Wednesday, October 18, 2017

23 days to go

College team news:

Mississippi State is set for a power struggle in the SEC.

Three preseason questions for the Bulldogs.

Is it national championship or bust? And three other questions facing South Carolina.

UConn's Final Four loss was the best thing that's ever happened to them.

Marquette has too much depth for the Big East to handle. They have been picked to win the Big East.

More than posts, Stanford's system is big on versatility.

Michigan is ready to build on their WNIT title.

Gonzaga are the heavy favorites to repeat as WCC champions.

Florida is sorting out their roster.

UNCW has heightened optimism, hope and expectations under new coach Karen Barefoot.

College player news:

Clemson's top scorer, Nelly Perry, will miss the season after shoulder surgery.

Nearing a scoring record, Michigan's Katelynn Flaherty is ready to take on a new challenge.

Kia Nurse is preparing for her grandma year at UConn.

Southern Illinois' Kylie Giebelhausen has grown into a leadership role.

College coach news:

Pepperdine's new assistant coach is Roland Jones Jr., aka the husband of head coach Delisha Milton-Jones.

Pedal for Pat Summitt:

Six WNBA teams have joined the "Pedal for Pat" initiative via social media: the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm.

WNBA team news:

The New York Liberty have received the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for the season.

WNBA coach news:

A new role in Las Vegas comes at the right time and place for Bill Laimbeer.

Bonus:

Seton Hall alum Brian Stanchak is the founder of the BDS Agency.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

This is the third in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Last season for the Washington State Cougars can only be described as hopeful, as the team went through their share of ups and downs, which included several injuries.

They finished the regular season 12-18 overall and 6-12 in Pac-12 Conference play, earning a tie for seventh place after being picked to finish tenth. One of their six wins was against the nationally-ranked UCLA Bruins in January. The 82-73 victory was the biggest upset in program history.

The influx of injuries meant that many of WSU’s losses were decided by two possessions or less, or in overtime. Every time they gained momentum, there would be another injury – and on a catastrophic scale. The Cougars didn’t lose one or two players to injuries last season; they lost four key contributors, in top scorers Lou Brown (10.4 ppg), Bobi Hristova (14.7 ppg), freshmen Cameron Fernan (4.7 ppg) and Chanelle Molina (12.8 ppg). The squad was eventually rolling 11 deep while competing in a conference that does not hold back punches.

“I think one of the unique things is when something bad happens, there is a lot of good that comes out of it, and there was a lot of good that came out of it for our team,” coach June Daugherty said. “I think the mental toughness that this group showed last year, not losing one (or) two, but three starters and then a fourth player for the season like they did, they just bounced back. They did not allow anyone to make excuses for them.”

WSU earned an invitation to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), and they delivered winning the first four rounds before being eliminated by Georgia Tech in the semifinals.

Daugherty said the magical run was a blessing to the team.

“I think it has definitely built a lot of confidence into our players,” she said. “They’re a lot more hungry about continuing to play in postseason.”

The momentum carried into offseason workouts and practices.

“We’ve had the best spring and summer that I’ve witnessed in my 10, 11 years here at Washington State,” Daugherty said.

While the offseason is general focused on player development and recruiting, it also is the time for welcoming new players. The Cougars add three new players this season, but also return with many familiar faces.

Newcomers include power forward Taryn Shelly and guard Celena Molina. Redshirt freshmen Jovana Subasic will also play her first season for the team, after sitting out her first year with injury.

As they have in recent years, WSU has many international players on the roster.

“Basketball is a global game. Because of FIBA TV, now Facebook, the Internet, you know, there is quite a bit of interest from the student-athletes overseas. They can check us out,” Daugherty said. “Pac-12 Networks is in 30-some countries, and they see our games.”

The Cougars return senior guard Krystle McKenzie (Australia), senior guard and co-captain Pinelopi Pavlopoulou (Greece), redshirt junior Louise Brown (Australia), junior center Maria Kosturkova (Portugal), sophomore guard Johanna Muzet (France), and redshirt sophomore forward Borislava Hristova (Bulgaria).

Sophomore guards Kayla Washington, Chanelle Molina, Cameron Fernandez, and junior guard Alexys Swedlund return, as well.

Senior guard and co-captain Caila Hailey returns after receiving recognition last year as one of the conference’s top defenders. Last season she averaged 2.1 steals per game, which ranked third in the Pac-12. Hailey said she was surprised to be named a captain.

“I’m always the one that’s trying to learn,” she said. “I feel like once I started taking outside of basketball more serious, and I felt like that kind of carried over, I’m way more mature than I was my freshman and sophomore year. I know the system inside and out now.”

The Cougars WNIT run sparked a new level expectation among the team.

“We have new goals this year with everybody coming back. There are high expectations, and as it should be,” Hailey said.

Daugherty is excited for the upcoming season.

“We are so very excited about the season,” she said. “We have a great schedule and a great team.”

- Candice Evans

SEC stacked, and Stars have a new home

College conference news:

South Carolina tops the SEC in the preseason poll.

The Big East Conference has signed a multi-year deal to have the conference tournament at Wintrust Arena.

College player news:

Why UConn's Kia Nurse is a matchup nightmare for opponents.

Tania Davis will be the X-factor this year for Iowa.

Ohio State's Makayla Waterman expects a bigger role this year.

College coach news:

Scott Rueck's contract at Oregon State has been extended five years, through the 2026-2027 season.

Towson's Diane Richardson took the long, winding road to her first Division I head coaching job.

Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors says all his players are starting at the same level.

Recruiting news:

Imani Lewis has committed to Wisconsin.

WNBA franchise news:

Earlier today it was made official: MGM resorts has bought the San Antonio Stars, and they're moving to Las Vegas.

Can the league find a loyal fan base in Sin City?

The move could make the WNBA more visible.

WNBA player news:

Basketball never stops for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

WNBA coach news:

Katie Smith can't wait to challenge Bill Laimbeer.

Pat Summitt:

More on Michelle Marciniak's ride for her former coach.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Before week three of college practice

College team news:

Podcast: UConn is motivated by their loss to Mississippi State last year.

Northern Colorado has been picked to win the Big Sky Conference.

College player news:

Baylor's Kalani Brown and Kristy Wallace enjoyed international play this summer.

Oregon coach Kelly Graves says the sky is the limit for freshman Satou Sabally.

Temple's Alliya Butts is out for the season with an ACL tear.

College coach news:

Bonnie Henrickson is reconstructing Cal State Santa Barbara from the ground up.

WNBA news:

Las Vegas power brokers are unaware of a WNBA team's move there.

Podcast with Nneka Ogwumike on mental strength.

Pac-12 preview: the University of Southern California

This is the second in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

If the 2017-2018 USC Trojans had a movie title, it might be "Back to the Future."

The program enters the season with a new-but-not-new coaching staff, a sixth-year senior, plenty of upper-class leadership and a bevy of young talent. With experience and a fresh approach, they aim to better the 14-16 overall finish they had last year, which also tied them for last place in the Pac-12, with a 5-13 showing.

One day after USC's conference tournament first-round loss last March, coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was let go. After almost a two-month search, the school re-hired Mark Trakh, who coached the Trojan women from 2005-2009. Senior guard Sadie Edwards said Trakh wasted no time in establishing team goals upon his arrival.

"From day one coach Trakh and our new staff were very clear about their vision for our program moving forward," Edwards said. "I think every single day, we're taking a step towards that goal. The foundation we're building right now is very strong, and it's founded on togetherness and unselfishness. Giving your best effort every day, every second. Being consistent is a big thing for them."

Something else that is major is that senior guard Jordan Adams will be back for a sixth season, after being granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA last spring. Adams tore her ACL after playing - and starting in - only five games last season. Trakh said his return coupled with hers was ironic.

"I'll tell you a story about Jordan," Trakh said. "I started coaching her and she came up to me. She said, 'coach Trakh?....you realize that you recruited me when you were a coach the first time here.' That's how long she's been at SC."

Edwards (9.2 points per game) returns to the starting five, as does senior forward Kristen Simon (14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), and three others who started most games between them after Adams was out. Sophomore guard Minyon Moore (11.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds per game) is poised to electrify fans again with her hustle play. Junior guard Aliyah Mazyck (6.6 points per game) and sophomore guard Ja'Tavia Tapley (5.7 points, 3.2 rebounds per game) will likely pick up where they left off, as well. Moore's sister, senior guard Mariya Moore, transferred to USC from Louisville last spring and will sit out the year due to transfer rules, but she practices with - and helps - the team.

Also returning to the Trojans are sophomore forwards Asiah Jones and Dani Milisic, and junior forward Marguerite Effa. USC has one new international player in junior guard Candela Abajon, from Spain, and one true freshman: guard Shalexxus Aaron.

The team worked all summer and is focusing on consistency. Simon said they should not be underestimated.

"We're ready for this year, we're ready," she said. "I think we'll shock a lot of people."

Friday, October 13, 2017

The wild world of hoops

College conference news:

Five must-see ACC matchups this season.

College program news:

How five persistent women were able to restore the Lady Vol name and logo.

North Carolina escapes NCAA punishment after years-long academic scandal.

The University isn't celebrating - they're ready to move on.

Jan Boxill, a former professor and counselor to the Tarheel women, is relieved with the NCAA result.

College team news:

Notre Dame is looking to transcend their injury woes.

The new pieces are a puzzle for coach Muffet McGraw and the Irish.

The Wynn era has begun at the University of Washington.

Kentucky showed out during Big Blue Madness earlier tonight.

UNCW has a new vibe this year.

College player news:

UConn's Kia Nurse is ready to lead on and off the court.

Kelsey Mitchell's USA Basketball experience this summer broadened her horizons.

Notre Dame will have a steady hand at the point in Lili Thompson.

Kansas senior guard Jessica Washington will miss the season with a torn ACL.

WNBA news:

A source told ESPN that Bill Laimbeer will be the new coach and GM of the WNBA's new Las Vegas franchise. The league and Spurs Sports and Entertainment is still not disclosing information about the buyer.

"Negotiations with a potential buyer of the Stars team are ongoing," WNBA spokesperson Dina Skokos said in a statement Thursday. "Once those discussions are concluded, we will provide additional information."

WNBA franchises go where there's an owner ready to spend the money.

Becky Hammon says the Stars leaving San Antonio sucks.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wide-ranging storylines

NCAA news:

Condoleezza Rice will head a new NCAA commission in response to the recent bribery scheme.

College conference news:

The Pac-12 Conference has announced a task force to address issues threatening the integrity of collegiate athletics.

College program news:

AP sources say the NCAA will release a ruling on the North Carolina academic fraud case tomorrow.

Preseason predictions for South Carolina and the SEC.

College team news:

Shakayla Thomas and Florida State are hungry for the next step.

Washington is preparing for life without Kelsey Plum.

College player news:

Texas guard Brooke McCarty got engaged during practice today.

The queen of Mississippi State's basketball court is now the queen of the homecoming court.

Is Kristine Anigwe the best dancer on Cal's team?

Meet Washington freshman Missy Peterson.

Montana’s Kayleigh Valley has sustained a knee injury and is out for the season, for the second year in a row.

College coach news:

Utah coach Lynne Roberts said her team's foundation has been laid, but it's about the long game in the Pac-12.

Oral Roberts coach Misti Cussen is happy to ditch 2017.

Colorado's Alexis Robinson and Kennedy Leonard poked fun at coach JR Payne during Pac-12 media day.

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard impersonate coach Kelly Graves.

WNBA team news:

Earlier this afternoon the news began to break that Spurs Sports and Entertainment was selling the San Antonio Stars.

Just up moments ago: WNBA's San Antonio Stars have deal for Las Vegas relocation.

The franchise issued a statement in a tweet.

Women in sports careers:

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Michelle D. Johnson has been named NBA Senior Vice President and Head of Referee Operations.

High school recruiting news:

No. 1 Samantha Brunnelle is a prospect with a cause.

Texas commit Charli Collier wanted her family to be able to see her play.

Pac-12 preview: the University of Oregon

This is the first in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

The Oregon team that finished the 2016-2017 season was a dangerous one. They upset Temple, Duke and Maryland en route to reaching the first Elite 8 in program history, before finally reaching a road block in top-seeded Connecticut.

The only thing scarier than that is the Duck squad that is going into this season: they return all five starters and their top eight scorers from last year. What's more, they also add a second consecutive stellar freshman class. A preseason poll this week tabbed Oregon to finish second in the Pac-12.

Coach Kelly Graves said that their new depth has already made a difference.

“There is competition at every position, which makes for some intense practices,” he said. “We could sustain an injury and be OK for the day.”

Graves praised his four freshmen, whom he called “awesome.”

“It’s crazy how good they are,” he said.

At the same time, the 24-year collegiate coach is realistic, with only two senior and two juniors poised to lead the team.

“We’re still young, and we will play that way from time to time,” he said.

Youth didn’t seem to matter last year, as a pair of freshmen were Oregon’s leading scorers. Forward Ruthy Hebard (14.9 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) and guard Sabrina Ionescu (14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists per game) helped set the tone early, leading the team to a 10-2 preconference record that included an upset of No. 24 Michigan State and a win over Clemson.

The Ducks stumbled a bit in Pac-12 play, going 8-10. But the regrouping they did for their postseason run showed their tremendous potential – as well as the fact that they are unafraid.

Graves acknowledged that the expectations of his team are higher this year, but he said they are ready.

“I think they, in the backs of their minds, think they can do more and do better, and that’s certainly what we’re gunning for this year,” he said.

Senior guard Lexi Bando (10.2 points per game), junior guard Maite Cazorla (8.1 points, 3.9 assists per game) and sophomore forward Mallory McGwire (7.3 points, 4.2 rebounds per game) also return to start with Hebard and Ionescu.

Returning reserves include junior forward Oti Gildon, senior guard Justine Hall, sophomore guard Sierra Campisano and sophomore guard Morgan Yaeger.

Newcomers include German forward Satou Sabally; Australian guard Anneli Maley; and guard Aina Ayuso from Spain. Redshirt freshman Lydia Giomi, who received a medical hardship after breaking her hand a few games into last season, is also ready to play.

Sophomore forward Erin Boley, who transferred to Oregon from Notre Dame last spring, is practicing with the team despite being ineligible for play this year due to transfer rules.

“Erin is an elite player, and having her here, in practices, makes a huge difference,” Graves said.

Ionescu said the Ducks will continue to focus on playing team basketball.

“I think everyone’s going to have a huge role on our team this year,” she said. “I don’t think there is one player in particular that’s going to play more minutes, or do this or do that. That all takes care of itself.”

Graves said Oregon’s annual retreat is this weekend, where the team will hash out individual and collective goals. But in the first two weeks of practice, they are headed in the right direction.

“The chemistry is good, and everyone is working hard. No one has to be prodded along,” Graves said. “They are all great students. We’re in a great place right now.”