This is the town that gave you Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Rocky, the Broad Street Bullies and those Eagles fans who booed Santa Claus as they pelted him with hundreds of snowballs.
When you mix sports and Philadelphia, you get toughness.
That’s why Andrea Hoover fits in.
Although she’s not the player on the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team with Philly roots, badge is worn proudly and capably by senior point guard Sam MacKay, Hoover showed Saturday she can take a shot just as well as Smokin’ Joe did.
With 14:04 left in UD’s 74-49 victory over George Washington in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Hagan Arena, Hoover caught an elbow flush to the nose. She thought it came from her teammate Olivia Applewhite, but she crumpled to the floor regardless.
As play moved to the other end of the court, Hoover managed to get onto her hands and knees even though her nose was bleeding and her senses were short-circuiting.
“I got a little woozy at first, but I got up and tried to walk it off,” said the all-conference sophomore guard.
As she headed to the UD sideline to be attended to by trainer by Jamie Potter, she walked past Flyers coach Jim Jabir, who tapped her a couple of times and tried to make conversation. She responded by swatting his hand away and heading to the end of the bench.
“I kept asking her if she was OK,” Jabir said later with a grin. “I was just trying to get a smile and she pushed me and told me to get the heck away from her. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a concussion or anything. She said she was OK, but sometimes she lies to me.”
After the game, Hoover had to smile about the give-and-take: “He was trying to be annoying. It kind of reminded me of my dad when he used to wake me up in the morning to go to high school. He’d be like, ‘You awake?…You awake?…You awake.” (Jabir) brought back memories and it was like, ‘Get away from me.’ ”
Hoover wasn’t ticked off because she had been clobbered. She’s used to that. She said she’s broken her nose three times playing basketball, twice — in a summer pick-up game and in a preseason scrimmage against Kentucky — this year.
But what irked her Saturday was that she was being forced out of the game and wouldn’t return.
She had been having a good outing — 15 points, nine rebounds, a steal and an assist — just as were several of her teammates.
Kelley Austria would finish with 13 points and 6-foot-4 freshman Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova had fvie blocks, six points and five rebounds — in 17 minutes. A third-team All-A-10 selection, MacKay scored 12 points in front of a personal cheering section of some 75 family members and friends, including several kids with her name written in big letters across their foreheads.
The No. 11 Flyers are now 27-1 and face 21-8 Saint Joseph’s in an A-10 semifinal this afternoon that will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
While he was pleased with his team’s defensive effort early in the game, Jabir was concerned about one thing: “We have to learn to take people’s best shot because when you are a ranked team, when you are the favorite — and that’s not something we’re used to — you’re always going to get people’s best shot. And sometimes we don’t respond very well, especially at the beginning of the second half. We have a lead and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves and then the other team comes out swinging and sometimes we back down.”
Maybe so in the collective sense, but he certainly doesn’t say that about Hoover.
“She is one of the best players I have ever coached,” he admitted afterward. “She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever been around. With her, there is no drama, no nonsense. Tell her what you want her to do and she goes and does it. I wish we had 10 of her. She just has a kind of old-school, get-it-done mentality. Nothing flashy. Just tough as nails.”
And the thing is, her performance Saturday may not have been her best since the team got into Philadelphia three days ago.
Thursday night the Flyers all went to the home of MacKay’s dad and stepmom for dinner and a little bit of fun.
Some of the players and team personnel played the Wii “Just Dance” and “Just Sing” games and right there in the middle of their ranks was Hoover, dancing and sweating and singing Proud Mary. She didn’t only belt out Tina Turner’s high-pitched wails, but growled Ike’s gravely bass “Rollin’ on the riiiii-veeer” refrain, too.
A video was taken of the performance and it’s posted both on the UD women’s basketball website and in my Through the Arch blog on DaytonDailyNews.com.
“I couldn’t really dance, but I wanted to bring some substance to the video so I figured I might as well sing,” she said with a laugh.
Hoover has really come out of her shell this year, not just away from the game, but in the classroom — she made the A-10 All-Academic team too (and the Dean’s List at UD ) with a 3.64 grade-point average — and especially on the court, where her grittiness might surprise some.
After all, she was home-schooled until the seventh grade and then went to Spring Valley Academy.
“You’re right, home-school kids are sheltered,” she said. “But every day when I finished my work. I went out and played with my two older brothers and they would beat me up. And when their friends came over, I was the token girl in the games.”
MacKay’s grit is flashier, but no less substantial. She was born and spent her early years in Philadelphia, then when her parents split up and remarried, she moved with her mom to Columbus. But she returned here often and each summer comes here to play pick-up games with many of the area’s best college players.
“She’s very proud of being born and raised in Philly,” Jabir said. “And there’s something to that if you’re a Philly point guard. I always thought that when I coached at Siena. Kids that come out of Philly have a little bit of nuance to their game. They are passionate about it in a way a lot of kids aren’t. And Sam fits that description.”
MacKay’s dad, Scott,, was in the stands Saturday and knows just what Jabir was saying: “You can watch Temple or Saint Joe’s or LaSalle, any of them, and their players are tough. It’s Philadelphia. There are no girls in Philadelphia. They’re women, and they’ll take on anybody.
“Sam’s got a lot of that, too. She’s got a toughness. To tell you the truth, I’d be afraid to mess with her.”
And as you witnessed with her woozy-stepped exchange with Jabir on Saturday, the same could be said about Andrea Hoover.