Archdeacon: ‘Who’s in the Jersey?’ program a win for everybody

She’s a basketball woman, so even though she was on an elevated stage, not a hardwood court, she used a hoops move to get where she wanted to go.

With a verbal juke step, she left the fun and festive nature that opened the program and got down to the nitty gritty.

“We can be real, right?” asked Danielle Roe, the girls’ coach at Springfield Catholic Central and a former standout basketball player herself a Springfield South, Sinclair and Kentucky Wesleyan.

When the 400 or so female student athletes in the audience at Belmont High the other night urged her on, Roe didn’t hold back.

“When I started out in college I was on academic probation,” she said. “I didn’t take academics serious enough. I put basketball over academics.

“I didn’t read my first book — cover to cover — until I was 23 years old!

“I didn’t read in high school. I didn’t read in college. My biggest regret — if I was sitting in your seat (hoping to glean something) — was that I didn’t focus on my ability to read and comprehend.”

Before Catholic Central, Roe coached at Sinclair and she spoke for herself and Tamika Williams-Jeter, the University of Dayton women’s coach, who sat two seats away on the dais:

“As a college coach we won’t waste our time on you if your academics aren’t right. You have to take academics as serious as you take a championship game.”

The room was suddenly silent.

As the night went on, the rest of the seven-woman panel taking part in the “Who’s in the Jersey?” program, which was put on by Dayton Public Schools Athletics to salute National Girls & Women in Sports Day, showed they could bring the nitty gritty, as well.

The two best known women up there — at least when it came to sports — were Williams-Jeter and Brandie Hoskins, who sat between the UD coach and Roe.

Hoskins — who was a McDonalds All-American at Chaminade Julienne High where she was part of a state title team before becoming a four-year starter and 1,000 point scorer at Ohio State and then a seven-year pro and now she runs a basketball academy — shared a painful story from her early days as a Buckeye.

Williams-Jeter was an OSU assistant coach then and was idolized by Hoskins, who is five years younger and often had followed in her footsteps.

In her early days at OSU, Hoskins struggled with the conditioning drills. She didn’t share this with the crowd, but part of the problem was getting proper medication for her epileptic seizures.

All she told the girls the other night was: “I tried to quit. It wasn’t easy with all the conditioning. I said, ‘I came to play basketball, I didn’t come to run up and down the football stands and all that stuff.’”

The day Hoskins announced she was returning to Dayton, Williams-Jeter confronted her in the training room. She had someone lock the door and then administered tough love.

“I remember the day she was gonna give up,” Williams-Jeter said. “I was like, ‘What are you going home to?’ I literally went off on her and shoved her around the room 100 times. I was going to fight Brandie that day and I was her coach!

I said, ‘You are not quitting!’”

Hoskins didn’t quit. She ended up being part of three Big Ten Championship teams, making the Dean’s List, graduating and being drafted by the WNBA.

“This is my sister,” Hoskins said as she looked at Williams-Jeter. “I thank God for you. I’m 37 and she’s 42 and she’s still my role model.

“And I want y’all to find somebody like that in your life. Somebody who will push you because life can be hard.” As the conversation moved to the other end of the stage, Hoskins sat there quietly and the tears rolled down her cheeks.

No one better knows how hard life can be than Diona Clark, who sat at the other end of the stage.

She’s a Meadowdale High grad who went on to get a degree from Howard University.

She started off talking about how she was “shy…timid…afraid” as a young woman and how you have to be “an advocate for yourself. If someone says something that makes you feel a certain way, you have to open your mouth up and tell them how you feel about it.

“You have to teach people how to treat you. You have to set boundaries in place.” She did not and it nearly killed her.

“I’m a survivor of domestic and gun violence,” she told the surprised crowd, which suddenly stopped its vocal affirmations to what she was saying and went silent again, spellbound as she gave just a few details.

“You’ve got to have the self-confidence to know where you stand and not move from that spot.

“I didn’t have the self-esteem I needed when a joker came to me and wasn’t talking right. I didn’t have the confidence to say, ‘You’re not for me. You don’t make me feel how I make myself feel.’”

What she didn’t tell the crowd was that in 2005, a year after she graduated from college, she began to date a guy who was a friend of a relative. Soon, though, the guy became more and more possessive and abusive.

Eventually she did break up with him, but he showed up at her apartment in Columbus, was drunk again and this time he pulled out a gun. He kidnapped her and then shot her twice and then shot himself.

She survived, but had severe PTSD. The guy lived as well and eventually went to prison for kidnapping.

Clark worked to reclaim her life, wrote a book — “Survival is Victory” — and among other things became a social worker in Columbus and a public speaker. Her Liv Out Loud platform helps gun and domestic violence victims rebuild self-esteem.

Program aims to instill positive messages

The Who’s in the Jersey?” program was the brainchild of Victoria Jones, the executive athletic director of Dayton Public Schools who has quite a basketball resume of her own.

After starring at Patterson Co-Op, she played at St. Catharine College in Kentucky and then the University of Dayton, where she was a diminutive three-point specialist who’s still in the record books there.

She made several coaching stops, including as an assistant at Murray State and then the head coach at Sinclair.

She not only saw the “Who’s in the Jersey?” program as a way to celebrate the National Girls & Women in Sports Day, but she figured it could instill some messages that are needed by some DPS athletes:

“We’ve had a few issues recently, from sassing to fighting, and we thought it was the right time to put some positive messages out there.”

Shenise Turner-Sloss — a Patterson Co-Op, Fisk University and Central Michigan grad who is just the fourth African American woman to serve on the Dayton City Commission — was part of the panel and addressed that very issue with the student athletes:

“Don’t allow temporary decisions that you make now affect the long term projections for your life. Stop and think: ‘Do I want to go on the corner and fight this person’ or have some verbal attack for someone you don’t know or for somebody you think looked at you the wrong way?

“It can potentially cause you to get a case. Then you’re in the juvenile system and it can affect your ability to go to college, get a job or join the armed services. Just stop and think. Choose your words wisely. Have confidence in yourself.”

While many of the messages were serious, the night had many lighter offerings, as well.

There was food and all the student athletes there — from Dayton’s six public high schools, some junior high kids and some invitees from places like Trotwood Madison High and the Catholic Central girls’ basketball team — got T-shirts and there was a raffle that included several door prizes.

As the group waited for the program to begin, a dance party began that was led by DJ Authentic, who’s also an assistant principal at Meadowdale.

And before the panelists spoke, Billie Ewing took the stage and belted out Jill Scott’s “Golden.”

Soon the whole crowd was singing along and many waved their lighted phones in rhythm.

“It’s beautiful to see all these kids gathered together to celebrate female athletes,” said Dayton School Board member Karen Wick-Gagnet. “They’re all lovingly looking at each other and sharing with each other in a very peaceful way.”

The panelists all wore jerseys representing something in their life. Williams-Jeter wore a Dayton Flyers No. 1 jersey. Roe wore one from Sinclair and Hoskins had on a USA Basketball jersey.

Throughout the evening, they all shared thoughts on how the athletes could better their lives.

They touched on everything from being careful what you post on social media to picking friends who hold you accountable and trying to avoid, as Phillitia Charlton put it, “trauma bonds.”

“That’s where the two of you only have negative and bad things in common,” the motivational speaker and author said. “You try to out-drama each other. If you depress each other, you’re not good for each other.

“Are you a vampire friend who sucks the life out of everybody you’re around and every time somebody sees you, you’re talking about ‘your’ story?

“If you’re screaming, yelling, shouting that no one understands — if you’re operating in anger — you are not a good friend.

“Or, are you someone who is uplifting? Who’s positive and talks about the future?”

Stories of triumph are lessons for next generation

Charlton — in her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority jersey with a resume that included study at Alabama State, UD and Wright State, 18 years as an educator including serving as the Trotwood Madison principal and now running a consulting firm — might seem like she’d have little in common with the students in the crowd.

The keeping it real part of her tale proved otherwise, and she briefly touched on it when she said she was raised in foster care and for a while was full of anger herself.

What she didn’t tell the crowd was that her dad died right before she was born and her mother spiraled downward with mental illness. She and her two siblings bounced around through foster care and were separated. She ended up with an abusive relative.

She managed to recover, in part because of her involvements at Meadowdale High where she was a class officer, manager of the basketball team, on the cross country team and was voted student with the most school spirit.

Years later she wrote a book and a play about her difficult path from childhood to womanhood. Both are called “Death of a Lie.”

These days she speaks across the country, but like the others on the panel, she appeared gratis and only wanted to give back to DPS students.

“You heard a lot of jewels drop tonight,” Turner-Sloss said as the program came to a close.

“I think it was a big win for us, bringing all the kids together for one purpose and there were no issues,” Jones said. “They were united. And I think they got a lot out of it.”

They weren’t the only ones.

A day later, Williams-Jeter admitted as she had sat on the stage and looked out at the audience, she had an epiphany.

The day in late March when she was announced as the new UD women’s coach, I whispered in her ear — as did Brian Agler, the Wittenberg AD who had coached her with the Minnesota Lynx — that by growing up in Jefferson Township, she could be a bridge between West Dayton and UD like no Flyers’ coach ever has been.

“I didn’t understand what you were talking about that day. I didn’t get it then,” she said Friday. “All I was thinking about then was ‘How am I going to win a game? We lost everything from the year before. How can I rebuild? How can I squeeze everything there is out of the team I have? What are the positives right now?’”

The latter had been answered the night before at Belmont.

“Sitting up there on that stage, looking out at all those brown and black faces staring back at me — white ones, too, it didn’t matter — it finally dawned on me.

“They could look at all of us up there — people who were once in their shoes when we were young girls — and they could say:

“‘Oh my God, I could do this, too!’”

About the Author