Full Court writer Vicki Friedman to receive WBCA Media Award

March 5, 2013 - 4:09pm
Vicki Friedman, a <em>FullCourt.com</em> contributor and founder of the <em>LadySwish</em> blog, was named the winner of the Mel Greenberg Media Award. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Friedman)

Vicki Friedman, a FullCourt.com contributor and founder of the LadySwish blog, was named the winner of the Mel Greenberg Media Award. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Friedman)

Full Court is proud to congratulate one of our own regular contributors, Vicki Friedman, who was named the winner of the 2013 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) Mel Greenberg Media Award. It is the second major national honor for Friedman, who also received an Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) features award in 2008. 

Friedman, who will once again participate in Full Court's conference and NCAA Tournament coverage, will receive the prestigious award during the WBCA Awards Show, which will be held at 5 p.m. CT Monday, April 8, in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s New Orleans Theater. This event is part of the WBCA National Convention and is held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.

“I am pleased to announce Vicki as this year’s recipient of the WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass in a statement announcing the honor. “Vicki has worked relentlessly promoting the game of women’s basketball and her excitement and passion for the game can be seen in her work.  Vicki is very deserving of this award. I congratulate Vicki on receiving this honor.” 

The award, which is named after Mel Greenberg, another frequent Full Court contributor and the Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter who founded the Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll, is presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed a commitment to women’s basketball and to advancing the role of the media in the women’s game. Selected by past recipients of the award, the candidate must have had a positive impact on the growth and national or regional exposure of the sport, been involved in the media exposure of women’s basketball for a minimum of five years and should be a media ambassador for the women’s game.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what you do and what you love to do,” said Friedman in response to the WBCA’s announcement. Friedman said she felt especially honored to receive the award named for Greenberg, who in 1991 was the inaugural recipient of the accolade and was Friedman’s friend and mentor when she began her career as a sportswriter as an intern at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1990.

The Inquirer “was a pretty intimidating place,” for the aspiring young female sportswriter at the time. “They had never had an intern in sports. Mel was really kind to me. Our relationship began back then,” said Friedman, who earned her B.A. in political communications from George Washington University and her M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

After a stint as a copy editor, Friedman went on to work for 14 years as as a sports writer  for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, which is where she discovered her love of the women’s game. She freely admits, however, that she wasn’t thrilled when she originally was given the assignment of covering women’s basketball at nearby Old Dominion University as her first beat in 1996.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t like it initially,” says Friedman. “I just didn’t know that much about it then. But my husband was a fan of it; he knew the game well.”

Friedman’s husband’s enthusiasm for the game sparked her own interest, and she was a quick study, soaking up his knowledge of the game. But it was being around the Old Dominion program of that time that ignited what would become a lifelong passion for the sport, says Friedman.

“When I started out, I was told, ‘We’re not going to make a big deal of Old Dominion,’” Friedman recalls. “But Old Dominion made a big deal out of themselves,” reaching the Sweet 16 that year. The following season the Lady Monarchs went all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s national championship game the next behind such All-American talents as Ticha Penicheiro, Clarisse Machanguana and Mery Andrade, who all went on to successful careers in the pros and by then Friedman was hooked.

“Being around that program, being around that great group of players, being around Wendy Larry [the Lady Monarchs’ coach for more than two decades] – it became a passion,” Friedman recalls.

Friedman steadily expanded her beat beyond Old Dominion to other schools in the Virginia area and in surrounding states. She immersed herself not only in the nuts-and-bolts of the sport, the Xs and Os, the stat sheets and record books, but more importantly, in the personal stories of the people who coach and play the game.

“I did things newspapers don’t let you do any more,” said Friedman, who, for example, traveled with the ODU team all the way to Penicheiro’s home in Portugal on one story.

But more recently, as belt-tightening slashed the budget of the Pilot as it did so much of the print media, Friedman found herself increasingly dissatisfied with being confined to knocking out 250-word game recaps. Today, she works as a campus communications officer for Tidewater Community College and teaches communications at Old Dominion.

But she found a way to keep her passion for covering the game alive by partnering with Paul White to create LadySwish, a blog covering mainly the 13 Division I basketball teams in the state of Virginia.  The blog site occasionally looks into the state’s Division II and III programs, as well as standout players in nearby states.  In a few short years, LadySwish has grown to have nearly 500 Twitter followers and has reached an audience in excess of 345,000, including international visitors from Scotland, England, France, Israel, Portugal, and Greece.

And since 2009, Friedman has also been keeping Full Court’s readers informed on topics such as the mid-majors, a seriously under-covered area of the sport, as well as the Atlantic 10 Conference, the WNBA and annual tournament coverage. This year, in addition to keeping our readers abreast of developments in all the mid-major tournaments, Friedman will be covering the NCAA Tournament's Norfolk Regional and catching up with our coverage team at the Final Four in New Orleans.

That’s another reason why Friedman was so gratified to learn of this most recent honor. “Especially when I got out of traditional newspapers, you wonder if you’ll really have a forum to do what you love. Certainly my own blog Lady Swish and Full Court have helped me to do that."

As the 23rd winner of the award, Friedman joins a distinguished list of recipients, including: Mike Carmin, Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier (2012); Carol Stiff, ESPN (2011); Dick Patrick, USA Today (2010); Chuck Schoffner, Associated Press (2009); Dan Fleser, Knoxville News-Sentinel (2008); Debbie Antonelli, CSTV (2007); Bill Jauss, Chicago Tribune (2006); Dave Loane, University of Illinois (2005); Tam Flarup, University of Wisconsin–Madison  (2004); Mechelle Voepel, Kansas City Star/ESPN (2003); Bob Kenney, Courier Post (2002); Robin Roberts, ABC News (2001); Vic Dorr, Richmond Times-Dispatch (2000); Ann Meyers Drysdale, ESPN (1999); Mary Garber, Winston-Salem Journal (1998); the late Mitch Parkinson, Southern Illinois University (1997); Debby Jennings, University of Tennessee (1996); the late Mike Augustin, St. Paul Pioneer Press (1995); Mimi Griffin, MSG Promotions/ESPN (1994); Jane Burns, Des Moines Register (1993); Debbie Becker, USA TODAY (1992); and Mel Greenberg, Philadelphia Inquirer (1991).