The University of San Francisco has hired women’s basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Azzi to head its women’s basketball program. Azzi brings a wealth of basketball experience and a determined work ethic. The women’s program has suffered in recent years after winning three straight West Coast Conference championships from 1995-97 and making back-to-back-to-back appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
A 2009 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame member, Azzi was an Olympian on the gold-medal-winning U.S. national team in 1996, played five seasons in the Women’s National Basketball Association, helped to found and played in the American Basketball League, played professionally overseas, and is an icon of Stanford University’s women’s basketball program.
A four-year starter and three-time All-Pac-10 performer and the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1990, Azzi led the Cardinal to a pair of Pac-10 titles in 1989 and 1990, and a national championship in 1990.
USF is her first coaching assignment.
“Azzi’s passion for the game, along with her professional reputation both in and around the sport of basketball, will prove to be a great asset to the program and our student-athletes,” said USF Athletic Director Debra Gore-Mann.
Azzi, who has been asked to coach at the collegiate or professional levels every year since she retired in 2003, chose USF because it was the first opportunity that “felt right.” “Together we’re going to build something really, really great here at USF,” Azzi said.
USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. welcomed Azzi, saying she clearly supports the university’s commitment to excellence on the court, in the classroom, and in the community. “I am delighted to have such a polished, experienced, and articulate professional at the head of our women’s basketball program,” Fr. Privett said.
USF Sophomore Skis Into Olympics
When USF community members tuned into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, they were able to support one of their own—women’s alpine skier and USF sophomore Ani Serebrakian.
An exercise and sport science major, Serebrakian—who began skiing when she was 2 and competing when she was 5—skied for the Armenian women’s Olympic team, taking on some of the world’s top alpine skiers in the technical women’s giant slalom and the women’s slalom.
“Growing up in America, I never fully understood my Armenian heritage,” said Serebrakian, whose parents emigrated from the country that now claims among its most famous artistic ambassadors the Los Angeles-based hard rock band System of the Down. “But, after traveling to Armenia, I came to understand how truly blessed I was to be part of such a culture and history.”
Serebrakian, who speaks fluent Armenian, called being named to the Armenia team “humbling” and a “great honor.”
A Change of Direction
Catcher turns from getting into trouble to earning degree
For as long as he can remember, Vacaville native Ryan Lipkin has known that his mother, who raised Lipkin and his younger sister on her own, has asked just one thing of her children—to see them graduate from college. So strong was the catcher’s commitment to fulfilling that wish that he twice turned down an opportunity to turn pro, having been drafted by the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but opting to continue working toward his degree.
Getting to this point—Lipkin will earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology in May—has not always been easy. The 22-year-old has worked through an injury that forced him to sit out of baseball for seven months, a fight that left him with 37 wounds from a razor blade, and the psychological scars of having one of his best friends killed. Through it all, he credits baseball with keeping him going and focused on earning a degree.
“I definitely think that baseball was one of my stabilizers in leading me…away from the other stuff I was doing,” Lipkin said.
Just after turning 17 he ended up in a fight with four men. Lipkin had razor blade wounds across his face, chest, and left bicep. “That was the beginning of me turning myself around because I was like, ‘Holy smokes, I could be killed.’ That was something I didn’t want to put my family through,” Lipkin said. “I realized that wasn’t where I wanted to go and I ended up waking up and realizing how special each day is.” That message was unfortunately reinforced when one of his best friends was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting.
After high school, Lipkin attended Solano Community College, raising his grade-point average from below 2.5 in high school to 3.5. He also rededicated himself to baseball after a snowboarding injury left him with a broken wrist and his right arm in a cast during his first college baseball season.
“After having to sit out and miss so much baseball, you just want to keep going until you can do it again,” Lipkin said. “I had the itch to get back in the game so fast.”
That dedication has paid off. Not only has Lipkin been a key player for the Dons, hitting .317 with six homers and 26 RBI through April 27, but he also was selected as one of two catchers for the 2008 USA collegiate national team that went 24-0 in international play and ultimately earned a gold medal.
“Ryan brings great energy and eagerness and his free-spirited attitude helps the team compete at very high level every day,” said USF Head Coach Nino Giarratano. “He’s always grateful for his opportunity and it just rubs off on everybody. Plus, his skill level is phenomenal. In my opinion, he’s the best catcher in the country right now and that’s going to translate to the next level for him. He’s going to be a great professional player."
While Lipkin hopes MLB will once again look his way come draft time in June, he’s focused on something even bigger—getting ready to show off that diploma to his mother.