Tara VanDerveer uses NCAA platform to pledge help to Ukraine

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — At home over breakfast Thursday morning with sister Heidi, Tara VanDerveer formulated a plan to somehow help the suffering Ukrainian people who still mean so much to her years after she took the U.S. national team to play there.

The Hall of Fame Stanford coach pledged $10 for every 3-pointer made in the women’s NCAA Tournament toward humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, and she challenged anyone else who could give to do so — even just a dime per 3 if possible.

Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner, whose team is playing its first-round NCAA game against Kansas at Stanford on Friday, immediately joined VanDerveer’s fundraising efforts. She was an assistant coach on that U.S. team.

“I want to put a challenge out to other coaches, to our fans, to everyone in here, my sister’s already accepted the challenge, I’d like to donate to the Ukraine humanitarian fund — and I’m not sure which fund it will be yet — $10 for every 3-point made in the NCAA women’s tournament,” VanDerveer said as defending champion and top-seeded Stanford prepared to take on Montana State in the first round.

Heidi VanDerveer, the coach at UC San Diego, wasn’t sure she could commit $10 for every 3-pointer but said, “I’m going to do whatever I can.” She and her sister were still discussing which organizations to support, perhaps choosing several.

“The fun thing about Tara, everyone talks about basketball and everything else, but she referred to her bubble. We’re all in a basketball bubble but the rest of the world keeps going,” Heidi said. “The great thing about her is that she definitely has the bigger picture in mind and understands that from traveling the world just how fortunate we are. And when you can help somebody, you do. It’s great. It’s awesome.”

Tara VanDerveer’s 1996 Olympic champion U.S. national team played in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv leading up to the Atlanta Games, and faced the Ukrainian national team about 10 times.

“I would call them our cousins because we saw them in so many tournaments and played against them,” VanDerveer recalled. “So maybe I have an affinity for the country, and watching what’s happening has been really, really very hard. When our team was leaving Ukraine, women at 3:30 in the morning were begging outside of our bus. And our team emptied their suitcases, emptied their wallets, just were very generous.”

Said Fortner: “That was a phenomenal trip over there, and it was an eye-opening trip in a lot of ways.”

VanDerveer has asked associate director of communications Wilder Treadway to track her total each day.

“I hope people can make a lot of 3s and that I can be very generous,” VanDerveer said, “and I hope other people will get on board with this challenge and I’d like people to match the challenge.”

Georgia Tech guard Sarah Bates plans to contribute to the effort with her play.

“My job is to be a shooter and to make as many 3s as possible, so I’m planning on doing that anyway,” she said. “But if it’s to help the efforts in Ukraine as well, that’s just another motivation to make more 3s. I think that’s awesome what she’s doing and I hope other people are on board and willing to shoot more 3s so we can get more money out there.”

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