Stephanie Ready was well into her career as a basketball analyst by the sixth grade, describing the intricacies of the game to her mother on the kitchen table.
“I’d be moving the salt and pepper shakers around, explaining, ‘this is a ball screen, the pick and roll,’” says Ready, moving up from sidelines reporter for the Charlotte Hornets to game analyst in the booth with Dell Curry. They join Eric Collins, the new play-by-play announcer replacing Steve Martin, who returns to radio play-by-play duties.
With her elevation by Fox Sports Southeast, she becomes the first female full-time NBA analyst, though she has filled in for Curry many times.
Ready, 39, grew up in the Washington suburbs in a family where basketball – particularly Georgetown University’s brand – was king. She remembers going on picnics, spreading out the blanket and sprinting to the court to watch her father in pick-up games.
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She played at Coppin State University in Baltimore – her parents attended every home game – and later helped in recruiting and coaching for the men’s team. She moved to the NBA Developmental League with the Greenville, S.C., Groove as assistant coach until the team disbanded.
She did some broadcasting and sent her tapes out to ESPN and got a call – about broadcasting women’s sports, not men’s.
“They gave me a trial game, then I got a few assignments,” Ready says. “One thing led to another. I did some Furman games back in Greenville. I really enjoyed it. I felt I could get good at it.”
That led to work with Bob Johnson’s new team in Charlotte, then the Bobcats, and their network C-SET, which disappeared a year later because it was unable to reach enough cable distribution.
She stayed on and ultimately prospered as sidelines reporter and host of “Hornets Live.” This will be her 12th season with Charlotte.
Curry has been one of her mentors in broadcasting, generous with advice and encouragement, Ready says.
Sandy Sharp, who was sidelines reporter with the Atlanta Hawks, was another. After Ready’s first season, Sharp took the time to critique tapes of her work and offer pointers. They remain good friends.
There’s one bittersweet aspect to her new job – her mother, who was also her biggest fan, died this summer.
“That keeps me up a little bit because she doesn’t get to see this,” says Ready. “My dad says, ‘Your mom would be so proud of you.’”
If heaven is all it’s cracked up to be, you can be sure she’ll catch every game.