Last week, I visited the practice facility inside Memorial Gym to catch a glimpse of a women's basketball television commercial shoot featuring first-team All-SEC selection Christina Wirth.
Wirth wasn't the only one in the spotlight for the production. She was joined by two wide-eyed youngsters - Haley (12 years old) and Hadley (3) - to symbolize how childhood dreams of playing big-time collegiate basketball can become a reality.
After the lights and the cameras cut off, I spoke with Wirth to find out a little bit about her youth basketball experiences. Here's the interview:
Christina, when you see a three-year old out there playing basketball does it bring back memories for you?
"Yeah, Hadley actually looks just like me. So, it was cute. During the filming, I was sitting next to her while her older sister (Haley) was shooting and she said `I love basketball.' It was a fun experience to have both of them involved.
"It's sometimes kind of hard to remember playing basketball as a kid when you get to this level. It's so competitive now and you think back and realize that you really just loved it when you were little. I still do, but it's a different kind of game now. It's so much more competitive and serious. It was good to see the love of the game by a little kid."
How young were you when you first started and what do you remember?
"I want to say five or six years old, just playing in the YMCA leagues with co-ed teams. I remember I began playing AAU basketball when I was 10 or 11 and then started being more serious about basketball. But, up until then I played all different kinds of sports, and just doing what little kids do."
Did any one have a significant influence on you growing up?
"Both of my parents really like sports. I always played with my older sister on the same teams growing. I think that was kind of the stuff to do, and then I got to the point where I started really loving it myself and doing it because I wanted to and not because anyone was making me or my parents wanted me to, but because I wanted to."
How much older is your sister?
"She's two years older than me, so we played together for two years in high school. Up until then, we played on a lot of the same teams when we were little and then AAU for a couple of years."
Were the two of you competitive against each other? Did she have an edge being older and taller?
"No, actually I was probably taller than her. She's only 5'9'' now. I passed her up pretty early. We actually played different positions, even though I was taller. I played more guard and she was a smaller post player. So, I think it helped that we were playing different positions so we didn't always have to guard each other, because it would have gotten ugly.
"We definitely had a sibling rivalry. Sometimes we would guard each other in practice and our coach would make us switch off of each other because it was getting out of hand, but we get along pretty well. So, it was fun, and looking back, I'm glad I got to play with her."
Now you're in your senior season. Does today's commercial shoot with the kids put things in perspective for you about what the pure joy of basketball is?
"Yeah, definitely. I know it's a blessing to be here. I've known that my whole four years, and I think now that it's my last year I'm understanding that even more, just because I don't know what next year is going to bring or if this could be my last year playing or what. I don't want to take it for granted. I just want to enjoy it, and remember even though there is a lot of pressure, and obviously winning is the goal of this program, but more than that it's just a blessing to be able to be out here and to have the opportunity to play. So, I just want to try to enjoy it and not forget that."
VIDEO OF THE DAY
I don't know about you, but when I was a kid I can remember watching just about every game of the NBA Playoffs on our living room television set. After the game, I would race out to the driveway to see if I could mirror some of those special moments step-for-step. I would count down the ticks on the clock to see if I could hit the buzzer-beater, and when I missed, I gave myself an unlimited amount of do-overs to make sure I heard the crowd roaring my name at the end.
Memories sure are nice.
Looking back, one of the first memories that pops into my head is Miller Time.
I hope you enjoy these clips (even you, Knicks fan).