Surprise: Seven Auggies make league history

This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

 

Rarely seen in these parts across all three NCAA divisions is a college basketball team, men and particularly women, where the majority of its players are of color. “It’s very unusual,” noted Camryn Speese, one of seven players of color on Augsburg University’s 12-member team. The non-HBCU school is nestled inside Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside area.

This rare sight, whether in the MIAC or in fact anywhere in Minnesota, was witnessed last Saturday by the Only One at the school’s Si Melby Hall when Augsburg hosted an afternoon basketball doubleheader.

The first game featured first-place Saint John’s, which looked like a Hoosiers throwback squad. But one of the Johnnies’ POCs, Jubie Alade, led all scorers with 21 points in a 10-point road win. The Auggies played only two of their several POCs and starts one of them.

(front l-r): Arianna Jones, Camryn Speese, Tamira McLemore; (back l-r): Jazmyn Solseth, Pashia Scott, K’Aezha Webben, Aiza Wilson Photo by Charles Hallman

The second game, however, was different complexion-wise as visiting first-place Saint Benedict also was Hoosiers-like while the hosts started four sistahs:

Sophomore guard Tamira McLemore (Eagan, Minn.), one of the team’s two captains, leads her squad in scoring and assists. She is also among the MIAC top 15 in scoring (12th), second in assists (3.5) and third in steals (2.3). “I came from a team of predominately White players, and [to] play with African American players because they are more passionate about the sport” is what attracted her to Augsburg, McLemore pointed out.

Guard Arianna Jones (Brooklyn Park) is second on the club in assists and fourth in scoring.  She also is third in the league in assists. “I love it here athletically,” she told the Only One.

K’Aezha Wubben (Minneapolis) also is in her second year. She’s fifth in shooting in the MIAC at over 54 percent a contest, while Speese (Bloomington) leads the team in rebounds and is third in scoring. “It is almost like family. It’s a great environment to be around,” Speese declared.

Soph Aiza Wilson (Minneapolis) and froshs Jazmyn Solseth (Inver Grove Heights) and Pashia Scott (Columbia Heights) round out the Auggies “7” — only Scott didn’t play in Saturday’s contest due to an injury.

“I’ve been playing with African American people almost all of my life in basketball,” Wilson stressed. “I think there is a difference in the style of play. I feel my play fits that.”

“Here the chance to play with predominately people of color is fun, and all the girls are great,” Solseth pointed out. “Athletically I’ve enjoyed it here because I’ve always played with predominantly White teams.”

It might not be noticed outside of the Only One’s diversity and inclusion eyes, but these seven Auggies of color are making league history. “We [all] got recruited at the same time,” Solseth continued. “Most teams in the MIAC are predominately White. It was an emphasis we saw that we wanted to bring to Augsburg, to an MIAC school, to change the league in a way.”

“It was very important for me wanting to come and play [here],” McLemore added.

The seven women, whose team is currently .500 in the MIAC (4-4, fifth place) and 8-6 overall, told us that for the most part they all have academically settled in at the city’s Division III school as well.

“Academically it was hard, but as I kept going it’s gotten better with the support of my teammates and coaches,” said Wubben.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.