WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama made the Texas A&M women’s basketball team’s NCAA championship a little sweeter Thursday when he congratulated the players and coach at a White House Rose Garden ceremony.
“They’ve defied expectations,they’ve won close games and played with a whole lot of heart,” Obama said. “And now the Aggies are the best team in women’s basketball.”
The second-seed Texas A&M women’s basketball team,coached by Gary Blair,beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 76-70 in the NCAA Championship game in April. It was the team’s first NCAA championship.
Forward Danielle Adams set a record for the second-highest number of points scored in a NCAA women’s championship game,leading her team with 30 points. The Aggies won 33 games and lost 5 last season.
“Now,winning a national title is a pretty big deal for anybody,” Obama said. “And it’s an even bigger deal when you think about just how far this team has come.”
Texas A&M was an all-male school until the 1960s,and women’s sports teams struggled for equality. Obama said that in the past,players on the women’s basketball team had to share uniforms and use the men’s locker room.
“Today,this team has thousands of fans cheering them in every game,” he said.
Obama praised Blair for building the team.
“He’s led his team to six consecutive tournament appearances,which is pretty impressive by itself,” Obama said. “But he also tries to respond personally to every piece of fan mail he gets during the season. He throws candy to the crowd before each game. I’m sure that adds to the popularity.”
“What do you think? Do you think that’s going to work if I go to the House of Representatives and just throw candy around?” Obama asked.
After Obama’s speech,Blair and his players headed to the White House basketball court for a clinic with students from Alice Deal Middle School in Washington.
Sydney Carter,a Texas A&M senior who plays defense for the team,said her time at the White House has been surreal.
“I still couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I hadn’t really let it sink in until I shook the president’s hand.”
Reach reporter Pamela Engel at [email protected] or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.