Syracuse takes advantage of the coaching skills that create ‘Shelley George miracles’

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 5, 2018 at 8:53 pm Contact Anthony: amdabbun@syr.edu Shelley George’s father always asked her one simple question.“Are you any good?” he asked.Every time Jim Freeman, a former NFL player for the Steelers and Rams, would challenge his daughter, she responded assuredly and confidently.“I’m the best,” George said.George has spent her entire life trying to prove to her father why she deserves to call herself the best. As a player, a coach and a person, George fuels that desire by taking on new challenges and demonstrating her talents. As an assistant coach of the Syracuse (9-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) women’s tennis team, George said she preaches the same philosophy to her players that her father taught her. Her presence on the sidelines during practices and matches has helped SU in her nine seasons as assistant coach.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“When I grew up in Iowa, we were brought up to believe that we could do anything that we wanted to do as long as we worked hard and believed in ourselves.” George said.George grew up playing basketball. But one day as a junior high schooler, she tagged along to her mother’s tennis lesson. After hitting a few balls, she caught a famous coach’s eyes. Don Klotz, a former University of Iowa coach whose name now adorns the Hawkeyes courts, saw George hitting balls with her mother and offered her lessons.From that moment forward, George fell in love with the sport. Every day before school, she would head to the courts and play. When the school day ended, she was off to basketball practice. Then, after getting home and eating dinner, her day came full circle as she went back to the courts for more tennis.She went on to a four-year college tennis career, two at St. Ambrose University and two at the University of Iowa. Then, George led the City High School women’s tennis team in Iowa City for 18 seasons.She served as the Missouri Valley President of the United States Tennis Association while working at the North Dodge Athletic Club in Iowa City. She produced numerous collegiate athletes and developed some of the top talent on the tennis tour, including Madison Keys, the No. 14 ranked player in the world.“Her serve is a Shelley George miracle,” Luke Jensen, a 1994 French Open doubles champion and former SU head coach, said of Keys. “Shelley taught her that serve and it’s one of the biggest on tour.”When Jensen and former Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross called George in 2008 to offer an assistant role, the former Iowa tennis star saw the opportunity as a new challenge.George left her family, friends and blossoming future in the USTA behind. Jensen said she was one step away from potentially being president of the USTA, yet she took the job in Syracuse.“I thought it would be a really fun challenge,” George said. “Daryl Gross and Luke Jensen were the two biggest motivators to me, it was about developing collegiate athletes.”George coached under Jensen until he left unexpectedly during the 2012 season. With the job vacant, George applied to be the head coach. With all of her experience teaching young athletes in both high school in Iowa and college at SU, George seemed to be the natural choice to replace Jensen.Gross gave George a phone call informing her that Syracuse had other ideas.The former athletic director gave assurances that George would still have a job as an assistant, but the school decided to go a different direction. Under Jensen, the school focused on American talent. By hiring Younes Limam, SU pivoted to the international scene. Today, six of the team’s eight players hail from outside the United States.“We were going from an all-American program to an all-international program,” George said. “I had no international recruiting experience at that time.”But that didn’t stop George from doing what she does best: teaching.George crafted her coaching style through 32 years of experience working with young players. Syracuse’s top-ranked player, Gabriela Knutson, said she’s tough yet firm, reassuring but demanding. Jensen said George has a knack for communicating with the young women on the court, always seeming to find a way to get through to them mentally.Whenever Knutson finds herself struggling in a match, she yells under her breath as she walks back to her bench in frustration. Against Boston College on Feb. 16, Knutson trailed 4-1 in the first set. George took a seat beside Knutson and listened to her voice frustrations. Then, the coach offered her input. She talked the junior through her anger, helping her to relax and play her game. George suggested small changes in Knutson’s approach that could make a difference. After their talk, Knutson won 11 of the final 12 games of the match.Much like George helped craft Keys’ serve, Knutson said the biggest difference in her game in the last two seasons is her improved service. By focusing on hitting the ball at the apex of the ball toss and increasing knee bend, Knutson has turned her serve from an occasional liability into a weapon. George’s technical advice has helped move No. 18 Knutson up in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.“She pushes me to reach my full potential, she’s had really tough love for me,” Knutson said. “But I will always turn to her if I have any problems.”Not only does George coach the players, but both Jensen and Limam have learned from how she relates to players on the court.George was always the first to pick up on disagreements within the team, Jensen said. Even when she coached for Jensen, who was formerly among the best doubles players in the world, he said George was the first to notice when certain doubles pairings weren’t effective.“She’s making me a better coach every day,” Limam said.Jensen added: “She’s a rock star in our game.” Commentslast_img read more

Doc Rivers: Now is not the time to judge L.A. Clippers season

first_imgCoach Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night clinched a playoff spot for a franchise-record fourth consecutive season with a 119-98 victory at Philadelphia. A reporter wanted to know from Rivers what in his mind would be a real accomplishment for his team.Would it be a trip to the Western Conference finals for the first time in club history? Or …“We’ll figure that out at the end,” was Rivers’ response. “Right now, we just want to play. We respect our conference. Us and all the other seven teams that get in all want to win it.“If you don’t win it, then you have to figure out what an accomplished season is.” With that said, all Rivers is currently concerned with is his team’s continued improvement.“Just getting better,” said Rivers, whose team will next play at 3 p.m. today at Boston (on Prime Ticket). “Now it’s all about our actions on offense and defense. The second and third options have been our focus now for about two weeks.“In the playoffs, you don’t get your first option and if you do, it’s rare. You have to be able to run stuff with continuity no matter what the defense is doing. So that’s all we’ve been talking about.”The Clippers (48-25) have won six consecutive games. Getting consistent One of the knocks on the Clippers this season is that they have been inconsistent, whether from game-to-game or minute-to-minute. Chris Paul likes what he’s seeing in that department.“Yes, we talk about it all the time,” he said. “We’re trying to be more consistent, find the plays that we like, and most of all, be more consistent on defense.”Praise from 76ersPhiladelphia coach Brett Brown came away from Friday’s game very impressed by the Clippers, who also routed his team 127-91 on Jan. 3 at Staples Center.“They’re one of those teams that are rare,” Brown said. “They can post Blake (Griffin), throw lobs to DeAndre (Jordan), they can bring (J.J.) Redick off the pin-down and they have the killer in pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul.“So tonight was a great lesson and a great experience to play against a real team that is a few weeks away from going into the playoffs.”This and thatThe Celtics (32-40) will enter this game in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, good enough for the final playoff spot in the East. But the Brooklyn Nets were just a half-game back at 31-40, so Boston has plenty for which to play. … Point guard Isaiah Thomas has averaged 19.7 points and 5.0 assists since coming to the Celtics from Phoenix in mid-February. He recently missed eight games with back issues, but returned two games ago. … Small forward Jeff Green is averaging 15.1 points for Boston. … The Clippers defeated Boston 102-93 on Jan. 19 at Staples Center. … Clippers sixth-man Jamal Crawford (calf) has missed the past 12 games. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more