Coaches Rory Poplion and Shaun Dumas are building a championship culture in New Orleans that is attracting global attention in the present, while also building a long-term legacy that ensures the pounding of a basketball is part of the city’s soundtrack for decades to come.
When hosting their summer open runs in the city the coaches did not forget to give the women their time as well. A full day was blocked off for the ladies to learn from competing against some of the best talents in the world. The whole earth was able to feel the winds of New Orleans basketball.
Randi Brown, formerly of UNO, is already dropping 40 on European courts just a few seasons into a career that could mimic the Kendall Dykes or Bo McCalebb path. McCalebb got his shot with the New Orleans Pelicans. Perhaps Brown will get the same shot with a WNBA team between stops on the Greek islands and Egypt.
Brown got noticed while growing her game at the aforementioned University of New Orleans, becoming the first women’s player to have two 40-point games in one season and joining the NCAA’s elite 1000 point club. Even coming off of shoulder surgery (check her IG for rehab footage!) she found moments to shine and show the young bloods how it’s done.
Kourtney Weber (Florida State) and Kahia Warmsley (Tulane) will soon be showing out for the city in WNBA jerseys. Along with Weber and Warmsley, LaMonica Plater (Xavier), JerKaila Jordan (Mississippi State), Kaci Chairs (Grambling), and Chelsea Cain (Nicholls State) stood out on the day. Every one of them could find professional opportunities overseas but that doesn’t stop them from taking advantage of the Open Run opportunity to develop their games.
Weber is an All-American leading a top 20 FSU Seminoles team who is mentioned on almost every WNBA draft board. Cain was an All-Louisiana First Team selection by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Jordan was the AAC Freshman of the Year 1st Team All-AAC before moving to the SEC. The state knows about these women, the country is learning and the world will catch on to the surplus of Crescent City talent soon enough.
But what more could be done? More men are playing the game, more boys stick with sports than girls after a certain age.
How can the women’s game find equal time on the court to draw in more players? How can women have more of a voice in the direction of the game?
Look no further than the women leading professional basketball in New Orleans now. A young girl in New Orleans does not have to look far to see a future in this sport, from getting a college education to having an executive or ownership stake.
Gayle Benson owns the Pelicans and Renee Montgomery is right down the road living the Dream in Atlanta. Benson hired Swin Cash as Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development. Cash had a hand in the decision to hire Teresa Weatherspoon as an assistant coach for the Pelicans.
The WNBA is on solid ground now and expansion is coming. New Orleans has the arena but not the practice facility…but Benson does have the space. Though the Pelicans could share the Smoothie King Center with a New Orleans WNBA team for games, a smaller more intimate space for training and practices could be developed nearer to Benson’s Faubourg Brewery site. Not only would it help bring a financial boost to the area it would give the women their own courts for use any time they pleased instead of joining a waiting list behind other tenants be it the Pelicans at their branded facility or a local.
The women’s game is growing and judging only on the Open Runs—more fun. The women laughed off a lot more stuff than the sometimes sulky and stubborn men’s games. A larger audience is finding that out as more television and radio time is being dedicated to traditional channels. There are new sites covering the WNBA and women’s college game popping up daily. Why not be ready to capitalize while also controlling another facility for events? It could be a smart business move on the real estate side alone.
Just imagine an NBA/WNBA collaboration weekend, or All-Star Game events. New Orleans could host events the same way Las Vegas hosts the NBA Summer League and USA Olympic teams. The G-League could hold a preseason tournament with other countries ala Major League Soccer. No scouting department would turn down that trip to see that many players. Imagine the extra concerts that could be held and would give tourists a better understanding of the city than just their French Quarter hot takes that are colder than days old beignets.
Just imagine what the women’s game could be with just a bit more time and space to let the players dream of what’s possible.
That was where I found my thoughts drifting as the games continued on throughout the day. The potential in the gym that day, and what could be, was going to affect more than just the day’s scoreboard or the next season’s stat sheet. The work these women were putting in today, just by showing up and sharing their love of the game with the middle schoolers that gathered to watch after practice, that work was going to positively affect someone’s daughter someday.
Being strong, educated, independent women entering the workforce with the confidence gained on the court…I’d hate to be standing in the way of their progress. I’m sure many would love to profit off of their work. That’s capitalism, American, and sports but I digress. I sat and watch the open run games while years of possibilities unfolded in my mind. The ladies on the court in the middle of the summer did not have to imagine anything to that end at the moment. They were living the life, laughing and joking; building the legacy for the next class, the next generation.
As NBA training camps start ramping up and the players head off to campus with dreams of March Madness, it’s the spirit forged in these gyms that carry the game and build a city. In the aftermath of another storm, the hoops family continues to build bridges.
That’s the inclusive, fun-loving, caring heart of the Open Run Championship Culture.