By GINA MIZELL
This summer, Jenny Dial Creech met basketball coaches and high-school players from Cameroon, who live in a village hut. And from Libya, who had trouble traveling because of ongoing conflict in that region of the world. And from North Korea and Canada and Australia.
Creech, the Association for Women in Sports Media’s VP/Fundraising, was surrounded by natives from 80 countries while covering a week-long youth summer camp run by the Turkish Basketball Federation in Istanbul, Turkey.
“It’s a great thing that something like journalism or something like basketball … can bring people together in a really positive way,” said Creech, who enters her second season of covering the Houston Rockets for the Houston Chronicle. “That’s always good to see. I don’t know if we see enough of that in our jobs and in our daily lives.”
Creech’s brother has coached for the Turkish Basketball Federation for six years, where his role includes directing summer camps. Creech had been asked multiple times to cover the event but football commitments as a reporter and editor at The Houston Chronicle always made an international trip in August impossible. With Creech’s move to covering the NBA, she could finally attend.
Creech spent 10 days in Turkey, produced content for the Federation’s website and to send to other media outlets, taking photos and using her limited knowledge of Spanish and French to interview athletes and coaches from all over the world.
She perhaps was most pleasantly surprised by the popularity of women’s basketball in other countries.
With the FIBA Women’s World Championships taking place in Istanbul in October, Creech asked campers about their favorite players. They could rattle off multiple names from multiple countries. Additionally, FIBA European President Turgay Demirel chatted with Creech about actively trying to grow the women’s game, particularly in Muslim countries.
“I guarantee you wouldn’t believe how much people like women’s basketball over there,” Creech said. “It’s so different. I’ve heard that a lot of times, but to see it in person and to be talking to this guy (Demirel) with that much power and to hear him talking about it, it was really something special.”
Creech even got a story for her day job out of the trip, landing an interview with Turkish national team member and former Rockets center Omer Asik. Asik does not normally grant media requests but talked with Creech about being traded from Houston to the New Orleans Pelicans during the offseason.
“It was a good story for us that I just kind of stumbled into while I was there,” Creech said.
Creech’s experience went beyond the basketball, of course.
She would encourage anybody to put Istanbul, a mega-city of more than 14 million people, on their travel list and added she “would go back in a heartbeat.” She highlighted the unique blend of ancient buildings and modern civilization. She jumped in the Bosphorus Strait, which separates Europe and Asia, on her last day. And despite the language barrier, she found the natives extremely friendly to tourists.
“It was like being around a bunch of Texans,” Creech said. “Just the nicest culture of people I’ve ever met. They’re just so happy you’re there. I was so comfortable using public transportation by myself or walking in really crowded areas by myself.
“There was a real warmth about the people there that kind of just want to share their city with you.”
Creech’s Facebook profile now is filled with new friends from around the world. Those were the same folks who, even though Creech was “just” a reporter at the camp, wanted to say goodbye to her with pictures and hugs as the event concluded.
“I didn’t even do anything,” Creech said. “But to them, (being a reporter was a) big deal. I was there.”