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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The best is yet to come

Tuesday Afternoon Observations from senior writer and co-owner Paul Sykes on UofL signee Sara Hammond:

It has to be hard to say "no thanks" to arguably the best coach and definitely the best team in women's college basketball. ( I defer to the Tennessee Volunteer fans who would argue the case of their beloved Pat). They're the "one name" coaches. You say Geno...women's basketball aficionados know of whom you speak. Same with the Knoxville gal.

Sara Hammond said she dreamed of playing for the Huskies as a little girl. So, it had to be doubly difficult to go with the "L" word instead of a Husky cap. It came down to two things...being wanted and needed more by Louisville and the recruiting talents of one Jeff Walz.

You know Coach Walz. Maybe not ready to be elevated to the "one word" rule yet but showing that going into his fourth year at Louisville that a lot of other potential prospects, opposing coaches and high school talent evaluators know him well.

Sara Hammond has her senior season to play yet at Rockcastle County High School in Mt. Vernon, KY. She's just picked up about 10,000 fans for the program this year. Hammond has a mission to try and accomplish at Rockcastle before heading northwest to the city by the Ohio River.

A state championship.

Rockcastle County got close last year. Making it to the semifinals. Playing on Saturday morning. For Hammond, it's not enough. She's said it... and Cardinal fans will soon learn it...she doesn't like to lose. Standing in her way for the 2010-11 high school basketball season are some very good friends and UofL targets also. Those girls a few miles and county lines to the east. Marion County and Bre Edler, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Makalya Epps. The Louisville Manual Rams don't expect to go away quietly in the night either. Last year's champs...the Louisville Mercy Jaguars are eager to defend the title. There will be surprise contenders and stumbling favorites. There is a beauty to girls' high school basketball that goes far beyond the uniforms and ponytails. All things are equal. It is a game of fundamentals, discipline, hustle and desire. No slam dunks, smarting off or egos too big to get thru the gym doors.

For Sara, it's the end of one journey and the beginning of another. The recruiting process can be difficult, tiring and brain-straining...but a lot of fun. A wonderful weekend in Louisville with a group of hungry and humbled Lady Cards. A weekend in the presence of the king of women's college basketball and having him prepare dinner for you as well. Consecutive days of in-home visits as well...days before you announce your choice...from the final two suitors.

Then, finally. Decision day. The basketball fans of two programs heavy in team support and fan appreciation waiting for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

I'm guessing that Ms. Sara Hammond will sleep very well this evening. I'm sure that Geno Auriemma will warmly greet her and give her a warm embrace when the Cards and Huskies meet each year. And, the Huskies aren't gnashing their teeth over not getting her. Plenty of candidates to fill that scholarship and prove their worth.

And I know that Jeff Walz, grateful for the win against his friend and mentor, will put another notch on the gun belt, lower the hat over one eye and saunter out on a dusty Main Street...looking for his next target.

Welcome to the Cardinal Family, Sara. Enjoy your final year of high school and get ready for Walz Ball. You're gonna love it.

There's an old Frank Sinatra song out there called The Best Is Yet To Come that kept running thru my mind yesterday. You know how it is when you get a song stuck inside your head. I'm thinking of suggesting it to Cards pep band leader Al Greener to add to the playlist. Good times ahead for these Lady Cards...beginning this year.

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