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Profile: Women's basketball doing more than "putting the ball in the basket"

by Sarah Killip - Staff Writer
Thu, Mar 5th 2020 04:00 pm
Head coach Corinne Jones wears pink shoes on Tuesday, Feb. 11, against SUNY Fredonia during their Play4Kay game.
Head coach Corinne Jones wears pink shoes on Tuesday, Feb. 11, against SUNY Fredonia during their Play4Kay game.

In the world of basketball, just as in other sports, there are certain players and coaches who not only dominate the game, but take strides to enhance the community. The College at Brockport women’s basketball team goes the extra mile to help the community each year in an effort to honor other women who have done the same. 

Pat Summitt and Kay Yow were both strong women’s college basketball coaches and influencers in a time when women’s sports were just gaining popularity. Summitt was the head coach at Tennessee and acquired 1,098 career wins, the most in college basketball history at the time. Yow was the head coach of the North Carolina State women’s basketball team. She had over 700 career wins and is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease at age 59 and passed away five years later in 2016. Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and passed away in 2009 after a 22-year battle with the disease. Both women fought these battles in the public arena. 

To honor these individuals and bring awareness to the diseases that eventually took their lives, Brockport’s women’s basketball team participates in fundraisers each year. Head coach Corinne Jones has helped these programs come to life.

“Pat Summitt, if you say that word to any women’s basketball player they should know it; any basketball person should know that name. Any coach should know that name,” Jones said. “We do a We Back Pat game, and that is to support Alzheimer’s research and awareness, and it’s for the Pat Summitt Foundation. We’ll play the game in honor of her, and we had purple T-shirts made that we sold to raise money for the foundation.”

This has been the fourth year Brockport has participated in We Back Pat.

“Summitt passed away while I was here in ’16, so my first season we couldn’t have done it,” Jones said. “One of my assistant coaches was really adamant about it and I said, ‘just go for it, do it.’ So the T-shirts were a neat idea and we sold them around campus and to family members.” 

Yow started her fund for women’s cancer in 2007, while she was still alive. Programs and associations all over can take part in the fundraiser to bring awareness to breast cancer. 

“We do a Play4Kay game, which is to raise money for all women’s cancer and it goes to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund,” Jones said. “We had pink shirts that we got in from the Play4Kay program; they sent us the shirts and just us purchasing them raises some money for the foundation.”

The team also participates in a national free throw challenge. It asks fans, parents, coaches — just about anyone — to donate per made free throw in the month of February. Purple ribbons for Alzheimer’s and pink ribbons for breast cancer are also given out at games in exchange for a donation.

“We raised $725 for the Pat Summitt Foundation and then we’ll send out our total for Kay Yow at the end of February; I think we’re almost at $400 for Play4Kay,” Jones said.

Jones hopes to involve the entire SUNYAC in the fundraisers and awareness campaigns.

“We could donate so much more money if we do this together,” Jones said. “It’s a grassroot piece right now and I think next year it will take off a little bit more; we just need our coaches to buy into it a little bit more. We’re trying to do the national free throw challenge as a conference. We hope to present the check to the Kay Yow fund saying the SUNYAC raised, hopefully $10,000, that’s the goal.”

Junior guard Julianna Taylor expressed how the meaning behind these fundraisers affects each individual and the team as a whole. 

“The importance of these causes definitely has an impact on my mindset going into these games,” Taylor said. “Especially before the games, we always talk about how it is bigger than basketball, and how much of an impact Kay Yow and Pat Summitt had on women’s basketball. In the Play4Kay game we each specifically think of someone and play that game for them.”

Summit and Yow were coaches that Jones looked up to growing up. They were pioneers in a sport that had predominantly been focused on men.

“We’re kind of lucky to have what we have now,” Jones said. “She [Summitt] got us locker rooms, got us nice uniforms, she did all that and suffered through Alzheimer’s in front of the nation. As women’s basketball coaches, we should feel some type of way of giving back to her legacy. Through doing these fundraisers, our players are learning about prominent women in our sport through an awareness, and they’re raising money for a different cause. It is kind of cool to teach them about Pat and Kay; it tightens our community a bit. The women’s basketball community really rallies around it. I think the biggest thing that I tell our team is ‘it’s bigger than basketball.’ I think that it teaches our players a lot about life and that we can do and learn so much through sport. It’s not all about putting the ball in the basket. It’s so much more than that.”

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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