Kelsey Bone, multiple award-winning center, summed up Tuesday’s first Aggie women’s basketball game of 2013: “We came in to Reed to dedicate this game to Karen Grant today, and we put everything we had on the floor and what you saw was what we were feeling.” The hearts of the Texas A&M women’s basketball team and staff were heavy and emotions were high, as the team had learned, only the night before, that Karen Grant, mother of junior guard Kristen Grant and video coordinator Nick Grant, had passed away on New Year’s Eve day. Now, imagine a family of young adults, and those who love them, having to go out and play basketball like nothing was wrong. The family responded and brought home a win for Mrs. Grant.
Aggies everywhere are saddened to hear of Karen Grant’s passing,” Head Coach Gary Blair said earlier in the day. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire women’s basketball program and the entire Aggie family are with Kristen, Nick and Anthony in their time of need.” The statement sounds fundamentally simple but in reality it’s exactly what the Texas Aggie women’s team is built on: faith, prayers, and family.
At the beginning of the game, announcer Mark Edwards shared the news with the crowd of the loss of Kristen and Nick’s mother, and the entire crowd observed a moment of silence in her honor. The young ladies who accepted the challenge of playing Rice University wore the initials KG on their uniforms in silent support of their friends. During the national anthem, Associate Head Coach Kelly Bond-White had tears gently inching their way down her face, but she stood strong and tall on the sidelines as an example of staying focused on the game at hand.
Kristen is a junior guard for the team and her brother Nick, always distinguished on the sidelines smiling at his sister and rooting on the Aggies, is the video coordinator for the team. Their father, Anthony, had been a loving caregiver to his wife Karen, as she’d battled the disease for much of 2012 in Arlington.
Each Spring, in February, the Aggie women’s basketball team promotes the awareness of breast cancer with their annual “Beat the Hell Out of Breast Cancer” game each February. And each year, funds are raised for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund through the sale of pink t-shirts sold at a most affordable price of $5.00 each. Yow, of course, is a beloved icon among women’s basketball coaches, and the charity was created in 2007 as a tribute to her battle with breast cancer.
In the five years since its founding, over $7.5 million dollars has been raised for research “to improve and extend the lives of those affected by women’s cancers." Texas A&M’s women’s basketball program has been committed to this cause from the beginning, thanks to Gary Blair’s impetus and insistence that giving time and funds to charitable endeavors be an essential aspect of his team’s skillset.
In the Aggies’ victory over Rice Tuesday afternoon, by the score of 80-57, not surprisingly, Kelsey Bone led the way by scoring 24 points and 14 rebounds, garnering her fifth double-double of the season. Before the first SEC matchup had even been played, Bone ranked second in the SEC in scoring (18.1) and rebounding (9.4) on the season.
Senior Adrienne Pratcher played with a fierce intensity, scoring the first four points of the game to set the pace. Senior Kristi Bellock had 8 points and 3 rebounds, and the dynamic duo named Courtney (Williams and Walker) had 8 points in establishing their ground as stand-out freshmen. Karla Gilbert had 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks coming in from the bench contributing to the “wow factor” over Rice.
Of the exceptional play, Head Coach Gary Blair said: “The offense in the first 15 minutes was as good as I’ve seen it all season. We had all five players contributing. It’s starting to come together hopefully at the right time. I’m pleased with our effort. Bone and Gilbert were terrific inside.” And they were.
The BTHO breast cancer game will be held on February 18th as Texas A&M hosts Oklahoma State at Reed Arena. There will also be a silent auction during the game on the concourse at Reed Arena to help raise additional funds. The team will also offer discounted admission tickets for $10 each for the game, which can be purchased here.
The 2013 goal for funds to be raised is $35,000. The Texas A&M women’s basketball team has long been associated with support for this charitable effort, but this February, it’s even more personal. The Aggie women are a family, and this year, the family continues to remember the mother of their family’s sister Kristen and brother Nick, with love, with talent, and with grace.
Every mother wants her children to grow to be educated, trained, to be safe, and to learn life’s lessons in an environment that offers peace of mind, confidence, and hope for her children’s future. Tuesday’s game is just one more reason why Texas A&M University is home, and why the Texas Aggie women’s basketball program is family (see accompanying video, end of story).
Tuesday’s victory over Rice was more than a game. It was a statement of love and support by the Aggie women for their family.
In loving memory of Karen Grant, and the love of a mother for her children.