Vol. 52, No. 1 • November 2014 • .pdf version
• Dana O'Neil: Being all a-Twitter has its perks
• Joe Mitch: Spread the word about USBWA benefits
• Credentialing Task Force makes recommendations
• Kentucky, UConn are preseason favorites
• Miller wins USBWA scholarship
• Best Writing Contest winners announced

Record-setting number of entries in best-writing contest

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A record-setting number of entries were turned into the USBWA's best-writing contest for a second year in a row, again turning it into a highly competitive affair.

There were no double-winners – also for the second year in a row – among the 162 entries.

The judge said, "The quality of writing this time around was excellent."

This year's winners were John Feinstein of the Washington Post, Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, Eric Prisbell of USA Today, Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated and Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News.

More from the USBWA:
• Best Writing Contest winners
• 2014-15 USBWA officers

In his winning column about the dementia that has stripped Dean Smith of most of his memory, Feinstein recounted the first time he had ever witnessed Smith have difficulty recalling a detail. It was in 2005, and Smith couldn't recall the name of an assistant coach he had met years ago during the national semifinals. Smith was 74, and Feinstein reminded him that most folks would still love to have half his memory. But for Smith, this was new, and it upset him.

Feinstein wrote: "Dean Smith remembered every name, every game, every play in every game. He also remembered every call that went against him and anything written or said about one of his players or friends that he thought was a slight — real or perceived. He never asked me how my kids were. He asked how Danny and Brigid were."

DeCourcy won the category for moderate length features by writing about a blind student at Evansville, Bryce Weiler, who is passionate about basketball.

DeCourcy wrote: "At birth he was four months premature, with no eyesight. He sits on the bench for Evansville home games, adjacent to a team manager who provides him with a play-by-play call of the action on the court. This is one of the many small kindnesses his fellow students have volunteered during Bryce's college years, designed to make his experience richer or more profound or less isolated or, in some cases, merely to make it possible."

Weiler's hope for a life in basketball is no fantasy, DeCourcy wrote. He has a network including Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics coach, and Louisville's Rick Pitino, that he can go to for questions and career advice.

Speaking of Stevens, Keefer's winning story in the enterprise/investigative category relived the day that the coach left Butler for the Celtics, visiting with persons touched by Stevens' departure at a variety of levels. Keefer led with the reaction by Brandon Gaudin, the voice of Butler basketball, when an email flashed across his phone with the subject line "STEVENS HIRED BY CELTICS."

Keefer wrote: "Frantic, he fired off a text message to Josh Rattray, the Butler sports information assistant who'd sent the email out moments earlier. "Haha," Gaudin wrote. "That's funny."

Prisbell also had unusual access for his winning story in the game story/spot news category – from inside the locker room of then-unbeaten Wichita State before the Shockers' game against Indiana State for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship.

Prisbell wrote: "Standing in front of a dry erase board, he delivered a blunt message in 43 seconds ... "This," (Gregg Marshall said), ‘is from the Sycamores, Indiana State alumni association.

"Scroll to the bottom. They have planned tonight a pep rally to welcome the 2014 Arch Madness tournament champions home. Hulman Center. Doors open at 8 o'clock, OK. Tonight. To welcome the Valley tournament champions home, all right ...

"They want a piece of us. They want a piece of us. Let's give 'em the whoooole thing. Let's give them the whole enchilada."

Winn was also in Kansas for his winning magazine length feature that compared the arrivals by Jayhawks freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning.

"To Wiggins, Kansas basketball did not exist before 2008, when he watched Mario Chalmers hit his miracle three against Memphis in the national title game ...

"To him, Manning is the father of a teammate: sophomore walk-on guard Evan Manning ...

"Chamberlain, to Andrew Wiggins, is but a ghost, a number on a banner hanging in Allen Fieldhouse's south rafters.

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