In my last episode of “Flintstone TV,” I introduced the world to Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team. In this episode, I am introducing you to WMU’s leading scorer Miame Giden.

Averaging 12.4 ppg, Giden was also named to the All Mid-American Conference Freshman Team last season while holding the 15th-highest scoring average among freshman nationwide.

As she prepares for her sophomore season, this is what she had to say…

Sincerely,
Eric Woodyard — “The Flintstone”

The secret to success in the game of basketball is plain and simple: Practice!

The women’s basketball program at Western Michigan University is well aware of this. To get better, the school’s athletic department hires male practice players to help push the females in the many intense practice drills.

“Most schools, including us, want their players to compete against players that are bigger, faster [and] stronger, and often times there aren’t too many females in the normal population that are usually bigger, faster [and] stronger than your scholarship players,” Western Michigan head coach Tasha McDowell said. “So it’s great to have males that know the game and are willing to be a part of a practice squad to benefit the team. It helps us to react quicker, to defend harder and to be able to go against an elite level of athletes.”

This has become an integral piece to the organization, and it is not often recognized. In my spare time, I like to help the team and it is a joy to see them implement the skills that we have worked on in practice into a game. In a sense it’s like coaching… but not quite.

With the help of WMU senior Marcus Voelz behind the camera and the genius of Chyn Wey Lee on the editing, I was able to put together this piece.

Sincerely,
Eric Woodyard-The Flintstone

western-michigan-university-arena

When the clock strikes midnight in mid-October, most colleges and Division I universities are celebrating their basketball team’s Midnight Madness.

This marks the beginning of a new season, erasing all of the mistakes and failures from the previous season while bringing excitement to their new crop of fans. Not only does this mark a new season, it also gives freshman the opportunity to get accustomed to playing in front of the bright lights of the collegiate level in order to erase all of the early jitters.

This event is generally free and includes free food, a dunk contest, a three-point shootout, and a scrimmage in the end to give fans a glimpse of all the hard work that the players have put in over the off-season.

More than one-third of all Division I schools celebrate this event…but who? (Drum roll please?) And the survey says…Western Michigan University!

Why don’t we have this event? This should and could become a traditional event at this university in order to bring more excitement into Western Michigan University’s basketball program. Then the university wonders why more fans don’t show up throughout the season. It’s the small things like these traditional events that connects fans to their teams and brings them to games, it’s not all about the wins and losses.  

We could be the best team in the nation (which is highly unlikely by the way) and still not draw as many fans as some of the less-talented teams because we may not have established a good enough connection with them in order to win their support. On Friday, October 16, teams like Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and even Eastern Michigan University(!!!) all celebrated their Midnight Madness. 

You mean to tell me that EMU can celebrate an event like this in Ypsilanti, Michigan and we can’t duplicate this in Kalamazoo? I don’t believe there is any reason that we cant and shouldn’t embrace this tradition. No disrespect to EMU or the city of Ypsilanti but I just fell as though we are just as capable to do these types of things if they are because we are both Mid-American Conference schools.

If the university feels as if money is a problem than I don’t agree with this in any way, shape, or form because who wouldn’t want to spend a little extra money in exchange for more fans? And they are thinking about potentially moving into another stadium in the future? They have to become more conscious of how highly successful college programs are running their organizations and most of them always have more interaction with their fans starting with the Midnight Madness.

Although I do give them credit for running a successful football organization, I just think the basketball team could be equally as good if not better. WMU almost always play their rival football game versus Central Michigan University around the time of Midnight Madness as well, which is also a big deal, but in the end the basketball team is paying for it. They should just start to reschedule the rival game like they did a couple of years ago.    

So just spend a little extra money and let’s get Midnight Madness up and running on WMU’s campus. I’m pretty sure the results will be satisfying.

mark ingram

I can remember it like it was yesterday!

It was a cold October night and I was home in Flint, Mich. for the weekend of my 19th birthday. After the grind of my sophomore year of college, I needed the break badly to spend some much needed time with my family.

While being home, the buzz about this transfer kid at my former high school, Flint Southwestern Academy, was the Carter 3 big. Comparisons to past greats flooded to town about this scholar and for the first time in my life, I saw fans just as excited about watching high school athletes throw the pigskin as they were watching them on the hardwood. This is rare in Flint…very rare.

Not easily convinced, I purchased a ticket and flocked into Atwood Stadium just like everyone else with my father to watch Flint Southwestern take on Flint Northern. In less than five minutes, I could quickly see why.

fswa ingramWearing the no. 7, the running back was not hard to spot because he kept Flint Northern looking silly while he danced in the end zone like Usher in his prime.  

Dazzling the crowd with his great footwork, breathtaking speed, and amazing strength he stood out like a sore thumb.

This was the first time that I saw Mark Ingram Jr. play.

He was a prodigy and destined for greatness.

I don’t know approximately how many yards he rushed for or how many touchdowns he scored but let’s just say that it was a hell of a lot of both. This was his senior year of high school, the year in which he went on to run for 1,700 yards and score 24 touchdowns. He also set city records for rushing yards (377) and touchdowns (7) in a game.

These performances only set us up for what he would go on to accomplish in college.

This past weekend he did it again!

Only this time, I was home for my 21st birthday.  I again needed a break badly to spend some much needed time with my family.

On Saturday, October 18, we were all in Mona’s nightclub on North Saginaw Street where we watched him absolutely annihilate the defense of South Carolina on ESPN. The same night that Flint native, Andre Dirrell fought Carl Froch for the Super Middleweight crown and was defeated from a questionable split decision, Ingram stole the show.   

Rushing for 246 yards, including a game-winning touchdown, Ingram has officially moved past Florida’s Tim Tebow as the new leader in the latest edition of the HeismanPundit.com Heisman Poll released on Tuesday (Oct. 20).

 Not bad huh?

ingram alabamaWearing the no. 22, the running back is now nationally rather easy to spot as he continues to keep defenders looking silly while he now dances in the end zone with the artistry of Mike Jackson in his prime.

At 5-10, 215 pounds and only in his sophomore season at the University of Alabama, Ingram truly has the chance to be what everyone in Flint thought he could (and would) be after that dominating prep senior season.

The next Barry Sanders. The next Adrian Peterson. The next LaDainian Tomlinson.

He is the next big thing.

Mark Ingram has those traits to be signature sneaker contract good! Future NFL-sponsored endorsements with Campbell’s Chunky Soup are highly possible with performances like his last one.  

As Ingram is only in the beginning of his tear on college football, remember I said it here that he will be the next big thing.

(My birthday was October 16th by the way and I’m still accepting presents)

*click on the pic to view this at It’s Just Sports!

For the past year, I have been thinking about starting my own web show. This has been a dream of mine and I have had the vision of what it would look like down to the smallest detail.

With so much work that it takes to produce a successful show, I understand why more people aren’t running such a thing. It’s a grind! This is from first-hand experience because I am also trying to juggle a full-time college schedule.

Although it takes a lot of hard work, the feelings that you get when you see the final results are unmatched. This is why I had so much fun shooting my first episode of “Flintstone TV with Eric Woodyard.”

This first episode took place in the Chrysler Arena for the University of Michigan’s basketball media day. Out of all of the events that I have covered this had to be one of the best. Helping me with all of the footage was my homeboy Mark Taylor who was a rookie behind the camera but I appreciated all of the help. Mark is also from Flint and he attends school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC).

Helping with all of the editing was my friend, Chyn Wey Lee who also attends Western Michigan University with me. Lee is an editing genius who can take pictures and shoot video. My dreams wouldn’t have been put into affect without his participation in this project. You can check out more of his work here.

Hit him up! He is out cold…

With that being said, I hope everyone loves the video and I had a lot of fun doing this. I would also like to thank the University of Michigan for allowing us all of this access.

Sincerely,
Eric Woodyard, The Flintstone

With so many great athletes competing on a Division I level of college basketball, viewers sometimes get pampered when they watch games. Why wouldn’t they? These players do make the game look so easy.
In a sense, every viewer feels as if they’re an expert on the game when half of them have never even consistently competed on the hardwood. Not only have they not competed for an organized team, most of them have never even played recreationally!

This includes most of the media and sparks the debate on whether or not they are certified to be even covering a particular sport if they have no experience. If you really think about it, how are they? How can you comment on something that you haven’t done?

Unfortunately this is allowed to happen in our society, and it’s really not fair for athletes to be ridiculed by individuals who have no clue of what it feels like to be an athlete. Will this ever change? I highly doubt it, but it is good food for thought. 

What often gets misconstrued is all of the behind-the-scenes work that comes with the actual game. The general public doesn’t see the hard work, the mental preparation, the injuries, the film sessions and oh, yeah… the practices.

Not a game, not a game? We talkin’ bout practice?

Practicing is an integral piece to the equation of becoming a top-tier athlete, with the exception of Allen Iverson. This is why the University of Michigan decided to invite several members of the media to come participate in a training session with the athletes during their media day on Tuesday, October 12 in the Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI.

Allowing 21 members of the press to showcase their skills on the hardwood was a great way to break the ice for this upcoming season.

I was one of the 21 members selected and I have to admit that when I seen the rundown of the drills that I wasn’t bothered one bit because I consistently play the game of basketball. They were like a cakewalk.

The drill stations included:

1) Wraps [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball around waist

2) Hikes [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, drop ball, catch back, catch front

3) Pretzels [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, one hand front, one hand back (rotate hands)

4) Behind the Back Dribbles [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball dribbling behind back

5) Two-Ball Mikan Drill [Make 15 in 20 seconds]
• Facing basket, catch and lay-up with one hand

6) Tennis Ball Dribble
• Dribble basketball in one hand, tossing tennis ball with other
• Player mush dribble five times before catching tennis ball

7) Three-point Shooting
• Make 10 three-pointers in 1:00 minute

All of the Wolverine players ran the drills, and before we actually hit the court, Coach John Beilein and Tom Wywrot (Asst. Director of Athletic Media Relations) laced each of the media representatives with an official maize and blue UM warm-up. These were the authentic threads worn by the team and the perfect present to the hard working journalists in attendance.

We began the evening with a light stretch and then it was game time! My group included Rob White (isportsweb) and Craig White (The Observer) and we had a blast. Not to brag on myself, but I easily breezed through most of the drills, which left most of the media and a few of the players amazed. My past obsession with the game greatly benefited me on this particular day.

The toughest challenge from all of the drills was the three-point shooting because I generally shoot all mid-range shots (Rip Hamilton style). The Two-Ball Mikan drill was also pretty tough because I am primarily accustomed to doing this with just one ball.

Access was then granted to all of the players who were each assigned their own individual table with a tag stating their first and last name. With most of the media bombarding Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, I decided to interact with a few of the other players before I actually talked to those two.

I enjoyed the whole day. It was very laid-back and generous and we were even given Famous Dave’s to eat afterwards.

This media day should have definitely made the media become more conscious of some of the comments and criticisms that they make toward the athletes. Trying to juggle Division I basketball with academics can be pretty stressful. This was also shown when a few of the freshman had to leave the event early because they had to take a calculus test.

In my opinion, all media days should be conducted in this fashion in order to make the press become more authentic. If there are more individuals in the locker rooms covering the games that have actually played the game of basketball, than I think our media coverage will be a lot more accurate.

detroit pistons

*click on the pic to view this post at SLAMonline.com!

by Eric Woodyard

We’ve seen this before!

The pieces are in place. The hunger is back. The story is just waiting to unfold. 

Is it just me, or does this year’s Detroit Pistons team remind you of the team in 2001? Think about it for a minute…

• Rookie Head Coach (check)

• Solid Veterans (check)

• New cast of players (check)

• Youth (check)

Just like in 2001, under the direction of Rick Carlisle, look for the Detroit Pistons to be the silent assassin of the Eastern Conference. There is no reason that they don’t have the opportunity to compile a 50-win season.

Let’s be honest here…no one expects them to do much of anything this year right? This makes them the undisputed underdogs of the league, putting them in unfamiliar territory than what they’ve been accustomed to throughout most of the new millennium.

Starting with their new head coach, John Kuester, who has spent over 13 years in the NBA as an assistant coach the franchise has already established leadership from the sidelines. During his tenure as an assistant coach, Kuester has helped guide the Philadelphia 76ers to the Finals in 2001 and played a solid role in helping Cleveland reach the Eastern Conference Finals this past season. He has also helped coach six different franchises, including the 2004 Pistons championship team, under Larry Brown.

This is similar to Carlisle’s coaching journey as he also performed as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets, Portland Trailblazers, and Indiana Pacers before ultimately shining alone in the head position.

Lack of direction from the sidelines may have been the key to last year’s dismal team that went 39-43 with Michael Curry calling the shots. This clearly won’t be the case this season as Kuester brings respect and keen knowledge, just like Carlisle did back in 2001 and 2002 when he led the team to consecutive 50-32 records, winning 61 percent of their contests. Carlisle even garnered the Coach of the Year award in 2002, which may be highly possible for Kuester this season.

The Pistons also had the luxury of acquiring a couple of solid, hungry veterans, notably Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins who were also a part of those two seasons under Carlisle. These veterans will establish the importance of defense which helped build the Pistons to national prominence.

Although a few things have changed with this year’s Ben Wallace than the one from the past, he still will be effective. We no longer fear the fro, he’s in his mid-thirties, and he has a number change (6), but he will now understand his role.

This was a problem in his latter years with the franchise when he wanted to focus more on scoring and forgot what propelled him to the top: Defense! Who knows…we may even see him make a return onto one of the NBA’s All Defensive Teams this season. Look out.

Atkins will be able guide the younger players through the tough grind of full NBA season. Averaging double digits (10.2 points) throughout his entire 10 year career, he has the credibility to impose his will onto the team. This was also missing from last year’s team. When times got rough, there were not any veterans like Dana Barros or Cliff Robinson to help direct the younger players in the right path like they did with the 2001 team.

Atkins and Wallace will serve as that role and bring stability into the locker room, weeding out all of the frivolous bickering that often occurred in the past.

While there has been much publicity given to the new cast of players onto the organization, I really don’t feel as though they have been given their proper respect. Really take a look at Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Chris Wilcox! Those are some big-time pick ups.

Gordon is coming off of a playoff season in which he averaged a career-high 24.3 buckets per contest, Villanueva is fresh off of a 16.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg season with the Bucks, and Wilcox brings that grittiness back to the squad. He also cut the braids to show his fresh start to life…if that means anything.

Anyway to get back to the point, the Pistons will be fresh this year. Unlike any of the past 6-7 years when we knew what we were gonna get when we watched the Pistons: A slow it down, grind it out approach to the game. But now, we really don’t know what to expect.

Teams will fear the unknown because they won’t know how to approach the new team. Will Ben Gordon go bananas? Will Rip Hamilton regain his mid-range stroke? How focused will Ben Wallace be on Defense? Who will take the last shot? Will they focus more on defense or offense? Who are the Detroit Pistons??

All of these questions have yet to be answered. But one thing we know is that the Detroit Pistons do have the potential.

You’ve got Rodney Stuckey (Dumars’ golden boy), Rip Hamilton (Coatesville’s finest), Will Bynum (Chi-Town legend), Tayshaun Prince (lock-down defender), Jason Maxiell (a beast), and DaJuan Summers (hot-shot rookie), just to name a few.

Will this be enough to help them return to championship status? I honestly don’t think so, but I do think the possibility of a 50-win season is within reach.

Don’t think so? Hey, people didn’t think the Detroit Pistons of 2001 would do it either but shit happens!

WMU vs NIU Postgame Review

October 5, 2009

Womens-Soccer_12391

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The home field didn’t serve as an advantage for the Western Michigan University women’s soccer team as they took a 2-1 loss to the University of Ohio Bobcats at the WMU Soccer Complex on Sunday.

After defeating the University of Akron 2-0 on Friday, the Broncos found it difficult to match equal success with Ohio’s other university. With a wet, muddy field and 52 degree winds blowing strongly, the Broncos could never gain complete control of the game.

Closing the first half of the contest knotted 0-0, WMU felt as though that it was in a perfect situation to succeed.

“I think 0-0 is one of those scores in the half where I think it’s very competitive,” WMU head coach Suzie Grech said. “It’s tough to go into a half being up a goal and especially even being down a goal but 0-0 you’re on level playing field. It’s just a matter of them keeping their heads and playing consistently and being patient because it will come.”

The Bobcats charged into the second and scored two quick goals. Jackie Hanson scored the first goal at the 47:31 mark on the left side of the field and Kelsey Pichel scored the next one at the 54:04 mark from 30 yards out.

This proved to be the motivation that the Brown and Gold needed as sophomore forward Stephanie Skowneski responded later in the half with a goal of her own.
At the 79:35 mark, Skowneski nailed a shot from the left side outside of the box into the upper back corner of the net.

“[The goal] felt good, but it’s such a disappointment that we didn’t get a second one though,” Skowneski said. “It just feels good because it gave us a little bit more energy and a little bit more determination to get another one.”

Although this temporarily gave the Broncos a late surge, it was not enough to propel them to victory.

“It was one of those things where I was extremely happy with how we played in the last five minutes,” Grech said. “I think all of a sudden that 2-0 score really sunk in and brought all of the energy and intensity up but we have to figure out a way to create that energy without being down 2-0 to get ourselves going.”

Despite the loss, WMU still had a key statistic in their favor. They led the Bobcats, 7-4, in shots by the period. The offensive ball control from the Bobcats transitioned into efficiency and proved to be too much for the Broncos to handle.

“We just weren’t clicking today it might have been the weather, but we’re gonna learn from the mistakes that we made with the goals and learn from the mistakes that we didn’t get goals,” Skowneski said.

With the loss, WMU fell to a 2-2 overall record in the Mid-American Conference while Ohio improved to 2-1 in conference play. They will pick back up action in Buffalo against the University at Buffalo on Friday and at Kent State University on Oct. 11.

*click on the pic to view this post at the Western Herald!