Jan. 20, 2006
As one of two seniors on the women's basketball team, Tala Hadavi has been thrust into a leadership role of an Eagles team that features six freshmen. There's just one thing. This is her first full season too. After enrolling at VCU by way of Sweden, Hadavi transferred to American her sophomore year. Forced to sit out because of NCAA rules, the lefty guard geared up for a 2004-05 season, which ultimately ended in a knee injury only eight games into the season. Hadavi made her mark by averaging nine points a game in those contests. After a spring and summer filled with rehab, Hadavi is poised to make her first and last year as an Eagle the best, and hopes lead the women's basketball team to a successful league season and beyond. The guard is sixth in the Patriot League in points per game, averaging 13.2 points for the 4-13 is Eagles. AUEagles.com had the chance to talk with her recently, here's what she had to say.
AUEagles.com: For people that don't know your background, can you talk a bit about why and how you came to American from VCU?
Tala Hadavi: When I decided to transfer after my freshman year at VCU I was looking at some different schools. There were a lot of things that I didn't like about VCU but one thing that was important to me was to come to a big city where the school had a great academic reputation. A coach that I knew was a good friend of [former AU] Coach [Shan] Hart and so I got in contact with her, visited the school and loved it right away.
AUEagles.com: What did the experience of having to sit out a year for
eligibility and getting hurt last year teach you about what the sport of basketball meant to you?
TH: There are a lot of things I learned from sitting out for two years. One thing is that things that don't kill you, only make you stronger; that's for sure. When I decided to transfer I knew I would have to sit out and I was prepared mentally for that situation. But when I first got hurt I doubted a lot of things and the reasons why I played basketball, etc. I was obviously very devastated, but I had a lot of good people around that helped me through the rough times and with some time I knew that I was going to get back out there and play and I realized how much basketball meant to me. All the experiences I have been fortuned are from basketball, anything from being able to travel with the national team, my different club teams or the opportunity to come to the U.S. and play college basketball and get a free education. I am very thankful to all of that and that was the reason why I stayed with my rehab and was just able to get stronger as a person. I learned a lot about myself, both my strengths and weaknesses.
AUEagles.com: How did teammates, the coaching staff, friends and family help you get through the virtually two years without competition?
TH: I have been very fortunate to have great people around me that have helped me through those two years. My teammates, Melissa, and the assistant coaches and trainers were all there for me through the years and I am very thankful to all of them. It was anything from being picked up when I couldn't drive after the surgery, helping out with the rehab or just things simple as talking to me or giving me a hug when I was down and sad. It made it all a lot easier. Without them I don't know how I would have done it. Thank you guys!!
AUEagles.com: Those two years behind you, what were your expectations coming into this year? When did you get back on your feet from the knee injury and what kind of workout regiment did you put yourself through this summer and fall to get to where you are now?
TH: Obviously just the anxiety to be able to run and jog on the court was an amazing experience. When Carolyn (the best trainer in the whole world!!) first told me I was able to jog around the court I was in tears. [I've] never been so excited about running before [laughs]. My expectations were obviously very high. I wanted to make this year a very special year. since I only have one chance to show the school, my teammates, coaches and myself what kind of a player and teammate I am. I had extremely high expectations, but at the same time I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. I was just so happy to be able to finally play so I just wanted to play basketball first and foremost. The workouts with Carolyn were very, very tough. She had me and Alicia on a very tough rehab schedule for the whole spring and then the summer she kind of gave it to us to take care of ourselves. I just tried to get stronger and better conditioned, that was my main priority during the first part of the summer. Shooting and ball handling kind of came second hand until July sometime when I was able to play a little 5 on 5. At that point the focus was mostly on playing basketball and not being scared of contact under the basket and around the perimeter.
AUEagles.com: This year has had some bumps, but heading into the Patriot League play it's almost as if a new season is upon the team. What has the team learned and worked in the past month that you can take into the PL season?
TH: Yeah we had a very tough out of conference season that we aren't happy about at all. But we knew when we got into the season that we were young and inexperienced but we knew we had a talented team and that with some time we could do some damage. So far we haven't...but we feel like we are getting better and better each day and that if we stay together and stay positive we still have a chance. We are now 1-3 in the league and I feel like with each game we have gotten better and better. Hopefully on Saturday we can show that we have gotten better. Melissa has been talking a lot about being responsible for our effort every day and also holding each other accountable and we have agreed on that we need to get better in that area. So, we are now just trying to see how this is going to show itself during every game and every practice.
AUEagles.com: As just one of two seniors on the team, you've been thrust into a leadership role despite having sit out last year. How have you adjusted to the role and how has the team's chemistry evolved with such a youthful cast?
TH: Well it's been tough and there are a lot of things that I had to work on to get better at to become a better leader for this young team. But the team has been very responding and patient with me and I think I'm getting better at it every day. There are no excuses for not playing; I still have been on the team for some years. Melissa has helped me a lot during this year, just by teaching me how to lead the younger players in the best way. With so many seniors leaving I have had to change the way I lead because different people react to different types of leadership so I have changed a lot. I think we have great team chemistry. The freshmen are great people so their personalities have fit great into our group.
AUEagles.com: How has the addition of former WNBA player Kelley Gibson to the coaching staff helped your development and the guard play on the Eagles team?
TH: Kelley is a pretty quiet person but she gives us all little small things every now and then that we can change to become better guards. She has so much experience so everybody responds very well to her advice. I think it's been great for our team to have such a great player on the staff to help us out.
AUEagles.com: Which freshmen have shown the most promise and how has having six freshman on the team changed the chemistry after the departure of a handful last year?
TH: I think all the freshman have helped us out tremendously both on and off the court. Pam with her quickness helps our shooters to get better shots. Trish with her rebounding, Sahar with her nice touch around the basket and her work ethic. Nicole with her shooting and defense, and Talicia with her great defense. All of them have been a great addition to the team. Even our new addition "O" has been challenging our post the last couple of weeks. All their different personalities have blended into our team perfectly. they are all very happy and positive people so we are very happy to have them here.
AUEagles.com: Off the court, you're majoring in business. How has success on the court translated into success in the classroom?
TH: Being a grad student and playing has been really challenging for me personally. I never really had to work extremely hard in undergrad so I'm kind of paying for it now. Obviously I have a lot less free time now that I'm in grad school. But I just have to stay up with the workload and start studying for things earlier. I think our competitive nature as players has helped me always wanting to excel in the classroom, but Melissa is really tough on our grades so that might have helped also. We had most of the team in the honor roll last year.
AUEagles.com: With this being your senior year, how do you hope to end your collegiate career? What lasting impact do you hope to leave on your teammates, coaches and fans of American Bball?
TH: Without a doubt I would like to leave here with a championship. We have been talking about that since I got here so that's my main goal. The season has really just started and what happened in the preseason really doesn't matter anymore. So I think we could make a run the next few weeks. I would like to leave here with people thinking I was a hard worker and a great teammate.
Thanks a lot and hope to see you all in the stands in next few weeks!!
[Editor's note: Hadavi and the Eagles face Holy Cross on the road tomorrow, Saturday Jan 21 at 1 p.m. Their next home game is next Saturday, Jan 28th against Lafayette at 4:30 p.m.]