Alabamians return to home
Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 12, 1999
state for series of games
By STEVEN G. WATSON
When the Troy State Lady Trojans square off against Minnesota Sunday afternoon the Golden Gophers will have just as many Alabama natives on the floor as TSU does.
Three Minnesota players hail from the state of Alabama in senior guard Antoinetta Blevins, forward Jackie Tate and center Kim Prince. The southern contingent on the Golden Gophers’ roster is due, in most part, to their coach Cheryle Littlejohn and her ability to coax the southern girls up north.
Littlejohn was an assistant coach at Alabama and North Carolina State before taking the head coaching job at minnesota a year ago. She says she is familiar with the territory down south and from the attitude of her players toward her, it’s easy she has that southern charm thing down pat as well.
"The University of Alabama was one of my choices because she was there, but when she got the head job at Minnesota there wasn’t any doubt that I was going," Blevins said of her choice to go to Minnesota. "I signed before I even visited."
"We have a coach-player relationship and have a friendship off the court," Tate said. "Her and my high school coach were really good friends so I’ve known her for quite a while. I feel like I can talk to her about anything. "
"I didn’t know a lot about the program, but my high school coach and coach Littlejohn were very close so I had a chance to go up there," Prince said. "It’s been really good so far. I think it’s a great opportunity."
The coach says that the opportunities in and around the University of Minnesota aren’t that bad for recruiting either. She feels here program and the university itself has a lot to offer players who choose to go north.
"I think in the Big 10 we have a quality institution and the focus is always on education and the most important thing for them is them getting exposed," Littlejohn said. "We have a WNBA team right in town, an NBA, NFL, a professional everything. It’s important to have that exposure to a lot of different professional teams and corporations so there’s always life after basketball and we try to expose them to it."
As far as the Alabama girls coming home to play, it’s mainly part of the coach’s pay back for them coming so far to play ball.
"I’ve always promised the kids where ever they come from that I was going to take them back home," Littlejohn said. "This is an opportunity to bring those Alabama kids back home for them to be able to play in front of their friends and family."
What did the three tell their teammates to expect, well, warmer weather was a definite.
"I told them to expect friendly people, good home cooking and nice weather," Blevins said. "It’s hard to be away from family and not being able to come home when you want to being so far away. It builds your character because you have to grow up quick. My folks here now so it’s good to come back home and play against people from back here."
"I told them I was looking forward to the sweet tea," Tate said. "Up there they don’t have sweet tea in the restaurants. Besides that I told them to expect a lot of country things. They’re from big cities and aren’t really used to that kind of stuff."
"The biggest transition is the weather," Prince said. "It’s not as cold as I thought it would be, but I know it’s coming soon. I was homesick for a while, but I’m slowly getting over it."
Tipoff for the game is 1 p.m. with free admission.