Mavericks get rock star treatment
Elementary school visit a thrill for players, youngsters
SAN ANTONIO — When the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team arrived at Gardendale Elementary School on Monday afternoon, the Mavericks had no idea what was in store.
They might have walked in as strangers, but they walked out rock stars.
With hundreds of screaming students chanting and dancing, the Mavericks were treated to an hour-long program, complete with coach Taylor Wagner receiving a commemorative key to the school and the players goodie bags with apple slices and other snacks.
Each team in the women’s Elite Eight visited a school Monday as part of the NCAA’s “Community Outreach” initiative, and the students from Gardendale will be in the stands cheering on the Mavericks this afternoon when Colorado Mesa (31-1) plays Dowling (N.Y.) College (28-3) at 1:30 p.m. (MDT) at Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary’s University.
If Monday’s enthusiasm was any indication, the Mavericks should get a boost from their new young fans.
It was a welcome distraction for the players, who had a 55-minute practice late Monday morning, then got some lunch before heading to Gardendale, a small school in a lower-income neighborhood about five miles from the St. Mary’s campus.
“It was good for our kids, and to see all their little faces and their eyes light up, I think it benefited us more than them,” Wagner said. “It’s good to keep our minds occupied until (today), and it was good to serve the community that’s serving us.”
The students, from prekindergarten to fifth grade, made up cheers for the Mavs, and even faculty members got in on the act, with one of the teachers bringing down the house when she turned a cartwheel after their cheer. The teachers wore maroon wigs and had their faces painted, and they held glitter-covered C-M-U letters.
Senior guard Effo Baker played a little defense as a young boy drove to the basket in the school gymnasium, then wowed the youngsters, dribbling the ball between her legs and wrapping up the demonstration by spinning the basketball on her finger.
Junior Hanna Bowden had one of the highlights of the day when she rebounded for the school’s mascot, Spirit the Mustang, who did his best to try to make a basket while looking through his horse costume. Bowden, whose game is all about grabbing offensive rebounds, showed the students how she does it, rebounding Spirit’s miss and making a layup to raucous cheers.
Junior Sharaya Selsor presented the school an autographed basketball from the team, which school officials said will go in its trophy case, and later she talked to the students about the importance of studying and passing their upcoming standardized tests, so they, too, can one day attend college.
The Mavs, who left the gym high-fiving the students, handed out copies of the their game-day programs so the children could remember the day.
It was a day the Mavericks won’t forget any time soon.
“The spirit rally and pep rally and to see the young kids make up these cheers for Colorado Mesa brought some of our girls to tears,” Wagner said later during the tournament press conference. “They were really appreciative. In fact, in our van ride back, they were (saying) we need to do something for this school, just talking about what they could do to improve what they did or didn’t have at that school.”