Athlete Tattoo of the Day (Mystical Husky Edition): Stefanie Dolson

StefDolson_Pic01    Professional basketball is on an upswing in the District of Columbia.  Its NBA team, the Washington Wizards, are back in the playoffs for first time in 6 seasons (the intervening 5 seasons were so bad that it felt like 20).  Its WNBA team, the Washington Mystics, rebounded from two horrific seasons to return to the playoffs in 2013.

StefDolson_Pic06     The Mystics have now added a championship pedigree to their roster in the form of talented, supremely fun-loving, and lightly-inked Stefanie Dolson, the ferocious center on the the University of Connecticut’s back-to-back NCAA Championship teams (including this year’s 40-0 squad).  Sorely lacking a reliable inside presence (outside of hybrid center/forward, Crystal Langhorne, who has since been traded), Dolson brings a strength to the paint that can help take the Mystics to the next level.  If nothing else, Stefanie will having fun doing it.

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Stefanie gives President Obama ‘bunny ears’ at the White House visit for the 2013 UConn champions

Stefanie has been ballin’ for years.  As a high schooler at Minisink Valley High School in New York, she put her height to good use in both volleyball and basketball.  In her prep basketball career, she scored nearly 2000 career points and hauled in more than 1600 rebounds, leading her school to 4 straight championship game appearances (I have not been able to find out if they won any of them)

StefDolson_Pic07Stefanie’s on-court skills got her named to the prestigious McDonald’s High School All-American team and she more than held her own in its All-Star Game.  Off the court, Stefanie excelled in the classroom, earning membership in the National Honor Society.  Stefanie’s success brought her to the attention of UConn’s legendary, and mercurial, coach, Geno Auriemma, who brought her to Storrs, Connecticut, where she started as a freshman.

StefDolson_Pic05In her first two years at Storrs, Stefanie did not get to experience a National Championship, which is something of a birthright for the Huskies.  Both times, her UConn team fell in the Final Four.  She did manage to make the BIG EAST All-Rookie as a freshman and the All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention squad as a sophomore.  Her upper class years would know no such disappointment.

2012 Jordan Brand ClassicAs a junior, Stefanie progressed to making All-BIG EAST First Team and helped lead the Huskies to a dominating 33-point victory in the National Championship Game against Louisville (and “New 2 Tats” cutie, Shoni Schimmel).  Stefanie’s strong inside game evolved to a whole other level as a senior.  In being voted Division I Defensive Player of year, she led UConn to only the second 40-0 season in NCAA history, capping it with another dominating title game victory, this time by 21 points over Notre Dame.  Not long after he capped off her collegiate career in fine style, she was drafted 6th overall by the Washington Mystics and looks to bring that championship fire to the District.

Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Stefanie posing with UConn teammate Bria Hartley, who was drafted 7th overall by Seattle, and then quickly traded to Washington (adding to the UConn luster) (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Stefanie’s body art appreciation dates back to high school.  When she was 16 years old, she and her sisters went to get tattooed together.  Stefanie got a constellation of stars and the word ‘Laugh’ (representative of her personality) inscribed on her right foot.  You can see this cute tattoo below.

StefDolson_Tat02After her junior year at UConn, Stefanie commemorated winning the National Championship in New Orleans by getting a Fleur-de-lis on the back of her left ankle.  It is partly visible when she battles Jimmy Fallon in a ‘dance off‘ on the “Tonight Show”.

StefDolson_Tat01You can follow this newest Mystic on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/bigmamastef

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Athlete Tattoo of the Day: Elena Della Donne

Women's Basketball Headshots    As tattoos have become more mainstream, each one has become a symbol of something to each person.  It could represent commemorating an important event in life; or, it could represent honoring your heritage.  In some cases (more often than it should), it represents a bad decision ;-).  One of the best kinds is when the tattoo represents something truly, and legitimately, personal to that person.

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   Former University of Delaware star (and Chicago Sky 1st round draft pick) Elena Della Donne definitely falls into that latter category with her body art.

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   Elena took the scenic route to becoming the 2nd leading scorer in women’s college basketball history.  She was one the most highly recruited female players her senior year and, it seemed like Geno Auriemma and the University of Connecticut continued to enjoy their embarrassment of riches when they landed Della Donne in 2008.  However, the Delaware-born and raised roundballer left UConn after just two days on campus.  She was terribly homesick and felt burned out by basketball.  She talks about it in this ESPN “Outside the Lines” interview from 2012:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkWHrjdn5PY

    One of the reasons for feeling so homesick was that she was separated from her older sister, Lizzie, who is deaf, blind, and suffers from cerebral palsy.

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   Elena returned home to attend the University of Delaware, but did not play basketball that first year.  Instead, she fed her other athletic passion by joining the Blue Hens’ volleyball team and leading them to a the NCAA tournament in 2009.  After a year away from basketball, she returned to the hardwood for the 2009-2010 an embarked on a stunning career that allowed her to rank #2 in points and led Delaware to a surprise Sweet 16 showing her senior year.  Then she became the second over all pick in the 2013 WNBA draft.

2013 WNBA Draft and Portraits

    Being #2 seems to fit for Elena because her sister, Lizzie, has always been #1 in Elena’s life.  She dotes on Lizzie like a loving grandparent works tirelessly for charitable organizations dedicated to helping the disadvantaged like Lizzie.  To keep Lizzie in her mind and close to her heart at all times, Elena got a tattoo on her side of angel wings with Lizzie’s name.  It’s a constant reminder to Elena of what all her efforts are for.

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    Elena’s story is one of the best inspirations for getting inked.  Here’s the Elena’s continued success at the professional level.

You can follow Elena on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/De11eDonne

Athlete Tattoo of the Day (Louisville Sister Act Edition): Shoni Schimmel

One of the better stories to emerge from either the Men’s or Women’s NCAA March Madness in 2013 is the story of Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel.

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   Shoni is a junior guard for Louisville who helped lead the Cardinals to a string of upsets in 2013 (including defeating perennial powers Baylor [with Brittney Griner] and Tennessee) on their way to becoming the lowest seeded team (#5) to ever reach the Championship Game on the women’s side.  On this journey, Shoni has been joined by her younger sister, Jude, a sophomore point guard.

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    While this Cinderella run ended with a blowout loss to Geno Auriemma’s Yankee-like UConn team, the best part of Shoni’s (and Jude’s) story transcends wins and losses.

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   Shoni, and her entire family, were featured in the well-received documentary “Off the Rez”, directed by Jonathan Hock (who was also responsible for two of ESPN 30 for 30’s best documentaries, “The Best that Never Was” and “Survive and Advance).

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   In high school, Shoni was one of the most highly-recruited female players in the country.  She also happens to be Native American who lived with her family on the Umatilla Indian Reservation on Oregon.  In the documentary, Shoni strives to excel in the cut-throat arena of high school (coached by her mother, Ceci Moses) and college basketball while still holding on to, and honoring, her Native American heritage.

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   Shoni is fun, spunky athlete who plays a good game and isn’t afraid to mix it up with the big girls (witness her trash-talking of Brittney Griner in their Sweet 16 upset of Baylor).  She has also sought to honor her heritage through body art.  On her left wrist, Shoni has the word ‘timena’ tattooed.  It means ‘heart’ in her native tribal language.

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   More recently, Shoni has been spotted with a design peaking out from under her uniform jersey on the front of her left shoulder.  It looks like it could be a diamond, but I have not seen a full picture of it.

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   While the loss to Connecticut is disappointing, Shoni and her sister, Jude, will be back next year to see if they can take the Cardinals that last step.  She will continue to be a inspiration to Native American girls nationwide.

While Shoni does not have a Twitter account or pages dedicated to her, you can find out more about that documentary “Off the Rez” here:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1754300/?ref_=sr_1