Friday, November 04, 2005

'Are You Korean? Chinese? Japanese?' None Of the Above--Linda Sayavongchanh's Parents Are From Laos. And, By the Way, Why Are You So Tall?

Linda Sayavongchanh has been hearing the questions as long as she can remember.

"Are you Korean?"

"Are you Chinese?"

"Are you Japanese?"

None of the above.

"My parents came from Laos in southeast Asia," Linda explained. "It's right by Vietnam and Thailand.

"Laotian people aren't known for their height, so that's why people don't realize I'm of Laotian descent. And women's basketball is not popular in Laos."

Linda is certainly a women's basketball player--and a good one.

She's a senior guard on a Drake team that figures to have its best record in Amy Stephens' three seasons as coach.

"Both of my parents [Amkha and Somchith Sayavongchanh] stand about 5-5, and I'm 5-9," Linda said. "My younger sister, who is a senior in high school, is taller than both of my parents, too."

Linda's parents came to Des Moines in 1979 when her brother, Maysa, was 2.

"People probably wonder how we wound up in Iowa," Linda said. "Well, my mom's oldest brother came over here before they did. His sponsor lived in Iowa, and that's where our sponsor is from.

"I can speak and understand Laotian, I just can't read it."

The Bulldogs, who had a 14-15 record last season, play a 2:05 p.m. exhibition game Saturday against Nebraska Wesleyan at the Knapp Center.

Unfortunately, Sayavongchanh -- who, from now on will be known as Linda in this column because Linda is a heck of a lot easier to spell than Sahyvaongchanh -- won't play. She's still recovering from a stress fracture in a foot, and is scheduled to resume practice late next week.

Linda was an honorable mention all-Missouri Valley Conference player and was selected to the league's all-defensive team last season. She finished second among the Bulldogs with a 12.8 scoring average, and needs 64 steals to become Drake's all-time leader.

"We're looking forward to some good things this season as a team," she said. "We're trying to get our program back. A lot people think we could be a 20-plus win team."

Linda was named Iowa's Miss Basketball and the Class 4-A player of the year when she played for Lincoln High School in Des Moines.

She was recruited to Drake by Lisa Stone, who now is the coach at Wisconsin, and admits the coaching change during her collegiate career was "hard."

"When you get a new coach, you've got to learn a new system. You're starting from scratch," she explained. "You've got new teammates as well as a new coach."

Linda said the personalities of Stone and Stephens differ.

"It seems that coach Stephens is more businesslike," she said. "Coach Stone was more laid-back."

Although this is Linda's final year of collegiate competition, she'll need another year to get her degree.

"I'm an elementary education major, and haven't decided what to do during my fifth year," she said. "I could play overseas or maybe get drafted by the WNBA. I'm not sure what I want to do yet."


You didn't read anything about this in today's local paper, even in the box score --I wonder why? -- but the gathering for Iowa's men's basketball exhibition game last night against some no-name team at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was listed as only 8,321.

I hear that some of the people had to be counted two or three times to get to 8,321.


Some things never change.

I see that Rick Hartzell, Northern Iowa's athletic director, was one of the three officials who worked the Iowa game. The others were Ed Hightower and Dennis Bracco.

I'd call that a big-league crew for an exhibition game.

I sure hope nothing important was going on back at UNI.