March 1, 2002
By Ken Kleppel
Ericka Haney’s personal four-year journey through Notre Dame is remarkably unique. But behind every step have proudly stood her parents. And, her father, Sidney, has the gas mileage to prove it.
Unlike the occasional round-trip weekend excursion from New Orleans to Toledo during their daughter’s AAU playing days, the trip from Toledo to South Bend is a mere two-hour ride west on Interstate 80 for the Haney family.
Yet regardless of interstate tolls or airline fuel surcharges, the elder Haney maintains a perfect road record.
“My father goes to all the games, coast-to-coast,” says Haney.
“When I started playing AAU as a 13-year old, he drove me back and forth to all the state tournaments. He’s been everywhere for me. Looking over my shoulder and seeing him back there has really been an inspiration.”
Sidney Haney understands the influence.
“I think one of the reasons she has been so fortunate on the court is that her parents have been behind her 100 percent,” he observes.
“Whether she loses or wins, we’re right there for her always.”
Haney’s on-court personality has transformed into a reflection of the family’s trademark persistency. Defined by a hard-working ethic and her ability to persevere through challenges, Haney’s attitude makes all the difference.
“I don’t like to let things beat me,” says Haney.
“If there is a problem or mistake, I want to address it. If I come out and miss a lot of open jumpers, then I will come in and shoot some more on an off day or after practice, so the next time I have the same opportunity, I can change the outcome.”
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has noted such effort.
“By coming to practice and working hard, that’s leading by example,” she comments.
“Ericka is a great defender and is a very good rebounder. Depending on the team that we’re playing, she will often have a mismatch if the guard defends her, and we will try to get her down there to use that mismatch. Her role is basically to defend, rebound, and then score.”
As a junior on last year’s NCAA championship squad, Haney did just that. She played in all 36 contests, starting all but one, and averaged a career-best 11.0 points per game while serving as the team’s third-leading rebounder at 5.7 caroms per game. Haney also recorded a double-double in Notre Dame’s 90-75 national semifinal win against Connecticut, helping key a second-half comeback and lead the Irish to their first national championship.
In 1999-2000, Haney averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while playing in all 32 contests. She recorded her first career double-double against North Carolina with (then) career bests of 18 points and 14 rebounds. As a freshman, she played in all 31 games, contributing off the bench with an average of 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
“The biggest adjustment from high school to college was that basketball was more business-like on the collegiate level,” Haney says.
“It is also fun, but it is more serious and more of a job.”
While not too many jobs take their employees on European vacations, fortunately for Haney, this one did.
Selected to play for the BIG EAST Conference All-Star Team during the summer of 2001, Haney led the conference squad with an average of 13.0 points per game en route to a six-game sweep of international competition in Germany.
“I basically grew up through AAU and competing,” notes Haney.
“To finally live the dream of getting recruited by a college and playing college basketball and winning the national championship is something that every player wants to achieve. Everything I’ve wanted so far in my basketball career, I have gotten. Everything that I have always dreamed of has happened.”
After four standout seasons, Haney admits her biggest challenge today is serving as the proverbial bridge from a senior-laden Irish squad last season, to the 2001-02 version in which every other player is a freshman.
“I realize what my role is on the team, and try to set the example on the court,” says Haney.
“I want to show the younger players what to do, how to play good defense, how to get back and how to rebound. Slowly but surely, I am still working on that.”
Haney’s off-court strides boast a far-reaching impact as well. She volunteers six hours per week with the children in Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center.
“I love being with the children,” says Haney, who partakes in various activities and games with the youth.
“Coming to the center each Wednesday and Friday is something I really look forward to.”
“She has matured so much,” adds Sidney Haney.
“Over four years, I’ve seen her grow up immensely.”
“I play basketball and do everything for my family,” Ericka states.
“It is almost as if I owe it to them. I think they get as much out of it as I do. I feel like I am playing for them. When I do well, I feel like they are also doing well. Simply, I play for my family.”
But all along, it has been the family playing for Ericka, supporting her every step of the way. And, on when she takes the floor on Senior Night (Feb. 26 vs. Villanova), the rest of the Joyce Center will be behind her as well.