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Jan. 9, 2013

Monarch Blog

That's about the length of the similarities when comparing the two members of Old Dominion's women's basketball team, which plays its first home game of its last run through a Colonial Athletic Association schedule Thursday night when the Lady Monarchs host Towson at the Ted Constant Center at 7.

Mairi Buchan is a post player.

Becca Allison is a guard.

Buchan prefers to play in a system designed around set offenses and says she's "never really gotten used to the physical play of college basketball."

Allison, meanwhile, likes the wide-open, hectic style American basketball seems to be leaning toward more and more.

Buchan has her future planned, lined up like dominos about to fall.

Allison has almost no idea what she wants to do after college.

If there is one thing about the two, they've both maintained their Scottish accents, even after oh-so-many years of playing for ODU, enough years to learn that change is quite often part of the game.

Both were recruited by a coach no longer here.

"That's the hard part," Buchan said. "Wendy Larry came to Scotland to recruit me. So the coaching change was a surprise."

Buchan had longed to play college basketball in the states. She watched the movie "Love and Basketball" and thought she knew what American basketball would be like.

She was off target on some points.

"I thought it would be all basketball all the time," she said. "When I got here, I found it wasn't like that. I found I had a lot of free time."

She used it wisely and has a 3.93 grade point average as she enters her final semester.

"I'm so obsessed with my grades that just an A-minus drives me crazy," she said.

She has applied to 15 medical colleges up and down the East Coast and has her fingers crossed.

And what does she want to be?

"I want to specialize in sports medicine," she said. "I've known what I wanted to do for a long time."

Meanwhile, Allison is "not very sure" what she wants to do when she graduates (but that's ok, because she's a junior while Buchan is a senior).

"I'm majoring in sports management and minoring in marketing, but it's a question I'm always getting asked and I have no idea really what I want to do when I get out of school," she said. "Mairi has known for a while."

Allison said the travel that comes with being a Lady Monarch has been spectacular. Just being a college basketball player takes you places (it took the Lady Monarchs to Las Vegas earlier this season). As a Division I college basketball player on the East Coast, you just naturally get to Boston, New York and Philadelphia without even thinking about it.

She did put some thought into a family vacation when her parents came to the states: They went to see the Grand Canyon.

So what do the two have in common? They like the fact ODU's women's basketball team has turned the tide under new coach Karen Barefoot. And if you can't make the Towson game, the Lady Monarchs will be hosting pre-season favorite Delaware and All-American Elena Delle Donne Sunday at 2.

The Lady Monarchs will take the court Thursday with a 10-3 record, a new-found energy and renewed fan base.

"The great thing about this year is that we can see the number of fans growing with each home game," Allison said. "We're winning them back."

The downward spiral the program endured in Larry's last three years surprised many. They Lady Monarchs had won for so often and for so long - you just don't win 17 straight conference championships without doing a lot right - it was hard to believe the program would ever lose its grip on conference dominance.

But it did and Barefoot was left to pick up the pieces.

Buchan was home in Scotland, playing summer ball for her national team, when news of the change broke, but she was keeping up with events that summer.

"I was emailing and texting my teammates and they were telling me how things were going," Buchan said. "And they were excited."

Results came slowly though, and last year's 11-21 record was like a trick cigar to ODU fans, unexpected and messy.

But ... Barefoot's energy was contagious and now the Monarchs are winning again.

"Her style is all about defense and intensity and I like to run," Allison said."College basketball is what it is. Change happens and there are going to be challenges. I guess the good thing with me was that I never got homesick. Then again, I've never been one to get homesick."

In other words, there was never a thought in her mind of packing her bags and heading back to Scotland, although she might do just that to play for Great Britain in the World University Games this summer is everything works out.

Buchan, meanwhile, hopes she's packing her bags to head off to medical school.

But for now, that must wait.

"I think we're a team focused on the present moment and that we really play for each other," Buchan said.

One thing they definitely have in common is their accents. Neither lost them.

Allison chuckled when asked about it.

"People say that I've lost a little of my accent, but I don't think so," she said. "I don't think I can even fake an American accent."


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