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a. Oberlin Lands a Leading Receiver

b. Overseas Competition Expands Basketball
Player's Worldview


Oberlin Lands a Leading Receiver

In Just One Season, Valenzuela Resets a School Record

by Zachary Pretzer '03

In his first season with the Yeoman, junior wide receiver Ricky Valenzuela has established himself as one of the top receivers in NCAA Division III football.

The funny thing is that when he visited the College as a prospective transfer student, he didn't think Oberlin would suit him.

"I initially felt it wasn't the right place for me. I was already homesick on just a weekend trip," Valenzuela said.

During his two seasons at Modesto Junior College in California, Valenzuela was the leading receiver in catches and yards, and his team was ranked among the top five junior-college teams in Northern California. Numerous coaches in all divisions were interested in adding his name to their rosters, but a personal connection landed him at Oberlin.

"My junior-college coach and Coach [Jeff] Ramsey are friends. One day Coach Ramsey called, and we started talking about Oberlin," said Valenzuela, who plans to attend medical school. Ramsey convinced him to visit the Oberlin campus. "He made the visit very interesting. I wasn't just thinking about football - school was more important in my decision to come to Oberlin."

"I explained to Ricky that he would receive a top-notch education at Oberlin, and that if he came here, he would not only be able to play right away, but he could even be an All-American," Ramsey said.

Valenzuela has not only played, he's become a team leader. In the September 29 game against Wabash College, he caught nine passes for a school-record 239 yards and three touchdowns - just 11 yards shy of the North Coast Athletic Conference record. (The previous school record of 220 yards was set by Rollie Schick in a 1978 game against Hiram College.)

For his efforts, D3football.com and Don's Hansen's National Football Weekly named Valenzuela the national offensive player of the week.

Although he's been successful on the field, Valenzuela admits his adjustment to Oberlin has been difficult.

"Everything here was completely new to me. At Modesto, it was almost like playing in high school - I was living at home and playing football with some of the same teammates I had had for almost eight years. After my first day of practice here, I called my mom and had a plane ticket ready to go home, but I ran into a few teammates, and they convinced me to stay," Valenzuela said. "Being away from home has been rough, but I'm happy where I am."

Valenzuela undoubtedly grew happier on October 20, when the Yeomen snapped their 44-game losing streak with a convincing 53-22 win against Kenyon College. Among the Oberlin fans in Dill Field that day were Valenzuela's mother, aunt, and sister.

"My family is really into football, and they are my biggest supporters," said Valenzuela, whose brother plays at the University of Oregon and whose father was an All-American at California State University at Long Beach before playing professionally.

In his short time at Oberlin, Valenzuela has earned the respect of his teammates.

"He's one of the smartest receivers I have ever seen, which says a lot considering I played with [former Yeomen receiver] Felix Brooks-Church, who set three Oberlin receiving records," said senior punter Bob Montag. "Although he didn't have any catches, and the stats might not show it, he played a big part in our win against Kenyon by drawing attention to himself and opening up the running game."

"He's got the best pair of hands I have ever seen," said first year kicker Steve Willever.

"Ricky's a Division I athlete playing Division III," said sophomore running back David Lightfoot.

Coach Ramsey echoes his players' sentiments.

"Ricky's an all-around good guy. He has a great feel for the game. He has the ability to find the open spots, beat the defender in man-to-man, and most importantly, pick up the ball," he said.

To read an account of the Yeomen's historic win and see a video presentation about the game, click here.

 

Overseas Competition Expands Basketball Player's Worldview

Broussard Travels to Australia to Compete in International Games

by Zachary Pretzer '03
and Anne C. Paine


Nzinga Broussard, a senior economics major from Delaware, Ohio, is accustomed to meeting challenges head on. She has, after all, led the women's basketball team in scoring for the last three seasons, scored the 1,000th point of her career in December 2000, and is on pace to break the current career scoring record, held by Head Coach Ann Marie Gilbert '91.

Last spring, Broussard tested her mettle with a completely new challenge: overseas travel and competition. She visited Darwin, Australia, to compete in the Arafura Games.

Broussard was invited to compete in Australia by USA Athletes International, a nonprofit organization that gives amateur athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in sporting events throughout the world while broadening their cultural knowledge. The group sent a team of 75 athletes and a number of officials to the Arafura Games, held May 16 to 31, 2001, in Darwin, Australia. A leading international event for developing athletes of the Asia-Pacific region, the Arafura Games are held every two years.

"Nzinga was invited because of her exceptional play during the past three years," said Coach Gilbert. "Several coaches in and out of the area recommended her as an elite, Division III athlete." Broussard's trip to Australia was partially funded by the Oberlin College Heisman Club, a group of alumni who support athletics at the College.

This was the first year that USA Athletes International sent a contingent to the Arafura Games, which hosted competitors from 25 countries in 29 sports this year. Americans competed in basketball, hockey, soccer, softball, and indoor volleyball. Broussard was one of only 14 basketball players in the contingent, and her team captured the silver medal in the basketball tournament.

"The play was extremely aggressive, and it was difficult getting used to the international rules, such as using men's basketballs," Broussard said. "Overall, the scores really didn't reflect how much of a challenge all of the games were. We were definitely tested physically and mentally."

Despite the intense schedule, Broussard still had some time to see the Australian countryside, as well as the cities of Darwin and Cairns.

"The entire country was beautiful, and the people there were some of the nicest I have ever met," she said. "The opportunity to associate with people from other countries and cultures was a life lesson. Although we had differences among ourselves - culture and language - we all had a common love for basketball, and that was enough to establish friendships and memories that will last a lifetime."

Looking back, Broussard said her experiences have broadened her ideas.

"Seeing how people of different cultures live and interact was extremely beneficial to me culturally and educationally," she said.

To see images of the Arafura Games, including one of Nzinga Broussard, go to the Arafura Games web site and click on the link for Arafura Images. On the next screen, click on the link for basketball.

 

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