitra Hollingsworth, the Rams earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time via an at-large berth. The Rams met Rutgers in the first round and gave the Scarlet Knights a run for their money. In addition to Hollingsworth, future All-American and WNBA Draftee Courtney Hurt was a freshman on this squad.

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QUANITRA HOLLINGSWORTH: TURKISH CITIZEN, OLYMPIAN?

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Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingworth (left) will try to lead Turkey to the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.

Quanitra Hollingsworth has always been a few years ahead of her peers. Not just in the classroom, where she skipped two years of middle school, not just on the basketball court, where she was dominant, but the way she approached life.

Even as a 16-year-old redshirt freshman at VCU during the 2005-06 season, she was already talking about more adult ventures like traveling Europe and seeing the world. Basketball was never her station in life. It was her vehicle.

“Everyone always assumes the WNBA was my big dream. I could’ve cared less about the WNBA until I was a senior in college,” Hollingsworth, 24, said. “I always wanted to learn about other countries. I didn’t want to be placed in a box. I wanted to experience everything.”

As if playing professionally in Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary the last three years wasn’t enough, Hollingsworth, who is also a member of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, has decided to take her European immersion to another level.

Hollingsworth was recently granted Turkish citizenship, a step that allowed her to become a member of the Turkish National Team ahead of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London. On the heels of a Hungarian Championship with Uni Seat Gyor last month, Hollingsworth is set to depart for Istanbul on May 12 for the Turkish National Team’s training camp.

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HURT OPTS FOR EFFORT OVER EASE, RUNS TO VCU SCORING MARK

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Senior Courtney Hurt set VCU's career scoring mark Thursday. She has 1,755 points.

RICHMOND, Va. – Courtney Hurt had been so good at basketball her whole life, she really had no idea what playing at the Division I level would be like. Her freshman year can euphemistically be called an education.

“When I first got here, to be honest, I didn’t think college basketball was going to be that hard, that much different than high school,” the VCU senior forward said. “My senior year [I averaged] 28 and 12. I thought I could just come in and perform. But I had to take a step back and coach pushed me really hard. It was the card I was dealt, and she got her point across after about 100 suicides.”

Thursday, Hurt, long since removed from the country club work ethic of her freshman year, became VCU’s career scoring leader with a free throw at the 10:03 mark of the second half of the Rams’ 47-41 loss to Drexel at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Hurt, who has 1,755 career points, broke Kelly Hoover’s 23-year old record of 1,750.

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HURT CLOSING ON VCU SCORING RECORD

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Courtney Hurt needs 22 points to become VCU's career scoring leader.

When Courtney Hurt was a freshman, VCU Coach Beth Cunningham made it clear that rebounding would earn her more playing time. Four years later, rebounding may have been what got Hurt on the floor, but it’s scoring that has made her unforgettable.

Hurt needs 22 point to pass Kelly Hoover to become the Rams’ career scoring leader. She’ll get a chance on Sunday, Jan. 22 at George Mason at 2 p.m. at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. If she doesn’t reach the mark Sunday, she’ll get another crack on Thursday, Jan. 26 when the Rams host Drexel at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Through 17 games, Hurt is enjoying another spectacular season. The Conyers, Ga. native is averaging 23.2 points and a Colonial Athletic Association-best 12.6 rebounds per game. If she continues at her current pace, she could surpass 2,000 career points. No Ram, man or woman, has reached 2,000 points since the RPI-MCV merger formed VCU in 1968.

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JERSEY SURE: HOLLINGSWORTH COMFORTABLE IN NEWARK

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Quanitra Hollingsworth is averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds this season.

NEWARK, N.J. – Quanitra Hollingsworth settles her foot atop of an ice pack and melts into a folding chair at her locker. She’s a little worse for wear tonight. She’s been nursing a sore plantar fascia in her foot and her New York Liberty just dropped a disappointing 68-59 contest at home to the Connecticut Sun, one of their biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference.

Despite a few physical and emotional bumps and bruises, she smiles speaks comfortably. One bad night isn’t going to get her down. In reality, she’s been playing the best ball of her short WNBA career and she knows it. Meanwhile, her new team, the Liberty, has won seven of 10 and is just a game out of first place. It could be worse, and in fact, it has been.

After two nondescript seasons with the Minnesota Lynx, who drafted her with the ninth overall pick in 2009, Hollingsworth was traded to the Liberty in May. As a result, the former VCU wunderkind has seen a radical change in the direction of her career.

This season, Hollingsworth is averaging better than five points and nearly four rebounds per game. If she qualified, her .526 field goal percentage would be among the league leaders. As the season has moved forward, her minutes have increased, a trend indicative of Liberty Coach John Whisenant’s increasing comfort level with the 6-5 center. She’s played 20 minutes or more in five of the Liberty’s last eight contests. The Liberty is 6-2 in those games and Hollingsworth is averaging 7.0 points and 4.5 rebounds. Hollingsworth often plays alongside 6-4 Kia Vaughn to give the Liberty an imposing frontcourt presence.

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Q MUSINGS

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NEWARK, N.J. – I’m attending my first WNBA game tonight. I’m here to see former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth, who is playing with the New York Liberty, take on the Connecticut So-What-If-We-Play-In-A-Casino Sun. I’ll be posting a feature on Q in a day or two, but I’ll try to post some tidbits from tonight’s game for your entertainment.

GAMETIME
* The Liberty go scoreless the final 3:00 or so as Connecticut closes on a 10-0 stretch. The Sun take this one, 68-59, and snap the Liberty’s four-game winning streak. Hollingsworth finished with three points, three rebounds and one block in 28 minutes. She also helped limit Tina Charles, who averages nearly 18 points and 11 rebounds, to just 15 and 4.

* Hollingsworth had a nice stretch here in the fourth where she forced a steal, later grabbed a big rebound over Charles and then drew a charge a few possessions later. None of it seems like it’s going to matter, however, as the Liberty have imploded in the fourth. Going nearly three minutes without a bucket down the stretch.

* Is it bad that during the Foxwoods’-sponsored roulette contest, all I can think about is that the wheel only has 22 numbers, instead of the normal 35 (plus zero)? I think that’s bad.

* With 5:38 remaining, Hollingsworth levels an unidentified Sun player with a devastating screen at the top of the key. The ball swings around to Cappie Pondexter, who buries a three to put New York ahead, 59-58.

* 1:51 into the fourth quarter, with the Liberty up three (56-53), Vaughn tweaks something in her leg and struggles to get up and down the floor. Whisenhunt nods to Hollingsworth, who will have fill some big shoes. Vaughn has been the Liberty’s best player tonight.

* For some reason, the Liberty mascot decided to “plank” during a timeout. Nobody knows why, really. We just all hope that planking stops sometime real soon.

*Q draws consecutive fouls in the second half as the Liberty suddenly decide to throw it to her in the post on back-to-back possessions. Q makes 1-of-2 free throws, the Liberty’s first of the night. 39-36 Sun, 6:30 left in the third quarter.

* After filling up the stat sheet with exactly one rebound in the first half, Hollingsworth opens the third quarter scoring for the Liberty.

* Hollingsworth and Kia Vaughn (from Rutgers) went head-to-head in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, but with the Liberty, they play alongside each other for long stretches.

* 3:51 left in the second quarter and Hollingsworth still hasn’t recorded a point, rebound or assist, but the Liberty lead, 31-28.

* Hollingsworth is starting to get into the head of star Tina Charles here in the second quarter. On one possession, Hollingsworth locked down Charles at the top of the key, causing the Sun player to travel. On the other end, Hollingsworth posted up Charles, who delivered a forearm shiver to Q’s back to draw a foul.

* After a quiet first quarter. Hollingsworth opens the second quarter on the bench. The Liberty promptly give up offensive rebounds on three straight possessions. I keep watching the bench to see how long it takes Liberty Coach John Wisenhunt to call on Q. As it turns out, it took just 1:57. Moments later, she tipped an offensive rebound to Kia Vaughn, who scored a bucket to pull the Liberty within 26-23.

* Between quarters, the Liberty displayed a video “remember when”, as part of an effort to celebrate the team’s 15th anniversary. It asks fans to guess which year is featured in the video. The best part was that halfway through, it displayed a full screen logo that said “2000 WNBA Finals”. Wanna guess the correct answer?

* Despite being in its 15th season, the WNBA still struggles to attract fans consistently. So some teams have decided to take a regional approach to stocking their rosters. The Sun boast five UConn grads, while the Liberty is carrying three former Rutgers stars.

* A la European soccer. A number of WNBA teams have begun selling advertising on their jerseys where the team name used to go. The Liberty are now sponsored by Foxwoods Casino. The irony is that the Sun play at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Foxwoods’ direct competitor.

PREGAME
* Mapquest tells me it’s a 41 minute ride from Stanhope, N.J., where my in-laws live, to the Prudential Center in Newark, the Liberty’s temporary home. But I know better. Before moving to Virginia in 2005, I lived in New Jersey for four years. Mapquest approximate times are only good at 3 a.m. I left at 4:30 p.m., hoping to get to the arena by 6:00. Traffic wasn’t bad until I got downtown, so after parking in some shady lot by Penn Station and walking over it was about 5:40. Not bad.

* Naturally, one of the first people I see is longtime women’s basketball writer Mel Greenberg. Mel is based out of Philadelphia, but I’m convinced that he covers every women’s hoops game in the northwest corridor. If 10 girls decide to throw down at the Knights of Columbus in Elizabeth, N.J., Mel will be there.

* Of course I forgot my camera. I want desperately to take pictures of a number of things, especially the woman in the front row with the giant, red afro. No luck tonight.

* Plenty of good seats available. Considering that it’s Friday in Newark and this team is only here for a year, I can’t imagine they’re killing it at the gate. Compound that with Jersey’s tradition of weekend flight to the Shore, and you have one sparsely populated arena.

* This will be a matchup of the No. 2 (The Liberty) and No. 3 (The Sun) teams in the Eastern Conference. The Liberty have won four straight games, a streak that has coincided with Hollingsworth’s emergence. In those four games, Q has averaged 8.2 points and nearly five rebounds a game off the bench.

* Before each game, the Liberty has one player grab the microphone to greet the crowd. Luckily for me, tonight it’s Q who gets the call. With a smile, she thanks the crowd for showing up tonight and asks them to cheer the Liberty on to a win. Short. Sweet.

* Boom. This story is really coming together. Q receives her first New York Liberty start and just the second of her career tonight. I wish I could say I totally planned that. Not like you’d know any different. Let’s stick with the story where I planned this.

* I wonder how the people of Newark feel when they announce “Welcome your New York Liberty!” I guess this is how the people of Anaheim feel about the Angels?

Q FINDING A HOME IN NYC…ACTUALLY NEWARK

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The Quanitra Hollingsworth phenomenon was my first big undertaking after joining VCU for the 2005-06 school year. It was Q’s redshirt freshman year and she became quite the story. I was the women’s basketball sports information director, and it was my job to get her story (she was the youngest D-I player in the country) to as many media outlets as possible. Despite the fact that she was a precocious 16-year-old, ‘Q’ did  countless interviews that I set up, including every possible local outlet, a number of national publications and some media posts that a surely not even in business anymore.

For that reason, I watch Hollingsworth’s career closely, and really want to see her do well in the WNBA. After a couple of nondescript seasons in Minnesota – where they never seemed to figure out how to use or develop her – it appears that Hollingsworth is settling into a role with the New York Liberty (who are actually playing this season in Newark, N.J. because of major renovations at Madison Square Garden).

Through 10 games, she’s averaging 3.9 points and 3.6 rebounds, but in her last three contests, those numbers have improved to 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Additionally, she’s shooting a career-best .552 from the floor. I watched Hollingsworth and the Liberty play the Los Angeles Sparks a couple of weeks ago on ESPN and I was impressed with what I saw. She was flying all over the floor, snagging rebounds, getting stops and scoring timely buckets. It’s the first time I’ve watched her since she left VCU and felt like she looked really comfortable.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed. Greg Fernandez recently published this nice piece on Hollingsworth for the team’s website.

OTHER LINKS!
The Commonwealth Times runs like, one paper a summer, but they published some good stuff. Here’s a solid feature by Jim Swing on the effect of VCU’s Final Four run.

So now Roy Williams is a crappy in the NFL and in the dating game. Go figure. Pretty much the worst wedding proposal ever, right?

This. Is. Awesome.

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