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Former women’s basketball player signs pro contract in Great Britain

Former Toledo women’s basketball player Janice Monakana has signed a professional contract to play for the Nottingham Wildcats in her home country of Great Britain.

The Wildcats announced the roster move Aug. 29 as they look to mount a challenge for their third straight Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) title.

Monakana

Monakana becomes the sixth UT women’s basketball player to play professionally under three-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Tricia Cullop, joining Melissa Goodall (Italy and Spain), Naama Shafir (Israel), Andola Dortch (Belarus), Inma Zanoguera (Italy) and most recently Brenae Harris (Spain) on that list.

“I’m truly ecstatic to have Janice on board with us as we prepare for this tough season ahead,” said Nottingham Head Coach Dave Greenaway in a statement on the team’s official website. “Janice has the capability to make big plays and will be a factor in us achieving any success. Her college career was littered with honors, and she captained her side to winning the MAC Tournament.”

The Women’s British Basketball League is an initiative between the British Basketball League, Basketball England and the top 10 women’s clubs in Great Britain. It is the top-level women’s basketball league in the United Kingdom.

This past year, Monakana averaged 12.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 25.5 minutes per game. The 2016-17 second-team All-MAC honoree ranked seventh in the league in free-throw percentage (.785, 106 of 135), 20th in overall rebounding and 21st in scoring.

Monakana led Toledo to the fifth most wins in program history in 2016-17 with a mark of 25-9 that included a MAC Championship and an appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2001.

A two-time all-conference performer, Monakana wrapped up her UT career ninth in school history in free-throw percentage (.777, 313 of 403), 10th in free throws made (313) and 16th in scoring (1,172 points).

“Nottingham is a team I’ve always admired and respected, so I’m excited for the opportunity to bring my talents to them and also the Women’s British Basketball League,” said Monakana in a statement on the team’s official website. “I’m looking forward to the season starting and will bring competitiveness, explosive play, and versatility on the offensive and defensive end, as well as experience and adding depth.”

Rockets pitch in to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey

The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, assisted by The University of Toledo Student Government and Blue Key, will collect donations at the UT football game Thursday, Aug. 31, in support of the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas.

“Our thoughts and concerns are with the people affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Mike O’Brien. “With the support of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, along with the UT Student Government and Blue Key, we will help the relief efforts in any way possible. We know our fans will make a difference in this endeavor.”

As the gates open at 5:30 p.m. inside the Glass Bowl, volunteers will be collecting cash or checks to assist those who have been affected by the storm. All checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross.

There also are additional ways to support the relief efforts. Rocket fans can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. In addition, fans are encouraged to visit redcross.org to donate online.

“On behalf of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, I would like to thank the Toledo Athletic Department, the UT Student Government and Blue Key,” said Rachel Hepner-Zowdony, executive director of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. “We appreciate their support along with all of the communities throughout northwest Ohio during this relief effort.”

The Toledo Rockets will play Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

Coaches pick Rockets to win MAC West Division

The University of Toledo football team was picked to finish in first place in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division in a ballot of the league’s head coaches that was released Aug. 28 by the conference office.

The Rockets received seven first-place votes and a total of 66 points in the annual poll, eight points ahead of second-place Western Michigan.

Senior quarterback Logan Woodside is back to the lead Rockets offense. Last season, he completed 45 touchdown passes, tops in the nation.

Ohio was picked to repeat as MAC East Division champion, followed by Miami.

Last month, the Rockets also were picked by the league’s media to win the West Division crown, as well as the 2017 MAC Championship Game.

Toledo was 9-4 in Head Coach Jason Candle’s debut in 2016, earning a berth into the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

UT returns one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Led by senior quarterback Logan Woodside, Toledo averaged 38.0 points per game and led the Mid-American Conference in total offense with a school-record 517.8 yards per game in 2016. Woodside paced the nation with 45 touchdown passes and was named a Heisman contender by the Heisman Trophy Trust. Two of his favorite targets are back — Cody Thompson (64 receptions, 11 TDs, 19.8 yards per catch) and Jon’Vea Johnson (40 reception, 10 TDs and 19.3 yards per catch) — as is 2015 second-team All-MAC running back Terry Swanson. On defense, the Rockets return seven starters, including All-MAC linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley.

The Rockets open their season at home vs. Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m.

Individual and season tickets are available at the UT Ticket Office, online at utrockets.com, or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653). Tickets are half-off for UT employees and retirees, and UT students are admitted free to home games with ID.

Fans: Plan ahead for driving, parking at football game Aug. 31

The University of Toledo Athletic Department announced parking lot information on campus for the football season opener Thursday, Aug. 31.

The Rockets will host Elon at 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m.

With classes in session, fans are advised to arrive on campus at least one hour before kickoff.

Fans also should be aware that due to construction, traffic on Bancroft Street near campus is one-lane in both directions. Using alternate routes to parking lots via Secor Road, Dorr Street and Douglas Road is strongly advised.

Some parking lots will be restricted in preparation for the game. The following parking areas near the Glass Bowl will be closed to general public, employee and student parking, and are available by parking pass only on game day: lots 5, 6, 9, 10, 18, 28. Parking lots 3 and 4 will close at noon to general public, employee and student parking.

New this year, parking fees will not be collected in general admission parking areas, which can be found in lots 1, 2, 12, 13, 19, 20, 25 and 26, as well as the east and west parking ramps.

Fans are encouraged to arrive by 6 p.m. to locate the best possible parking spaces.

Access to the ticket office at Savage Arena will be permitted from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on game day. Fans should access the ticket office via lot 4 off Douglas Road. The box office at the Glass Bowl will open at 3 p.m.

For tickets, call 419.530.GOLD (4653) or order online at UTRockets.com.

Tickets are half-off for UT employees and retirees, and UT students are admitted free to home games with ID.

Rocket Fan Fest expanding in 2017

Rocket Fan Fest will be bigger and better than ever at the first four home football games.

The community tailgate will take place three hours prior to kickoff and will extend into the Flatlands to feature live music, food — including Deet’s BBQ — beverages and snacks from Aramark, along with the Bud Light Beer Garden.

All food and beverages are available for purchase. Those 21 years and older must show a valid ID and will receive a wristband upon entrance into the beer garden.

“We are always looking to enhance the game day experience at the Glass Bowl,” said Heather Lutz, assistant athletic director for marketing, sales and fan experience. “Rocket Fan Fest provides our fans with an opportunity to come out early and enjoy some great music, food and beverages before the game.”

Live music will begin two-and-a-half hours prior to kickoff and will continue until 30 minutes before game time. Performing through the first four home games will be:

• Aug. 31 vs. Elon — Arctic Clam;

• Sept. 16 vs. Tulsa — Last Born Sons;

• Oct. 7 vs. Eastern Michigan — MidNight Special (courtesy of The Blade); and

• Oct. 21 vs. Akron — Distant Cousinz.

For the home opener against Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, and the Saturday, Sept. 16, contest against Tulsa, Fan Fest will begin at 4 p.m., weather permitting. Start times of Rocket Fan Fest for Eastern Michigan (Oct.7) and Akron (Oct.21) are still to be determined.

Lutz thanked UT’s community partners True House of Munch, IHeart Media and The Blade for their support of Rocket Fan Fest.

Individual and season tickets are available at the UT Ticket Office, online at utrockets.com, or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653). Tickets are half-off for UT employees and retirees, and UT students are admitted free to home games with ID.

First football pep rally to take place Aug. 30

See you at the pep rally! The University of Toledo and Toledo Athletics will host three pep rallies on campus for the 2017 football season.

Fans are invited to psych up Wednesday, Aug. 30, Thursday, Sept. 14, and Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Each pep rally will begin approximately at 12:30 p.m. and will be held at the Thompson Student Union steps on Centennial Mall.

Campus pep rallies will feature the Rocket football team, the UT Marching Band, the UT cheerleaders, Rocky the Rocket, and Football Head Coach Jason Candle.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, as part of the 100 Years of Rocket Football Celebration, former UT and NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski will speak to the crowd.

UT students can earn Rocket Gold Reward points by checking in at the event via the Rocket Gold Rewards app through the SuperFanU smartphone app to win awards and prizes throughout the season while receiving giveaways from local sponsors.

Athletic Department personnel also will be on hand to offer discounted season tickets for faculty and staff.

UT will take on Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

Season tickets begin at $80 and are available at the UT Athletic Ticket Office, online here, or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653). Tickets are half-off for UT employees and retirees, and UT students are admitted free to home games with ID.

Football opening night to feature fireworks

The University of Toledo announced its home-opening football contest vs. Elon Thursday, Aug. 31, will feature a halftime fireworks show, courtesy of area auto dealerships that are part of the Rockets’ Car Coaches Program.

“The home opener is a celebration of a new season, so we want to kick it off with a spectacular fireworks display that will light up the Glass Bowl,” said Dave Nottke, deputy director of athletics. “We would like to express our sincerest thanks to all of our Rocket Car Coaches who have made this special fireworks presentation possible.”

The Elon game will be the first opportunity for fans to see the Rockets, preseason favorites to win the 2017 Mid-American Conference Championship. Game time is 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

Season tickets begin at $80 and are available at the UT Athletic Ticket Office, online here, or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653). Tickets are half-off for UT employees and retirees, and UT students are admitted free to home games with ID.

Fireworks for the home opener have been made possible thanks to the generosity of Ballas Buick GMC; Brondes Ford Toledo; Brondes Ford Maumee; Brown Automotive Group; Bobby Jorgensen’s Kistler Ford; Charlie’s Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram; Grogan’s Towne Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram; Perrysburg Auto Mall; Yark Automotive Group; and the White Family Dealerships — Dave White Chevrolet, Jim White Toyota and Lexus of Toledo.

UT golfer helps Thailand to fifth-place finish at Summer World University Games

Junior Pinyada Kuvanun tied for 13th place individually to help Thailand to a fifth-place showing in the women’s golf competition at the 2017 Summer World University Games.

The final round was scheduled to be played Sunday but was canceled due to inclement weather in Taipei City, Taiwan.

Kuvanun

Kuvanun carded rounds of 75-71-75 to finish at five-over par 221 in the competition. Kuvanun combined with Pasinee Thongthaengyai (76-73-72) and Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong (71-72-76) to post a team score of 436. The top two individuals’ rounds registered each day were counted in the team scores.

The United States earned the gold medal with a score of 421 with China (424) and Korea (431) receiving the silver and bronze medals, respectively. Japan placed fourth with a team score of 434.

Kuvanun and the Rockets will open their 2017-18 campaign Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 18-19, at Ball State’s Cardinal Classic in Yorktown, Ind.

Former UT great to join Rocket Football Radio Network team

Former Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski will return to the Glass Bowl this season, this time as a color analyst for the Rocket Football Radio Network.

Gradkowski, who wore the Midnight Blue and Gold for the Rockets from 2001 to 2005, played 11 seasons in the NFL for Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. He led the Rockets to the 2004 Mid-American Conference Championship and two bowl appearances. He earned first-team All-MAC honors as a senior in 2005, finishing his career with a 45-13 triumph over UTEP in the GMAC Bowl.

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski led the Rockets to the 2004 Mid-American Conference Championship.

“It’s exciting to officially be a part of the Rocket family again,” Gradkowski said. “This is where it all started for me and laid the foundation for an 11-year NFL career. I can’t thank [UT Vice President and Athletic Director] Mike O’Brien and UT President [Sharon L.] Gaber enough for all the support they have given me and my family over the years. Also, thanks to Head Coach Jason Candle for continuing to reach out to the alumni to keep them involved, and for the great job he has been doing. To the city of Toledo, thank you. That’s why we call this place home. Let’s go Rockets!”

Also new to the Rocket Football Radio Network this year will be Mike Robinson, who will handle sideline coverage. Robinson is a former head coach at Bowsher High School in Toledo, and also served as an assistant coach at Central Catholic High School in Toledo when the Fighting Irish won two state championships. More recently, Robinson has served as a color analyst for high school football games on BCSN.

Gradkowski and Robinson will join play-by-play announcer Brent Balbinot, who is in his second season as the voice of the Rockets.

“We are very pleased to have Bruce and Mike join our radio team,” said Mary-Bec Gwyn, general manager of Rocket Sports Properties, the rights holder for Rocket sports. “Bruce is one of the all-time Rocket greats, as well as a longtime NFL quarterback, so he will add tremendous insight into our broadcasts. Mike is a talented young announcer who knows our team well. We think fans will be thrilled with the radio coverage of the Rockets this season.”

The Rocket Football Radio Network consists of six stations throughout northern Ohio. The flagship station is WSPD (AM 1370) in Toledo, which will carry Rocket football for the 51st season this fall. The network also includes WMTR (FM 96.1) in Archbold; WOHF (FM 92.1) in Bellevue; WJMO (AM 1300) in Cleveland; WBVI (FM 96.7) in Fostoria; and WFGA (FM 106.7) in Hicksville.

The games also are streamed online at UTRockets.com, the official website of Rocket Athletics.

Rocket Sports Properties (a property of Learfield) secured UT Medical Center as the naming sponsor beginning in 2009. The partnership provides UTMC rights to the radio network for football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and coaches shows.

Rockets share joy of victory with area special needs students

The UT football program hosted its fourth annual Victory Day for special needs students from Toledo area schools Aug. 19 in the Glass Bowl. Participating students met UT football players, ran drills, and heard their names announced over the public address system as they scored a touchdown.

Victory Day is an opportunity for special needs students to have their moment in the sun on the football field. Each student was partnered with a UT football player who served as his or her mentor for the day. The young athletes wore Rocket jerseys and were presented with medals at the end of the day to commemorate their victories.

Two students got a big lift from the Rockets during Victory Day.

Toledo football players, cheerleaders, Rocky the Rocket and UT Marching Band members also were on hand to cheer on the participants.

“It certainly is a fun day for our players and for the kids in the community,” said Head Coach Jason Candle. “We get to share a meaningful experience with these kids. Our players really love to do it. We’re in the middle of preseason camp, and sometimes players can start to feel a little sorry for themselves — they’re in pain or their legs hurt. But this is an eye-opening experience. Our players our blessed to have their opportunities. This is a great reminder of that and a great way to give something back to the community.”

Senior wide receiver Cody Thompson added, “Just being with these kids and making their day a little bit better is awesome. It’s always good to give back and put a smile on someone’s face.”

Victory Day was started in 2010 by Aaron Segedi, a teacher and football coach from Trenton, Mich., a cancer survivor whose life was saved thanks to a liver donation from his sister. Since then, the Victory Day program has been adopted by high schools and universities in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

The Rockets first celebrated Victory Day in 2014.