Friday, July 17, 2009

Aggies To Play Jayhawks on Big Monday in 2010

Guys, start buttering up your signficant other now. Take her to a nice dinner on Feb. 13 or 14, because the Big 12 Conference announced Thursday that Texas A&M and Kansas will square off on ESPN's Big Monday on Feb. 15, the day after Valentine's Day.

The announcement marks the fourth consecutive year A&M will play at least one Big Monday game. This season's game will be a rematch of a Monday night game from this past January, when Kansas cruised to a 20 point victory. The Aggies other appearance on Big Monday last season was a 15 point drubbing of Texas at Reed Arena.

You can view the Big 12's entire Monday schedule by clicking HERE.

On a side note, I'm disappointed in the league's overall Big Monday rundown. ESPN might as well brand themselves the 'worldwide leader in Jayhawks and Longhorns basketball coverage.' Of the eight Big Monday, seven include either Kansas or Texas.

The schedule kicks off on Jan. 11 with the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State Bedlam game, but after that, every week includes either Kansas or Texas. Kansas even gets three in a row at one point (and four out of five weeks). The network must be particularly excited about Feb. 8 when Kansas plays at Texas. Maybe we'll even get to see SportsCenter live from the Erwin Center.

Here is the rundown of Big 12 teams on Big Monday:
Kansas - 4
Texas - 4
Oklahoma - 3
Oklahoma State - 2
Texas A&M - 1
Kansas State - 1

What do you think? Considering the Aggies have won a game in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons, should they be on Big Monday at least twice?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interesting Story On Big 12 Basketball Scheduling had an interesting feature on its web site Wednesday. Writer Wendell Barnhouse went behind-the-scenes to take a look at what goes into creating the conference schedules for all the men's basketball teams.

Unlike football, which sets its conference schedule years in advance, the schedule of basketball conference games aren't released until a few months prior to the season. As Barnhouse points out, the task is extremely arduous, with a computer program generating about 70 potential schedules at the outset of the process.

That might not seem like a lot, but when you consider each possibility includes 16 games for all 12 teams (a total of 192 games), i could see the entire conference staff going cross-eyed trying to review everything.

Other obstacles the schedulers have to work with are TV preferences, arena availability, each team getting four weekend home games and no more than two road games in the first four or last four games of the season.

CLICK HERE to check out the story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Arkansas Connection

The athletic departments at Texas A&M and Arkansas have found their paths crossing a surprising number of times in recent weeks, and for the Aggies each meeting has led to magical moments.

First, the Aggies and Razorbacks squared off in Toledo, Ohio, for the NCAA Men's Golf Championship in late May. The two teams played a classic match-play contest before the the Aggies clinched the national crown on the final hole of the final pairing.

Then, in mid-June, the Arkansas campus hosted the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The Aggies found more success there, with both the men's and women's teams winning national championships. For both teams, the title came down to the final event in which the Aggies competed, with the women locking up the crown in the triple jump and the men narrowly edging out the competition in the 4x400 relay.

The stakes will be similarly high when the two schools meet again in October. The Southwest Classic will pit the Aggies against the Razorbacks in football at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington. The game, scheduled for Oct. 3, will be the first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron since 1991.

Will A&M come out on top again?

That remains to be seen, but based on this spring's contests involving the two schools, fans might want to stick around until the final whistle sounds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Burgoon's U.S. Open Tee Times Announced By USGA

The United States Golf Association has finalized the pairings for Thursday and Friday's first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park in New York.

Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon will tee off the 10th hole on Thursday at 7:50 a.m. (CDT). Friday, Burgoon will begin on the first hole at 1:20 p.m. (CDT).

Burgoon will be playing both days with professionals Craig Bowden and Chris Kirk. Bowden is a 40-year-old from Indiana who will be playing in his fourth Open. Bowden's best Open finish was a tie for 50th in 2002, the last time the tournament was played at Bethpage. He qualified via a sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, finishing one stroke clear of a nine-man playoff for one spot. Kirk, 24, played college golf for Georgia and made the cut last year in his only Open. Kirk qualified for this year's the field via a six-man playoff for four spots in the sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md.

Burgoon, as everyone knows by now, clinched Texas A&M's recent national championship with his stunning 18th hole gap wedge to within inches of the cup three weeks ago. He played his way into the Open field by finishing second at a sectional qualifier in Dallas on June 8, firing rounds of 69-69=138 to make the field by one shot. This will be Burgoon's first U.S. Open appearance.

Former Aggie star Andrew Parr of Canada also made the field for the first time. He will tee off Thursday on the first hole at 8:01 a.m. (CDT). Friday, Parr will begin on the 10th hole at 1:31 p.m. (CDT). Parr, who graduated from A&M in 2006, currently plays on the Canadian Tour.

Coverage for Thursday's and Friday's rounds will be from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on ESPN; 2-4 p.m. on NBC; and 4-6 p.m. on ESPN (all times listed as CDT).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aggies Entering NCAA Championships With High Expectations

Could this be another national championship weekend for Texas A&M athletics?

The NCAA Track and Field Championships open today at the University of Arkansas, and both Aggie teams enter the meet ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll. A&M has never won a national title in track, but this week represents the best chance the Aggies have ever had to hoist the team trophy.

Thirty-two A&M athletes will compete in the event, which runs from Wednesday-Friday.

The women nearly burst through at this year's NCAA Indoors in College Station where they finished second to Tennessee. At last year's outdoor meet, the women finished a program-best third, and the men cracked the top five for the first time since 1989.

"We have the chance to be very successful," said head coach Pat Henry. "All you can do going in there is have everybody have a great day on the same day. It sounds too easy to say, but that's what it is. I've been involved in a lot of these meets, and that's what it's about. Whoever has the most people have the best day on the same day is going to win the track meet. It's not just Texas A&M, Oregon and others. There are a bunch of people in the mix."

That is certainly the case, according to the most recent formchart produced by Track and Field News. The recent projections show a couple of Aggie athletes being favored to win their events, including Porscha Lucas (200), Jessica Beard (400) and both the men's and women's 4x100 relay teams. The Aggie women have won the last two 4x100 relays and own the nation's fastest time again this year.

A&M will also expect to score points in the jumps, with four men and four women qualified in the long jump and triple jump.

For a full list of A&M's competitors, including meet notes, please CLICK HERE.

You can also watch the event live by CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jerrod Johnson To Throw Out First Pitch On Wednesday

(Story courtesy Texas A&M Media Relations)

Houston native Jerrod Johnson, the returning starting quarterback who earned Sophomore All-America honors for the Texas A&M football team last fall, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Houston Astros versus Chicago Cubs baseball game Wednesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and Wednesday is Aggie Night at the stadium.

Johnson, who played many sports growing up and was a pitcher on the baseball diamond, signed to play football and basketball at Texas A&M after a stellar career at Humble High School. After playing both sports as a freshman in Aggieland, Johnson decided to concentrate solely on football.

Also, Aggie Night will highlight the State Farm Lone Star Showdown Trophy. The trophy highlights the head-to-head athletic competition between Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. The Longhorns won the trophy the first three years of the competition and the Aggies have retained the rights to the trophy the past two years.

Fans can access tickets via the web at The password is Aggie. Tickets are basically half-price with $2 from each purchase benefitting The Howdy Club, the Houston A&M Club and the Reveille Club.

The Aggie football team will open the 2009 season with a Sept. 5 home date against New Mexico at Kyle Field. Season tickets are available for as low as $250 for the seven-game home schedule which includes a Thanksgiving night game against the Texas Longhorns.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Behind The Scenes Of A National Title

The dust is beginning to settle in Aggieland around the national title captured by the men's golf team one week ago.

Coach J.T. Higgins has admitted it's been a whirlwind since then, with well-wishers flooding his house when the team arrived back in town and interview requests popping up at almost every turn. Higgins and assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke are tireless recruiters, and they'll be busy on the recruiting trail this summer, as well as hosting golf camps at their spacious accommodations at Traditions Club in Bryan.

The Associated Press published a story recently about sophomore Conrad Shindler, who departed College Station almost immediately so he could caddy for touring pro Todd Hamilton in the PGA Tour's Memorial this weekend. Shindler had an interesting quote in the story, about how the reality of last week still hasn't quite set in:

"I still wake up every morning and turn on my computer,'' he said. "I've got the picture of me and my teammates with the trophy and I have to look at that every time to remind myself that we're the national champions.''

Indeed, as someone who has been wrapped up in almost every Aggie sport on campus in the last decade, I'm guilty of doing the occasional double-check to make sure it really happened. In fact, I remember doing an interview with Gary Blair during basketball season, and I asked him what was on his Bucket List of things he wanted to accomplish before his career was over. He reversed the question on me, asking me what I had on my list.

My immediate response was: "I want to see the Aggies win a national championship, and I don't care what sport it's in."

At the time, I thought he might be the first coach to accomplish that feat in the maroon and white. But, I couldn't be happier for Higgins, Dismuke and everyone associated with Aggie golf.

But looking back at their magical week at Inverness, it's amazing to think about how many things had to happen for A&M to claim the crown.

- Winning the stroke play tiebreaker with Georgia: This was huge, allowing the Aggies to avoid playing top-seeded Oklahoma State in the opening round of match play. OSU has been a longtime nemesis to A&M, even toppling the Aggies at Traditions Club during the Aggie Invitational in April. But, I should also point out how important it was for A&M to...

- Make it in the playoff with Georgia in the first place: How big was Conrad Shindler's hole in one in the opening round. Not only did he ace the hardest par 3 on the course, but the Aggies had to have that perfect shot to even make it in to the tiebreaker with Georgia. If Shindler's ball doesn't take the perfect bounce and roll in, A&M is at least one shot back (and possibly in danger of finishing out of the top eight altogether).

- Long shot Michigan upending No. 3 USC in the Elite Eight: Michigan wasn't ranked anywhere near the top 25 at the start of the week, but the Wolverines not only made it to match play, but they also wiped out a dangerous USC team. The Aggies would have drawn USC in the Final Four, but instead played Michigan.

- Saying the exact right things to Bronson Burgoon: Burgoon admitted his head was spinning after he lost four consecutive holes on the back 9. During that stretch, Burgoon asked the Aggie coaches and players to give him some space and not do too much talking. After his tee shot on 18 found the rough, though, Higgins sent in Dismuke to say a few words. With the pin tucked left and a ridge on the green to the right of the hole, Dismuke had to make sure Burgoon wasn't flirting with danger by firing at the pin. Whatever Dismuke said to Burgoon worked like a charm.

- "One of the greatest shots in college golf history": This one needs no explanation, but who knows would would have happen if Burgoon had hung his shot out to the right and had to put down the ridge, or missed the green altogether.

Winning a championship is such a monumental accomplishment. To be certain, the Aggies deserved to be crowned national champs. A&M played the best, most consistent golf of anyone in the field over the course of the week. The Aggies also took advantage of a few bits of good fortune that lady luck tossed their way, and, sometimes in sports, that can be hard to do.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Artwork courtesy of

The Texas A&M men's golf team has captured the 2009 National Title!

Congratulations to coach J.T. Higgins and the entire Aggie squad for what was a remarkable win at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. After splitting the first four matches with Arkansas the pressure turned to senior Bronson Burgoon, who saw a 4-up lead turn into a tied match on the 18th hole.

Landry looked to be in control after he found the fairway off the 18th tee while Burgoon missed the fairway well to the right. After Landry's approach settled well short of the pin, Burgoon came up with the most clutch shot of his career. His ball landed on the green and fed down a slope, narrowly missing the hole and coming to rest just inches from the cup.

Landry missed his birdie putt to tie, and the celebration was on as the Aggie players mobbed Burgoon on the green. The title was the first ever for an Aggie golf team, and the first by any A&M squad since 1987.

We will have more coverage of this historic accomplishment in the coming days. Congratulations, again, to the 2009 NCAA Men's Golf National Champions!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amanda Scarborough Lives Her Dream As ESPN Analyst

We caught up recently with former Aggie softball All-American Amanda Scarborough, who worked with ESPN last weekend for its ESPNU broadcast of the UCLA-Missouri Super Regional in Los Angeles. Scarborough teamed with play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher to provide color commentary for the three-game series. The games turned out to be perhaps the most hotly contested of the Super Regional round, as underdog Mizzou stunned No. 2-seed UCLA in three games to advance to the College World Series.

Q: Had you thought much about trying to get into broadcasting?
Scarborough: It’s always been a dream of mine to work for ESPN, whether it be on air or behind-the-scenes type stuff. I like sports and I like the media, so I felt like it made perfect sense for me.

Q: How did you land the opportunity to broadcast?
Scarborough: Last year before I was hurt, I was in contact with one of the main producers at ESPN Regional and talked to her about possible internships and working with them over the summer. Then I got hurt and couldn’t really do anything from March through June. So, about a whole year passed and in the middle of this April she contacted me and asked if I’d consider being an analyst for postseason. I was all over it.

Q: So what did you have to do to prepare for your debut broadcast?
Scarborough: I went to North Carolina, which is where ESPN Regional Television is headquartered. I met with the producers, and we went over some old games. I was able to talk to a lot of different people who had done softball games in order to figure out what I’m doing. It was good to talk to them so I could get a feel for what I needed to do.

Q: What kinds of advice did they give you to help you prepare?
They told me to have my personality and don’t try and be just like (current TV analysts) Michele Smith or Jessica Mendoza. They also talked a lot about confidence, because if I say something and I’m not very sure about it, it’s not going to give me much credibility with people watching at home. We talked a lot about me being myself and having a lot of confidence.

Q: I’m sure you were familiar with the Big 12 team, Missouri, but what kinds of things did you do to get ready to broadcast about both teams, players and coaches?
Scarborough: I had both of their media guides and also game notes, which are like 20 pages long with all their stats. The game was on Saturday, so we had Friday to watch the teams practice, and we were able to interview both coaches and three or four players from each team.

Q: Was it interesting being on the other side of the microphone for once?
Scarborough: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I was pretty familiar with Missouri, and that made the broadcast a little easier. But, I didn’t know a whole lot about UCLA, but they are one of the most well-known programs in the history of the game. That made it a little better, as well.

Q: Were you nervous when you first put on the headset and the red light was about to come on?
Scarborough: I felt like I was about to go and play in the game. As a player you love that feeling and you thrive on it. It’s what gets you excited, and I finally settled down around the third or fourth inning.

Q: Were there any surprising elements to the job?
Scarborough: It was a little overwhelming in the first few innings of the first game, because you’re trying to watch the game, figure out what’s going on, pay attention to the pitcher and answer questions from the play-by-play guy all at once. And then you have the producer in your headset talking to you about replays, because that’s one of your main jobs as an analyst. All this stuff was going on, and it was hard for me to go in one direction while five different (aspects of the job) are pulling you in different ways. After the first game, I was a lot more comfortable with it.

Q: So, does the producer talking to you throughout the broadcast?
Scarborough: Yes, even when I was in the middle of saying something, he would be saying what we needed to talk about next. There is constantly stuff being said. As a viewer, you really have no idea how much is going on. It’s mainly stuff being said to the play-by-play guy, but I hear everything in my headset too, so even if I were talking, there would be someone kind of talking over me. My heart was beating so fast in the first couple of innings. Sometimes I would be in the middle of saying something and the producer would start to talk, and I’d pause for a second before I realized I needed to keep talking because everyone (watching on TV) is listening to me.

Q: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect what kind of grade would you give yourself?
Scarborough: For my first time, I thought I had some good reviews from my friends and family. The producers said I did a pretty good job, and I felt like it got better as the weekend went on. By the third game, I was a lot more comfortable with everything.

Q: Is broadcasting something you would like to do again?
Scarborough: Definitely. I’d really like to. For this year, all that’s left is the World Series, and ESPN obviously has their A-team who has done it for the last few years. I really hope they’d like to have me back at some point in the future because it was a lot of fun.

Q: Now that the World Series field is set, from your experienced analyst point of view, what team might win the national title?
Scarborough: They asked me that during the broadcast, too, and there’s not one team where you can say, ‘Oh yeah, they’re definitely going to win it.’ All the teams are really even. Just because Florida is ranked No. 1, that doesn’t mean they will go in there and make a clean sweep. Once you get to the World Series, all bets are off.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's In The Hole!

Mega props are due to A&M sophomore Conrad Shindler.

The Coppell, Texas, native recorded a hole-in-one today on the biggest stage in college golf, acing the third hole at Inverness Club in the opening round of the NCAA Championships. As of this writing, there was no word yet about which club Shindler used on the 200-yard hole, but the feat is certainly one that he'll talk about for the rest of his life.

Shindler has is playing in his ninth event of the year for A&M, which trails only Bronson Burgoon and Andrea Pavan. He owns a 75.00 scoring average, with his season-best round of 67 coming at the John Burns Intercollegiate in Leilahua, Hawaii, in February.

The five-member Aggie team at this week's NCAA Championships is Shindler, Burgoon, Pavan, John Hurley and Matt Van Zandt.

And since we're busy passing out kudos, some are due to the NCAA for the new format of the men's tournament. This year's tournament will consist of 54 holes to determine the individual champion. After three rounds, the top eight teams will advance to match play. Unlike stroke play where four of a team's five best scores count, the match play portion will include every player in the scoring. A team will need three or more singles wins to earn a victory.

In previous years, the field played three rounds before a 54-hole cut trimmed the field to 15 for the final round. While that format is more like a PGA Tour event, the new format puts an extra emphasis on the entire team and will create an easily-watchable head-to-head feel for the final rounds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CP To The Sweet 16!

Aggie senior Conor Pollock picked up another singles victory today at the NCAA Championships in College Station, and is now in the Sweet 16. Pollock picked up a tough 7-6 (8), 7-6 (2) win over Elon's Damon Gooch.

(In case you're wondering, Elon is a small private college located in North Carolina with a total enrollment of 5,628 students. According to its web site, Elon is known for its arts, sciences and professional programs.)

Pollock fought off match point in the first set tiebreaker before eventually capturing the opening frame. Pollock looked to be on cruise control with a 5-1 lead in the second and two match points, but Gooch went on a roll and forced another tiebreaker. The victory was Pollock's seventh in his last eight matches.

Pollock, who earns an All America honor for advancing to the Round of 16, will face San Diego's Dean Jackson tomorrow. Jackson was an upset winner today after ousting seventh-seeded Michael Venus of LSU.

On a side note, if you haven't checked out the 2009 NCAA Tennis Championships site hosted from, make a note to go check it out. You can watch live video (with sound!) on all 12 courts at the Mitchell Tennis Center. There is also a scoreboard function that tracks every single match being played in real time. It is very cool.

CLICK HERE to check out the live video feed.

NOTE: This will be the last blog update until next Tuesday.

Aggie Sprinter Revels In Shot At National Title

In between workouts at the Anderson Track & Field Complex and study sessions at the Nye Academic Center, Allison George can’t help but to sit back and reflect on how far her track career has brought her. All the comforts involved in being a track athlete at a major Division I school aren’t lost on George, a senior sprinter on the top-ranked Aggie women’s squad.

From the spacious Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium to the roomy Olympic Sports Training Room facility in the Little Athletic Complex to the team’s world class coaching staff, A&M’s track and field athletes are set up for success.

It’s certainly a far cry from where George was two short years ago.

George is a native of Grenada, an island of about 100,000 people located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. An accomplished athlete and the valedictorian of her high school class, George sought the opportunity to become the first in her family to enroll in college. Her quest landed her in Newark, N.J., where she earned a track scholarship to Essex County Junior College.

For a young woman accustomed to the beachy, tropical climate of Grenada, the chilly New England climate was quite a shock. So, too, was the living situation she was thrown into. Unlike a scholarship at A&M that pays for a variety of expenses, George’s scholarship to Essex covered only tuition and a place to live. As it turned out, that place to live didn’t come with just one or two roommates.

“It was a one-bedroom apartment with a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen,” recalled George. “There were eight girls living there, all from different islands in the Caribbean.”

Imagine trying to live with seven complete strangers, even in a comfortable four-bedroom house, and you can imagine George’s dismay upon arriving at Essex.

“They never told us (before we got there) that it was going to be like that,” George said. “At first we thought it might not be that bad, but as time went by, girls always have their little arguments, so all that went on. It was really hard.”

Track practices turned out to be less than ideal, as well. George said Essex didn’t have a track on which the team could work out, so practices were held on a basketball court or along the city streets of Newark—even in the dead of winter.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, George performed well at Essex. She scored points at the NJCAA Championships in 2006 and 2007, including victories in the 400 (outdoor), 200 (indoor) and 55 (indoor).

In 2006, her freshman year, she also took notice of a very talented sprinter from Barton County Junior College named Simone Facey. Facey claimed three junior college national titles in 2007 before landing at Texas A&M, a school George had never heard of. George kept tabs on Facey the following year and watched as the sprinter excelled immediately in College Station. Facey finished her first year at A&M with six All-America honors while leading the Aggies to a then program best fourth place finish at the NCAA Outdoors.

“(Facey) came here and was that good, so I thought I could come here and the coaches could make me that much better, too,” George said. “She was the main reason that I wanted to come here. I had never really heard about the school. I was looking at her because she was such a good athlete. After I learned more about A&M, I never changed my mind.”

That fact that Essex and A&M share some recent ties helped George’s cause, as well. Former Aggie star Clora Williams came from Essex before winning the NCAA 400 meter title in 2006, and first-year A&M assistant Alleyne Francique—also a native of Grenada—attended Essex before he was a six-time All-American at LSU.

A&M coach Pat Henry liked what he saw in George, and it wasn’t long before she was a Texas-bound airplane. In particular, Henry liked George’s approach to academics, which can often be a red flag for coaches recruiting a junior college athlete to a major Division I program.

“You have to recruit those who have gone to a good enough institution to where they will have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in the classroom,” Henry said. “The academic woes in front of a lot of young people today make it a situation where they have to go to a junior college first. It’s kind of like a stigma is put on the junior college kids that they can’t make it academically, but in fact, given the opportunity and going to the right place, they can be successful.”

George certainly believes she went to the right place. In addition to easing up her roommate situation, George said she was amazed by A&M’s seemingly vast resource pool to help student-athletes. Instead of dreading practice on the city streets, George excitedly anticipated working out on a full-size track.

Throw in tutors to help with schoolwork and a career center to assist in job advice and placement, and George was able to clearly see how Facey was able to succeed.

“There are so many people that are willing to help and that’s one of the things I saw when I came here to visit,” George said. “People are here just to help you, and if you use that, you’re able to succeed and know that you can get something done. I can be focused on that and not stressed out about what I’m going to eat today or what I’m going to do when I’m done with school. It makes a big difference.”

George’s first season at A&M—her junior season, eligibility-wise—reflected her newfound comfort.

She set career best marks in the 100 and 200 at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships, but her biggest contribution came on one of A&M’s relay squads. At the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, George teamed with Facey, Elizabeth Adeoti and Porscha Lucas to claim a national title in the 4 x 100. George anchored the relay, which finished in a blazing 42.59 seconds to set a school record and become the second-fastest relay team in NCAA history.

She struck gold again at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station. This time, she ran the leadoff leg in the 4 x 400. Teammates Sandy Wooten, Lucas and Jessica Beard followed George’s stellar opening leg. In the end, A&M won the race by a resounding 1.78 seconds margin to claim the program’s first-ever title at the NCAA Indoor meet.

She’s also picked up some valuable international experience.

Her individual time in the 200 last year was good enough to qualify for the Grenadian Olympic team. George, along with the nine-member Grenada delegation (which included Francique, who competed in the 400 and was the nation’s flag bearer) spent almost a month this summer in China. Months later, the experience is one that is still fresh in George’s mind.

She competed in the first two rounds of qualifying at the famed Bird’s Nest stadium, running against the likes of medalists Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix and Kerron Stewart.

“I’ve been running in front of crowds for a while, but all those people—it was nerve-wracking,” George said. “For me, being on the track and being mentioned by the announcer (was my proudest moment). Not everyone would get recognized. They would introduce some runners but skip others, but I was one of the people who was called out. I was so excited because nobody knows who I am. It was an opportunity for the world to see who I am and know me. That was encouraging.”

George already has her eyes set on the 2012 Olympics in London, and Henry is confident she has the potential to become a two-time Olympian three-and-a-half years from now.

“Allison has good years in front of her,” Henry said. “She will continue to improve, and I think she’s one of those who will run at the next level after she is done here.”

Before that happens, though, George wants to see the Aggies lift the team championship trophy at this year’s NCAA Outdoors. George has already posted NCAA Regional qualifying times in the 100 and 200, as well as the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays. At the Texas Relays in early April the 4 x 100 relay team sped to a collegiate leading time of 42.91, and the group followed that with a title at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia a few weeks later. The Aggies will likely be the favorite in that event at nationals, which conclude on June 12 in Fayetteville, Ark.

“Being a part of a winning team—and I know we are already a winning team—but being able to win a (national) championship is what I want,” George said. “I want an exciting finish, not a sad one where we regret something. I want us to come together and achieve what we’ve been working for.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No 'SI' jinx here!

I posted a story last week about former Aggie golfer Martin Piller, who is in the midst of a pretty successful season on the Nationwide Tour (the golf equivalent of baseball's triple-A league). Piller, who completed his Texas A&M eligibility one year ago, currently sits at No. 7 on the Nationwide Tour money list--a very important slot considering the top 25 at the end of the year earn full-time status on the PGA Tour.

Last week, Piller earned one of a handful of sponsors exemptions into the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, and we are proud to report that Piller excelled in his first Tour event.

Not only did the Duncanville, Texas, native make the cut, his Saturday round of 64 vaulted him into the top 25 prior to Sunday's final round. His Sunday score of 71 gave him a 6-under-par total (69-70-64-71=274) and tied him for 40th overall. He earned a cool $22,570 for his efforts, equalling about 20 percent of what he's already won this season on the Nationwide Tour.

Piller's solid finish went along nicely with the way a few other Aggies played in San Antonio. Fellow Class of 2008er Robert Gates played his way into the Valero field courtesy of a Monday qualifier. Gates also proved his mettle, finishing a shot back of Piller. Gates opened with a 3-over-par 73 but played his next two rounds in 9-under. He finished tied for 47th.

Former A&M All-American Jeff Maggert ended in a tie for 32nd, giving A&M three top 50 finishers in the tournament. The trio finished ahead of players like Chad Campbell, Carlos Franco, Rocco Mediate and Anthony Kim.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

6 - Consecutive Big 12 titles won by the women's track team. The Aggies are the first team in league history to sweep the indoor and outdoor team titles in three straight years.

22.5 - Points won by sprinter Gerald Phiri at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships. Phiri won the High Point Performer award for the second consecutive year after winning the 100, 200 and running on the first place 4 x 100 relay team.

46 - Points won by A&M's female sprinters in the 100, 200, 400 and 100 hurdles. The Aggies tallied an additional 13 points in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays.

64 - School-record round tallied by senior Bronson Burgoon in the final round of the NCAA West Regional. Burgoon's 8-under-par effort helped the Aggies advance to the NCAA Championship on May 27-30.

15-under - The Aggie men closed with a 15-under par score in the final round, marking the third-best round in school history. Senior Matt Van Zandt's 67 complimented Burgoon's 64 to pace A&M.

11 - Career Big 12 titles for senior diver Eric Sehn. Sehn recently earned the team's Most Valuable award after three top 10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Former Aggie Golfer Seeing Success On Pro Tour

Martin Piller’s eyes brightened immediately as he pulled up to the first hole of a recent golf outing at Traditions Club in Bryan. Just off the tee box was the ‘Spirit of ’02’—the cannon fired after touchdowns at Kyle Field—and two members of the Parson’s Mounted Cavalry unit in full game-day attire.

A blast from the cannon was to serve as the official starting gun for a tournament benefiting a junior golf organization, and the former Texas A&M golf standout had returned to the area to take part. The event served as Piller’s first trip back to College Station in some time, and he excitedly reminisced to his playing partners about some of his fondest memories from his days in Aggieland.

Piller, who played for A&M from 2005-08, may not spend much time around College Station these days, but he is certainly making plenty of new memories traversing the links on the Nationwide Tour. The Nationwide Tour, which is operated by the PGA Tour, serves as the developmental circuit for players striving to earn a full-time spot on the PGA Tour.

Piller advanced all the way to the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School last December before finishing 40th out of 161 participants. While he missed earning his PGA Tour card by a mere five shots, his finish was good enough to earn a full exemption on the Nationwide Tour.

So far this season, Piller has proven that he belongs.

The Duncanville native currently sits at No. 7 on the Nationwide money list—a very important ranking since the top 25 at the end of the year will earn a slot on the 2010 PGA Tour.

“It has always been a dream, something I talked about as a little kid,” said Piller recently from his hotel room in between rounds of the South Georgia Classic. “I could name a ton of guys who would trade spots with me and do anything to be where I am. I feel so fortunate because the chances of making it are so slim.”

They certainly are, particularly when you consider the annual Qualifying School consists of four separate stages, with the final stage being a six-round marathon. Simply making it that far is a monumental accomplishment, and last year’s field included nearly two dozen players who had won titles on the PGA Tour.

It was certainly a rapid rise for Piller, who struggled to find the lineup during his senior season with the Aggies. He played in 11 tournaments in 2007 but just five in 2008.

“He never played poorly (during our qualifying rounds), but other guys were beating him out,” recalled A&M coach J.T. Higgins. “He always seemed to be the sixth man or the next guy who would have qualified. He wanted to have a great senior season, but the more that happened, the more pressure he put on himself.”

As it turned out, however, that season’s struggles likely served as a turning point in Piller’s career. He has adapted a more relaxed approach to the game and began making a conscious effort to not take the trials and tribulations on the course so seriously. Instead of grinding through long pre-round practice sessions and agonizing over every decision on the course, Piller instead kept it simple and began playing with a more free-spirited attitude.

It has certainly paid off for Piller—literally.

His best finish to date is a second place in the New Zealand Open. After opening with solid rounds of 67-69-68, Piller found himself sleeping with the lead on Saturday night. He certainly didn’t play scared, despite crowds that exceeded 20,000 on Sunday. His final round included more birdies than pars (eight birdies to seven pars), and he finished with a 4-under 68. Unfortunately for Piller, fellow American Alex Prugh, who started one shot back, rattled off two eagles during a final-round 64 to claim the title by three shots.

Still, Piller earned a hefty $64,800 payday for his second-place finish. He also garnered some favor with the local fans after donning a newly purchased shirt for his walk up the 18th fairway.

“Earlier in the week, I bought a New Zealand All Blacks jersey—their national rugby team,” Piller said. “I wanted to show the crowd that I liked their country, and they loved it. I don’t want to be that golfer who is so focused and boring. Everybody likes the guy like (PGA Tour pro) Rocco Mediate, who is easy to talks to and shows a little personality.”

Piller’s friendly, easy-going personality plays well in front of a crowd, and so far the galleries have seen a lot of the budding professional. He made the cut in seven of his first eight tournaments, and he currently owns the tour’s eighth-best scoring average (70.40).

He also earned a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s PGA Tour Valero Texas Open, which starts Thursday at La Cantera in San Antonio.

All the while, Piller proudly tells anyone who asks where he went to college.

“I’m so proud when somebody asks me where I went to college,” said Piller, whose golf bag is adorned with A&M memorabilia, including an Ol’ Sarge head cover on his driver. “I always answer with the most pride and confidence.”

Not surprisingly, Piller does his best to keep up with the players on the Aggie golf team, and he jumps at every chance to return to campus.

“He is someone who is going to give back to this university for the rest of his life,” Higgins said. “He’s a great ambassador for Texas A&M, and the great thing is he’s just getting started. It’s just going to get bigger and better for him. He’s about as good a guy as you’re ever going to meet, so I’m really happy for his success.”

NOTES - Piller isn’t the only recent Aggie graduate to play in this week’s PGA Tour stop in San Antonio. Robert Gates (no relation to former A&M president despite the ironic name) won a spot in the field during a qualifier earlier this week. In fact, the two former teammates will tee off within moments of each other. In tomorrow’s first round, Gates tees off at 1:55, while Piller tees off in the following group at 2:05. Friday, the two tee off at 8:55 and 9:05, respectively…Piller has four top-25 finishes out of eight starts on the Nationwide Tour, and three of those have been top-10 efforts. The only Nationwide member with more top-25s is money leader Michael Sim, who has five…Gates has played in two tournaments on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour. He tallied a third-place effort in the Costa Rica Classic and a 10th place finish in the Corona Mazatlan Classic Mexican PGA Championship.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

By The Numbers

7 - Losses by two runs or less in Big 12 play for the baseball team. A&M sits at 14-10 in league play with three games remaining.

30 - Number of years since A&M's last shut out of Texas on the baseball field before Aggie hurler Ross Hales posted a complete-game blanking of the Longhorns in Austin on Saturday. Hales allowed just three hits, and only one runner advanced to second base in the game.

11 - Ranked opponents defeated by senior tennis star Conor Pollock this season. Pollock and the Aggies will play in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 6 p.m. against Ole Miss in the NCAA Tennis Championships at the Mitchell Tennis Center.

54'-10.25" - School record triple jump posted by Julian Reid at the Texas Invitational on May 2. Reid broke Kendrick Smith's 14-year-old mark by 3.5 inches. Aggie jumpers swept the titles in the long jump and triple jump in both the men's and women's competitions.

8 - Consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament for the A&M softball team.

3-2 - The softball team's record against Florida in the last two NCAA Tournament. The Aggies have eliminated the Gators in each of the last two tournaments, including last year's national semifinals when Florida was the top seed. A&M will play in the Gainesville, Fla., regional this weekend in the NCAA Tournament and could match up with No. 1 Florida again.

17 - National ranking for senior Bronson Burgoon, according to Golfweek. Burgoon and the Aggies begin play at the NCAA Men's Golf West Regional on Thursday. The top five teams in the 13-team field will advance to the NCAA Championships.

64 - Score for former Aggie golfer Bobby Gates in Valero Texas Open qualifier Monday in San Antonio. Gates 8-under-par round landed him a spot in this weekend's PGA Tour stop in San Antonio. Five former A&M golfers will be in the field: Gates, Martin Piller, Ryan Palmer, Jeff Maggert and Matt Loving.

How Aggie Football Almost Gave Me Swine Flu

Bear with me on this one...

My wife and I were married on Nov. 17, 2007. Like any good Ag, I made sure the wedding was scheduled on the off-week before the Texas football game. With the big game just a few days later, we decided we didn't have enough time to take a proper honeymoon. (If I ever need proof that I married the right woman, all I have to do is look back to that week, when she didn't put up the slightest fuss over watching a football game instead of going on a honeymoon).

As it turned out, staying in town proved to be a good decision. A&M upended No. 11 Texas by a score of 38-30 at Kyle Field, marking the second straight victory for the Aggies over the Longhorns.

Now fast forward a year and a half to this month.

Around Christmas 2008 we finally booked our honeymoon, May 2-9 at the lovely El Dorado Royale resort south of Cancun, Mexico. Sure enough, about a week before we're set to leave, news of the Swine Flu breaks. Despite warnings by the US government and numerous family and friends, we pressed on with our plans. It turned out to be a GREAT decision--the vacation was spectacular and the resort was nearly deserted after so many people cancelled their trip with Swine Flu fears.

However, we are back in College Station now and have passed the 48 hour mark that doctors say is the incubation period. I am proud to report there's not a whiff of Swine scent in the Brown house. We survived with minimal damage (maybe a little sunburn and a one-day touch of stomach trouble thanks to some sushi at the resort).

It's a common jokes for sports fans to say that a tough loss by their team has made them physically ill before, but I wonder if anybody has actually caught any disease from going to a game (or in our case, postponing vacation plans in order to see a game)?

Sorry for the long gap in posts on the blog, and I'll be working to get some regular content up for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Help Aggie Softball Take A Swing For Life

College teams have done a great job at raising awareness (and money) for cancer research, and the Aggie softball team is now lending its helping hands. If you're in town and looking for something to do, tomorrow's game is certainly a good cause.

Story from Texas A&M Media Relations

In its effort to help strike out breast cancer, the No. 24 Texas A&M softball team hosts its inaugural “Swing for Life” game on Wednesday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. against Sam Houston State.

The Aggies will trade their traditional maroon and white jerseys for pink uniforms. The Aggie Softball Complex will be decorated in pink, including pink bases, pink foul lines and pink coaches’ boxes. In addition, fans are encouraged to join the A&M softball players in wearing pink to the game.

“I think the ‘Swing for Life’ game is a great opportunity for us to see firsthand how many women in our community are affected by breast cancer,” said head coach Jo Evans. “We are excited to do our part to create awareness and help raise money to aid in breast cancer prevention and research.”

As part of the event, breast cancer survivors are invited to come together and be acknowledged collectively on the field prior to the start of the game. Survivors will be treated to free admission for themselves and a guest, a pink T-shirt printed by the College Station Medical Center to the first 150 registered and a meet and greet with the A&M players and coaches at the conclusion of the game. Any additional family members of breast cancer survivors can purchase tickets for a reduced group rate of $3.

“Our focus with this event is awareness, so it is important to us that all of the women in the Bryan/College Station area that have been diagnosed with or have survived breast cancer come out and be honored prior to the start of the game,” said Evans. “We really want to make sure they are involved and are recognized.”

Fans also have the opportunity to bid on the pink game jerseys worn by the Aggies through a silent auction. The uniforms may be autographed if the purchaser chooses. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation’s breast cancer research program through Swing for Life.

The first 100 fans will receive pink breast cancer awareness wristbands. Other giveaways, including autographed softballs, will take place during the game.

For further information or if you are a breast cancer survivor who would like to be recognized on the field prior to first pitch, please contact Amy Norris at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

35-7 - Scoring advantage for the baseball team in its four games last week. A&M bounced No. 1 Rice on Tuesday before scoring 28 runs in three games in a weekend sweep of Nebraska.

7 - Consecutive games in which the Aggie baseball team has not committed an error. The streak is the longest of its kind in school record books, which date to 1985. A&M is fielding at a solid .987 mark in Big 12 play.

0 - Losses at Olsen Field during Big 12 play. A&M has won all eight of its league games at home and currently sits at second place in the Big 12 standings with an 11-7 record.

65 - First-round score for senior Bronson Burgoon on Saturday at the Aggie Invitational at Traditions Club in Bryan. Burgoon's round of 7-under tied a school record and included seven birdies and no bogeys.

.018 - Combined margin of victory (in seconds) by the men's track team in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays at the LSU Invitational. The Aggies edged LSU in both races, winning the 4 x 100 by a 39.06-39.07 margin and the 4 x 400 by an even narrower 3:06.152-3:06.160. You can't get much closer than that!

147 - Yards receiving for sophomore-to-be Jeff Fuller in the Maroon & White game Saturday. Fuller pulled down nine receptions, one of which was a 30-yard touchdown.

10 - Matches that have been decided by a 4-3 margin for the men's tennis team. A&M owns a 13-7 overall record and a 7-3 mark in one-point matches. The team's two final regular season matches finished with a 4-3 score, with the most recent being a narrow victory over rival Texas last Thursday.

11 - Consecutive wins by the women's tennis team over Kansas. A&M picked up a 6-1 victory over the Jayhawks in Lawrence on Sunday and finished Big 12 play with a 9-2 record.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tough Glove: Erin Glasco's Mettle Behind The Mask

Erin Glasco looks right at home as she casually navigates the comfy confines of the Texas A&M softball team’s player’s lounge. She light-heartedly jokes with teammates and staffers as she bounces between computer consoles, plush leather couches and the locker room. It’s evident Glasco is in an ideal setting as the easy-going senior transfer from Johnston City, Ill., laughs with the ease of a person who has spent the last 18 years with her teammates rather than the last 18 months.

The Aggies are in the midst of their conference schedule—a grueling 10-week span that demands the utmost in focus and determination from players and coaches. As Glasco discusses the nuances of some upcoming games, as well as the challenges of being a leader on the team for the first time, she gently touches a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist. The ink depicts a large pink ribbon outlined in black.

Glasco’s smile briefly ceases for what is likely the first time all day when she’s asked about it.

“Yeah, this is new; it just happened,” she said, recalling the Tuesday in March that led to her new artwork. “My mom called me the Tuesday after our spring break and said, ‘I’ve got some bad news. I don’t want you to worry about me, and it’s not a big deal…I just have breast cancer.’”

Vickie Glasco’s statement hung in the air as Erin took in the words she had just heard on the telephone. Erin’s immediate reaction was the natural one—tears, fear, concern and uncertainty. For a mother and daughter who consider themselves to be best friends, Vickie’s diagnosis was difficult to comprehend. Erin skipped practice that day and tried to gather her thoughts as the team prepared for a weekend series against Nebraska.

As the middle daughter in a softball-crazy family of five (Erin’s father, Gerry, is an assistant coach at Georgia), Glasco knew her mother would want her to play against the Huskers. It helped that Vickie, who rarely misses one of her daughter’s games, was scheduled to be in College Station to watch both contests. Erin hasn’t missed a game in her two seasons at A&M, and despite the devastating news about her mother, never questioned whether she’d be behind the plate the following weekend. Rather, she said she drew strength from her mother’s ever-positive attitude.

“I got this (tattoo) to remind me that if my mom can get through this, I can suck it up and play softball and focus on what I need to do,” Glasco said.

After Vickie’s diagnosis, doctors immediately scheduled her for a surgery the following Tuesday. Before she worried about that, however, Vickie boarded a Texas-bound plane so she could be in the stands for the Aggies’ Big 12 opener. Erin reached base in all three at-bats that Saturday afternoon, and A&M claimed a 2-1 victory at the Aggie Softball Complex.

Some 72 hours later, Vickie was in the hospital for surgery. Doctors removed the lump and quickly gave the family the good news that the cancer had not spread.

“A lot of my positive attitude (before the surgery) had to do with how my grandmother and mother responded,” said Vickie Glasco, who pointed out that she represents the third consecutive generation in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. “I stayed positive because of my kids, too. I wanted them to feel like everything would be OK. It broke my heart to have to tell Erin about (the cancer). It caught her completely off guard, and she didn’t know quite what to do with it.

“You couldn’t believe how good I’m doing now, though. It turned out to be the best scenario, because we caught it early before it could spread to my arms or lymph nodes. I’m a very, very lucky person.”

Vickie’s good news gave everyone in the extended Glasco family, including those involved with A&M softball, reason to celebrate. Erin said her teammates and coaches helped carry her through the difficult hours and days after her mother’s diagnosis. That’s no surprise to those who have spent time around coach Jo Evans’ team, where the Aggie coaching staff and players readily talk about how close they are as a group.

The Aggies’ clubhouse atmosphere has been a particularly welcome environment for Glasco, who was recruited heavily by A&M and Notre Dame out of high school.

She eventually signed with the Irish, but her first two years in South Bend didn’t go exactly as planned. She made 39 starts her sophomore season but didn’t quite mesh with the coaching staff. As the 2007 season came to a close, Glasco decided she wanted to transfer.

Meanwhile, the Aggies finished their year by advancing to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in nearly 20 seasons. In the team’s first game in Oklahoma City, however, a speedy Tennessee team set a WCWS record by stealing five bases against the Aggies. A&M lost its only two games in Oklahoma City, and Evans immediately started scouring the country for a new catcher.

Evans’ eyes brightened when she learned Notre Dame had released Glasco, and she welcomed the hard-nosed catcher from Illinois into the program with open arms.

Glasco’s impact on the program was immediate. She gave A&M a dependable everyday starter behind the plate. Her statistics also improved greatly. In her final season at Notre Dame, Glasco hit .200 with nine RBIs, two doubles and a single home run. In her debut season in Aggieland, Glasco upped her batting average to .280, hit 12 doubles and drove in 29 runs.

In the field, she caught 64 of A&M’s 67 games, committed zero errors and provided former pitching star Megan Gibson with a reliable target. The Aggies soared through the season and won both the Big 12’s regular season and tournament titles. By the time the Women’s College World Series came back around, the Aggies had won 15 in a row and were considered one of the most dangerous team in the nation.

A&M proved the pundits right, shocking No. 1 Florida in the national semifinals to earn a berth in the national championship series.

“Last year, so much attention was given to Megan Gibson, Jamie Hinshaw and Jami Lobpries in that great senior class, and deservedly so,” Evans said. “But, I will tell you that if we didn’t have Erin Glasco, we wouldn’t have been playing for the national championship. We noticed her every day.”

As important as she was during last season’s magical run, Glasco may be even more needed this season. She’s one of two senior starters on A&M’s youthful roster. Considering the team’s two most used pitchers are a freshman and a sophomore, Glasco’s steadying hand behind the plate is a necessity if the Aggies want to experience another successful postseason.

Through the first 42 games of 2009, Glasco has maintained a .286 average with four home runs and 26 RBIs. She also led the team with a .486 on base percentage.

“(Being a senior leader) is harder than I ever thought it would be,” Glasco said. “There is a pressure to set an example through your actions every day, and sometimes when you put so much pressure on yourself, you can’t perform because you are trying so hard. Sometimes, it is hard to sit back and trust the process that we are taking, but that is one thing that coach Evans is great at. She is good at calming people down and saying, ‘Hey, it’s all right. We’re going to get there.’ But, I am definitely the most comfortable I have ever been behind the plate.”

Glasco has certainly won over her teammates with her play, and her easygoing nature off the field makes for easy interactions around the clubhouse.

She has certainly made a believer out of Evans.

“I could talk about Erin forever,” Evans said. “She is so blue-collar, and you will not find anybody more hard-nosed playing the game. If I was a fan—and I am a fan of hers—but if I was a fan in the stands, I would pick her as the one that I always pulled for. She’s one of the best team players, and she’s somebody that everyone should pull for because her intentions are absolutely where they should be.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Hope Stephen McGee Gets A Shot

Randy Riggs had a very good story about former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee in the Tuesday edition of the Austin American-Statesman, and it’s a piece every Aggie football fan should read. You can read it by clicking HERE.

There are a few things to take from this well-written story:

1. By all accounts, McGee will get a chance to prove his worth with an NFL franchise. Considering all the debate during the 2008 season about whether or not he would be drafted, McGee has rehabbed his way past a tough shoulder injury and into draft position. That’s good to see, as McGee’s pedestrian passing stats in college were hampered by three years of option football.

2. McGee is mature beyond his years. Time is at a premium for big-time Division I athletes, and the fact that McGee has been a dedicated teammate and will finish his time in College Station with TWO degrees is truly remarkable. One quote in particular from today’s story really stands out. In discussing his up-and-down college career, McGee said: “I could have been in an offense that showcased my talents more. But the ability to play unselfishly and lay my best interests aside for the good of the team taught me something so much more than just having great numbers and winning trophies…One day I’ll be a better father, husband, teammate and person for having gone through all these things. In the big scheme of things, you don’t want to trade anything for that.” This is not a common individual.

3. McGee may be the most competitive person on the Texas A&M campus. Coaches have always raved about his level of play and attention to detail in practice, and few (if any) work harder in the weight room. And, as if McGee needed any further inspiration to get a shot in the league, he revealed in this story that he keeps a file of all the skeptical comments and jokes people have made about his over the years. He refers to the list when he thinks about easing up his workouts or not pushing through another sprint.

I got a taste of McGee’s competitive nature very early in his college career. Former A&M o-lineman Geoff Hangartner (now with the Buffalo Bills) always used to make a freshman lineman carry his pads out to practice during two-a-days. After McGee graduated from high school early in 2004 to take part in A&M’s spring drills, Hangartner reasoned that since McGee wanted to get to college so bad, he must also want to lug Hangartner’s pads to the practice field. Naturally, McGee disagreed.

The two decided to settle it on the golf course and invited myself and former 12th Man Magazine On Campus staffer Dallas Shipp along to referee. The two were deadlocked after 17 holes, but both players crushed long drives down the middle of the fairway on 18.

By this time, Hangartner was getting desperate. As McGee began to swing for his approach shot, Hangartner bellowed out a deafening ‘Gig em Aggies’ yell, and McGee’s shot soared far from the green. The fury in McGee’s eyes had us non football players backing up, afraid we were about to be reffing a boxing match instead of a friendly round of golf.

Hangartner finished with an 81 to beat out McGee’s 83, and the post round handshakes didn’t feature much eye contact or pleasant conversation for McGee. He was clearly not pleased by Hangartner’s successful (albeit questionable) distraction.

Some five years later, it’s good to see that same competitive spirit is helping push McGee into the NFL. Here’s hoping he gets a fair shake this go round.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

16 - Draft position for former women's basketball star Danielle Gant. Gant, selected in the second round of the WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, becomes A&M's highest-ever and fifth all-time draft pick.

59 - Pitches thrown by Rhi Kliesing in the softball team's 6-0 shutout of Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders managed just two infield singles, while only three balls left the infield for routine fly outs.

954 - Number of fans who saw Erin Glasco's two-out, two-run walk-off home run Friday at the Aggie Softball Complex. A&M was down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh before Glasco ripped the first pitch she saw over the left field fence to give the Aggies a 5-4 win.

3 - Hits allowed by Brooks Raley during his complete-game win over Kansas State on Friday. Raley struck out 11 and set the side down in order in five innings.

39.13 - First place time for the 4 x 100 relay team of Tran Howell, Gerald Phiri, Chris Dykes and Justin Oliver at the UCLA Invitational. The Aggies out-paced two professional teams in the race, including the World Class team that featured two medalists from the Beijing Olympics.

6-0-1 - The soccer team's record in spring matches this season. A&M's most recent victory was a 2-0 decision over Oklahoma State on Friday night.

25 - Very early 2009-10 preseason ranking for the men's basketball team, as determined by writer Andy Katz. Katz picked four Big 12 teams in his ranking, including No. 1 Kansas, No. 4 Texas, No. 18 Oklahoma and A&M.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Schaefer Recognized As Rising Star

Voting is underway for's postseason awards, and Texas A&M associate women's coach Vic Schaefer has been nominated for the Rising Stars of the Profession honor. Schaefer is one of 20 semifinalists who was nominated by at least one of his peers.

Fans can vote online through April 15, and the 10 coaches with the most votes will then be evaluated by BasketballScoop's panel of coaches, who will then select five winners.

Show Coach Schaefer the love RIGHT HERE

For those who don't know much about Schaefer, he graduated from A&M in 1984. He's coached with Gary Blair for 12 seasons. Schaefer cut his teeth in coaching at Sam Houston before becoming Blair's assistant at Arkansas.

Many fans might not know that A&M almost missed out on having Schaefer on the bench when Blair signed with the Aggies six years ago. LIke most assistants, Schaefer ultimately desires to be a head coach, and he was in serious discussions with New Mexico State back in 2003. The NMSU athletic director even offered him the school's head coaching job, but Schaefer decided to come back to Aggieland in order to be closer to his ailing mother.

As he told me during an interview earlier this season:

"At that point in time of my life, my mother was alive and in Houston and I felt like if I went to Las Cruces, N.M., she may never get to see her grandkids again. And, I was exactly right because a year-and-a-half later we lost her. It’s a decision I’m so glad I made if for no other reason than family. It's been a great decision, obviously, but for the main reason of my mother and knowing what my parents did for me as a child, the least I could do for her in her final years was give her an opportunity to be around her grandkids. And you know what, it gave me a chance as a momma’s boy to be around her, too. It was a great decision, and I don’t regret it for one minute."

Schaefer's parents, by the way, used to tailgate for Aggie football games in the 1960s near the location of the KAMU-TV building, adjacent to Kyle Field on Houston Street.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend By The Numbers

3 - Times in the last four years that the Texas A&M equestrian team has entered the Varsity Equestrian National Championships as the No. 1 seed in the western bracket. The Aggies will compete at the national championships on April 16-18 at the Heart O'Texas Coliseum in Waco.

19-0 - The record of the Texas A&M baseball team (through April 5) when leading after six innings. Conversely, the Aggies were 1-11 when trailing after six innings.

4-0 - The record of the Texas A&M volleyball team at the fourth Annual Texas Tornados College Spring Tournament in Houston during the first weekend of April. The Aggies beat TCU, Denver, North Texas and Wichita State en
route to a perfect record.

6 - Events won by the Aggie track and field teams at the recent Texas Relays in Austin. A&M was named the event's Most Outstanding Team after picking up wins in the men's and women's 4 x 200 relays, men's and women's triple jump and women's 100 meter dash.

168 yards - Length of the 13th hole at the Golf Club of Georgia, where A&M senior Clay Hodge recorded a hole-in-one during the opening round of the United States Collegiate Championship. Hodges aced the hole on April 5 with his 7-iron.

14-0 - Combined record of the men's and women's tennis teams from March 12-April 5. Each squad won seven straight, with all of the women's wins coming against Big 12 competition. The men's team posted three wins over league foes, as well as consecutive victories over top-10 ranked non-conference teams.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gotta Love A Good Practical Joke

In honor of yesterday being April Fool's Day (I managed to go the full 24 hours without getting pranked), I wanted to pass along this story. I interviewed assistant men's golf coach Jonathan Dismuke for a Coaches Corner feature in the upcoming issue of 12th Man Magazine, and it turns out he has a pretty good sense of humor.

The story comes from the team's recent trip to play in a tournament in San Diego, where a certain player who shall remain nameless (and an unsuspecting hotel guest) learned a tough--albeit funny--lesson.

In Dismuke's words:

"Being a coach, you’re always trying to teach people lessons. (The player) knocks on my door at 5:30 in the morning, and he’s just gotten out of the shower and has nothing but a towel on. Well, that’s a terrible idea because where do you put your hotel key if you don't have clothes on? You don’t have it. So, if you’re roommate’s not in there or he's in the shower, you can’t get back in your room.

"He’s wanting to wear a different belt that day, so I said, ‘You’re going to have to ask coach (J.T. Higgins)...He’s down in room 236.’ Well, I knew J.T. was staying in room 240—and already downstairs. (The player) goes and knocks on 236, and some other guy stumbles out to see our guy who has on nothing but a towel.

"So I got to thinking, actually, I taught two people a lesson. First, I taught our player not to leave his hotel room in just a towel. I taught the other guy that you don’t answer your hotel door at 5:30 in the morning."

I'll be keeping my wits about me the next time I'm out at Traditions Club. So, make that three people who learned a lesson from this story!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Aggies Representing At Big Event

Story courtesy Texas A&M Media Relations

A record number of Texas A&M student-athletes, approximately 169, will participate in the Big Event on Saturday, Mar. 28.

The Big Event is the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation where the students of Texas A&M University come together to say ‘thank you’ to the residents of the Bryan and College Station communities. For the past 26 years, the Aggies have shown their appreciation by completing service projects such as yard work, window washing and painting for community members.

Every team not currently participating in athletic competition will be represented. Teams such as the Aggie men’s swimming and diving squad are competing in the NCAA Championships on campus this weekend and the women’s basketball team is in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championships in Trenton, NJ, while the Aggie baseball team hosts Kansas this weekend in a Big 12 series.

“We have had close to 100 student-athletes participate in this wonderful event in previous years, but this is a record year with 169 currently signed up,” siad Director of Athletics Bill Byrne. “What great young people we have willing to volunteer to assist in our community. I am very proud of all of those who are participating. I am especially pleased that Coach Mike Sherman and the Aggie football team have set aside practice to participate.”

A group will assist the St. Mary’s Catholic Center with some general upkeep as well as cleaning up the area surrounding the Country Club Lake near the Bryan Municipal Golf Course. Another group will assist with work surrounding the Bryan Little League East Ballpark and another group will assist the Wootan household at 1205 Walton Drive in College Station.

Some other projects in the community include the Stuth household at 506 Dexter St. in College Station, the McNeill household at 2924 Cherry Creek Circle in Bryan, the Fritz household at 307 S. Haswell in Bryan and the Sparks household at 1500 Red Oak in Bryan.

Three Texas A&M football players, Cody Beyer, Roger Holland and Chevar Bryson, will be excused from participation in the Big Event as they have been selected to participate in the Football Physics program at the George Bush Presidential Library beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Colson Is Instant Energy For Aggies

At first blush, the notion sounds ridiculous.

How could Sydney Colson, one of the highest-ranked recruits ever to sign with the Texas A&M women’s basketball program, be a valuable cog in the Aggies machine when she’s not even in the game? Surely, a player of Colson’s caliber and importance has to be on the floor as much as possible for A&M to remain one of the Big 12’s top teams.

According to A&M coach Gary Blair, that’s not necessarily the case.

Blair isn’t shy to point out that he doesn’t fret too much when Colson comes off the court. Certainly, he’d appreciate the luxury of the silky smooth playmaker from Houston remaining in the game as much as possible, but his point, rather, was that Colson still has a largely positive impact even if she’s not running the Aggies’ offense.

“How many times can a starter go to the bench after they’ve been playing poorly and still be a leader on the bench?” asked Blair. “She’s the most vocal kid we have on the bench. She energizes the whole floor.”

The engaging Colson certainly does that, both from the sidelines and when she’s on the court. Colson has appeared in every game this year, starting all but three, and she’s been a big-time reason the Aggies are in the midst of another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Consider the back-to-back games recently against Oklahoma and Kansas State as evidence for Colson’s contributions.

During A&M’s stirring 57-56 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma on Feb. 23, Colson played just 18 minutes and didn’t register a single point. Meanwhile, backup Sydney Carter, a freshman, tallied 11 points in 31 minutes. But after big shots or steals, Colson was the first Aggie off the bench to pump her fists, high-five her teammates or chest-bump Carter during a timeout.

Colson shined days later in Manhattan, Kansas, a place A&M had never previously won under Blair. She finished a perfect 4-for-4 from the field to chip in nine points during the Aggies’ road rout of then-No. 15 Kansas State.

Indeed, Colson helps make A&M tick no matter where she is.

“I love to see my team doing well,” Colson said. “If I come out of the game for not doing what the coaches want and (Carter) goes in and does well, that’s one of the most exciting things to me. I love to see her go in there and do well, just like she did against Oklahoma.

“I feel like with our energy on the bench, the girls on the court can see it and feel it. They’re not totally paying attention to the bench because they’re focused on the game, but we know when they’re (feeling it), especially on away games when we need that energy. That’s how we get our momentum, and that’s what can really get us going.”

A&M has certainly been up and going lately.

Even after losing last year’s program-changing senior class, the Aggies again finished in the upper crust of the Big 12. A&M rolled through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and will battle Arizona State in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Last season’s Elite Eight run remains the programs all-time benchmark (for now), but going a step further isn’t out of the question considering A&M’s talented players.

Colson, one of A&M’s most heralded recruits ever, is certainly one of them.

She spent her freshman year mostly out of the spotlight, as senior Aqua Franklin captained the Aggies in expert fashion. Franklin, a four-year starter, proved to be a valuable teacher to Colson, as well. Colson absorbed the way Franklin prepared for every game. She soaked in how Franklin interacted with teammates during practices and games, noting how the former Aggie captain knew where every player should be at every second of an offensive set. And when Franklin finished her final season with a career-best 173 assists to become one of A&M’s all-time best distributors, Colson was right there, observing every step of the way.

No matter the situation, Colson took it all in.

“She was a great vocal leader on the court, and the girls always respected her and looked up to her and listened to what she said,” recalled Colson. “She led the way for everyone, and that’s a big reason A&M ended up doing so well over the years. She would always pull me to the side if I was frustrated or didn’t know what coach Blair wanted. She knew the plays inside and out, she knew where people were supposed to be, and she knew what (Blair) wanted. It was awesome to have someone there who could be that calm and sensible voice for me that I could listen to and learn from.”

Having a mentor like Franklin proved to be important. Blair demands a lot from his point guard, and it’s the one position he recruits personally. Blair wants his lead guard to possess a total understanding of the team’s offense and even be able to think like the veteran coach.

Franklin didn’t have the luxury of playing behind a veteran starter. Instead, her first season was the year following star Toccara Williams’ graduation. By Franklin’s upperclassmen seasons, it was clear she had blossomed into a prototypical lead guard for Blair. This year, Colson is still going through the growing pains that come with leading the team—and excelling under Blair’s demanding eyes.

“Last year, I feel like I played more freely, because all the responsibility wasn’t on me,” Colson said. “I was just going in and playing my game. Now, I have to go in and know where everybody’s supposed to be, know what coach wants. I can either feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me, or I can step up to the plate and get the job done. That’s really what I want to do, and that’s really what I need to do. I need to develop that relationship with him like Aqua did, and get the job done.”

Considering the off-season injury Colson endured, it’s remarkable she’s performed as well as she has.

Team members were playing a game of pick-up basketball one early summer afternoon when Kiley Finstad stripped Colson of the ball near mid-court and raced to the basket for a layup. Colson, in an effort to make up for her mistake, raced back and leaped in an attempt to block Finstad’s shot. She came down awkwardly and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

The injury could have been devastating, both to A&M’s hopes in 2008-09 and to Colson personally. After all, according to Blair in this season’s media supplement, Colson was the player that A&M “couldn’t afford to lose.”

“I had never been seriously injured in my career (before the ACL),” Colson said. “The worst I had ever had was a twisted ankle or a busted lip. To have something torn…I was going through a lot emotionally.

Colson knew the team couldn’t risk her being out long and started rehabbing immediately. Just five months after surgery repaired her right knee, she took the floor for the Aggies’ season opener against Mercer. Colson logged eight minutes that night, hit her only three-point attempt of the game and dished out four assists with zero turnovers. Six days later, she made her first start of the year, and A&M picked up a road victory against Michigan.

“The most you ever improve is between your freshmen and sophomore years,” said Blair. “That was taken away from Sydney because of the injury this summer. She’s been making some mistakes, but she also makes a lot of things happen. She’s a true playmaker.”

Though she’s not quite back to 100 percent—she said 80 percent is more like it—Colson has been a mainstay in the lineup. She averages more than 20 minutes per game, shoots 40 percent from the field and has a positive assists-to-turnovers ratio. Colson’s man-to-man defense has improved as her knee strengthened, and she’s tallied four or more steals in a game six times this year. In fact, her 74 steals through 33 games is just one off the team lead.

The Aggies, meanwhile, have rallied from a tough early portion of their Big 12 schedule. A&M started 2-2 before winning nine of its next 11 contests. Included in those victories was a season sweep of Texas, a feat the Aggies have now accomplished in three of the past four seasons.

“I wanted to work hard,” said Colson. “I knew that I needed to be out there. (Carter) was coming in as a freshman, and I didn’t want to leave her out there and handle that responsibility alone. I knew it would be hard (for her), because it was hard for me last year…and I had Aqua with me.

“I also knew this would be my last chance to play out there with Takia (Starks), Danielle (Gant) and (La Toya) Micheaux being in their last year. I wanted to be a part of it with them on the court, not just sitting on the sidelines cheering.”

Although, as she’s proven this season, Colson is certainly effective from that vantage point, as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Wright Way

Story by Rusty Burson
12th Man Magazine

DALLAS—Inside the Dallas Mavericks’ lavish locker room, shooting guard Antoine Wright leans back in a plush leather chair in front of his spacious locker and playfully begins boasting to teammates and assistant coaches.

It’s shortly after 6 p.m. on March 7—roughly 90 minutes prior to tip-off of the Mavs-Wizards game at American Airlines Center. But the bright-eyed, animated Wright is not yet interested in discussing Washington.

There will be time for that later. Now he’s talking Texas A&M. Loudly and proudly.

He’s announcing the Aggies’ victory earlier that afternoon over Missouri, and he is thoroughly enjoying the fact that A&M has not lost since he returned to College Station to see the Texas game on Feb. 16.

“(The Missouri win makes it) six in a row, baby,” Wright says in the direction of eight-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, who smiles and rolls his eyes sarcastically as he passes Wright and heads toward the training room.

“Oh no, here we go again,” says assistant coach Dwane Casey, a former player and graduate of Kentucky. “If Antoine is getting loud, the Aggies must have won today.”

Wright beams and nods smugly. He quickly looks around the “technology toyland” (every locker is equipped with flat screen TVs, DVD players and stereo equipment) for a couple of teammates: LSU graduate Brandon Bass and Arizona alum Jason Terry. Wright is the only former Big 12 player on the Mavericks’ roster, but he owns major bragging rights over Bass and Terry this year because the Aggies beat both LSU and Arizona earlier this season.

To Wright’s chagrin, neither player is at his locker. Wright shakes his head in mock disgust. A smack talk moment has been missed.

“I talk about my school to these guys every day,” Wright says. “These guys know where I’m from. I leave no doubt. The big German (Nowitzki) tries to get under my skin by calling my school Texas Christian. He says, ‘Where’s Texas Christian, Antoine? Isn’t that where you went?’

“I let that slide because he didn’t even go to college, so he doesn’t know any better (laughing). But it is a lot of fun to talk about A&M these days. Going back to the Texas game and seeing the full arena was a lot of fun, too. Knowing where we came from—seeing our own fans in the stands with bags over their heads—and seeing where the program is today is a major source of pride for me. It’s amazing how far we’ve come since my sophomore year.”

Indeed, it is. It’s also amazing to see how far Wright has come since that dreadful 2003-04 season, when the Aggies went 7-21 overall and 0-16 in Big 12 play.

That miserable year ended with a loss to Missouri in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. Ironically, the loss occurred in the same American Airlines Center that Wright now calls home.

Following that setback, a dejected and frustrated Wright sat in another locker in the underbelly of the arena and pondered whether he would even return to A&M for the following season. The coach who had recruited him, Melvin Watkins, had been fired. The program was in shambles, and Wright’s once-bright future seemed to be in serious doubt.

Coming out of Lawrence Academy in Groveton, Mass, Wright was rated as the top shooting guard in the country by In choosing Texas A&M, he turned down, among others, UCLA, UConn, Arizona, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The 6-foot-7 Wright may have been the highest-profile recruit in A&M basketball history at the time. By the end of his sophomore season, though, he looked like yet another victim of A&M’s dreadful basketball history.

In a 15-year span from 1990-2004, the Aggies produced 13 losing seasons and just one NIT appearance. The lowest of the low points came in 2004, when the Aggies lost at home to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, dropped seven of their last 11 conference games by double-digit totals and became the second school in Big 12 history to complete the conference race without a single win.

Wright, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2002-03, had come to A&M intent on turning the program around. But his scoring average decreased to 13.5 points per game as a sophomore. His three-point shooting percentage, rebound numbers, steals and blocks also declined. And the bright, trademark smile that had been so prominent during his freshman season disappeared by the end of his sophomore year.

After the loss to Missouri in the Big 12 Tournament, Wright and freshman Acie Law both made comments about the possibility of not returning to A&M.

“After that 0-16 season, I was seriously depressed,” Wright recalled. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, did I ruin my chances for the NBA by coming to Texas A&M?’ I was just fortunate that Billy (Gillispie) came in at the right time. He saved my career. I definitely would not be (in the NBA) without him. I tell him that, but he doesn’t want credit for anything. But there’s no telling where I would be without Coach G.”

Likewise, there’s no telling where A&M would be today without Wright’s decision to immediately buy into Gillispie’s relentless, in-your-face defensive style and his grueling workouts.

Now head coach Mark Turgeon leads a program that has made five consecutive postseason appearances, while recruiting to some of the nation’s finest basketball facilities. In about half a decade, A&M has become a national basketball name with a remarkably bright future.

It could be argued that A&M owes everything it is today—its current national reputation, its recruiting reach and its sparkling new facilities—to one extremely important sales job involving Gillispie and Wright.

“If you want to (trace the evolution of the basketball program) back to one point in time, you probably need to go back to when Coach G got Antoine to buy into the program,” Acie Law once told 12th Man Magazine. “Antoine was probably on board before any of the rest of us.”

According to many of the so-called media experts, Billy Gillispie is not a good fit at Kentucky. According to many other sources—some credible and some volatile Internet message boards—the Kentucky players have not bought into Gillispie’s brutal workouts, blunt honesty and blue-collar work ethic.

Gillispie’s practices—even on game days—are not for the weak minded or self-righteous superstars. He is intent on breaking all of his players down. Gillispie has absolutely no tolerance for laziness, timidity or apathy. In practices, he’s as driven as a drill sergeant, and he belittles and berates players who fail to give maximum effort.

He typically kicks players off the court for missed assignments and stares daggers that seem capable of piercing the soul. His language isn’t typically foul, but his tone is usually unmercifully harsh. “Pitiful” is one of his favorite practice words; “pathetic” is a close second.

He is so unyielding on his players that the rest of his coaching staff spends much of practice building the players’ confidence back up after Gillispie has told them to “leave my court.”

But his practice strategy, along with his fanatical obsession to play suffocating defense, paved the way for miraculous turnarounds at Texas-El Paso and Texas A&M. So, why isn’t it working at Kentucky?

“Honestly,” Wright says, “they’re probably not desperate enough. I don’t know Kentucky’s program, and I haven’t talked to Coach G much this year. So, I can’t talk about why things aren’t working out. But I know why they worked out for me and Texas A&M. He came in and laid it on the table.

“I dug that about Coach G. We had our little rifts early in the season, but once I started to get a little momentum and see what was happening, I was all about playing his style. As time went by, the rest of the guys bought into the system. I was just the first to buy in because I had no other choice. My (dreams) were slipping away.”

Instead of continuing to slip away, Wright became the physical and emotional leader of a team that won the hearts of A&M basketball fans. The 2004-05 Aggies went 21-10 overall and became just the third team in NCAA history to record a .500 finish in conference play (8-8) after going winless the year before. The Aggies tied San Diego for the most improvement (12 more wins than the previous year) in all of Division I-A basketball.

After helping to resurrect the program, Wright entered the NBA Draft. He was taken by New Jersey with the 15th selection in the first round, becoming the highest pick in A&M history. He was also the first Aggie taken in the NBA Draft since Brooks Thompson in 1994.

After playing sparingly as a rookie with the Nets in 2005-06, Wright began to blossom in New Jersey in his second season. Playing alongside Jason Kidd in the backcourt, Wright started 23 games in 2006-07 and earned a prominent role in the Nets’ rotation.

The articulate Wright was also becoming well known in the glare of the New York/New Jersey media spotlight. So, he was not particularly surprised when he was requested to appear on HBO’s “Costas Now” in March of 2007. Wright was told that the show’s host, Bob Costas, wanted to discuss the educational opportunities/difficulties for college basketball players, especially during “March Madness.”

Once the interview was edited and shown on HBO, Wright says he felt blindsided. The interview cast Wright in a controversial light. Here’s a couple of exchanges from the show:

Wright: “Once I got to college, I kind of let my hair down a little bit. I (didn’t) have to write term papers any more—I just had to get a grade and play basketball.”

Costas: “Tell me what it was like in these agriculture classes (at A&M).”

Wright: “In certain classes you’d see a quarterback, me, a running back and then a farmer. So, it definitely was a little bizarre. But, we’re all in poultry science for a reason. We’re in this class because we need to get this grade. We’re not really trying to learn about chickens.”

Wright doesn’t deny saying any of those things. Be he says that he actually elaborated much more. His intent was never to demean Texas A&M or the agricultural classes he took. He was simply explaining that some colleges within the university worked more with student-athletes and their schedule demands than others. And not just at A&M.

“It was really just me addressing my opinion on college sports,” Wright said. “I never wanted to take a shot at my school. I love my school, and I owe so much to all the people at A&M—from the academic advisors to the professors and so forth—who did so much for me. I would never want to take a shot at them. I really didn’t get a chance to rebut that whole deal, and I regret doing that interview.

“But if you look back on that interview, many of the things I said are true across the board in all colleges. At many colleges across the country, the athletes are in the same majors. That’s just a fact. But when I saw the interview, I was really upset because of the sound bites they took and spliced together. I was like, ‘I didn’t say it that way. I didn’t mean it that way.’ Anybody can take a sound bite and twist it the way they want. It’s something I learned from, and I want to apologize to anyone at A&M who took that the wrong way. I would never take a shot at my own school.”

When Wright was traded from New Jersey to Dallas on Feb. 19, 2008 in the Jason Kidd-for-Devin Harris deal, part of his initial concern was that A&M fans in Texas might still be upset with him about that interview. He was also initially disappointed about the trade because he was playing exceptionally well in New Jersey.

“I talked to (Gillispie) after I got traded,” Wright said. “He said, ‘You’re a tough kid. It will work out.’ I was down because I felt like I had momentum in New Jersey. They were the team that drafted me; I was getting to know the area really well; and I was playing a lot. There was some bitterness when they decided to add me in the trade, and then when I got here, it was even worse. I was just a practice guy. I didn’t initially fit into what the Mavericks were doing.

“The best thing about coming here at that time was being close to so many Aggies. They embraced me immediately. I felt appreciated by the A&M fans. There are not many Aggies that come to New Jersey Nets home games. I would occasionally run into Aggies when we were on the road, but coming back down here was great. I remember the first few times I got on the court as a Maverick, I could feel the A&M love in the stands. It was awesome.”

Being in Dallas (he lives in a high-rise apartment near American Airlines Center), also afforded Wright the opportunity to attend a couple of A&M games during the NBA All-Star break. He went to the Baylor game on Feb. 14 in Waco, which proved to be the last loss of the regular season for A&M. He spoke to the team after that loss, and he was introduced to the home crowd at Reed Arena two days later—where he received a loud ovation—during the Aggies’ 81-66 win over Texas.

“I wish I could go back to Reed Arena every night,” Wright joked. “It’s good for my ego. The fans are great. It’s a different type of rivalry now, too. Now, we are beating them regularly at home. That is so awesome to see.

“I am actually starting to become friends with some of the current players. I’ve been talking to B.J. Holmes and instant messaging with (Holmes) and Dash Harris. I’ve just been encouraging them to show that fight and that fire. I went to the Baylor game, and I thought they had it. I just encouraged them to stick together and to keep fighting through those difficult times. Now look what they have done. I’m proud of those guys.”

That is obvious by how much he talks about Texas A&M with his current teammates.

“I’ve never been to A&M, but I’ve heard it’s great,” says back-up point guard Jose Juan Barea. “Of course, most of what I’ve heard is from (Wright).”

Wright is, indeed, a spokesman for the Aggies.