Diverse Backgrounds Help Build Lady Cardinals' Team Chemistry - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/15/06-Athens

Diverse Backgrounds Help Build Lady Cardinals' Team Chemistry

The Trinity Valley Lady Cardinals are headed to national tournament for the seventh time in the past 10 years.

This season has been as much about success on the court, as it has been about success in understanding other cultures.

Glancing at the roster, fans will notice some of the Lady Cardinals are Texans. Some are New Yorkers. Some are from across the ocean. But the Lady Cardinals play together like sisters.

"It's always interesting when you get so many kids from different parts of the country together that are 18, 19, 20 (years old)," said Coach Michael Landers, "and are all trying to find themselves and stick them in Athens, Texas, population 12,000."

"It was a lot of trying to understand each other," said Lady Cardinal Courtney Simmons.

Of the 11 team members, two are from other countries, six from other states. Despite the different cultures and backgrounds, the girls have learned their love of basketball translates into something they all understand.

Zane Jakobsone is from the Riga, Latvia a small country in Europe. Forward Joy Igechuwku is from Lagos, Nigeria. After being recruited overseas, the two got their first taste of American life this year, right here in East Texas.

"The first time I came I was like, what is this place?" Joy said. "It's nothing but forest. Trees everywhere."

"I always imagined America was tall buildings and big cities," Zane said. "I was shocked. Athens is a small town."

Even the game of basketball was a bit foreign in their new home.

"Fans are crazy here," Zane said. "In my country (basketball) is not such a big deal, especially women's basketball. It's not that popular."

This place is tough," Joy added. "The way they play, their game is fast."

At 30-1, there's no doubt all the girls adjusted, understanding the game and each other.

"It teaches you to appreciate everything," Simmons said.

It's the hope of the entire team, their foreign sisters know what it's like to become American champions.

"We're number two in the nation," Simmons said of the teams ranking, "but I think we'll be number one after next week."

Trinity Valley plays Northeast Mississippi in round one of the NJCAA Tournament, March 21, at 2 p.m. in Salina, Kansas.

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com
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