Seanna Johnson: Someone To Play For

Johnson, Seanna_Texas_2014-15 (3)

“God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

That is the motto that Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson and her family are choosing to live by these days. The last month has been a whirlwind after learning that Jarvis Johnson, the youngest son in the Johnson clan, was not medically cleared to play basketball at the University of Minnesota after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Jarvis was a top basketball recruit and held offers from Baylor, Michigan State and Wisconsin among others before choosing to stay at home to compete for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jarvis learned the news after completing medical testing after moving onto campus for summer classes. The news was released by Minnesota on Monday, June 16. The Johnson’s are hopeful that he will be medically cleared in the future.

Seanna and Jarvis share a tight bond – one so tight that people often refer to them as twins. The two both wear No. 12 on the basketball court, which is a trend they picked up from their older brother Curtis, who used the number during his playing career. The two are just 14 months apart and their mother, Tanisha Johnson, often refers to them as peanut butter and jelly or her Kobe (Bryant) and Shaq (O’Neal).

“He pushes her to be her best and she pushes him to be his best,” Tanisha said. “They have a phenomenal relationship because they’re so close together. Everyone thought they were twins for so long.”

In their days growing up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the two spent a lot of time in the gym. However, it was Jarvis who was typically the encourager to get better in the gym.

With so much shared time together in the gym, it was only natural for both siblings and the entire Johnson family to have a tough time comprehending that Jarvis’ career was possibly over.

Jarvis broke the news to her via a simple text, “I’m done.” She won’t forget those words or what he said when she phoned him after. The first time Seanna walked onto the gym in the Sukup basketball practice after learning the news she cried.

“He texts me every day,” Seanna said. “I cried every time he’d text me for the first few days because he’d say, ‘You’re my hero. Thanks for keeping playing.’ I would think, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I just walked in the gym and cried.”

It was difficult for her to believe that the little brother and best friend that would motivate her each day to play could no longer play the sport they both loved.

“I felt guilty because he loved the game more than anybody,” she said.

A lot of thoughts crossed her mind after she learned the news. She contemplated quitting basketball because the thought of playing when her brother couldn’t was too much. She wondered how it was even possible to enjoy the sport anymore.

After the initial shock was over she knew she had even more motivation to play for Jarvis, who she calls her hero. She even got a tattoo to remind herself. It was the words Jarvis used on of his first posts to social media after finding out he could no longer play basketball, “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

Her new tattoo is not her first however. Several years ago she got another one that reads “I believe in miracles.” That tattoo signifies the day her brother passed out during a basketball practice and went into cardiac arrest. After several minutes, Jarvis was revived and rushed to the hospital.

He remained hospitalized for weeks with a bleak prognosis.

Jarvis would eventually return to the basketball court and the brother sister duo would earn a combined seven state titles for De La Salle High School.

As Cyclone fans already know, Seanna would make Cyclone history in her first two seasons after crashing the boards and becoming the fastest Cyclone to reach 500 career rebounds, hauling in 500 in just 59 career games. She would nearly average a double-double with 11.7 points and a Big 12-leading 9.2 rebounds per game in her sophomore campaign.

After Jarvis was initially declared medically ineligible, Seanna told her mother she would use this as motivation to improve her game for the two of them.

“I know she is super excited for the season to start and take it to the next level,” Tanisha said.

With this added motivation, the sky is the limit for Seanna as she enters her junior season with the Cyclones. Though she isn’t sure exactly how else she will continue to honor Jarvis during her final two seasons, she knows she will continue to play for him and has the backing of her Cyclone teammates who have taken to social media to support both Seanna and Jarvis. The hashtag #DoItForJarvis has already garnered hundreds of mentions on social media.




Posted in Women's Basketball | Tagged | Leave a comment

Vroman Remembered For Spirit, Toughness

Jackson Vroman, who passed away Monday, was a fan favorite in his two seasons at Iowa State.

Jackson Vroman, who passed away Monday, was a fan favorite in his two seasons at Iowa State.

The news that former Iowa State basketball star Jackson Vroman passed away on Monday was a hard pill to swallow for Cyclone fans.

Vroman was one of the best centers to play for the Cyclones in recent years, averaging 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his brilliant two-year (2002-03, 2003-04) career in Ames. He was also a career 55.8 percent shooter from the field.

The two things I remember most about Jackson was his free spirit, and his incredible motor. He was one of the most interesting characters to put on a Cyclone uniform, and one tough competitor. When it came to game time, Vroman was “All In.”

Vroman was a nomad in his childhood. His father, Brett, played basketball at UCLA and UNLV before a long professional hoops career in all regions of the world. Jackson lived in Europe and spent time in Alaska, California and Utah.

Vroman, who was a late comer to basketball, played in the NBA for the Hornets and Suns before a career in Europe.

Vroman, who was a late comer to basketball, played in the NBA for the Hornets and Suns before a career in Europe.

Vroman was primarily a soccer player and didn’t get into basketball until his senior year in high school. At 6-10 and lightly recruited, Vroman attended Snow Community College in Utah to give hoops a try.

It was at Snow CC where former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy saw an unfinished product who never took a play off. Eustachy offered him a scholarship on the spot.

“He’s my type of guy,” Eustachy said about Vroman in a Des Moines Register article. “He’s relentless. He doesn’t know the meaning of quit. I was told about this guy who never really played in high school, but was a hard-playing guy. That’s my type of guy.”

Vroman’s high-energy style and relentless effort on the boards made him an instant favorite of Cyclone Nation. He was also flamboyant, which helped his legend grow further. He grew his hair long and dyed it pitch black in his first season. Soon members of Cyclone Alley donned wigs to mimic his style and called the group “Vromie’s Homies.”

Donning his jet-black hair, Vroman goes for a rebound against Jackson State in 2002-03.

Donning his jet-black hair, Vroman goes for a rebound against Jackson State in 2002-03.

Every rebound was his. That was how I recollect my two years covering Vroman. I never saw a player tip rebounds to keep the ball alive in order to secure it better than Vroman.

He was the first Cyclone in 24 years to lead the conference in rebounding when he topped the Big 12 on the boards in 2003-04 at 9.6 rpg.

And he was tough. Man, was he tough. He never wanted to come out of a game, even when he lost a tooth.

“During a game he was hit in the mouth,” said Vic Miller, Iowa State’s longtime athletics trainer for men’s basketball. “He ran to me, spit out his tooth, and hustled back on defense to complete the play. The legend grew from there.”

One of my favorite memories of Vroman was the play he made in the now famous “John Neal Game” vs. Iowa during the 2003-04 season. Neal, a seldom-used walk-on, became the hero of the contest when he buried a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cyclones rally to beat Iowa, 84-76.

Neal’s second 3-pointer with 2:02 left in the game tore the roof off of Hilton Coliseum and gave the Cyclones a 76-70 lead. The play was instigated by Vroman.

Curtis Stinson missed a tear-drop and Vroman fought off three Hawkeyes to grab the carom. Without hesitation, Vroman bulleted a pass to Neal in the corner before the defense could get set up. Neal nailed the trey and the game was virtually over.

After the game I met with assistant coach Bob Sundvold.

“That was the play of game,” Sundvold told me. “How he got the rebound in the first place was incredible. Then to have the intellect to know where the shooter was after he got the ball, only the good ones can do that.”

Vroman drives for a lay-in against UNI in 2003-04, a season in which ISU went 17-1 at home.

Vroman drives for a lay-in against UNI in 2003-04, a season in which ISU went 17-1 at home.

People forget that the 2003-04 Cyclone squad was very good. Vroman, as a senior, earned Third-Team All-Big 12 honors that season while averaging 13.9 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Cyclones lost just one game in Hilton Coliseum (17-1) with their only blemish coming to Final Four-bound Oklahoma State.

Iowa State ended the season at 20-13 and advanced to the NIT semifinals.

Vroman continued to improve offensively throughout his career at ISU. His soccer background made his footwork sound and he developed nifty post moves with the help of being ambidextrous.

Some of his memorable games included a 20-point, 18-rebound performance vs. Colorado and a 17-point, 19-rebound outing at Kansas. In his final game as a Cyclone, he grabbed 20 rebounds vs. Rutgers in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

If there was one deficiency in Vroman’s arsenal it was his free-throw shooting. As a career 51.2 percent foul shooter, he never felt comfortable at the charity stripe.

The last play of his ISU career basically summed up his comedic nature and his woes at the line.

With the Cyclones down 83-81 with 0:52 seconds left to Rutgers, Vroman grabbed his 20th board in traffic and went down to the ground after being fouled.

He didn’t get up.

Miller ran onto the court to see what was wrong.

“I go out there and I asked him if it is a cramp,” Miller said. “All Vroman said was, ‘There is no way I am shooting these free throws.’ I then started to assist him like he was having cramps. Wayne (Morgan) and the referee came out to see what was wrong and the referee decided a replacement was needed to shoot his free throws. That story always makes me laugh.”

Classic Vroman.

Posted in Men's Basketball | Leave a comment

A Weekend To Remember

2015 Fantasy Camp

2015 Fantasy Camp

They came from near and far.

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Wilmette, Illinois. Philadelphia. Hudson, Iowa. McKinney, Texas.

All with a shared passion. Iowa State men’s basketball.

The Cyclone program held its first Fantasy Camp this weekend, an event designed to be the ultimate fan experience.

It didn’t disappoint.

“The overall experience was unreal,” camper Ryan Workman of Cedar Rapids, said. “From the coaching staff breaking down film of your games to the current players being your coaches for three games, it was an experience I’ll never forget. For any Iowa State basketball fan, this is the camp for them.”

The camp was open to fans 25 years old and above. Campers were able to interact with Coach Prohm, Coach Hoiberg and staff members, as well as Iowa State student-athletes.

The 16 participants were split into two teams, which were picked during a draft on the camp’s first night. Naz Long and Matt Thomas coached one team, while Monté Morris and Hallice Cooke led the other.

“The interaction with the players was awesome,” Workman said. “Having players coach you that are going to be a part of a top-10 team in the country next year was an experience of a lifetime. Having Naz Long and Matt Thomas as coaches, there were times I felt they were competing for a Big 12 title. They were that into the games.”

The camp cost included a 2 night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided. The participants received plenty of Cyclone gear, including: a pair of Nike shoes, a home & away uniform, three sets of practice gear, five dri-fit shirts, socks, headbands, wristbands, a Nike pullover and Iowa State camp t-shirts. They also received an autographed ball.

The campers had the rare treat of getting to meet both the former coach and the current coach.

“It was fantastic,” Kelly Ellis of San Antonio, Texas, said. “It was really better than advertised because we not only got Coach Hoiberg, but we got Coach Prohm as well. The players were terrific. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to come back next year.”

The campers were among the first Iowa State fans to get to interact with Coach Prohm since he arrived in Ames a couple weeks ago.

“He’s humble and gracious,” Ellis said. “He really reminded me of the second-coming of Coach Hoiberg with his personality.”

The weekend wrapped up with a visit from a special guest as former Cyclone Melvin Ejim showed up at Hilton Coliseum for the final day.

Melvin Ejim surprised campers by showing up on the camp's final day.

Melvin Ejim surprised campers by showing up on the camp’s final day.

The teams played a game at Hilton Coliseum and had time to take pictures with the coaches and players before heading home.

Posted in Men's Basketball | Leave a comment

What A Ride It Has Been

An era ended yesterday, but rest assured it isn’t the end.

I was fortunate to be able to work with Fred Hoiberg and his team the last two seasons and what a ride it was for me those two years.

Back-to-back Big 12 Tournament Champions. 53 wins. 23 Big 12 wins. Multiple All-Americans and All-Big 12 Players. A Big 12 Player of the Year. A Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. A Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The list could go on and on and on.

As part of my tasks, I’m assigned with running the @CycloneMBB Twitter account. I’ve seen reactions to Coach Hoiberg’s decision to become head coach of the Chicago Bulls that have been on both sides of the spectrum.

That’s okay. The reason the emotions are so high is because you care. You care again because of Fred Hoiberg.

The fourth game I worked as men’s basketball contact, Iowa State beat No. 7 Michigan with Johnny Orr in attendance. I went home thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was living my dream.

A few weeks later the team came back from 18 down to beat Northern Iowa. Then Georges Niang got all crafty and made a reverse layup to beat Iowa in a top-25 showdown that left Hilton Coliseum in frenzy. There was a trip and title at the Diamond Head Classic and before I knew it we were 14-0, the best start in school history.

Amazing things continued to happen. On Feb. 3, we stormed into Stillwater and won for the first time since 1988. Of course it was in triple-overtime. And of course it was on Big Monday. Because why not?

That weekend, while still recovering from returning home after 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Melvin Ejim went nuts for a Big 12-record 48 points against TCU. Unfathomable.

In the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, it was again Naz Long who saved the day.

Then the Cyclones went down to Kansas City and Cyclone Nation simply took over. ISU steam rolled its way to a Big 12 Tournament title. Georges got smacked in the face, Cyclone fans everywhere purchased band-aids they didn’t need. Man, was that fun or what?

The excitement continued into the tournament and a trip to the Sweet 16 was the result.

That summer, Fred danced.

There was a ton of promise as we headed into the 2014-15 season, Hoiberg’s fifth at the helm.

A 25-9 mark, including 12-6 in conference play, culminated in ISU earning the second seed at the Big 12 Tournament. Another trophy came home to Ames. It didn’t end the way we all wanted, but altogether it was still a lot of fun.

There was ESPN GameDay live at Hilton Coliseum, where Cyclone fans showed why they are the nation’s best.

Who can forget the five wins after trailing by double-digits? The senior night come-from-behind win was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

We’ve had quite the run, Cyclone Nation.

I think the best thing, however, that Coach Hoiberg provided us was the opportunity to cheer for such quality young men. I can only speak to the guys I have worked with, but they’ve been nothing but terrific. They’ve handled an extremely difficult situation with class and dignity.

They’ve all got big hearts. They all love Iowa State and their teammates just as much as the man that drew them to Ames. That much was evident with their tweets to the man that has molded them at Iowa State.

That high character is why I’m not concerned about the future. Whichever coach ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard and President Steven Leath decide to hire will be getting a team full of guys that are playing for the name on the front of their jersey according to Naz Long.

“We play for the school, we play for the name on the front and we let Jamie make that decision. We are students. We have to go to school and play ball,” Long said. “The decision is theirs to make and we’ll play hard for the new coach.”

It is the lead of four-year players like Long and Niang that will carry the Cyclones through this coaching change.

I said to someone the other day, “If you would have been told that you can have Fred Hoiberg as your coach for five years only and the results would be what they were, would you have changed a thing?”

My answer is not in a million years.

As John Walters tweeted yesterday, he picked us twice.

How lucky were we?

Thanks for picking us twice, Coach Hoiberg! Good luck with the Bulls!

Posted in Men's Basketball | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Cyclones Form Bond With Special Olympics

Peters, LeviSpecialOlympics15

Community service is a big part of the Iowa State student-athlete experience. Just ask Special Olympics Iowa.

Iowa State’s partnership with the Special Olympics Iowa has been a wonderful relationship. The Special Olympics Summer Games are annually held in Ames and Iowa State University. The athletics department embraces the opportunity to volunteer their services.

With over 2,600 athletes competing, more than 3,000 coaches/volunteers are needed to put on the event. Cyclone athletes are right there to lend a hand.

A slew of Iowa State athletes from multiple sport teams offered their time and service for the 31st Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games held last weekend on the Iowa State campus.

Iowa State men’s basketball player Naz Long was chosen as the guest of honor at the opening ceremonies where he declared the beginning of the games. He joined former Cyclone hoop stars Craig Brackins and Melvin Ejim as past keynote speakers at the opening ceremonies.

It was a special honor for the Cyclone leader on the hardwood.

“It meant a lot to me to be the honorary chair for this event (Special Olympics Iowa),” Long said. “The event was not about me, it was about the Olympians. To be able to ‘high five’ each and every athlete as they came through the tunnel and to see them so happy was truly amazing. They deserve every bit of the opportunity to compete. I love their heart and the charisma. They inspire me.”

Senior men's basketball player Naz Long gives a pep talk.

Senior men’s basketball player Naz Long gives a pep talk.

Iowa State’s commitment to Special Olympics mirrors the mission of the Big 12 Conference. Since its inception in 1996, the Big 12 Conference has proudly partnered with Special Olympics and continues to work closely with the statewide Special Olympic organizations.

Lana Voga, a member of the state board of directors for Special Olympics Iowa and past chair of the event, has witnessed a 30-year collaboration between Iowa State athletes and the Special Olympics.

It’s been a relationship where both parties truly benefit.

“You can’t really explain how the Iowa State athletes interact,” Voga said. “They get so wrapped up and so enthused, and it doesn’t matter if they are doing a sport clinic or awards. To Special Olympic athletes, Iowa State athletes are who they look up to – fellow competitors. But I also think it’s important for the Iowa State athletes, because it’s a humbling experience for them. I think they gain far more than they give.”

Iowa State linebacker Levi Peters, who enthusiastically volunteered his time at the competition, is possibly the best person to back up Voga’s comments.

Just like his “All In” attitude on the gridiron, Peters wanted to make sure he made an impact on the lives of the athletes he interacted with. Observers are still trying to figure out who had a better time: Peters or the athletes.

“It was a very rewarding experience,” Peters said. “Just seeing the excitement in their eyes when I handed them my jersey was incredible. My schedule had me listed for an hour and a half. I stayed an extra two hours because I was having so much fun. I didn’t want to leave.”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jackson Has Own Memories Of Foxcatcher

Jackson Olympics

Story written by Iowa State Athletics Communications student assistant Brad DePrez

The roller coaster tale of John E. duPont, Mark Schultz, Dave Schultz, and the most notorious wrestling club of its time, Foxcatcher, was brought to the big screen in Bennett Miller’s box office smash Foxcatcher. Boasting a cast of Hollywood superstars like Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher made waves amongst wrestlers and non-wrestlers alike.

The story delves into the triumphs and tribulations faced by the Schultz brothers, John du Pont and all of Foxcatcher Wrestling.  It also captures what is ultimately one of the greatest tragedies ever felt by the wrestling community.

To go along with the award-winning cast, three-time All-American and 2010 Iowa State national champion David Zabriskie makes an appearance in the film, playing a member of team Foxcatcher.

This film, which was nominated for five Academy Awards, has even deeper ties to the Cyclone wrestling program than Zabriskie’s big-screen debut. From 1990-1995, Iowa State head coach Kevin Jackson competed for Foxcatcher.

In 1990, one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers in the history of the sport, Dave Schultz, approached Jackson and convinced the 1987 NCAA runner-up national champion to join the hottest team in international wrestling.

“Dave Schultz was probably the biggest draw (to Foxcatcher),” said Jackson. “It was also a club that could fund you in a way so that you didn’t have to worry about providing for your wife, family and kids. You could just focus on being an athlete.”

Jackson joined the squad of 30 senior-level athletes at the Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. He did not live on the farm full time, though. He continued to train and serve as an assistant coach for the Iowa State wrestling team during this time.

When Jackson did venture out to Pennsylvania to train, he was hosted by du Pont, a wrestling enthusiast, philanthropist and ultimately team Foxcatcher’s financial crutch. The Foxcatcher Farm was located on the du Pont family’s land, and this is where the top wrestlers from around the United States came to train.

Iowa State's five Olympic Gold medalists (l to r: Cael Sanderson, Glen Brand, Dan Gable, Kevin Jackson, Ben Peterson) reunite in 2007. Jake Varner joined the elite club in 2012.

Iowa State’s five Olympic Gold medalists (l to r: Cael Sanderson, Glen Brand, Dan Gable, Kevin Jackson, Ben Peterson) reunite in 2007. Jake Varner joined the elite club in 2012.

“I stayed at the big house, du Pont’s house,” Jackson said. “It was the perfect training situation for me. I’d go out there and not have to worry about anything. Every night we’d have a sit down dinner. He’d ring the bell and his maids would bring in the next course. No distractions. I didn’t have to worry about food, and I had great training partners.”

Jackson ate almost every dinner with du Pont while he trained on the farm, and held numerous conversations with the philanthropist. It was not difficult at all for Jackson, or any of the other wrestlers on the Farm, to inquire that there was something different about du Pont.

“He came from a different world than blue collar wrestlers come from,” Jackson said. “We recognized that he was different. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. I think the drugs and alcohol exaggerated it as well.”

Jackson recalls several conversations that he had with du Pont about odd aberrations that he would see on the farm. This was not an extraordinary encounter to have for those that regularly interacted with du Pont.

“He would talk about how his father worked for Disney,” Jackson said. “He said that there were a bunch of illusions on the farm, and that when it rained you could see the characters.”

These illusions and aberrations became so enflamed that du Pont believed that there were tunnels in and under his house, and that people were spying on him.

“He had wrestlers climb in between the walls to see if they could fit in there,” Jackson said. “He really believed people were spying on him. What really tipped the scales is when he started caring the gun around.”

Although Jackson describes his time on Team Foxcatcher as civil and pleasant, his dismissal from the team was not. Along with the rest of the black athletes training at Foxcatcher, Jackson received the boot from duPont’s world-renowned wrestling program in 1995. Jackson said that duPont’s heightened paranoia and schizophrenia were to blame for his ultimate demise with the Foxcatcher program.

Foxcatcher focuses mainly on the competition years from 1984-88, while Mark Schultz was in the prime of his wrestling career. Jackson narrowly missed scrapping with the 1984 gold medalist, as he was just starting his senior-level career, joining the circuit in 1987.

Although they never competed with each other, Jackson says that he had first hand experience of what Mark was capable of doing on the mat.

“When I was a younger collegiate athlete, I’d go to training camps and (Mark) would be there and he’d beat up on me,” Jackson said. “Even though we’re not that far apart in age, he still probably could have competed in my era.”

Dave Schultz and Jackson had a much different relationship, and it was one that radiated both on and off the mat. The two elite wrestlers were training partners, best friends and as Jackson put it, “brothers.”

“With Dave, it was always a good time,” Jackson said. “We worked real hard, but we were always laughing or smiling about something.”

Dave Schultz’s love and passion for the sport of wrestling was something that Jackson truly admired. His efforts to coach and better his teammates and training partners were far-reaching, especially in Jackson’s development as an elite wrestler on the world stage.

“He was one of the few guys that could devise and develop his own technique, and it would work,” Jackson said. “He was a genius in that respect. If it weren’t for Dave, I never would have developed my par terre defense. He was instrumental in my development.”

In 1996, du Pont would tragically shoot and kill Dave Schultz on the property of Foxcatcher Farm.

“I’ll never forget it,” Jackson said. “Melvin Douglas called me up, and he said, ‘du Pont did it. du Pont shot Dave.’ Right away, I knew that it was true, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.”

This was the one scene in the film that particularly struck Jackson. It was also a bit of déjà vu for him, as he had already experienced this scene through a phone call that he had with Nancy Schultz, Dave’s widowed wife, shortly after Dave’s death.

“That was the most troubling part of the movie for me, because I knew how it happened,” Jackson said.  “When I called (Nancy) after Dave’s death, that’s exactly what she told me. She said that du Pont shot him from the car, there was a security guard outside of the car and then Nancy came out of the house and he pointed the gun at her.”

Dave Schultz’s funeral served as a memorial for all of the wrestling community to take part in, and it was one that Jackson described as a surreal experience.

“Every time you’re at a big time wrestling event, and there’s all the people associated with our sport, Dave’s always there,” Jackson said. “It felt like Dave was going to pop up at any time.”

Around the time of his death, USA Wrestling was working on getting Schultz off the Foxcatcher farm, and bringing him on full time as the first USA Wrestling freestyle head coach. Before the plans were finalized, however, du Pont shot and murdered him. Two years later, Kevin Jackson was named USA Wrestling’s first freestyle head coach.

“That job was created for Dave Schultz,” Jackson said. “The plan was to get Dave out of Foxcatcher, and get him to USA Wrestling at Colorado Springs to do kind of the same stuff that he was already doing. It was already in the works. It was going to happen.”

The sport of wrestling and the USA national team lost so much when they lost Schultz. He was one of the greatest minds to ever compete or coach the sport. Jackson says that they lost all of that, on top of Schultz’s passion and love for wrestling that was matched by none other.

“This hit the whole world, not just the United States,” Jackson said. “From a technical standpoint, we lost everything. We lost our best technician. For him, wrestling was fun it was creative. It wasn’t the grind that these kids make it out to be. It was something that we loved to do and that he loved to do.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lisa Kreiner: Making A Difference After Iowa State

This summer we are taking some time to catch up with some former Cyclones to see what they’ve been doing since graduating from Iowa State. Our first Alumnae Spotlight is Lisa (Kreiner) Bishop, who spent four years in northern Iraq with her family teaching. In Iraq, they founded a basketball league called “Highest Hoops.” She recently moved back to Iowa and just accepted a position as the head women’s basketball coach at Solon High School.

Highest Hoops

After graduating from Iowa State in 2005, Lisa (Kreiner) Bishop went on a path that most graduates don’t take. Her path wasn’t planned, but it’s one she wouldn’t trade.

It all started when she moved to Iowa City in 2005 with her husband, Andy, and felt the urge to move overseas and reach another culture. With a large international student population in Iowa City, the two began having a heart for the world and eventually discovered an organization based out of Nashville that sends Americans to northern Iraq.

“There’s a lot of international students here in Iowa City and just the more we were growing in our faith, the more we felt like we wanted to go overseas and that’s something that God was kind of calling us to do,” Bishop said. “We were just kind of open to the idea but had no idea where or what that would look like.”

In April of 2010, Lisa and Andy packed their bags and moved to Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq, with their then- 13-month old son. The couple would both serve as teachers in a Christian school in Duhok, with Lisa teaching art and Andy teaching science and humanities.

Highest Hoops

The family spent 10 months a year in Iraq and returned to the United States for two months in the summer. They would become immersed in the Duhok community and connected with many locals during their four years in Iraq.

Highest Hoops

“We have a lot of memories from our time over there,” Bishop said. “There were just a lot of really special friendships. There is cultural frustration—don’t get me wrong— and it wasn’t easy by any means, but the relationships that we had were ones that we will never forget and friends that we will never forget and lots of memories.”

After two years in Duhok, they got an idea to start training the youth to play basketball in order to encourage more community outreach. Lisa noticed that many of the young girls in Duhok didn’t have an outlet outside of school. Most of them went to school and returned home to help their mothers around the house. There simply weren’t any organized activities for girls in the town.

They started off as a four-week clinic to focus on life skills and basketball fundamentals with kids at their school. They also reached out to other local schools in the area and visited about 20 different schools around town and invited them to participate in youth basketball training.

That’s how “Highest Hoops” was born.

Highest Hoops

For a year and a half the couple trained children from across Duhok to play basketball.

“Starting Highest Hoops was one of the greatest opportunities God has given me,” Bishop said. “It was a chance to use the gifts He has given me to love and serve others so that He is given more glory in a land that has been broken by war and hate. I believe that some of the Highest Hoops players have been “paying it forward” and helping their country in small ways since we have left.  I’m very thankful to have been involved in something that truly makes a difference in that part of the world.”

Highest Hoops

After four years in Iraq they decided it was best to return to America. They started training locals in Iraq to take over coaching in their absence so the program would continue.

Highest Hoops

Just two weeks after returning to the United States, they got word that ISIS invaded parts of northern Iraq and the town of Duhok was now the home of 500,000 refugees who had fled from the terrorist group. Many members of the community also began fleeing to Turkey, Canada and Lebanon among other places to ensure their safety. Refugees who were unable to flee the country took shelter in schools, gyms and construction sites.

“Things just kind of got crazy at that point, and I don’t even think we can— even though we lived there two weeks prior to that happening—even really fathom what the city was like at that point and how much fear and what they were going through,” Bishop said.

With basketball on a temporary hiatus, the young students have not abandoned Highest Hoops altogether. Instead, in light of the circumstances, they implemented the life skills the Bishops preached, about being a good person, making good choices and helping others.

“A lot of them, which is really encouraging, have gone to the refugee camps and served in that way,” Bishop said. “A lot of the players that we were training, they have a heart to serve others just because of other things that we have tried to pull into their lives and encouraged them to look beyond themselves and into other people. That has kind of been how they have continued is nothing to do with basketball, but by really loving on the refugees that are there.”

After returning to Iowa, Bishop saw a posting for the head girls’ basketball coach at Solon High School. She was immediately intrigued as she has always wanted to be a high school coach.

“[Coaching at Solon] also wasn’t really in the plan,” she said jokingly. “When we moved back, we knew that we wanted to be part of the Solon area. We are both from smaller towns, like Solon, so we found a house in Solon. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the most part. I did a little bit of basketball, a little bit of teaching, but my main role has been to be a stay-at-home mom which has been amazing, but then this opening for the head varsity job opened up and it was something that I feel like I have wanted to do, was be a varsity coach ever since I was a freshman in high school. So my husband and I just talked and prayed a lot about it and we just feel like this is an opportunity that would be a really good fit. So I applied and I got offered the job.”

Part of her eagerness to coach high school basketball stems from seeing the opportunity to not only teach basketball but to be a mentor for the athletes.

“I’m really excited to get the opportunity to work with the girls and work with basketball but feel like I have a heart for life skills and to be a good role model and a mentor for the girls as well as being a basketball coach,” she said.

A lot of her coaching style is modeled from her what she learned from her high school coach and also Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly, who coached her from 2001-05. What she appreciated most about Fennelly was that he cared the student athletes off the court. He always asked about school and family.

“[The way he interacted with us] was just something I appreciated because I loved basketball, but it wasn’t my life,” she said. “He modeled that really, really well. By him showing that there’s more to life than just basketball and showing that he truly loved and cared for us for who we were and not just what he felt like we brought to the program. He really cared for us as young adults and just by him investing in our academics and our family life and really caring for us, doing the right thing, and treating people they way you want to be treated.”

She admits she uses a few of Fennelly’s motivational taglines when she coaches and plans to continue the trend at Solon. Her go-to is “Stick together, play hard, have fun,” which was in the locker room during her time at Iowa State.

Between moving to Iraq, starting a basketball league and becoming the head coach at Solon, the last 10 years have been a whirlwind for Bishop and her family. However, it goes to show that sometimes the best things in life aren’t planned.

Posted in Women's Basketball | Tagged | 1 Comment