Jan. 17, 2010
By Jon Cooper
OSR Contributing Editor
OSR Sting Extra
ATLANTA – History was made Thursday night with Georgia Tech’s 72-66 victory over Wake Forest.
The senior class of 2010 officially earned its 80th triumph, making it the winningest class in Yellow Jackets history.
There was little fanfare. There was more commotion at center court as the team held a belated (by one day) celebration of coach MaChelle Joseph’s 40th birthday.
The two seniors, forward Brigitte Ardossi and center Tiffany Blackmon weren’t offended by the lack of attention paid to the achievement. In fact, both were quite proud of it. They have bigger goals in mind — this is a team that has dedicated its season to the rallying cry “the pursuit of gold.”
Joseph was impressed, even if it broke a record set only last season.
“It’s exciting that the last two years both our senior classes graduated as the winningest senior class in the history of our program,” said Tech’s seven-year head coach. “Last year was Jacqua Williams and Tabitha Turner. This year Brigitte Ardossi and Tiffany Blackmon have beaten that record. Hopefully for them they set a record that will be hard to break for a long time.”
Ardossi and Blackmon agreed that they neither expect nor want longevity for the record.
“I can’t wait to see what next year’s team does,” said Ardossi, the team’s leading scorer, who fittingly scored a career-high 29 points in the victory. “They’ll probably get it again and get more wins, hopefully.”
“It’s great to be a part of it,” added Blackmon. “We learned a lot from the classes before, like Chioma [Nnamaka, class of ’08], Janie [Mitchell, also class of ’08]. We just try to pass it on to the classes now and keep up the tradition.”
That team-first mindset has become expected from the duo whose contributions are immeasurable, even if they are statistically disparate. To Joseph, it’s viva le difference!
“[Brigitte] is doing exactly what you want a senior to do in their senior year, play their best basketball at the end of their career,” she said. “Brigitte’s definitely stepped up to the plate. She’s playing her best basketball right now.”
Ardossi, a native of Melbourne, Australia, is leading the team in scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (6.8), shooting (.536) and free throw shooting (.781). She’s been a testament to durability, having played in 115 straight games heading into Sunday’s game at Boston College.
Blackmon’s contributions have been as important even though few outside of the team have seen her in action.
“I try to bring energy every day to practice. Just teach [the younger players] everything that I’ve learned from the players before me and motivate them,” said the Gastonia, N.C., native. “I feel like everybody plays a key role on the team. I might not be as far as out there on the court, statistically, but I feel like I’m a big part of this team. It’s an honor to be a part of this team, period. We’re doing big things.”
Joseph feels that Blackmon has been a huge, if unseen part of those big things.
“Tiffany is kind of the unsung hero. She’s the chemistry-maker,” she said. “She’s so unselfish that she doesn’t care if she plays, gets a point, gets a rebound, gets in the game. She comes to practice every day, she works hard and she makes everybody laugh. She understands me and she’s able to help the younger players in practice and in game situations.
“She’s a great support system for Brigitte. They’ve been very close since they’ve been here. Tiffany has always gotten Brigitte’s back and vice-versa. I don’t know that Brigitte would be having the success she’s having without somebody like Tiffany supporting her.”
“[Tiffany] is probably the heart of the team,” she said. “She is the laughs, the happiness, the jokes, the funny, all that sort of thing. She comes out and she doesn’t have any kind of negative thoughts or feelings. She’s 100 percent positive and that’s something that’s really valuable to a team.
“When you’re not getting playing time, it’s really hard to wake up every day and think, ‘I’ve got to go to practice and be positive and set an example.’ I think she sets a really good example.”
Blackmon, of course, refused to take any credit for what Ardossi was doing, but she broke into a big, warm smile when asked about her success.
“Brigitte’s been playing remarkable,” she said. “I’m so proud of her. I know she has it in her.”
Joseph admitted that she’s contemplated life without the duo but prefers to think about the potential of a strong finish with them.
“It’s interesting because every day I sit and think, ‘Next year we’ll be losing Brigitte, which is a very important piece of our puzzle,'” Joseph said. “But we’re returning virtually every player that we have on our team and we’re bringing in another top-25 recruiting class. Hopefully we’ll continue to get better and grow this program.”
Replacing Blackmon isn’t any easier.
“Those are hard players to replace, players that are very unselfish and don’t care if they play or don’t play. They’re still going to give you everything they’ve got every day,” said Joseph. “That’s something that Tiffany does so we’re very fortunate to have her on our team. It’s hard to keep a senior happy at the end of their career if they’re not playing, but Tiffany makes it fun to be around her and she makes practice fun for us every day.”
Ardossi feels the team is in good hands.
“I think we’ve built the program around a winning team now,” she said. “Years and years to come we’re going to still be in the top 25. This isn’t just a one-year thing.”
The same thing probably can’t be said for Ardossi’s and Blackmon’s record. That may be something next year’s seniors ignore when the team belatedly celebrates Joseph’s 41st birthday.