Former Vol Tony Harris on Pat Summitt’s death: ‘People in Knoxville loved this lady’

ROCKY TOP REMEMBERS PATHaving coached the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program for 38 years from 1974-2012, Pat Summitt is widely known in the sports world for having brought respectability and relevancy to women’s college basketball. Summitt died Tuesday morning, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s. She was 64. (Photo by Wade Payne/AP)

Former University of Tennessee point guard Tony Harris on Tuesday offered a rather riveting suggestion hours after news spread of Pat Summit’s death.

“That’s Pat Summitt University,” Harris, a former Memphis East High star told MemphiSport during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “I mean, look at her success, her wins…she was the winningest coach in college basketball history.”

Summitt, the legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach who enjoyed an illustrious career that was highlighted by an unprecedented 1,098 wins, eight national championships, and 16 Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, died early Tuesday, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s.

She was 64.

A public memorial service for Summitt has been scheduled for 7 p.m. EST on July 14 at Thompson-Boling Arena on the Tennessee campus.

Having coached the Lady Volunteers for 38 years from 1974-2012, Summitt is widely known in the sports world for having brought respectability and relevancy to women’s college basketball.

TEN-NES-SEE THE SUCCESSBesides compiling a .841 winning percentage (1,098-208) during her stint with the Lady Vols, Summitt was named SEC Coach of The Year an unprecedented eight times and National Coach of The Year seven times, including in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995. (AP Photo)

Her best display as a Hall of Fame coach undoubtedly occurred in the mid-1990s when Summitt guided the Lady Vols to three consecutive NCAA titles from 1996-1998, that last of which came during Harris’ freshman season in Knoxville.

“It was a great experience,” Harris said of having crossed paths with Summitt. “I knew at the time she was going to be a Hall of Fame coach. So I was blessed to share the same campus with a legend. I had a close relationship with her as far as being a student athlete. The men’s basketball office was right next door to the women’s. And there were times I went in there. She was big on professionalism in everything I did.”

In August 2011, Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed three months earlier with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Still, she chose to coach Tennessee during the 2011–2012 season, but at a reduced role while longtime assistant Holly Warlick — an assistant under Summitt since 1985 — had assumed most of the responsibilities.

Besides compiling an all-time best winning percentage of. 841 (1,098-208) during her stint with the Lady Vols, Summitt was named SEC Coach of The Year an unprecedented eight times and National Coach of The Year seven times, including in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995.

A former Parade All-American who named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball in 1997, Memphian Tony Harris starred at point guard for East from 1994-97 before ultimately signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Tennessee. To his credit, the Vols re-emerged as a national standout, having appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Harris’ four seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000. (Getty Images Photo)

“People say she was stern,” Harris said. “But that sternness got her a lot of wins and won her a lot of championships. She had some of the top players in the country wanting to play for her.”

Although for years, the Tennessee football and women’s basketball enjoyed paralleled success, Harris said it was in large part because of Summitt’s well-publicized resume that the men’s basketball program had finally began to earn mentions on a national platform.

A former Parade All-American who was named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball in 1997, Harris starred at point guard for East from 1994-97 before ultimately signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Tennessee.

To his credit, the Vols re-emerged as a national standout, having appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Harris’ four seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000.

“I can’t put a number on it,” Harris, founder of the Tony Harris Basketball Academy in Los Angeles said, when asked how many Lady Vols games he attended during his time in Knoxville. “But every time they played, I tried to make when we didn’t have a game.”

BEST LADY VOL EVER? Two-time Naismith Award winner Chamique Holdsclaw starred for Summitt’s Lady Vols from 1995-1999, having guided the Tennessee to three consecutive NCAA Championships from 1996-1998. The 1998 national title capped Tennessee’s first ever undefeated season at 39–0 and also set an NCAA record for the most wins ever in a season. (AP Photo)

Even as the catalyst of the men’s team, Harris said attending Lady Vols’ games was an experience in its own right, largely because tickets were hard to come by.

“It was one the great experiences I’ve been a part of as a student athlete,” Harris said. “I never really watched women’s basketball until I got to UT and saw the impact (Summitt) had on the program.”

Not just in Rocky Top, but the entire Volunteer state, Harris quickly acknowledged.

“(The city of) Knoxville loved this lady,” Harris said. “Not just in Knoxville, but the whole state of Tennessee. When you talk about (the University of) Tennessee, you’ve got to talk about women’s basketball.”

Or, as Harris charismatically suggested, “Pat Summitt University.”



12308302_1264615573553243_4556209296677596210_nAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian Andrea Tucker’s ESPN experience fueled by broadcaster Stuart Scott’s impact

DALLAS — Andrea Tucker was one of several college students selected to partake in a summer internship for ESPN in 2013.

CLASS ACT --- Upon joining ESPN during an era in which there were a number of accomplished African-American broadcasters, Stuart Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television. Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.

CLASS ACT — Upon joining ESPN during an era in which there were a number of accomplished African-American broadcasters, Stuart Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television. Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.

While Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly savored every moment in gaining professional broadcasting experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports, arguably her grandest regret, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott.

During Tucker’s brief tenure at ESPN, Scott was covering the NBA Finals.

“I heard about him a lot,” Tucker told MemphiSport late Sunday night. “And there were interns who wanted to shadow and meet up with him but we weren’t able to because of his busy travel schedule when our internship first started.”

Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a nearly seven-year battle with cancer. He was 49.

Widely known for his hip-hop style and assortment of catchphrases, Scott, a Chicago native, grew up in North Carolina, where he graduated from the University of North Carolina. Having joined ESPN during an era in which there were a number of already-accomplished African-American broadcasters, Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television.

Having popularized the phrase “Boo-yah,” which spread from sports into the mainstream culture, Scott’s celebrity soared, in large part because he became prominent for interacting in the same manner as fans would at home, a trend ESPN president John Skipper said “changed everything” with regards to how Scott spoke about athletes he covered.

NATIONAL STAGE -- While Andrea Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly had the time of her life in gaining professional broadcast journalism experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports in 2013, among her biggest regrets, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott. (Photo submitted by A. Tucker)

NATIONAL STAGE — While Andrea Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly had the time of her life in gaining professional broadcast journalism experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports in 2013, her biggest regret, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott. (Photo submitted by A. Tucker)

According to Tucker, who graduated last year with a degree in Journalism from University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Scott’s unorthodox style of reporting was embraced by many throughout the sports world, most notably the African-American community.

“Stuart was able to relate and connect so well with African-Americans because of the fact that he was so true to himself,” Tucker said. “He didn’t try to be like anyone else that was before him. He was just so unapologetic about bringing African-American culture to media and, even though there were people who didn’t like it, he didn’t change that part of himself to please anyone.”

During ESPN’s summer internship program, Tucker had the luxury of gaining professional experience from several of the best broadcast journalists in the business, particularly when she often shadowed ESPN2’s First Take crew of Cari Champion, Stephen A. Smith, and Skip Bayless. In addition, she spent time observing longtime broadcaster Mike Greenberg and former NFL player Mike Golic during their four-hour sports talk show called, Mike And Mike In Mike Morning, as well as shadowed ESPN reporter Michael Smith, and anchors Jay Harris and Robert Flores, among others.

Although Tucker had never met Scott, she sensed his presence throughout the network’s Bristol, Connecticut campus was felt even in his absence.

“Stuart inspired me to excel in my field because after looking at him, I’m convinced that I don’t have to look a certain way or even sound a certain way and put on this reporter voice to be able to do a good job of covering sports,” Tucker said. “What made me more inspired is that he was an African-American man who was successful in his field and did not hesitate talking the same way he did in everyday life. He wasn’t going to change his style for anyone who disapproved. Seeing him and even others that came after him showed there’s no need in being someone who’s fabricated if I want to do well in media.”

Tucker was attending morning worship Sunday when she learned of Scott’s death. For her, such news was difficult to stomach, considering she once appeared in the same ESPN studios that ultimately made Scott famous.

REMEMBERING THEIR OWN --- During Monday night's Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid tribute to Scott by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read, STU.

REMEMBERING THEIR OWN — During Monday night’s Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid tribute to Scott by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read, STU.

“I was at church so I couldn’t watch television and learned about his death via the ESPN and SportsCenter Twitter accounts that I followed,” Tucker said. I was immediately heartbroken and in disbelief that it happened. It was like someone I grew up with left too soon.”

Known for such popular catchphrases as, “Boo-Yah!,” “Hallah,” and “As cool as the other side of the pillow,” among others, Scott had been with ESPN for 14 years before learning he was diagnosed with appendix cancer.

Scott eventually had gone into remission after having his appendix removed. However, he was stricken with cancer again, this time in 2011 and 2013. Consequently, Scott was honored during the ESPY Awards last year with the Jimmy V Award during which he gave a tear-jerking speech that included saluting his two daughters.

““Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express,” Scott said during his speech. “You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.”

Tucker said Scott’s legacy and contributions will be forever cherished, particularly throughout the sports world.

“(His) legacy will never be forgotten because any anchor that calls themselves wanting to sound ‘cool’ and have no problem staying true to who they are should feel indebted to him, because he was so bold in his delivery and was truly a trailblazer,” Tucker said. He was a huge part of the NBA and NFL broadcasting and just ESPN in general.”

Prior to Sunday’s Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys Wild Card playoff game here, the AT&T Stadium crowd held a moment of silence in honor of Scott.

Also, during Monday night’s Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid homage to the UNC alumnus by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read: STU.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Former Vols basketball star Tony Harris earns degree, gives back to community

 

GOD'S FACILITATOR --- For years, Tony Harris graced Memphis with his basketball prowess, a trend ultimately led to him earning a full fledge scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Today, the former East High star is giving back to the community as founder of the Tony Harris Basketball Academy. (Photo submitted by Tony Harris)

GOD’S FACILITATOR — For years, Tony Harris graced Memphis with his basketball prowess, a trend ultimately led to him earning a full fledge scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Today, the former East High star is giving back to the community as founder of the Tony Harris Basketball Academy. (Photo submitted by Tony Harris)

Tony Harris decided to call it a career after playing professional basketball overseas for approximately seven years.

It didn’t take long for the former University of Tennessee standout to return to Knoxville to complete the final 36 hours of his undergraduate studies.

Harris, a native Memphian, earned his degree in Psychology with a minor in Childcare within six months after his professional career ended.

He has former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl to thank.

Pearl, who recently replaced Tony Barbee as Auburn’s head coach, coached the Vols from 2005-2011 before he was fired in March 2011 for lying to school officials regarding NCAA allegations.

As Harris tells it, Pearl’s contributions to the university far outweighs the NCAA sanctions that ultimately led to his firing. Among the reasons is that during Pearl’s tenure at Tennessee, he established a program in which ex-Vol players could return to campus and finish their degree requirements.

Harris, who starred for the Vols from 1997-2001, deemed it a forgone conclusion to finish school. “Man, it was very relishing,” Harris, in a recent interview, said of finishing his undergraduate requirements.

“I look back at it as a pivotal point in my life. I knew that I couldn’t play basketball the rest of my life. I knew eventually the crowd would stop cheering. I knew getting my degree would open doors for me.”

Harris is grateful to Pearl for helping him exhibit to renewed sense of assertiveness in the classroom.

“Believe it or not, Bruce Pearl played a big part in that,” Harris said. “He created a program where he actually wanted to bring former players back. He reached out to me and I said, ‘I have to do that.’ I definitely sensed a reconnection with him. I really wished I had played for that guy right there because he cared. My hat goes off to him.”

A little more than five years removed having a earned his degree, Harris, a former McDonald’s All-American and Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Basketball who starred at point guard for East High from 1994-97 is now dishing out assists to youngsters who aspire to journey through the basketball ranks much like he did more than a decade ago in this hoops-crazed town.

Harris, 35, is the founder of the Tony Harris Basketball Academy (or THBA), which is currently housed at STAR Academy Charter School in Northeast Memphis where he teaches physical education. According to Harris, THBA was organized to teach youths various fundamentals and mechanics as they prepare for competitive play.

ROCKY TOP TONY --- Harris, a former Mr. Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Basketball starred at point guard for the Vols from 1997-2001 before playing professionally for seven years overseas. (File photo courtesy of UT Athletics)

ROCKY TOP TONY — Harris, a former Mr. Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Basketball starred at point guard for the Vols from 1997-2001 before playing professionally for seven years overseas. (File photo courtesy of UT Athletics)

Also, THBA has its own strength and conditioning coach to teach athletes about speed and agility as well as the importance of staying in shape on the court. In addition, the academy offers after-school tutoring and frequent sessions in which athletes are taught how to become media savvy.

“A lot of kids get in front of the news media and don’t know how to talk,” Harris said.

An organization that is comprised of about 120 individuals, Harris also conducts a midweek Bible study in which he shares with athletes stories that are parrarelled to his life. In return, athletes are encouraged to offer feedback from the messages given.

Earlier this year, Harris was installed as an ordained ministered by his pastor, Stephen Brown, and preached his first sermon just weeks later at Brown’s LOGIC Church in the heart of downtown Memphis.

“About a month before my sermon, I didn’t know what I was going to talk about,” Harris said. “And God told me to talk about where He brought me from. And so when I preached that sermon, I tied those experiences to my own life.”

Besides Pearl, Harris attributes his success on and off the court to fellow Memphian Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a former Memphis Treadwell and MemphisState star.

Drafted with the third overall pick by GoldenState in 1993, Hardaway played 14 seasons in the NBA and made four All-Star appearances before retiring in 2007 following a brief stint with the Miami Heat.

“Man, I just looked at his life and his career and how he came back and impacted the whole (city),” Harris said of Hardaway. “He really inspired me. He’s really had the biggest impact on me. And it helps to have a personal relationship with him. I’ve watch him. And what better guy to have as an example than Penny Hardaway?”

Looking ahead, Harris said his primary focus is to upgrade his staff at THBA, considering he has taken on additional athletes in recent months. Also, plans to build a new facility are in the works while he continues to train athletes at STAR Academy, a project he anticipates will be complete within the next year.

“It was four years ago,” said Harris, explaining his motivation for starting a basketball academy. “I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go and God gave me a vision. He said, ‘I want you to start a basketball academy.’ And then I talked to my pastor about it and then he told me to make the vision plain and clear. One thing I wanted to do was reach out to kids and not be restricted to a school.”

Much like Pearl reached out to him.

 Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

 

Memphis amatuer golfer Kylan Hollingshed leaves town, making much noise in Knoxville

 

ON HIS GAME --- Memphian Kylan Hollingshed decided two years to go to move to Knoxville just so he could broaden his  mechanics on the golf course. It turned out to be the right decision, considering the Knoxville Bearden High standout has positioned himself to land an athletic scholarship. (Photos submitted by Lakesh Graffaree)

ON HIS GAME — Memphian Kylan Hollingshed decided two years to go to move to Knoxville just so he could broaden his mechanics on the golf course. It turned out to be the right decision, considering the Knoxville Bearden High standout has positioned himself to land an athletic scholarship. (Photos submitted by Lakesh Graffaree)

No one has to tell Kylan Hollingshed to embrace new challenges.

He’d be the first to tell you he welcomes them.

Such was the case six years when Hollingshed picked up a golf club for the very first time.

As Hollingshed, a native Memphian, recalls, he sensed golf was something about which he could do in his leisure time. But little did he know, he’d ultimately to gain a deep affection for the sport.

“I picked my first clubs up around the age of 11 with my cousin Philip (Hudson),” Hollingshed told MemphiSport during a recent telephone interview from Knoxville. I wasn’t too interested at the time. As I kept playing, people would tell me I was a natural.”

It wasn’t long afterward that Hollingshed began taking lessons at the Gold Academy Of Memphis from longtime golf instructor Mark Grace.

“Kylan showed up one day for a clinic with a mismatched set of clubs and a big smile,” Grace said. “We regripped a junior club and we worked with that club for a couple months before leaving to spend a summer in Knoxville. When he came back he was some four inches taller and in need of new clubs. In two years, he progressed from digging holes to shooting in the mid-80’s. I was sad that he left when he was just starting to polish his game. Kylan has tremendous potential. Kylan learns very quickly, but what strikes me most is his ability to focus on his task while at the same time bring out the best of those around him.”

That this 18-year-old amateur steadfastly stuck with the sport — particularly when he wasn’t knowledgeable about it — has benefited him mightily in recent years.

Hollingshed is a senior standout for Bearden High, where he has upgraded his mechanics considerably since he enrolled at the Knoxville (Tenn.) area school two years ago.

“Moving to Knoxville was not only to broaden my skills,” Hollingshed explained. “It was also to prepare myself for the future. I would say there is more competition, playing against people who were ten times better, who started young motivated me more. They taught me multiple tricks along the way as well.”

LASTING IMPRESSION --- Bearden golf coach Susanne Huber said Hollingshed has improved considerably in recent years and has done the necessary things to land a scholarship.

LASTING IMPRESSION — Bearden golf coach Susanne Huber said Hollingshed has improved considerably in recent years and has done the necessary things to land a scholarship.

To get a clear understanding of why Hollingshed, a former Arlington High golfer, vacated Memphis for a rather unfamiliar setting, look no further than the conversation he and his mother, Lakesh Graffaree, had following his sophomore year.

Graffaree relocated to Memphis from Killeen, Texas 22 years ago to donate a kidney to her mother, who was hospitalized for renal kidney failure. Also called “renal insufficiency” according to WebMD.com, renal failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood.

According to Graffaree, she sensed that Memphis would be a suitable establishment to live and raise a family, let alone remain closely connected to her ailing mother.

Four years after moving to the Mid-South, she gave birth to Hollingshed. Little did she know, he’d move away three years before he was scheduled to graduate from high school.

For Graffaree, witnessing her son move eight hours away to Eastern Tennessee was tough to stomach.

“I didn’t know how he thought that,” Graffaree said of son’s decision to move to Knoxville. “But some reason, he wanted to go there and play golf.”

Luckily for Hollingshed, it was a risk worth taking.

That’s because not only has Hollingshed become the catalyst of Bearden’s golf team, but with weeks before his graduation, he’s now aiming to acquire an athletic scholarship.

Bearden golf coach Susanne Huber believes he’s worthy of a full-ride scholarship.

“Kylan showed how dedicated he was during his senior year by not giving up,” Huber said. “He struggled to make matches his junior year and his senior year, but things have finally paid off. He qualified in the Top 5 going to a match and he proved to me how much of a competitor he could be. Any school would be lucky to have Kylan representing them on and off the course, and I truly feel that he will continue to support Bearden even after graduation. Kylan has amazing potential to be a great golfer and I know he has the drive.  After knowing him for two years, I feel he will be successful regardless the cost.”

MOTHERLY LOVE --- White Lakesh Graffaree wasn't against her son moving away to Knoxville two years ago, she has supportedly him wholeheartedly since he left Memphis.

MOTHERLY LOVE — Although Lakesh Graffaree wasn’t against her son moving away to Knoxville two years ago, she has supportedly him wholeheartedly since he left Memphis.

Two years removed from seeing her son pack his belongings and move away, Graffaree admits he made the right decision, one that, to his credit, has caused Hollingshed to mature as he enters the young adult stage.

Long before he developed an interest in golf, Hollingshed started his own business, Kidz Car Wash, at the age of eight. In addition, he’s a rising artist and is widely remembered by a number of Memphians for a starting a teddy bear drive, a craft that garnered local headlines during his days at Kate Bond Elementary.

Nowadays, however, it’s safe to assume golf is what Hollingshed — who has aspirations of being a civil engineer — relishes the most, thanks in large part to his dauntless decision to head East for an unfamiliar town.

“I still miss him,” Graffaree said. “I’ve never stop missing him. He’s a very positive person, has an uplifting spirit to be around. He’s a really good kid. He’s awesome to be around.”

Not to mention one who’d be the first to tell you he embraces new challenges.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Patrice Robinson, NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White built solid rapport in mid-1980s

PatriceMainOf all the Super Bowls Patrice Robinson has watched, the Green Packers’ win against the New England Patriots in 1996 for the franchise’s third world championship is the one she recalls the most.

Among the reasons is that Robinson and Hall of Fame linebacker Reggie White befriended each other when White was a member of the Memphis Showboats of the now-defunct United States Football League (USFL) in the mid-1980s.

At the time, Robinson was a job specialist at Mitchell High School during which a mutual friend introduced her to White, a former University of Tennessee All-American.

As Robinson recalls, meeting White was a memorable encounter, given she crossed paths with one of the greatest linebackers in pro football history. Not only that, what Robinson — who also met boxing great Muhammad Ali in Memphis in the early 1990s — deemed mostly intriguing is that White was a notable humanitarian with whom her students could easily identify.

A 13-time Pro Bowler, White played 14 NFL seasons before he died in December 2004 of an apparent cardiac dysrhythmia at the age of 43.

PEOPLE PERSON --- Before NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Reggie White entered the NFL ranks, Robinson met the him during his stint with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in the early 1980s.

PEOPLE PERSON — Before NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Reggie White entered the NFL ranks, Robinson met the him during his stint with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in the early 1980s.

“He was part of an organization for Christian athletes,” Robinson told MemphiSport. “You know how you just hit it off with a person? Reggie is one of the most loving and carrying persons that I have met. He always wanted to help students and he ministered to them as well. He came to my classroom and talked to my kids about his career. I thought it was a great opportunity for African-American students to meet a successful African-American male. He was giving back to the community because of his love for God and people.”

Like White, Robinson, 58, has devoted virtually her entire life to enhancing the lives of youths, particularly those in inner city communities throughout Memphis. Her wealth of experience as an educator and school board member is among the reasons she is lobbying to fill the Shelby County Commission District 9 seat.

Early voting takes place April 16 through May 1 followed by the primary May 6. The general election is August 7.

After announcing that he would be endorsing Robinson, prominent judge Joe Brown told a crowd of supporters that Robinson “belonged downtown and is a conscientious and knowledgeable candidate.”

Having adopted the catchphrase, “Voice Of Reason,” Robinson is hopeful the 53,000-plus registered voters that make up District 9 will take into account her strong ties and steady contributions to Whitehaven and its neighboring communities. A 1972 graduate of Whitehaven High, Robinson is widely known for having served 12 years as commissioner of the Memphis and Shelby County school boards.

After the merger, she served on the unified board through August of last year.

In addition, Robinson, a longtime Whitehaven resident, is a retired supervisor for Memphis, Light, Gas, and Water Division.

She said the thought of running for County Commission’s District 9 post — which is comprised of Whitehaven, Westwood, Walker Holmes, Indian Hills, and Coro Lake and small portion of South Memphis — initially surfaced some time in 2012 during which the school districts had undergone a substantial reduction in revenue.

“The most important ingredient for a good, quality education is sustainable funding,” Robinson said. “As county commissioner, one of the most important responsibilities of that office is to approve the school district’s budget which is a third of the county’s budget.”

BIG WIGS --- Renowned judge Joe Brown was among those who have endorsed Robinson as she lobbies for the Shelby County Commission District 9 seat. (Photo by John Payne)

BIG WIG — Renowned judge Joe Brown is among those who have endorsed Robinson as she lobbies for the Shelby County Commission District 9 seat. (Photo by John Payne)

If elected, among Robinson’s immediate priorities is to do away with year-to-year budgeting that had become a difficult task for school officials in recent years.

“Budgeting year-to-year without a strategic plan is difficult for the school administrators,” Robinson said. “The county has to have a budget plan so the school district can plan. People think because of the merger, we lost jobs. We lost key positions because of lost revenue, flat funding for six years, students left the district to attend charter schools, and state-controlled schools. It was a roller coaster. People thought it was one thing. It was a number of issues. When your revenue is flat and your expenses go up, it creates a gap in your budget.”

Besides implementing fiscal policies and strategic planning, Robinson’s Platform For Progress Agenda includes: promoting quality vocational/technical job training, devise a balanced approach to educational funding, and educating the public on major issues.

“Your budget determines your tax rates,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to have a good handle on the budget. Our citizens are concerned about jobs. But at the same time, I want to encourage citizens to become more technically inclined. We’ve got some folks who are still scared to turn on a computer.”

Given she has what she describes as an effective plan in place, Robinson believes she is the frontrunner to assume the District 9 seat. Among the reasons is that like White, she quickly points out that her track record is such that she has a heart for people, a key attribute she hopes citizens will take into consideration when they cast their ballots.

“Yes, I am (the frontrunner),” Robinson said. “I have the professional background, experience, and a heart for people.”

Something that was easily discovered by one of the greatest linebackers in pro football history.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

College football prospect Preston Harris thriving on and off the field for Kingsbury

Preston Harris is an avid Baltimore Ravens fan, in large part because he admires former All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis.

FOOTBALL MOM --- Jantish Powell Ross has followed her the football prowess of her son, Preston Harris, ever since the Kingsbury High linebacker first began playing competitive football at the age of 5. Harris is expected to sign an athletic scholarship in the coming weeks.

FOOTBALL MOM — Jantish Powell Ross has followed her the football prowess of her son, Preston Harris, ever since the Kingsbury High linebacker first began playing competitive football at the age of 5. Harris is expected to sign an athletic scholarship in the coming weeks.

Among the reasons he has developed what he describes as a “tremendous amount of respect” for Lewis is that the future Hall of Famer managed to recover from the horrific events that surfaced following a Super Bowl 34 party in Atlanta in January 2000.

After a fight broke out between Lewis, two companions, and several others, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, Lewis and his acquaintances, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police. Consequently, the men were indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges 11 days later.

Although Lewis’ misleading statements to police the morning of the killings ultimately resulted in him being given 12 months probabtion, his faith never wavered and it showed the following year when he was named Super Bowl MVP.

“He inspired me that no matter adversity, you can overcome over anything if you put your mind to it,” Harris said of Lewis, who helped propel the Ravens to a Super Bowl 47 win last year before calling it a career after 16 NFL seasons. “Most of the time, when people go through that type of thing, they quit. But he just kept going. Like he said, he’s a ‘freightrain.’ He just kept going.”

A senior who recently wrapped up what was a stellar four-year career at Kingsbury High, Harris doesn’t shy away from the notion that he used Lewis’ story as a model of sorts, particularly pertaining to the challenges he endured as a prep football player.

For starters, the 17-year-old Harris recalls how he steadfastly played through his entire junior campaign for the Falcons while battling a torn right meniscus he suffered during a 7-on-7 camp in North Carolina weeks before the start of the season. As the 6-foot, 205-pound Harris tells it, he didn’t consider having what would have been a season-ending surgery, given he sensed it would resulted in a devastating loss for Kingsbury’s defensive unit.

“I knew if I had the surgery, I’d missed the whole season,” Harris, who played mostly receiver and tight end, said. “I didn’t want to let my team down. An (Memphis City Schools) trainer who covered the entire North region told me to do a couple of knee exercises to get stronger, to ice it, maybe take a couple of days off from practice.”

Fortunately for Harris, he didn’t suffer any additional damage to his knee, although he was sidelined one game that year. It wasn’t until weeks after the 2012 season, however, that he underwent surgery. Even before the offseason procedure, his skills as the centerpiece of Kingsbury’s defense didn’t go unnoticed.

COLLEGE BOUND --- Harris, who starred at linebacker four seasons at Kingsbuy, has garnered letters of interests from five college, but said is leaning toward Middle Tennessee State. (Photo submitted by Kingsbury High)

COLLEGE BOUND — Harris, who starred at linebacker four seasons at Kingsbuy, has garnered letters of interest from five s colleges, but said he is leaning toward Middle Tennessee State. (Photo submitted by Kingsbury High)

Harris’ presence in his what was his first 7-on-7 camp earned him letter of interests from a host of colleges, most notably Princeton, Penn, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi Valley State, and Louisiana Tech, among others. While he isn’t expected to sign a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday — the first official day prospects are allowed to make official commitments — he said he will likely announce his college decision either in late February or early March.

Even if Harris, who also starred one season in Rugby for Kingsbury, isn’t offered an athletic scholarship, he will have his favorable academics on which to fall back. That’s because he already has academic scholarship offers the University of Tennessee, MTSU, and MVSU and is on pace to graduate in the top 10 percent of a class that is comprised of more 300 students. He boasts an overall grade point average of 4.0.

“To me, if you don’t have (good) academics, you don’t have nothing,” said Harris, who is expected to graduate No. 14 in his class and is leaning toward enrolling at MTSU. “This year, we didn’t have anybody to miss a game because of acamedics.”

Harris’ mother, Jantish Powell Ross, relishes the fact that her son has always devoted more attention to academics than athletics, although he has been playing competitive football for the past 13 years.

“While being an athlete from his adolecent years, he’s always maintained his GPA,” Ross said. “And it’s just something that comes natural. It seemed as if he doesn’t study hard. When you look at other kids in society, I mean, he’s not in any gangs or getting in trouble. I want him to achieve every endeavor he plans to do because life is hard. Nothing in life is given to you.”

Which, of course, is the among the reasons Harris is so fond of how Lewis’ story played out during the course of his NFL Hall of Fame career. As he tells it, that Lewis persereved amid his well-publicized troubles 14 years ago is a pivotal lesson about which he embraced, particularly while he played with an injured knee two years ago.

“I felt like I did all I could to help make our team successul,” said Harris, who wore No. 28 in honor of his father, former Austin Peay State standout Preston Harris, Sr.

As a result, he’ll be rewared for his contributions in the coming weeks.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Vols win big in preparation for ultimate test against Oregon

(Photo courtesy of Twitter.com)

(Photo courtesy of Twitter.com)

When the Vols took the field against Western Kentucky the biggest question was clearly how the Tennessee defense would respond against a more high-powered offense. In week 1 of the season, the Hilltoppers offense, under new head coach Bobby Petrino, posted nearly 500 yards and 35 points in a win against Kentucky.

It was one thing for Tennessee to decisively shut out Austin Peay, but Western Kentucky presented a whole separate set of issues for the Vols defense.

Anxiety compounded a little bit when Western Kentucky struck first on a field goal that capped off an impressive drive and  then Tennessee was forced to punt the ball back to the Hilltoppers. However, Western Kentucky’s next offensive possession would essentially be the beginning of the end of the game for them as they proceeded to turn the ball over on five consecutive possessions. Tennessee managed to capitalize off of each turnover and took a 31-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Vols then dominated the second half, outscoring Western Kentucky 21-3 for a final score of 52-20.

Here are my biggest takeaways:

1) Through the first two games of the year, Tennessee is tied for first in the nation in forced turnovers (9) and first in the nation in interceptions (7). The Vols seven total forced turnovers in the Western Kentucky game is the most a Tennessee team has forced in a game since the Memphis State game in 1984. Regardless of the competition, this is a defense that struggled mightily against anyone and everyone last year and was likely the worst defense in school history. To perform the way they have says a lot about the new coaching staff.

 2) The Vols have had a total of two penalties for 17 yards through two games. This also ties them for first in the nation with Arizona State. Again, mental toughness was a major problem with this team over the past several years.

 3) Tennessee’s 97 points through two games ties the 1996 team, led by Peyton Manning, for the most points to open the season. It’s also 11 more points than the Vols offense from last season, which put five players in the NFL.

Now, don’t think I’m getting carried away in my optimism into thinking that Tennessee is back to relevancy. You just can’t deny the vast improvements this team is seeing with potentially an even less talented and a certainly less experienced roster.

Next up: Tennessee challenges a high-powered Oregon team, ranked 2nd in the country, and so I’m sure a lot of the weaknesses of this team are finally going to be exposed for what they are. I expected Tennessee to beat Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. I’m just impressed with how they won both games.

The Vols now travel to Oregon, followed by another road game against Florida, so we’ll get a better chance to see just how improved this Tennessee team really is. The Ducks, through two games, are averaging 62.5 points per game on 664.5 yards of offense. The Tennessee defense has played extremely well in its first two games but I think it’s safe to say that this will be the ultimate test.

Clayton Martin is a regular contributor for MemphiSport and The Wise Guise. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @ClaytonAMartin.

SEE ALSO:

Tennessee Football Starts A New Era, Again

 

Photo courtesy of Twitter

Photo courtesy of Twitter

On Saturday evening, a new era began on Rocky Top, again. For the fourth time in the past six seasons, someone different has been at the reigns of the University of Tennessee’s football program. And for the first time in the past six seasons I left the home opener feeling very confident that the Vols unquestionably were headed in the right direction.

So, why does a win over an abysmal Austin Peay team give me such confidence? Let’s break this down in four main reasons:

1) Tennessee pitched a shut out, winning the season opener 45-0.

I would have been surprised if the Tennessee defense I saw last year could have shut out MUS. Last year, Tennessee gave up an average of 36 points per game. Granted, Austin Peay missed a very makeable field goal and got intercepted in the red zone after driving the field in the second half, but overall I was very impressed to see such solidarity out of the defense. I’ll take giving up a total of 211 yards in an “everyone gets a chance to play” anytime.

2) The Vols went unpenalized for the first time since the 2007 SEC Championship game.

This is a crazy stat to me. And just like the shut out, I don’t care who Tennessee played. To play football for 60 minutes without one penalty is a huge step in the right direction for this team. If you think about it, the fact that Tennessee did this against Austin Peay might even be even more impressive because of how much the second and third teams played in the game. To be that mentally sound across the board is a huge accomplishment for a team that Plaxico’d itself over and over throughout the past several years.

3) Tennessee scored on their first seven drives of the game.

This is a team that despite having possibly the worst defense in school history last year came into the season with even more question marks on offense due to guys leaving for the NFL. The play calling was very vanilla overall, as expected, but the execution was nothing to take lightly. The fact that the Vols didn’t even have to punt until the second half leads me to believe that the offensive unit may be more cohesive than anyone initially thought.

 4) Butch Jones gets it.

By this point in today’s coaching carousel culture, most coaches have learned what to say to rally the troops and inspire a fan base. Tennessee fans in particular have grown more familiar with the different styles of “coach speak” over the past several years than they would like to have. So what is the difference? Butch Jones is legitimately putting actions behind his words. Every coach takes the approach with the media that if nothing else they will not get outworked. As someone who closely follows this team, I can’t help but start to believe it more than I have under any other recent staff. Heck and I even worked in the recruiting office under Lane Kiffin where my first day at work I got to the office around 5:30am and personally witnessed then defensive line coach Ed Orgeron double fisting Red Bulls just as the legends foretold. Those guys worked hard but seeing Butch Jones and his staff work together as such a united group really makes me believe I’m seeing the infancy of something special.

Next up: Tennessee has a Western Kentucky team who already has as many SEC wins this season as Tennessee got all of last season (one). This will be a truer indicator of where this team is in terms of development before they travel to Oregon in week three.

Clayton Martin is a regular contributor for MemphiSport and The Wise Guise. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @ClaytonAMartin.

SEE ALSO:

Fancap: Tigers-Vols and Grizzlies-Blazers divide city’s attention

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2012 M Awards: Most Hated Rival

Is it a rival if you don’t even play games against them? Who knows. Hopefully the hatred in Memphis will subside now that he has won a big one up there in Kentucky? Kentucky and Memphis are both missing an opportunity here to cash in on this non-rivalry while it is hot. Who is running these institutions anyway?

John CalipariFirst Place: 38.73%
Tennessee VolunteersSecond Place: 26.03%
Los Angeles ClippersThird Place: 14.92%

 Best song to listen to while contemplating this category… Stab My Back by All-American Rejects. So what do you think, Memphis? Did you get it right? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

The 2012 M Award Winners

 Favorite Concessions: FedExForum
Favorite Place To Tailgate: Tiger Lane
Favorite Sporting Venue: FedExForum
Favorite Race: St. Jude Marathon
Best Game: Grizzlies Game 6 Win
Most Memorable Moment: University of Memphis Gets Invitation to the Big East
Favorite Annual Event: Memphis Madness
Moment We Would Most Like To Forget: Grizzlies Game 1 Collapse to the Clippers
Best Offbeat Moment: Josh Pastner Accidentally Tweeting Out “Tony Parker”
Best Musical Performance: Ellen, St. Jude Patient, Singing the National Anthem at a Grizzlies Game
Best Place To Stock Up For The Big Game: Kroger
Best Local Sports Bar/Restaurant: Huey’s
Best National Sports Bar/Restaurant: Buffalo Wild Wings
Best Place To Eat Before/After The Game: Huey’s
Best Place To Take The Team After A Victory: Memphis Pizza Cafe
Best Place To Play Cards: Horseshoe Casino and Hotel
Best Golf Course: TPC Southwind
Favorite Golf Store: Edwin Watts Golf
Favorite Sporting Goods Store: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Favorite Sports Apparel Store: Tiger Bookstore
Favorite Workout Facility: YMCA
Favorite Healthy Store: Whole Foods Market
Favorite Place To Spend A Nice Afternoon: The Memphis Zoo
Favorite Bike Shop: Outdoors, Inc
Favorite Local Sports Radio Personality: Gary Parrish, Gary Parrish Show
Favorite Local Sports Radio Program: The Gary Parrish Show with Geoff Calkins
Favorite Sports Talk Radio Segment: Harvard/Horn Lake Trivia, Gary Parrish Show
Favorite Local TV Sports Personality: Geoff Calkins, Sports Files
Best Sports Website: memphisroar.com
Best Fantasy Sports Twitter: @FantasyLapides
Best Local Sports Twitter: @GaryParrishCBS
Favorite Sports Radio Station: 92.9 ESPN
Favorite Mascot: Super Grizz
Favorite Spirit Squad: Memphis Tigers Dance Team
Best Hair: Gary Parrish
Favorite Fighter: Jerry Lawler
Favorite Golfer: John Daly
Favorite Baseball Player: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
Favorite Football Player: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Favorite Basketball Player: Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
Most Hated Rival: John Calipari

Check back here daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual celebration of the best in Memphis sports.