Tipping the Ball Off to the Next Generation

Here at ThreeSixty, we have no shortage of students who blow us away with their professionalism and thoughtfulness, and when seniors Aaliyah Demry and Sam Stensgaard were given backstage access to the Timberwolves, they proved themselves to be no exception.

ThreeSixty with Chris Hine 2020
ThreeSixty meets with Star Tribune Timberwolves Reporter Chris Hine ahead of covering the game at Target Center.

In their preparatory meeting with Star Tribune Timberwolves reporter Chris Hine, Aaliyah and Sam asked questions some college students might not even think of on the spot. They were curious about how they should navigate the nuances of Kobe Bryant’s death, which happened the day before, especially because there were players who had personal connections with the basketball legend. They wondered how they could build rapport with players upon their first time meeting compared to the seasoned journalists who they would be working alongside.

Aaliyah and Sam attentively watched as the players drifted in and out of the locker room, piping up as they took note of anything and everything that piqued their interest, from the bottles of lotion sitting on players’ shelves to the brands of the sneakers laying around on the floor. Even before we entered the locker room, Sam knew he wanted to talk to Jordan Bell – a native of Los Angeles – on how he took the Kobe Bryant news, and he did exactly that.

“I think I blacked out,” Sam told me afterward. “I’m probably not going to remember any of this conversation later.”

ThreeSixty at Timberwolves game 2020
ThreeSixty reporters smile in front of the Timberwolves locker room on Junior Reporter night. (Left to right) ThreeSixty Scholar Zekriah Chaudhry, Reporter Sam Stensgaard, Scholar Danielle Wong and Reporter Aaliyah Demry.

I laughed and told Sam he definitely wasn’t alone. I recounted the story of when I interviewed A-list comedian Kevin Hart at a red carpet event before the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. If it wasn’t for a video, I probably wouldn’t have remembered much of the interview either! I reassured Sam the more practice he has with interviews, the easier it will get to remain present – especially when the stakes are higher.

Meanwhile, Aaliyah had no problem starting up some playful banter with some of the players. She was comfortable, personable, and absolutely hilarious. It took me back to my first man-on-the-street interviews as a new journalist with ThreeSixty; I remembered how fast my heart beat and how questions flew in and out of my mind without a second to grab on. Aaliyah didn’t show an ounce of nerves under the pressure, but instead displayed some of the most necessary qualities of a journalist: fearlessness and an insatiable curiosity.

As we wrapped up the night courtside, I watched as the students’ eyes widened at each unexpected turn of events. Regardless of how the game ended, Aaliyah and Sam walked away winners – confident in their skills and their passion for journalism.

Read Sam and Aaliyah’s stories on the Timberwolves website.