After finding out she and her mom were going to Indianapolis to watch the Oregon State University women’s basketball team play in the Final Four, 9-year-old Emma Bowers had just one question:
“Mom, can I go pack?” Emma asked before jumping excitedly and running to her room when her mother, Malorie, nodded yes.
“Of course we had to unpack and repack,” Malorie Bowers said. “She’s 9. Oftentimes things are forgotten.”
But Emma didn’t forget her favorite item: a “Canadian Hammer” shirt honoring Emma’s favorite player, Ruth Hamblin. Emma wears the shirt so often it recently developed a hole.
The Bowers, who live in Albany, are flying out to Indianapolis today and will root for the Beavers when they take on the University of Connecticut Sunday afternoon in their first Final Four appearance.
The last time Emma took a flight, it was to Disneyland. But she said the Final Four trip might top it.
“It’s more exciting than Disneyland,” she said. “Because I’ve seen the girls more than Disneyland.”
Emma loves the women’s team so much that when she found out Hamblin was going to donate her hair to Locks of Love following the Feb. 12 Dam Cancer game at Gill Coliseum, Emma donated her hair too and sat next to Hamblin for the event. (Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that collects donations of hair and uses them to make hairpieces for children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.)
Emma said she became a Ruth Hamblin fan the moment the two met at a game earlier this year.
“When I first saw Ruth I had to look up a lot and it hurt my neck, cuz she’s so tall,” Emma said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m only 2 feet 6 inches shorter than her. But it seems like more.”
Hamblin made sure to send Emma a tweet before the Dam Cancer game.
“Hey Emma! Hope you’re excited for the big night tonight! Don’t be nervous, we’re in this together!” Hamblin tweeted.
Malorie Bowers said Emma became a fan after the family attended a few games last year. Shortly after, Emma developed a bone infection that required several months of antibiotic treatment at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Before she received the all-clear from the hospital, Malorie Bowers told Emma that she could do whatever she wanted. Emma suggested taking a trip to Clarkston, Washington.
“I asked her, ‘why would we do that?’” Malorie Bowers said. “And she told me ‘because that’s where Jamie Weisner’s from. We could see where she grew up.”
After laughing, Malorie and Emma decided that it might be more fun to go to the Pac-12 Conference tournament in Seattle instead.
“They’re so awesome,” Emma said. “I’m always begging my mom to go to more games.”
Emma, who’s in third grade at Albany’s Central Elementary Schoool, recently started playing basketball. And after she and Hamblin got their hair cut together at the February game, Emma took the opportunity to ask Hamblin an important question.
“I asked her if she wanted to come to some of my games,” Emma said. “And she was like ‘sure, have your mom send me some of the dates.’ I said OK. Because I’m working really hard to impress her.”
Emma said she hopes one day she can join the Beavers as a player.
“It’s my dream to play basketball at OSU,” she said. “And I hope one day (head coach) Scott (Rueck) or another coach asks me to play at OSU. That would be my biggest dream come true.”