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Former St. Frances stars seek to inspire girls basketball players

Since their years as star basketball players at St. Frances, Briana Hutchen and Shatyra Hawkes have wanted to give back to the girls growing up the way they did, on the basketball courts of Baltimore City.

Hutchen and Hawkes turned their basketball skills into college scholarships — Hutchen at Alabama and Hawkes at Xavier — and they want to make sure other girls know they can do the same thing..

Sunday, they will host the U.S.E. Basketball Foundation Family Reunion, which will bring many former Baltimore-area female players to Baltimore City Community College to play basketball and pass on to younger players their knowledge of what it takes to get to college.

"We want to turn youth basketball into a mentoring program," said Hutchen, the 2010 All-Metro Player of the Year who will complete her final year of eligibility as a graduate student at Alabama this winter.

"Now days young girls are getting pregnant at 14, 15 years old," she said. "They're dropping out of school. So many girls from my area didn't go play college basketball because they didn't have that example. I'm hoping the panel will kind of spark the interest of some of the girls.

"This will give them someone to look up to and not always have to look at the TV and everywhere else to find an example. You have people who are an example in your neighborhood."

Hutchen said the idea emerged when she and Hawkes, a former All-Metro first-team player, talked about coming home to play together this summer. They also talked about how much girls basketball talent has come from the Baltimore area.

"I had always had this idea of creating some kind of foundation or movement in the area to unite all the players," Hutchen said. "I came up with U.S.E. Basketball which stands for united, strong and empowered and decided that's something that would really represent our area well and would really unite all the talent we've had here from the past to the present and try to create something for women's basketball."

Hawkes had similar ideas.

"It was something I wanted to do for a lot of reasons," she said. "I wanted to give back because I graduated (from Xavier) and I know a lot of girls want to go to college. I just want them to be prepared for everything that college has in store. I wish there was someone that would have told me a lot about college and the NCAA and the business side of it."

Since hatching their plan, Hutchen — mostly through social media — brought in as many former players as she could to participate. The Foundation partnered with the girls basketball recruiting web site 695 Hoops for Sunday's event.

The day, geared toward all school-aged girls, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with panel discussions featuring former players from Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Among those scheduled to participate are: Chanel Wright-Greene (Western, North Carolina), Sonia Chase (McDonogh, Maryland), Sheronne Vails (Arundel, Louisville), Brene Moseley (Paint Branch, Maryland), Janee Hayes (Sidwell Friends, Duke) and Monica McNutt (Holy Cross, Georgetown).

"When [Hutchen] first reached out to me, it was through mutual friends and when she told me what the cause was, I couldn't turn anything down like that," said Wright-Greene, who also played professionally in Israel and with the Minnesota Lynx. "I felt like I was always given the opportunity to be exposed to older players that had made it and I just wanted to return the favor. Just to be part of the event, I'm very, very excited."

Wright-Greene, an All-Metro Player of the Year and Parade All-American in 1995, coached at Kenwood for four years where she is now assistant athletic director. Now coaching her 8-year-old daughter, Tatum, she said she wants girls to know that not only should basketball be fun, but it can open doors.

"The biggest thing is that everyone does not have to play at the top level," she said. "There are so many different levels — junior college, Division I, Division II, Division III — and that's just the basketball side of it, receiving a free education. On the other side of it, we want to make sure they know the concept of teamwork. Everything that's drawn from working with a team, they can use those skills in everyday life."

After the panel discussions, there will be elementary school games at 11:15 a.m., middle school games at 12:15 p.m. and a high school game at 1:30 p.m. Then, there will be three alumni games, including private schools vs. public schools at 2:45 p.m., even-class years vs. odd at 4:15 p.m. and the headliner game with Baltimore players vs. Washington, D.C., players at 6:30 p.m.

Among the players expected to play are four All-Metro Players of the Year — Hutchen, Maggie Morrison (Archbishop Spalding, 2011), Miriam McKenzie (Oakland Mills, 2008) and Chandrea Jones (Institute of Notre Dame, 2005).

As many as 22 other All-Metro players are also expected, including Brittany Mallory (McDonogh), Janay Tucker (New Town), Sheree Ledbetter (Southside), Cassie Cooke (Winters Mill), Mi-Khida Hankins (St. Frances), Alexis Harrison (Digital Harbor), Ciara Webb (Patterson), Tracey Carrington (Dundalk), Katelyn Fischer (Seton Keough) and LaShay Taft (City).

The day's events are open to anyone. Admission is $5.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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