Hoskins back home, still pursuing dream

Daequan Cook’s ‘Local Legends’ Basketball Game

Tonight, Dunbar High School (1400 Albritton Drive, Dayton)

5 p.m. — Backpacks filled with school supplies given to first 50 girls and first 50 boys.

6 p.m. — Doors open

7 p.m. — Tipoff

Tickets: $5 kids, $7 adults. Proceeds to Cook Scholarship Fund

When she says she’s glad to be back — “I’ve traveled everywhere, but there’s no place like home, I absolutely love Dayton” — she’s not using poetic license or trying to curry favor.

Brandie Hoskins is glad to be spending a little time back where she grew up.

No one will be calling her a “monkey” or the n-word or using some other racist swipe, as she said has happened several times during her last two years of pro ball in Romania. There will be no meals of tripe soup soured with lemon juice, cow’s tongue and olives or emulsified pig’s blood pudding.

Nor will she be sharing a cramped dressing room where many of her basketball teammates are smoking — at halftime — and she won’t be playing in front of a crowd more bent on battling the police than watching the game as happened when she played in Greece.

“Oh yeah, I’ve had some experiences,” she said with a laugh as she sat in what could be called a hall-of-fame room dedicated to her at her parents’ home on Malvern Ave., in Dayton View.

One of the more storied schoolgirl basketball players Ohio has known, Hoskins has come back to town to play in Daequan Cook’s Local Legends charity game at Dunbar High tonight at 7.

Hoskins and Rhonda Price — who starred at Dunbar and has played professionally overseas for a dozen years, many in Australia — are the only women scheduled to play in a game that features more than a dozen other local and area hoops standouts.

A shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, Cook will be joined tonight by fellow NBA guard Norris Cole of the Miami Heat, as well as former Ohio State 3-point star John Diebler, Chris Wright, Kenny Hayes and 6-foot-9, 280-pound Aaron Pogue.

Going up against that kind of beef will be light work for Hoskins when you consider some of the weighty things she has endured since graduating from Ohio State in 2007.

She has plenty of good to say about each of her stops — including Romania — in an overseas career that has taken her to five European countries.

In fact, when she mentioned the jarring racial jibes, she did so without pointed complaint or condemnation. With her it was more matter-of-fact admission to show to what she has come across in an arduous road she hopes will lead to her lifelong dream.

She still wants to play in the WNBA.

Once upon a time that seemed to be a foregone conclusion. And in 2007 she was chosen in the third round of WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm, who admitted, were circumstances different, she would have been a first-round pick.

The problem was she was coming off two straight seasons cut short by torn Achilles’ tendons and was on crutches.

She also has dealt with epilepsy, which she mostly keeps in check with the anti-convulsant medicine Keppra. Still, a seizure did derail a trip to one WNBA tryout a couple of years past.

Regardless, at 28, she’s playing as well as ever. She’s 5-foot-9 and a weight room-muscled 179 pounds and has led the Romanian league in scoring the past two years.

And in the process she said she has embraced the advice of her mom, Toni: “My mommy always told me, ‘It’s your story, make it as big as you want.’”

Decorated career

The room Toni and Alan have dedicated to the youngest of their three daughters is filled with game photos, award plaques and a collection of jerseys that Brandie wore: playing for the McFarland Elementary Tigers, as McDonald’s and Nike All-Americans, when she won national AAU titles with the Dayton Lady Mohawks and Dayton Lady HoopStars, when she and her Team USA teammates won the 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey, when Chaminade Julienne won the Division II state title, when she was a three-time All Big Ten player at OSU and from several of her pro stops.

“My favorite, though, is that one on the corner,” she said of a small blue jersey with “Westwood” printed on the front. “That‘s where it started for me — the Westwood Recreation Center. My dad took me there and I was terrible. But he and my uncle worked with me and I got better.”

She said she became especially inspired when she was 11 or 12 and saw a movie on “Pistol” Pete Maravich: “I watched that movie a million times and started to become obsessed with basketball. I saw him dribbling in the rain and I couldn’t wait ‘til it started raining so I could do the same. He was an underdog. I like those stories when people who aren’t supposed to make it really do.”

She pointed to a photo of her and LeBron James sitting together as teenagers:

“I played in the McDonald’s All-American game with him. Now I’m his biggest fan. He was a kid from the hood who came from nothing. He could have gone down a wrong path but now he’s iconic. I love that.”

Coming out of CJ she was rated the No. 2 prep recruit in the country by one national publication. At Ohio State — where her junior and senior seasons both ended with Achilles tears — she scored 1,462 points, had 471 assists, 347 rebounds and averaged 52.9 percent from the floor.

After her injuries derailed her WNBA efforts in Seattle, she went to play in Greece, Portugal, Israel, Ukraine and the past two years for teams in the Romanian cities of Craiova, Brasov and Bucharest.

“Overseas isn’t for everyone, you’re out of your comfort zone — but I try not to forget that I’m doing what I love to do,” she said. “And I’m keeping my dream alive.”

That said, she admitted it wasn’t until this past season that she could bring herself to watch a WNBA game on television. It was just too painful.

She had played alongside or against many of those players in college or in Europe and often had more than held her own.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I know I can compete with those girls,” she said. “A lot of them are my friends and I’m happy for them, but I want to be there, too. I know I can play in the WNBA. Sometimes you just need a break.”

Still pursuing dream

This coming season she said she could end up playing in Italy, Ecuador, Spain or even back in Romania, where she said she faced overt racism for the first time but had “great teammates” and coaches who were “nice and respectful.”

“Some of my teammates are still Facebooking me and some have even tried to call me here, but the conversations were terrible because we each only know a few words,” she said.

The flip side, she said, has come from some Romanian taxi drivers and strangers on the street: “Most people there have not seen a black person before, except maybe Beyonce or 50 Cent on TV, so when I walked down the street, everything stopped.

“Some people at lights have called me ‘monkey.’ I got in a taxi and the driver said ‘Hi (n-word).’ I don’t know if they don’t know any better or want to be hurtful, but I just said, ‘No, that’s not nice. That’s not how you talk. My name is Brandie.’

“After a while it was OK and I didn’t hate it there. I liked it. But I still was careful and rarely went out. Not that I would that much anyway.

“Even in the places I really liked — like Israel and Greece — I didn’t go out that much. I’d say 95 percent of my time is geared to basketball — practice, watching film, trying to get better. It’s my job and that’s how I treat it.”

In the offseason she lives in Columbus but often comes to Dayton and she and her dad head to the CJ gym for a spirited workout:

“I’m going to stay at it until my legs can’t move anymore. Until then I’m gonna keep pushing forward chasing that very same dream I’ve had since I was 12.”

So while she’s glad to be back home, she admits she doesn’t want to stay:

“I want to be in the WNBA.”

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