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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Reshaping women’s basketball


By Dave Leno





However, IU women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack said she doesn’t mind them.

Since she took the oath in 2006 to roam the sidelines, she knew many possessed the utmost disregard and a blind eye toward women’s basketball. She knew the band and the players’ families were the only guarantees night in and night out.

Sooner or later, Legette-Jack realized she needed to send a message that would really hit Hoosier nation hard.

And after a home loss to Xavier earlier in the season, she did just that.

“We feel like we have a home-court advantage when we are on the road, and that’s unbelievable,” the third-year coach said. “The worst number I see here is 506 on a Sunday afternoon when our women compete for our University and our community.”

Fast forward 16 games from that very call-out, and boy, have things changed.

Now, not just moms and dads, drummers and tuba players come to the games, but students are filing into Assembly Hall when the women’s squad sports those candy stripes.

With the help of more attendees, IU (14-4, 7-2) currently sits in second place and is in the hunt to capture its first Big Ten title since the 1982-83 season.

It has taken a long time, but it’s gratifying to see fans support a team that isn’t the athletics department’s money-maker.

You would think people would take advantage of dirt-cheap tickets – less than $10 for general admission and free for students with their IU IDs – to witness Division I basketball before their very eyes. Yet preconceived notions dictate society, especially when it comes to gender equality in sports.

The common perception is the women’s game is beneath the men’s. Not true. The competition is just different.

Of course, women don’t play above the rim. They preach more team orientation, whereas the men’s game tends to rely on the superstar and feeds off of his presence.
So to say Legette-Jack’s team isn’t as entertaining as Tom Crean’s group is both bogus and inconsiderate.

If anything, Crean realizes Legette-Jack is reshaping the views of women’s athletics just as much as he’s molding the public’s opinion of his team.

Her team’s tenacity and relentless effort led by two 1,000-point scorers – junior guard Jamie Braun and senior Whitney Thomas – have put women’s hoops back on the map. Not to mention Legette-Jack’s exuberance and zest for coaching makes fans believe IU can stand toe-to-toe against powers like Connecticut, Duke and North Carolina.

So when Purdue traveled south for its annual rivalry with IU, Legette-Jack knew fans were coming. She was right.

“How about that crowd?” Legette-Jack said in sheer excitement. “Four thousand fans and it seemed like there were about 10,000 fans.”

Next, the Hoosiers went back on the road. They traveled to Wolverine country and earned another solid conference victory against Michigan.

Then it was on to Illinois, the worst team in the Big Ten.

IU lost.

But now it’s time to head back to Bloomington, and heads won’t be down for long. After all, Legette-Jack and her Hoosiers are returning to Assembly Hall – a place they finally can call home.

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