Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 5, 2018 at 8:53 pm Contact Anthony: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.” Comments
Blake Griffin of the Clippers has shown no reluctance to get in the paint after missing 15 consecutive games with a staph infection in his right elbow. He might even be going in there more since his return a week ago Sunday. His rebound numbers attest to that as he was averaging 9.5 in the four games he had played before Sunday’s 107-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans; he was averaging 7.7 on the season.Indeed, it appears there was no way Griffin was going to take anything easy once he got back in the fold. On Friday, he went hard to the ground on his back after being fouled by Washington’s Nene with 5:39 left in the third quarter while going hard to the basket. Nene was called for a flagrant 1 foul. Less than a minute earlier, Paul Pierce had committed a flagrant 1 foul on Griffin. Griffin had no reaction either time, and he explained why.“I don’t think any of them were malicious,” Griffin said. “That’s just kind of a read. When you don’t think anything is meant to be done in a harmful way, there’s no need to react. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Chris Paul has his teammates’ back, and has been offering him emotional support.“It’s tough,” Paul said. “Jamal is a huge part of this team. We need him. But guys have been stepping up. I tell Jamal all the time that we’re going to need him more in the postseason than we do right now.“He is doing everything he can to get back on the court.”Coach Doc Rivers admitted after Friday’s victory over the Washington Wizards that there is a chance Crawford might not return. Prior to tipoff Sunday, Rivers said, “Jamal told me he’s feeling better, it just doesn’t seem like he is.”Rivers conceded that Crawford’s injury is worse than the team initially thought.“Probably,” he said. “I think (head trainer) J.P. (Jasen Powell) was concerned pretty much right away, but I think even he’s been caught off guard; not off guard, he probably thinks it’s worse than we thought.”Crawford, who turned 35 Friday, is shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 34.5 percent (115 of 345) from 3-point range. For his career, he’s shooting 41.1 percent overall and 35 percent from beyond the arc.But any time one is assessing Crawford’s percentages, the difficulty of many of his shots is higher than most.Crawford showed up in the locker room pregame Sunday and was not limping as much as he was a few days earlier.UpcomingThe Clippers (46-25) now embark on a three-game road trip that will feature stops Wednesday at New York, Friday at Philadelphia and Sunday at Boston. When they come back, they will host Golden State on March 31. “They are a physical group, but we are, too. So you just have to take hits and then keep going and show that you can take hits.” Griffin only had five rebounds Sunday to go with his 23 points, but he’s still averaging 8.6 rebounds since his return. His career average is 9.8.Paul supports CrawfordOne has to wonder how the Clippers’ chances in the postseason will be affected if they are without a healthy Jamal Crawford, who Sunday missed his 10th consecutive game with a right calf injury.Crawford averages 16.4 points off the bench and though his shooting-percentage numbers are down just a bit, there can be no mistaking that he remains a very clutch player, the kind who can miss his first four shots and make his next six.