Au Revoir and Lech L'Shalom
Tonight is Senior Night at the Comcast Center, the last regular season home game for Aurelie Noirez and Shay Doron, the two Terps who have traveled the farthest, literally, to play at Maryland. And how fitting that the members of Brenda Frese's first recruiting class --- the winningest senior class in Maryland history (and the only one with a Natty) --- will say their goodbyes in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 18,000 fans that will tie the ACC attendance record set by the Terps themselves just a few weeks ago.
Aurelie, who grew up in France, just wanted to come to the U.S. for an education, and playing basketball was a way to make that happen. When she signed on (alongside Shay and Kalika France) as one of Brenda's first recruits, she really had very little idea that she was joining a program that was about to break back onto the national scene. For most of her Maryland career, she's played a back-up role; and she's performed that role with grace, unselfishness, determination and good humor. How very fortunate that Coach B had a player of Aurelie's character and maturity to blend with her young 'uns into last season's Natty-winning mix!
Never having seen her play in the U.S., Aurelie's family really didn't have a good sense of the enormity of what Aurelie and her teammates had accomplished in winning a National Championship --- at least until the reporters began calling their home and the requests for her autograph began to pour in! Fortunately, last summer's European Victory Tour provided Aurelie the opportunity to introduce her home to her coaches and teammates, and introduce her teammates and coaches to her family and friends.
Au Revior, Aurelie . . . we will miss you. Bon Chance!
Unlike Aurelie, Shay knew exactly why she was coming to Maryland: to help Brenda Frese win a National Championship. Shay was Coach Frese's first top-tier recruit, and her decision to attend Maryland gave the program enormous credibility, paving the way for the other stars who have followed. As Kathy Orton writes in today's Washington Post, Shay was "the first player to take a chance on the energetic, young coach, to share her vision, and together they revitalized a program that had faded into obscurity." Originally from Israel, Shay and her family moved to New York so that Shay could keep playing basketball and, if all went well, one day play in the WNBA.
What can we say about Shay that hasn't already been said? She's been the heart and soul of the Maryland team since she first stepped onto the court at Comcast. To think that we'll never again see her walk onto that floor as a player is enough to make you cry. Go back and look at the tape of the championship final . . . it was Shay who triggered the comeback that led to the victory. Sometimes, with all the focus on Kristi's final second heroics, we forget that without Shay, Maryland wouldn't have been close enough for KT to make The Shot. More recently, against Carolina, when the Terps were down 20, once again Shay demanded to guard Latta and led the charge that closed the game to a single point. We lost that game, but the Terps left the floor with their pride intact.
That's classic Shay . . . the Terps' heart and soul. She can never be replaced. Her departure will leave a void, one that no one player will fill. But she's leaving the program unbelievably better than when she joined it, and those who remain and those who will be coming onboard together will find a way to fill it, because anything less would be letting Shay down.
Though this evening will be Shay's last visit to Comcast as a player, the BasketCases hope (and expect) to see her back on the court next season as her jersey is retired and a banner with her name on it is raised to the rafters. It's only fitting. It's right. And we'll be there. And here's hoping that 18,000 fans show up that night as well, to give Shay her due.
Lech L'Shalom, Shay!