Mavericks hold annual Basketball 101 with women fans

DALLAS -- Mary Nelson was having a ball Monday night taking pictures and hob-knobbing with one Mavs Maniaac after another.

"Today is my birthday," said Nelson, in town from Monroe, La., to celebrate her 70th birthday with her daughter. "My daughter gave this to me for my birthday as a present. And I'm having a wonderful time."

More than 200 women attended a lively workshop -- dubbed Basketball 101 -- at American Airlines Center hosted by the Dallas Mavericks. It included a stop by the Mavs' locker room, weight room, practice court, and speeches by coach Rick Carlisle, general manager Donnie Nelson, assistant coaches Monte Mathis and Jim O'Brien.

This is the 12th year the Mavs have put on the event -- it includes eight eight-minute stations for the women to soak in some knowledge -- and Nelson has attended all 12.

"This is an opportunity to meet with our mothers and daughters and sisters and give them a nice little backstage pass with the Mavericks organization," Nelson said. "It gives me a chance to really sit down and communicate with them.

"But they've got some hard questions. They asked me to explain in 20 words or less the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement,] and I said just give me a pistol."

Selma Guzman and Rose Rodriguez of Grand Prairie attended this event for the first time, if for no other reason than the inquisitive factor.

"It's pretty interesting -- being a woman," Guzman, 36, said. "There's not a lot of women who enjoy the sport. For me it's just the entertainment, a chance to meet some of the players and have a little fun and to support the game of basketball."

Rodriguez, 43, concurred.

"It's an event that's different, and it's a good experience," she said. "We're going to come back and make it a little tradition for us."

For Amanda Billings, these types of events are truly old hat. In fact, a Mavs staff member said Billings is so astute that she could probably host the workshop with no problems.

"This is my sixth year and we love coming every year because every year is so exciting," Billings, a 29-year old nurse from Dallas, said. "We just love coming here because it's always so much fun to meet the players.

"We got to meet Shawn Marion one year, and J.J. [Barea]. He was my absolute favorite. I'm so sad that he's not here. I was like, 'Why are you getting rid of JJ?' I was so mad."

On Monday, the women met rookie center Bernard James and guard Dahntay Jones. In fact, James said he was part of two of these women-only clinics while playing for Florida State.

"We had one for young girls 18 and under, and then we had another one for adults, so I've done both," James said. "But this is the first interaction I've had with the Dallas fans on a large scale."

Jones didn't have any preconceived notions on what the women wanted to know.

Jones said: "When you have a group of women you never know what's going to come at you."

Carlisle, meanwhile, was more than happy to open the doors to his office and offer some insights on how the Mavs operate.

"It's a really good opportunity for us to get to know some of the ladies that live and die with the Mavs, and we hope that they can take something away from this that's new and different for them," Carlisle said. "We have a great appreciation for the women that support the team.

"And I'm getting a greater appreciation as well with the knowledge of the game a lot of these ladies bring to an event like this. It's pretty interesting."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760