Pitchfork Press

Cronkite Summer Journalism Institute 2012

A slam dunk for women

A practice at the Phoenix Mercury.

Andrea Riley is impressive all-around. At just five foot and a half, this short but speedy player has a list of awards and accolades that goes on for pages.

Off the court, she is a mother to a one-year old daughter. But whether or not Riley is holding a basketball, she is a role model to young women everywhere.

The 40th anniversary of the Title IX’s passage is approaching on June 23. Though the amendment is older than all of the players on the Phoenix Mercury, its message is still relevant. To Riley, this event is extremely opportune.

“It means that we have a chance to really showcase our talents and show the world that we do the same thing as the men do,” she said.

Although the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players face extra challenges proving themselves as athletes, they’re not stopping anytime soon.

“Some of us are starting to dunk,” Riley said. “We’re getting stronger, we’re getting faster.”

Before she rose to national attention, Riley faced some doubters.

“My dad used to do reverse psychology. He [would say], ‘You little; you can’t do this!’” she said, laughing.

This only incensed her and led to increased motivation. Even her harsher skeptics still contributed to her success.

“When I was in middle school, they would tell me ‘You can’t play,’” she said. When they refused to let her play because of her gender, she had some choice words for them.

“‘I know you ain’t callin’ me no girl!’ I’m a girl, but you’re not going to tell I’m not gonna play,” she told them.

“You just can’t tell me I can’t do something because I’m a fighter and I want little girls to be like that too,” Riley said.

Riley listed Tamika Catchings, player for the Indiana Sparks, as one of her main inspirations because of her positivity, perseverance and commitment to the community.

“I was just, two years old dribbling a basketball.  I was eight years old watching the Houston Comets and the LA Sparks,” Riley said.

Twenty years later, Riley’s inspires young girls herself. This time, she is on the other side of the screen.

– Lindsey Bressler, Local Editor

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