Black History Month began Feb. 1, 2012, and will be celebrated through the end of the month, ending Feb. 29, 2012. The University of Arkansas Athletics Department begins its fourth year of recognizing the accomplishments of current and former Razorback student-athletes as well as other prominent students, faculty and staff with its web series on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. This year, the web series will feature stories of former Razorback student-athletes who have gone on to coaching positions in universities or colleges around the state and country. In addition, the series will recognize four Silas Hunt honorees.
"The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself–the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us–that’s where it’s at." -Jesse Owens Named the most outstanding player of the 1998 NCAA West Regional, former Razorback women’s basketball player Sytia Messer continues to be a force in the game. An integral part of two of Arkansas’ greatest women’s basketball teams, the 1998 Final Four and 1999 Women’s NIT Championship squads, Messer currently serves as the head coach at Tennessee Tech, and is in the midst of her third season. During her playing career, Messer became a 1,000-point scorer with 1,379 points to currently rank seventh all-time. At 5-8, she pulled down 603 rebounds as one of the best rebounding guards in school history and ranks 10th all-time for Arkansas. She was a two- time captain for Arkansas as a junior and senior. The graduate of Waldo, Ark., High arrived at Arkansas in 1994-95 as a freshman and started a run of 128 consecutive games played for the Razorbacks. Playing all 34 games, she started 14 as a freshman and earned several national all-freshman team honors. Messer was also voted by the league coaches to the SEC All-Freshman team. As a sophomore on the 1996-97 squad, Messer averaged 9.6 ppg. The highlight of her second season was the Razorbacks’ victory over Tennessee, still the only win to date over the Lady Vols by Arkansas. That day, Messer’s defensive assignment was to limit Tennessee All-American Chamique Holdsclaw’s touches on the ball. Messer responded by holding Holdsclaw to a then career low five points as the Razorbacks defeated UT, 77- 75. The next year, Messer turned her offense up and became a regular starter and double- digit scorer for the Razorbacks. She averaged 12.6 ppg in 1997-98, her best season, but her finest play came at the end of the year in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas reached the Sweet 16 hosted by Cal at the Oakland Coliseum, and Messer took center stage as the Razorbacks’ leading scorer versus Kansas and Duke. Messer poured in 23 points against the Jayhawks as Arkansas advanced to the regional finals with a 79-63 decision. Arkansas trailed the Jayhawks at half, but Messer scored 17 of her 23 in the second half as the Razorbacks scored 54 and held Kansas All-American Lynn Pride scoreless in the final period. Against eight-ranked Duke, Messer hit 20 points on 9-of-16 from the field with five assists, five rebounds and two steals. The win sent Arkansas on to its first Final Four appearance. Her senior season, Messer was the team leader in an up-and-down season that finished 15-14. Taking on the WNIT, the Razorback ran the table to the title game against Wisconsin. Unfortunately, family tragedy struck for Messer on the night prior to the title game as her mother died suddenly; however her teammates went out in front of an Arkansas record crowd 14,163 fans to win the game for Messer, 67-64. Along with her play for the Razorbacks, Messer also took time to play in the summer prior to graduation for the collegiate squad of Athletes in Action. She also played for the post- collegian Athletes in Action touring team. Following college, Messer began her coaching career at Arkansas State for two seasons before moving on to Memphis. In two years with the Tigers, Messer helped develop Victoria Crawford into Conference USA Sixth Woman of the Year. She has made her coaching mark at ACC member Georgia Tech, starting as an assistant before earning promotion to the first-ever associate head coach in Yellow Jacket history. A key recruiter for the Yellow Jackets from her arrival, she became the recruiting coordinator in her second year at Georgia Tech. Since taking over the coordinator’s position, all four of her recruiting classes have been top 25, including her 2008-09 class ranking as high as sixth in the country. When Messer signed on to be the head women’s basketball coach at Tennessee Tech prior to the 2009-10 season, her main goal was to bring the program back to what it once was: a dominant team and a perennial OVC Championship contender. Messer would only need two seasons to accomplish this as the 2010-11 Golden Eagles not only posted a winning 23-8 record, but also won their first OVC Championship since the 2005-06 season. Messer earned OVC Coach of the Year honors for her success that season. Unlike her first two seasons, where Tech was considered an underdog, the Golden Eagles will be one of the odds-on favorites to repeat as OVC champions and potentially make it all the way to the NCAA Tournament.