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Basketball star encourages students to make history

March 4, 2003

By Ebonie Torrence

Women's National Basketball Association player Sheryl Swoopes scored a lot of points with Baylor faculty and students with her inspirational speech Friday night at the 16th Annual Black Heritage banquet, 'Write the Vision,' sponsored by the Association of Black Students.

'I had a really good time at the banquet,' Renee Flowers, a Garland sophomore, said.

'The speaker was very good and ABS did an excellent job putting it together. It was worth the money.'

The event started off with a performance by the Houston-based gospel group, Soul Influence.

'I really liked them,' Raqui Thomas, a Houston sophomore, said. 'I plan to brag to everyone about them. Their harmony was perfect and in sync with one another. The words they sang ministered to me.'

After Soul Influence's performance, Baylor women's basketball head Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson introduced Swoopes as an eloquent speaker and a terrific player and mother who always has the ambition to win.

'When I think of Sheryl Swoopes, I think of a winner,' Mulkey said.

'Sheryl does everything and basketball. That's why she has such class and charisma. And there is nothing more important to her than her family.'

Mulkey later mentioned the many honors and awards Swoopes has accomplished within the last few years.

Swoopes has been named Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year as a member of the Houston Comets.

She has made appearances on The Today Show and The Weakest Link and has been invited by President Bush to join him in the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Swoopes is also the first woman to have a Nike sneaker named after her, the Air Swoopes.

'The assistance from my teammates have assisted in my many accolades, because of their support in making me a better basketball player,' Swoopes said.

In Swoopes' speech, she correlated the principles of teamwork and life and encouraged everyone to achieve his or her goals regardless of the adversities they encounter.

'Sometimes in life we are thrown a curve ball,' Swoopes said. 'Adversity gives us a time to reflect and learn from the experience. We can turn a negative to a positive.'

Swoopes recognized past and present black leaders and athletes for helping her become who she is today, such as Wilma Rudolph, Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Serena and Venus Williams and Russell Simmons.

'As a black woman, I have never allowed myself to accept other people's expectations of me,' Swoopes said.

As Swoopes continued to encourage determination, she also touched on the fact that she is proud to be a positive influence for others.

'I love playing basketball, and I definitely love being a mom,' Swoopes said. 'I love being in the position I am in, to influence kids or anybody's lives, if it is positive.'

Swoopes closed her speech with a question that encouraged students not to make Feb. 28 the last day to celebrate black history, by continuing to make history.

'What is the legacy that you would like to leave behind?' Swoopes asked.

Swoopes received a standing ovation from faculty and students.

Students said they enjoyed Swoopes' speech and all her encouraging remarks.

'I think she did a really good job putting everything together in regards to teamwork and life,' said Larry Coffer, a Houston graduate student, and multicultural activities assistant. 'She gave a great speech.'