Going over down under

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

A day before they were even played, Teresa Alexander knew the results of her daughter Tanisha Williams’ basketball games at the People to People Sports Ambassador tournament last month.

Is she a psychic? Can she foretell the future? Should Alexander quit her job as a teaching assistant at Mack Benn Elementary and head a few states north to Atlantic City, where a fortune is just waiting for her to rack up at the card tables and horse tracks?


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Well, not quite. The games were played in Australia – nearly a full day ahead of Suffolk on the time zone scale. &uot;She could call me at about 5 a.m. in Australia, and it would only be about one o’clock in the afternoon here,&uot; Alexander said.

Tanisha, who will break in women’s basketball at King’s Fork High School this winter, got her start playing ball at the Parks and Recreation Department leagues when she was seven. She moved up to AAU ball, then played at Lakeland and Greenbrier Christian.

Late last year, someone anonymously recommended the point guard to play in the People to People program. Before she could go, however, Tanisha and her mom went about raising thousands of dollars for a fare.

Alexander cooked dozens of chicken, fish, pigs feet and pizza meals, selling them to her friends and family members. The Parks and Rec. Dept. (both women are volunteers) made a donation, and Alexander also sold raffle tickets and Mary Kay cosmetic baskets.

&uot;The community was awesome,&uot; she said. &uot;After I told them what it was for, they started telling their friends, and their friends would tell their friends. It was hard; there were times when I didn’t think we would make it.&uot; But they did, and on July 5, Tanisha headed to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., and flew across the nation to Los Angeles.

The only Suffolkian to make the trip, she met up with some of her future teammates and coaches. Then they set off for New Zealand.

&uot;It was pretty easy, except it was cold,&uot; she said. &uot;We’d get up at 5 a.m., eat breakfast at six, and then go out and practice for about four hours. It was a long practice, but it was more of the basics, working on defense and blocking out.&uot; Those defensive skills would come in handy very soon.

After a week of fine-tuning their skills, the girls went back to the airport and down under to Canbera, Australia in the early morning hours of July 12. The next day, the team headed to Belconnen for their first game, pulling out on top in a low-scoring 26-23 victory. The only 16-year-old on the U20 USA Raptors team, Tanisha knocked in a team-leading 10 points.

In the second game, the Raptors fell to host Belconnen, and decided to drown their sorrows in a trip to the shopping mall. &uot;Shopping’s better down there (than in America),&uot; Tanisha said. &uot;The malls are way bigger.&uot;

Now at 1-1, the Raptors headed to the Australian Institute of Sports, an arena like the Norfolk Scope or Old Dominion University Fieldhouse. They started back off with a bang, holding off the Australian Wests 19-16, with Tanisha scoring six. In the third-place game, the local ladies fell in overtime to the Brindabellas.

Finally, it was back to America – and the girls were back almost before they left. They hopped onto a plane at 6 a.m., took a 16-hour flight back to Los Angeles, then nudged back over to Dulles – at 1 p.m., American time.

&uot;That was a long day,&uot; Tanisha said. &uot;I went to sleep at about 4 p.m.

&uot;It felt great to represent the United States and Suffolk,&uot; she said. &uot;It was fun, and I learned a lot. I got something out of it, and I’m going to try to take it to King’s Fork.&uot;