Original

Christian Hithe: All defense, all the time

This is the tenth story in the SLR Original series on Title IX  (See previous)

Christian “Crit” Hithe is a UNC-Charlotte basketball player who had transferred from another college and was sitting out for an NCAA-mandated year when I met her at the university, where she took my ethics class.

Crit Hithe 1

Like Vicky Bullett, Hithe has benefitted so directly from Title IX and equal access to sport that it’s hard to ignore.

Once she could play at Charlotte, she blew me away with her work ethic. Put this 5’9” guard in for 10 minutes and she’ll stuff the stat sheet. She plays tenacious defense, all the time, in a style that coaches love to teach but players don’t always claim as theirs. Hithe claims it. 

She has since become a part-time starter, and scores more points, but I hope she keeps her identity as the gritty first person off the bench, who wows fans with hustle.

I attended the final regular-season game of her sophomore season, after which the two senior players and manager were honored, and we pledged to each other to be there when she gets those salutes in her final season. 

Hithe grew up in New Orleans but her family moved to South Carolina after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Her mom volunteered for the American Red Cross to help clean up the city, and Hithe was able to see live footage of their submerged house and of the work her mom was doing. She was an all-state player in South Carolina high school basketball and won the state high jump championship, and all that ability set her on a path to higher education.

“I am grateful that my talents as a basketball player resulted in me receiving a full scholarship,” she said. “One day that basketball will stop bouncing, but my education can never be taken away, and will carry me through life.”

Story header
The biceps of Christian Hithe and Ellyn Ritterskamp next to one another. (JULIE RITTERSKAMP)

Accordingly, she has a forearm tattoo that reads “Knowledge is Power,” and another that reads “If Not Know, Then When,” a deliberate spelling to combine “know” and “now.” 

And since she does not have to worry about the day-to-day expenses of her education, Hithe is free to love shoes — not dress shoes, heels, or boots, but sneakers. 

I had the good sense, on a recent evening after class, not to interrupt Hithe and her peers while they discussed footwear, to tell them about shoes in the ’80s that had flashing lights in the soles. I think those may have come back, though, so my story might not have been foolish, but retro, or even “vintage.” 

Read the final part of our series on Title IX: Havana Blum

Ellyn Ritterskamp is a journalist and teacher who loves thinking about sport and ethics, especially if there is baseball involved. She lives in Charlotte, NC, has appeared on three TV game shows, and has visited all the parks in Major League Baseball, the South Atlantic League, and the Carolina League.

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