Watching Indiana’s Shavonte Zellous send the WNBA’s Eastern Conference finals back to the casino for Game 3 Thursday reminded me of a story I had written many years ago about the relationship the former Pittsburgh star had with her former position coach with the Panthers – Shea Ralph.
Here is a sample of it, pulled from the archives…
“Good morning from Huskieland, located north of everyone else in the national polls for women’s basketball. I don’t know if Geno Auriemma is afraid of heights, but we can all be certain that he has no plans to look down until he gets home from St. Louis
This Sunday, the top-ranked Huskies play Pittsburgh, ranked No. 19, on a seven-game winning streak, with one of the conference great personalities on its bench in Agnus Berenato.
No surprise: This is a very big game for Pitt, which continues to get better every season. But no Pitt women’s basketball team has beaten UConn since 1993.
The popular story line for the game will be the reunion of UConn assistant Shea Ralph with Berenato and the Pitt players. Shea was a Pitt assistant for five years before returning to UConn this summer to work on Geno’s staff, which I imagine must be considered as significant as landing a Rhodes scholarship or getting into Harvard law school.
I am sure there will be many stories on this subject on Sunday, including in the Courant. But here’s a little taste of what Shea and Shavonte Zellous, Pitt’s dynamic senior scoring machine – she leads the Big East and is third nationally – are saying about the game.
“I think the most important thing I learned from Shea was about motivation, how to grind things out to achieve what you want to do,” Zellous said. “Even after she tore her ACLs, she kept going at it. She never gave up on anything. She stayed with things. And that transferred to us [her players]. Even though she’s gone now, we worked as hard we can on everything we do. She’s been there. She’s done that. It really helped us.”
Shea said she tries hard to stay in touch with her former players. She even admits sneaking more than the occasional peak at Pitt games to see how Zellous, Xenia Stewart and everyone else is doing.
“We communicate often,” Zellous said. “Sometimes I don’t even realize she’s been watching our games and I’ll get a message from her telling me I did a good job. She’ll tell us she still needs to watch her girls.”