Natasha Howard Overcoming Tragedy
Senior All-America candidate Natasha Howard has had a phenomenal season, and has played all year with her brother in mind. During the FSU women's basketball team's overseas trip to Africa this past summer, Howard was forced to come home early when her brother had been shot. Head Coach Sue Semrau and her coaching staff were extremely supportive and comforting during this difficult time, as well as Natasha's teammates, and the coaching staff made sure Howard got a flight back to be with her family. Her brother has been in the recovery stages ever since and seems to be progressing better.
A Mentor Always and Forever
One of Natasha Howard's biggest influences in her life has been her high school coach, Coach Hicks. He is someone who steered her in the right direction of playing basketball seriously and has mentored her in a positive fashion. Coach Hicks and Natasha stay in touch all the time as he provides her biggest support system back home in Toledo, Ohio. Coach Hicks is trying to make it for senior day when FSU plays Virginia on Sunday, March 2, as this could make for a wonderful senior day story.
Playing for her Mother
With breast cancer awareness day (‘Paint it Pink' Day) coming up on Sunday, Feb. 9, against Boston College, senior point guard Cheetah Delgado is certainly playing with her mother in mind. Cheetah's mother passed away from breast cancer when she was in high school, making every breast cancer awareness game even more meaningful for the 5-foot-2 player from Kissimmee, Florida.
Honoring an FSU Legend
Freshman Ivey Slaughter's game shows that she is wise beyond her years, as she's on pace to have the highest rebounding average by a freshman at FSU in roughly 30 years. Before the season began, she chose to wear jersey No. 23 in honor of FSU legend Alicia "Ice" Gladden, who was killed by a drunk driver last spring and also wore No. 23. Gladden is FSU's all-time steals leader and one of the best all-around players in school history. She will be honored as part of the ACC Women's Basketball Legends Class prior to the upcoming ACC Tournament in March, with her family expected to accept her award.
Connecting with an Alumna
Ivey Slaughter hails from Macon, Ga., and was mentored by FSU women's basketball legend Wanda Burns prior to even knowing she was coming to FSU. Burns was one of FSU's most prolific passers and scorers, and is a former All-American and member of the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame. Slaughter and Burns have enjoyed a strong bond through the years.
The James Family
On Sunday, Feb. 16, freshman center Kai James is expected to have plenty of hometown support when FSU hosts Miami. Kai hails from West Palm Beach and has 10 other siblings, including North Carolina sophomore forward Joel James (who plays FSU the following night on Feb. 17). Kai is also designated as the player of the game, which includes having her featured on the program, a video feature at halftime and signing post-game autographs. The game will be that much more important for her with family support and playing a familiar foe.
Reaching out to Chloe
Chloe is a young girl in second grade who absolutely loves basketball. Both she and her family, the McElroys, have had to deal with the loss of her brother, who suffered a rare form of muscle cancer that ended his life prematurely. The women's basketball program, as well as several other FSU athletics teams, have done their part to help the family through these difficult times. The McElroys are seen at nearly every women's basketball home game and have a strong bond with the team. Chloe, in honor of her brother, is playing in a youth boys basketball league and many of the FSU players have come out to support her.
The story is not just limited to women's hoops. The McElroys had a flag football game put on for them courtesy of Jimbo and Candi Fisher, and the men's basketball and baseball programs have also shared time with the McElroys in year's past. It's one of the many ways FSU athletics has been there to help families who have been forced to overcome hardships.