Women's Basketball - Tue, Mar. 28, 2006
Jackson, Tenn. - The Saint Xavier University women's basketball team may not have left Jackson, Tenn. last week with a national championship trophy, but in the eyes of the children at North Parkway Elementary Magnet School, they were still champions. The Cougars partnered with the NAIA and local team sponsor FirstBank on Thursday, March 16, and spent two hours visiting classrooms and speaking to the children about the importance of focusing on education and going to college.
Just a few hours away from Saint Xavier's 56-53 upset win over No. 3 seeded Carroll College (Mont.) in first round action of the 2006 NAIA National Tournament, the team received warm and enthusiastic welcomes from each of the classrooms they visited ranging from first graders to fifth graders. For junior guard and team captain Dani Engleman (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest), the reception made it all worthwhile.
"This school really represents the community of Jackson, Tennessee," said Engleman. "Every year when we come down here, everyone is so polite and respectful. The kids in the classroom were the same way. They embraced us from the second we stepped into the school and it didn't matter to them what team we played for or how many points we scored. They looked up to us because we were college athletes."
The team split up into pairs to visit and talk to the different classrooms within the school and the discussion in each room lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. While the players used their time with the children to stress the importance of getting a good education, there were a few occasions where the discussion got sidetracked.
"It seemed like every time we asked the kids if they had any questions for us, the responses were almost always How tall are you?' or Do you have a boyfriend?'" joked sophomore forward Jackie Heine (Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire). "When you are up there talking to the children, you start to realize just how big an influence you have on them just by being there and being an athlete. It was a very rewarding experience."
The Cougars had a historic season on the hardcourt finishing in the NAIA Sweet 16 for the first time in the program's six-year history. However, for the children at North Parkway Elementary Magnet School, the women on the Saint Xavier University women's basketball team were heroes before they had even played a game.