Minnesota sophomore forward Rose Micheaux, the only returning starter from last season, is a virtual veteran in the Gophers’ current starting lineup, which consists of three true freshmen, one redshirt sophomore, and Micheaux.
The average age of the five starters is 19 years and four months. Only Wisconsin, which starts three freshmen, is as young as this year’s Gophers.
The 6’2 ” Wayne, Mich. native virtually was thrust into a leadership role in only her second collegiate season because of graduations and transfers. But a field trip Micheaux took this summer as part of a large contingent of Big Ten student-athletes, staffers, and others, including Commissioner Kevin Warren, gave her a new perspective on things.
They visited Selma and Montgomery, Alabama as part of the conference’s “Big Life” series. The group’s stops included the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the infamous site of Bloody Sunday in 1965 where over 600 mostly Black people were attacked by Alabama state troopers as they tried to cross over to march to the state capitol.
Nearly 60 years later, the bridge is now a national historic landmark. “It was a really good experience,” Micheaux told the MSR.
Added Warren, “When I looked as we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to be able to feel what happened on Bloody Sunday, to be able to feel what it means to be an American, to be able to feel how the Civil Rights Movement was important, my heart was warmed.”
Minnesota Coach Lindsay Whalen said that she believed Micheaux’s summertime experience has uniquely helped her become a better leader on the team. “I think first and foremost, her leadership, her voice has been just more noticeable,” observed the coach. “She stepped up in a lot of different ways. It’s been fun to see Rose really take on some more leadership.”
Thus far this season, Micheaux is among the top ten in rebounds per game (10th) and offensive rebounds per game (7th). She also changed uniform numbers from 54 which she wore last season to 4 to honor her brother who is battling health issues.
Also, Micheaux admitted that the civil rights field trip she participated in this summer offered her a fresh perspective on life. “There’s so much good in the world that we’re not really seeing,” she noted. Being down South “makes you want to do more.”
“This summer was emotional,” Warren concurred. “I think about the Selma trip every single day. One of the things I challenged myself and individuals on the trip, they [the 1965 demonstrators] weren’t on a bus. They were walking. They just walked for the opportunity to vote.
“To think of the many sacrifices that individuals made, it makes days like today incredibly special for us to be able to tell those stories.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.