Shenneika Smith: Looking to go to a fourth NCAA tournament.
In his play "The Tempest," William Shakespeare wrote "[w]hereof what's past is prologue, what to come In yours and my discharge."
Shakespeare did not have the pleasure of going through a basketball season. Had basketball been around in his day, he might have thought differently. And then again, depending on how you interpret his words, it may have affirmed his belief. Does the past predict the future, or is it just an introduction to the future, which the individual can control, despite the past?
In just six weeks, the course of the season for both the women and men’s basketball teams of St. John’s University significantly changed directions.
As of January 24, the men’s team was 12-7 with big wins over the then-No. 14-ranked Cincinnati and the No. 20-ranked Notre Dame and seemingly getting better.
Since then, they have lost six out of 10 games, top scorer D’Angelo Harrison was suspended for the remainder of the season, and coach Steve Lavin’s father Cap Lavin passed away, not long after his dad was honored at halftime of the Red Storm’s game against Cap’s alma mater, the University of San Francisco.
Before the season started, the women’s team was picked as the No. 14 team in the country in the AP rankings. Yet on January 27, the women’s team was 9-9, having just come off back-to-back tough three-point losses to Syracuse and Louisville.
It’s an experienced team playing in a tough conference and against some of the best teams in the country. Seniors Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith, who can play with anyone, have been on Red Storm teams that made the NCAA tournament the last three years.
They are both First Team All-Big East. McKenith is the very talented and savvy point guard who runs the team with steel nerves. Forward Shenneika Smith, with the silkiest drives and shots you will see, is the Red Storm's go-to-scorer. Nevertheless, as led by Coach Joe Tartamella, both players and their teammates are true to the team concept.
This past Monday night, March 4, Senior Night, the Red Storm women closed out their regular season on their home court at Carnesecca Arena against the DePaul Blue Demons with a resounding 67-54 victory.
Senior Night is where seniors who have played or worked for the team are honored in front of family and friends. If you could only choose to go to one college game a year, it should be Senior Night—over any other game, including the NCAA championship game.
The broad smiles of parents and teary eyes of players reminded us that collegiate athletics should be about the students—students who have an opportunity to get a higher education and play or participate in the sport they love.
And of course, it is much more than that. It’s the friendships and the camaraderie of their teammates, coaches, administrators and managers. It's all the time spent together on and off the court, during good, difficult and challenging times. It's the experiences of a lifetime in just a few years.
And so it was for the Red Storm seniors this past Monday night—starters Mary Nwachukwu, Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith and managers Jonathan Ochoa, Alfred Lamour and Chinyere Ekwelum.
The hopes of these seniors of reaching the NCAA tournament and being a legitimate champion contender could, however, rest on a sophomore from Newark, N.J., who may have played the best game of her career against DePaul.
Her name is Amber. Unlike the sophomore guard Amber who quarterbacks the Stanford Cardinal basketball team and is associated with the word Orange, this Amber is associated with the word Red, as in Red Storm. It's 6’2" center Amber Thompson.
Coming off the bench against DePaul, Thompson scored a career-high 20 points and tied her career high of 16 rebounds.
Not only did Thompson score off dish-offs from driving teammates and putbacks, she made some nice moves after getting the ball down low in the post.
If Thompson's teammates continue to look for her as a scoring threat, not only will that create close-in scoring opportunities, it will give the Red Storm more scoring options. And it will open up new scoring opportunities for the rest of the team, as Thompson will have to be more closely guarded.
Red Storm women’s basketball fans are looking forward to excitement in the next few weeks.