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I love Senior Nights and I can’t wait to thank CSU’s Alana Arias, Emilie Hesseldal, Jamie Patrick, and Keyora Wharry on Tuesday

February 29, 2016

  

Any Ram fan with a pulse knows that the 2015-16 season so far has been a magic carpet ride of sorts.  26-1, 16-0 if the MWC.  A school-record 23 straight.  National Top 25 rankings in both polls.

A big game on Tuesday vs. second place Fresno State who are 14-2 in the conference and stand as the largest obstacle remaining in the Rams’ regular season.  They are fast, tough, and physical and primed to pull off an upset.

The game is highly anticipated.  The post-game celebration of the careers of four seniors is what I really look forward to.

Alana Arias, the 6’4″ post from Brazil, is in her second year in the program after transferring from a JC in Florida.  Loaded with talent on the offensive end.  She can score with either hand and has a variety of moves that can get her all the way to the rim or shoot a step-back jumper.  Her improvement this year has come on the defensive end, especially on the boards. Easily a starter on any other team in the league, Alana comes off the bench for the Rams.  She has won a MWC Player of the Week Award (not an easy task) and is on track to earn Postseason honors as the MWC 6th Man of the year.  The Rams great season has been defined by the depth on their roster and Alana is very much a part of that.  I think the original plan last year was to red-shirt her but there were too many injuries early and she had to play.  She’s been a large part of the last two MWC regular season titles.

Emilie Hesseldal, the 6’1″ forward from Denmark, is all about versatility and selflessness.  She had a serious elbow injury last season, fought her way back into a starting role this season. She can be seen defending the post, grabbing rebounds, breaking the press with her ballhandling skills, and initiating the offense from the point and setting screens.  She possesses a nice outside shooting touch but rarely shoots. And yet when the team needed her to score at San Jose State, she nailed a pair of jumpers in the final two minutes to lead the Rams to an 80-78 victory and kept the streak alive.   The consummate team player and leader.   Three MWC titles in three years on the roster.

Jamie Patrick, a 5’11” wing from Hutchinson, KS, has grown from perimeter shooter to complete player in her time in Fort Collins. She played her first two years at Hutchinson CC, where she set school scoring records and led her team to a pair of JuCo Final Fours.  The release on her jumper is as good as it gets but she has improved skills scoring off the bounce as well. Her greatest improvement has come on the defensive end where she has become a lockdown perimeter defender and she can mix it up on the glass.  A certainty for All-Conference post-season honors.  She probably doesn’t care.  She’s all about winning.  Two regular season titles in two years.

Keyora Wharry,  a 5’10” guard from Fresno, CA, has grown from athlete with great individual skills to a leader.  She came to CSU from Fresno City College after starting out at New Mexico State.  Fast and bouncy, she struggled early with playing out of sync with the rest of the team.  Not anymore.  She scores at will at the rim, finds open teammates when she draws double-teams, and is the best late-in-the-shot-clock scorer in the MWC.  CSU is at their best when she plays with disciplined fury. That’s not easy.  Her improvement, like the others, has been dramatic.  Two regular season MWC titles in two years. 

All great players. All team players.  Winners.

But the thing that grows on you when you watch them up close is that they are all passionate, happy, and enthusiastic when on the court. Their smiles are infectious.  Their love for the game, their teammates, and their fans is of the highest order.

I’m always sad seeing seniors play for the last time at my winter home away from home. I’ll shed a ear or two for sure.

But down the road I can always look up at the banners in future years that these 4 extraordinary seniors helped to hang.  And I’ll close my eyes and see Alana delivering a Samba-step through lefty layup, Emilie hustling to grab a tough offensive board, Jamie launching a high-arcing three-ball this gets nothing but net, and Keyora scoring a crazy good reverse over the head layup.

Thank you ladies for all that you’ve done.

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