Kwani Lunis

Q&A with @_Jamaad, Boston native, Emmanuel College student-athlete

Q&A with @_Jamaad, Boston native, Emmanuel College student-athlete

In our first installment of “NBC Sports Boston social media takeovers,” (say that three times fast), I spoke with @_Jamaad, a junior guard for the Emmanuel College women's basketball team. The Boston native continues to amaze the Instagram world by showing off her ball-handling while crossing up all the dudes who dare to challenge her, all while casually rocking her hijab. We even got her sending Enes Kanter to the ground once: 

@KwaniALunis: Recount the day your first basketball video went viral:

@_Jamaad: This was when I was obsessed with Twitter and usually people wish you “Happy Birthday” and they just tag you in stuff but I wasn’t really getting that much love [that day]. I told my cousin, who was really poppin’, “post this for my birthday and wish me happy birthday.” Once he did it, mad people retweeted it. I was just confused because it was just a little video, left-handed video. It [started] in our little Somali Twitter community but then when it got to #BlackTwitter [and beyond] that’s when it went crazy.

K: How did you eventually get that same viral reaction on Instagram?

J: Once I started seeing it blow up on Twitter, I posted it to my Instagram. Kid Ink reposted it and added his song to the background. I barely remember that video, it’s like three years ago almost.

K: When you’re not busy being IG famous (I hate that term btw) what are you doing?

J: I go to school [at Emmanuel College] and people don’t know, but I play college basketball and then I’m always studying or at practice.

 
K: The glorious life of an NCAA athlete…amirite?…Where did you develop your ball-handling skills? 

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J: I used to wake up, this was 9th, 10th and 11th grade, actually, this was all of high school. I used to wake up early in the morning, 5 a.m., my dad would drive me to the YMCA and then I would literally practice for an hour, take a shower and get ready and then go to school. Every single morning. I only liked playing in gyms that were empty so nobody would watch me

K: Why was that?

J: I just felt shy, weird playing around people watching me. I wouldn’t try as hard.

K: As a female baller, do you feel empowered by the fact that you’ve set an example for other young girls to play basketball unapologetically?

J: Yes I am. Some of the girls that are Muslim growing up, they don’t think they can play on the college level because most of them stop playing after high school. I feel like if they see me playing on the college level they’ll understand, “yeah, I can do it too”

K: Favorite basketball player and why?

J: Jaylen Brown. I just like how he’s a very smart person, not just with basketball…He’s not just a ballplayer, he’s a vice-president for the NBA Players Association and a big leader in our [Boston] community now.

K: Your favorite account to follow on IG: (other than NBCSBoston, of course)?

J: Overtime, they kind of gave me my clout [laughs]. Especially their women’s page, they really advocate for women’s basketball as well.

K: Favorite artists or song to listen to before a game:

J: @lilbaby_1 or @liltjay

Check out @NBCSBoston on Instagram to follow her experience at the Celtics/Bucks game tonight. 

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Kyrie Irving's coaching shines at NBA All-Star Weekend, too

Kyrie Irving's coaching shines at NBA All-Star Weekend, too

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Kyrie Irving landed in Charlotte for his sixth NBA All-Star appearance, he probably didn’t realize he’d stand out for a reason other than his game. His presence shined bright on Friday night when he walked into Bojangles Arena to coach the NBA Cares Special Olympics team.

Irving would soon find out one of his players was Ashley Aldrich, a Milford native as well as the Massachusetts representative for the Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star experience. And most importantly, she's a huge fan of the Celtics guard. 

“I was shocked when I saw him,” said the 29-year-old while smiling. “I said, 'You’ve got to be kidding me!' ”

Still beaming less than 24 hours after the experience, Aldrich pulled her phone from her pocket and revealed her new home-screen wallpaper: a photo of her and Irving at the game.

“He was teaching me some of his tricks that he does," she said. "He actually had a moment where we both were trying to do it, but he told me I had years to go before I become like him.”

When asked about the coaching experience from his lens, Irving immediately chuckled. In both of his coaching stints — the Special Olympics game and at the helm of Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge — you could find him courtside, arms crossed, anxiously watching his players perform. Barely finding a moment to stand still, Irving acknowledged how his mannerisms were similar to his Celtics coach, Brad Stevens.

“Yeah, I got a lot of comments about that," Irving said. "I didn’t sit down. I watched Mike Malone sit down, I watched Mike Budenholzer sit down the whole time and here I am pacing back and forth.”

Even though he was constrained to the sidelines, his name still found its way on the floor. Most of the players in the Special Olympics game were rocking the Kyrie 5’s “Just Do It” sneakers. Aldrich, making sure to lace them up again the following day, shared that Irving had signed the inside of hers. 

Coaching in the same state where he went to college about two hours away at Duke, Irving had an undefeated weekend. 

Aldrich and the away team, stacked with NBA legends such as Dikembe Mutombo and Ron Harper, pulled off a 27-26 win over the home team. Later on, Jayson Tatum and the Team USA Rising Stars would go on to beat Team World, 161-144. Irving, with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists, also was part of a victorious Team LeBron in a 178-164 victory over Team Giannis in the All-Star Game on Sunday. 

Asked about Irving's overall coaching performance, Tatum, his Celtics teammate, analyzed it by saying, “I mean first coaching gig, he got a win, not too bad.”

Jennifer Walsh, the local program coordinator and coach for the Milford Special Olympics, also gave Irving’s performance a thumbs up. “Ashley being coached by Kyrie was a dream come true. All she talked about was how excited she was to watch him in the All-Star Game and when he walked onto the floor to coach her, she was in utter shock. She will be talking about her time with Kyrie forever. It meant the world to her!”

Aldrich agreed, “I think he was one of the best coaches I ever had.”

The basketball world already knows Kyrie Irving’s All-Star presence on the court, but Kyrie the coach showed he can have an impact standing just inches off the floor as well.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

All it takes is one glance at the Agganis Arena ice to notice the Boston University hockey player who stands out from the rest. The sole African-American on the team, Jordan Greenway, stands 6-5 and weighs 238 pounds, making him the biggest player on the team.

Yet the thing that truly distinguishes Greenway from his teammates goes beyond the human eye. He’s in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One Christmas gift arrived a week late for the BU forward, but the phone call he got was worth the wait. On his drive home from winter break, Greenway found out he had been selected to the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

“Jim Johannson called me a couple of days before and just told me, ‘You’re on the team.’ It wasn’t official yet, it wasn’t official knowledge so we kind of kept it confidential. But it was really good. I was really excited,” Greenway said. “One of the best Christmas presents I got.”

Johannson is the U.S. men's hockey team’s general manager and was part of the selection process. In April, the NHL announced that its players would not be participating in the Winter Games, which gave some minor leaguers and college players the opportunity of a lifetime. 

At the beginning of the year, it was Greenway’s goal to represent Team USA and now, he’s one of the four NCAA men’s hockey players to compete in South Korea.

Now, 60 years after Willie O’Ree integrated the NHL by playing for the Bruins, the story of hockey’s unhurried progress comes full circle in Boston. It wasn’t until an interview that Greenway learned he will be the first black player to break a 98-year color barrier in U.S. Olympic men’s hockey. As historical as this accomplishment is, the 20-year-old just hopes the sport will continue to grow.

“I just think I’m another kid going to play in the Olympics, I don’t really see it like that,” Greenway said. “I’m happy I am the first. I hope I’m the first of many and I hope I can just motivate younger kids to kind of try something different. I don’t think a lot of African-Americans play hockey at a high level. I’m just trying to get more and more of those kids to try and go out and do something different.” 

Hockey has taken Greenway around the world but he has always had the support of the two people he grew up with in Canton, New York. His mother, Shannon Sullivan, and younger brother, James “JD” Greenway have been his biggest supporters since this journey began.

When Jordan was 14, Sullivan agreed to send her sons to Shattuck-Saint Mary's, a boarding school in Faribault, Minn., on one condition; The Greenway boys would earn scholarships for college. At that time, Jordan didn’t know he would be this successful in the sport, but in retrospect, he’s glad he took a chance. 

“They’ve been great. My mom, she kind of lets us do as we please,” Greenway said. “She’s very helpful especially letting me go to Shattuck at a really young age. I don’t know if I would be here without that help but she’s done everything in her power to get us where we needed to be, even financially getting us to Shattuck. She’s been great.”

As for life after this year, Jordan says he’s just trying to live in the moment. The Minnesota Wild prospect has until Aug. 15 after his graduation from BU but he’s in no rush to think that far ahead.

February has brought a few more gifts to Jordan. Before heading to South Korea, he helped the Terriers defeat Harvard 3-2 in the first round of the Beanpot tournament at TD Garden. Greenway assisted on Brandon Hickey’s goal in the third period. The annual event includes BU, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern competing for bragging rights, but more important, the chance to drink out of the precious Beanpot. (that is, only if they’re 21, of course.). BU meets Northeastern in the final Monday night. Last year, the Terriers fell to Harvard 6-3 in the final.

The Games begin Friday and (full TV coverage on NBC and online at nbcolympics.com) and the men’s hockey competition starts Feb. 14, but the highlight of the month has nothing to the sport he loves. Jordan will be celebrating his 21st birthday on Feb. 16 and, of course, there is only one more gift he wants…

An Olympic gold medal.