Friday, July 31, 2009

Hoopism is 1

Today is the first anniversary of this blog, and I'd like to thank everyone who's emailed me, posted here and slipped me tips and information. Thanks for your contributions.

If you have a story you think needs to be written, an issue that should be investigated, a question or a comment, don't hesitate to email me at: hoopism@yahoo.com.

Cal Swish beats Boo Williams!

48-40 in the Nike Nationals title game in North Augusta. I admit I'm surprised, but happily so:

The Swish led for practically the entire game. It opened up a double-digit lead with 10 minutes left in the second half and refused to let Boo Williams’ press dissolve that lead.

Another view here.

I wonder who Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will play for next summer?



Hey, I think that's it for the July recruiting period, ladies and gentlemen. Young ballers everywhere are now breathing a sigh of relief.

Michael T White LA Tournament recap and pictures

Check it out, y'all.

Here's another photo of champions JBS Purple from Monday, as they were beating Cal Sparks Gold (black uniforms):

Nike Nationals semi-finals update

This morning Cal Swish beat Fairfax, 65-59, while Boo Williams crushed the Cal Storm, 60-37. It'll be Swish against Boo for the championship in one hour.....stay tuned.

New York Liberty fire Patty Coyle

The official announcement has been made. Even the NY Post has the story.

When Anne Donovan was hired as assistant coach last spring, I saw this coming. I'd caution Liberty fans about getting too excited about her as a replacement, though.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tennessee releases non-conference schedule

The suspense is gone now.

Brittney Griner and Baylor, Nov. 15, Texas on Dec. 6, Rutgers, Dec. 13, Louisville and Stanford a week later.

I'm not surprised UCLA is going there this year, but I'm loving that the Vols are coming to Pauley Pavilion in 2010-2011.

Nike Nationals update

Evening round tonight in South Carolina:

Cal Swish beat the Tennessee Flight, 51-44. Bonnie Samuelson lead the Swish with 15 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis boosted the Flight with 11.

Fairfax defeated the Illinois Hustle, 58-49. Kelsey Wolfe had 23 points for Fairfax and Trisha Liston put up 17 for the Hustle.

Boo Williams took down the Philly Belles, 53-43. Ateria Franklin lead Boo Williams with 12 points and Bria Smith was the high-scorer for the Belles with 11.

The Cal Storm upset Cyfair, 72-57. Kelsey Gray threw down 21 points for the Storm, and Alexia Standish added 15 for Cyfair.

In the semi-final games tomorrow morning, the Swish and Fairfax will face off, while Boo Williams and the Storm will play each other. The championship game will begin at 2 p.m. EDT.

First glimpse of Candace Parker's baby

The park dedication ceremony in Naperville, IL went well this morning. The Orland Park Trib had a nice write-up about the events, which include a picture of Candace Parker and daughter Lailaa Williams. Too bad they misspelled the cute baby's name wrong........

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sparks, Storm to do mad PR

Several times this WNBA season, I thought about writing a lament that I feel like I hardly know the Sparks this year. By this time last year they'd done several PR events, and fans felt a kinship with them. But this year's lack isn't the team's fault; they have been on the road and haven't been around.

This is changing, though. Looky what I got in my email inbox tonight:

Sunday, August 2: CAAM Target Sunday (2-3:30pm)
Marie Ferdinand-Harris and the Ole Skool Crew will be dancing, signing autographs, and raffling off Sparks tickets at the California African-American Museum's Target Sunday at Exposition Park.
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Monday, August 3: Sparks Take Over Trader Joe's in Long Beach!
Your Sparks will adorn Sparks-themed Trader Joe's shirts as they disperse throughout the store bagging groceries, working tasting areas, and greeting customers on Monday, August 3rd from 3pm-5pm.

Bring a Trader Joe's receipt dated between Monday, July 27 and Monday, August 3rd valued at $50 or more to the STAPLES Center Box Office and receive two (2) FREE tickets ($48 value) to the "Pay it Forward" game on August 6th presented by Trader Joe's.
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Tuesday, August 4: Silver Stars vs. Sparks (12pm) / LA Women's Tennis Championships (7pm)
Sit Courtside for Camp Day. Join us at 12pm as the Sparks face San Antonio for our 10th Annual Camp Day. This game is not included in your MVP ticket package, but courtsides and other great seat locations are available. Call 877.44.SPARKS now to purchase tickets, purchase advance parking ($20) or to let us know if your camp day ticket has not yet been received.

Act Like a Kid Postgame at ESPN Zone at LA Live. After the game, all MVPs are invited to pretend they are back in summer camp! Show your 8/4 game ticket to be admitted to a postgame party at ESPN Zone and play games with Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and Shannon Bobbitt!

Tennis Fans -- Join Lisa, Kristi and Vanessa at the LA Women's Tennis Championships. The Sparks will join stars of the WPS Sol and WTA tour for "Women in Sports Night" at 7pm at the Home Depot Center. As an exclusive MVP benefit, you are invited before the general public to join Kristi Harrower, Vanessa Hayden and Lisa Leslie in an exclusive Sparks Suite. Admission is only $75 and space is limited, so email rsvp@la-sparks.com with "Women's Tennis" in the subject line and reserve your spot today. Also, watch as Lisa is honored on-court between matches, receive autographs from various female athletes, and have an opportunity to bid on unique items -- with proceeds supporting YMCA's Girls Sports Programs.
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Wednesday, August 5: Sparks Throw Out the First Pitch (7:10pm)
Your Sparks Olympians will be at Dodgers Stadium to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of the Dodgers Olympic Anniversary. Head Coach Michael Cooper and forward Candace Parker will also participate in the Jackie Robinson Foundation's "A Night of Stars" event. To purchase tickets to the exclusive "A Night of Stars" event where you will receive a game ticket, food and beverages, hand-autographed merchandise from special guests and unlimited photo email rsvp@la-sparks.com and put "Dodgers" in the subject line.
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Thursday, August 6: Storm vs. Sparks (7:30pm) - "Pay It Forward Night" presented by Trader Joe's
Fans are encouraged to donate food items (canned food and other non-perishable food) to benefit the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. Fans that donate food items will receive two FREE Sparks tickets to the August 10th game against the Indiana Fever and the fan who brings the most canned food or non-perishable food will receive an autographed Sparks-themed Trader Joe's shirt!
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Saturday, August 8: MVP Picnic
If you renewed your season tickets by September 30, 2008, you were invited to join us for the MVP Picnic in the Park. Join the coaching staff, the players (and their dogs) for this fantastic annual event!
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Monday, August 10: Fever vs. Sparks (7:30pm) - Retro Night
Join us as we go back in time for our Sparks Retro Garage Sale during the game. We're cleaning out our storage to give you a chance to pick up memorabilia from the past thirteen years at garage sale prices!
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Tuesday, August 11: Liberty vs. Sparks (ESPN2; 7:30pm) - Farmers Insurance Night
Don't miss our only home game against the New York Liberty and receive your exclusive MVP Lisa Leslie Growth Chart poster courtesy of Farmers Insurance at the MVP Entrance located off the 11th Street Entrance.


Good lord, that's a lot of events! Good deal.

Up north, the Storm are also rolling out the meet and greets, in the form of a 10-year anniversary celebration. I wish I had the dough to buy a plane ticket right now and check it out, since Simone Edwards and Kamila Vodichkova will be there:

10th Anniversary Celebration Night this Saturday

It's 10th Anniversary Celebration Night when the Storm hosts San Antonio at 7 p.m. and honors the All-Decade Team, as selected by fans, during a special halftime ceremony. Be one of the first 3,000 fans through the doors and receive a commemorative All-Decade Team poster - then get it autographed by your favorite Storm legends pregame on the KeyArena concourse near Aisle 118 from 6:15-6:45 p.m.

Additional 10th Anniversary Celebration Events this Weekend

Friday, July 31 – All-Decade Team Meet & Greet

All-Decade Team Meet & Greet from 7-9 p.m. at SPORT Restaurant & Bar: Participate in a Q&A, get autographs and enjoy extended happy hour beverages and appetizers.
Sunday, Aug. 2 – Storm the Zoo

"Storm the Zoo" with Janell Burse and Ashley Robinson at the Woodland Park Zoo from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Click here to receive $2 off Woodland Park Zoo admission!

Dawn Staley looking for bigger year this season

The most interesting thing about this piece to me, though, was this:

Minus incentives, Staley earns $650,000 a year - second only to Tennessee's Pat Summitt as the highest paid women's coach in the Southeastern Conference.

Candace Parker will be honored in hometown tomorrow

Naperville, IL parks officials times the Sparks' trip to Chicago to play the Sky tonight with a dedication ceremony. Tomorrow they'll name a basketball court at Spring-Field Park after its most famous native, Candace Parker, in a morning ceremony.

The Daily Herald has a nice Q&A with Parker that also features some high school pictures.

Nike Nationals Tournament update

North Augusta, S.C. - IM in OC checked in after this morning's games ended, which is round three at this prominent tournament.

In Division A, Boo Williams is 3-0, with Elizabeth Williams the high scorer for her team. West Coast Premier is 2-1, and Casey Swain is a standout player so far. The Illinois Hustle is also 2-1.

Division B is stacked, with the likes of the 3-0 Tennessee Flight and Essence, also 3-0. The Flight is lead by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. In the first three games, she's had 22, 25 and 16 points, respectively. The Cal Storm is 2-1 and is lead by Kelsey Garvey with 26, 22 and 15 points, respectively.

Division C features the Cyfair Shock, which is 3-0, and the Minnesota Tartan, also 3-0. The 2-1 Cal Swish's only loss was to Cyfair, which IM says is one of the best teams he's seen this summer. Nneka Ogumwike (who's sister Nnemkadi was Stanfords's superstar freshman last season), is simply "a stud" in everything, IM says. Lindsay Sherbert has lead things for the Swish.

Division D has two 3-0 teams in the Philly Belles and a team from Fairfax, VA. The Belles are lead by Maggie Lucas (11, 14 and 18 points so far), and Fairfax is lead by Kelsey Wolfe (12, 15 and 23 points).

There's a big showdown tonight, and IM promised he'll call me afterward to give me the blow-by-blow.

We're goin all the way til July 31, baby....................

Carla Christofferson has her baby

I found out about this last Saturday, but I keep forgetting to post the good news: last Thursday, July 23, Sparks co-owner Carla Christofferson delivered a healthy baby boy. Jackson Murray Shell was named before the death of "King of Pop" Michael Jackson, co-owner Kathy Goodman said. This is Christofferson's first child.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Girls' sports pack a punch"

The New York Times says more relatives and friends of girls' teams show up to support them than do for boys' teams. Hence, they make more money for event organizers.

I haven't attended any boys' tournaments recently, but I can vouch for the presence of entire families at the girls' events I've been to this month. And not just parents from the Southern California area - sometimes from far away states.

Gotta love this part of the story:

“I have three granddaughters,” Dodd said. “They love to shop. But I can tell you my boys darn near love to shop as much as the girls.”

I will add that nowadays, the boys take just about as much time grooming in the morning as the girls do.

Michael T White LA Tournament, Day 3

The tournament wrapped up today, and JBS Purple, of Sacramento, once again proved invincible in taking the 17 and Under National Division title. East Bay Xplosion Black, of the Bay Area, took second; Seattle's Tree of Hope placed third; the Utah Flight finished fourth.

In the 17 and Under Signature Division, the East Bay Xplosion Black II team took the title. Cal Sparks Silver won second; Team Mercadel of Southern California, placed third; JBS Gray finished fourth.

There was so much good basketball for three days that I must compliment all players and coaches involved.

I will post pictures as soon as I get them sorted out.

U19s beat Russia, 75-56

Woot! Looks like they have one more game, tomorrow, before they head home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More news than you can shake a stick at

Where did that "shake a stick at" phrase come from, anyway?

The news is finally out: Lady Vol Amber Gray's shoulder surgery ended up being life-saving, as doctors found an anuerysm in her brain that was beginning to swell. The Universe was really watching out for this young player, thank goodness.

The Detroit Shock visited President Obama today, who recognized their 2008 Championship. After I got over the (no pun intended) shock of seeing Katie Smith in a dress, I was delighted to read that the Pres says the WNBA inspires his two daughters. Freakin awesome.

U19s beat Canada today, 64-50.

Finally, Sparks Coach Michael Cooper is pounding reserve center Vanessa Hayden for her lagging conditioning.

Michael T White LA Tournament, Day 2



Look who showed up today about 3 p.m. - none other than C. Vivian Stringer, seen here with one of the Arkansas assistant coaches. I walked by the area and did a triple take when I saw her a few feet away. Those of us over 35 were snapping pictures and/or going up to her and saying hi.



I told you all the games started on time: Look at that clock synchronization.

Finals are tomorrow, and JBS Purple of Sacramento is looking pretty unbeatable right now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Michael T White LA Tournament, Day 1

Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, CA - What a well-run tournament. All games were scheduled 70 minutes apart, and games all started on time. From 8 a.m.-10 p.m., basketball, basketball, basketball.

The main gym can have three courts, so for the fourth court they used the "old" Mater Dei gym, aka the sweat box. It was pretty hot in there. But after six hours in the air conditioning I was cold, believe it or not.

The quality of play was top-notch. There are teams participating from California, Arizona, Texas, Montana, Utah, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

There were only two serious injuries, and each serves as a reminder of how resilient these girls are.

This morning a kid who is near and dear to my heart tweaked her shoulder in the second half of her game. Given her initial reaction, we thought she dislocated it. But an ice pack, a few hours and some laughs later, she was ready to go for the second game.

This afternoon I was watching a game on court 2, which meant that the bench of one of the teams on court 3 was directly behind me. Suddenly I heard someone gasping for breath - like out of the movies gasping - behind me. I turned around to see that the game had been stopped and the player was at the bench, her coach in front of her, making these deep gasping noises like she couldn't breathe.

The coach was just standing there and someone said, have her sit down! So he did. I thought maybe it was asthma, but they said she got hit in the throat. Finally the coach told another girl to go get the trainer. I had turned around and kneeled on my seat and began telling her to calm down and relax, because being upset was only going to make it worse, and to breathe slowly. She did, and within 30 seconds she was starting to breathe more normally. The trainer showed up and asked her a few questions. The girl was breathing fine now, and maybe a minute had elapsed since I told her to calm down. The ref blew the whistle for the game to continue, and she jumped up and ran on the court. Her coach said whoa, whoa, whoa, come back here.

The girl really wanted to play, even though a minute before she probably thought she was going to die. I love that.

Just a few images from the day, but more to come later:



A buttload of coaches. I recognize most of them at this point, where if they didn't have their school gear on I'd still be able to name them.



Former Los Osos star Cierra Warren was in the house, reppin North Carolina to the fullest.



I know I've said this before, but Alexyz Vaioletama of Mater Dei is going to be a star, mark my words (here with the Irvine Sol during warm-ups).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

All-Star game: West 130, East 118

What a fun game to watch. Probably the most entertaining All-Star game I've ever seen, with all the smiles and laughter both on the court and on the bench. Players on both teams just looked like they were having fun - the entire reason they began playing in the first place.

Seattle's Swin Cash was MVP, which seems to have been a surprise for both herself and fans.

Good ol' Sylvia Fowles threw down a comical dunk in the closing seconds of the highest-scoring All-Star game in history. It wasn't a serious dunk, aka not done in the flow of/as an actual part of the game. But fun was the order of the day, as it should have been at that point in the game, when no one needed to score anymore.

Charde Houston, Sophia Young and Cappie Pondexter won the All-Star Skills Challenge before the game. Becky Hammon won the All-Star Three-Point Shootout.

The only thing that would have made the game even better would have been to be there in person. But since the WNBA won't ever schedule an All-Star game anywhere near the west coast, I don't see that happening for me anytime soon.

Anytime one of us west coast residents takes issue with this east coast bias, someone brings up the unsuccessful Phoenix game many years ago. I wonder what these people do for a living, and I hope they don't work with kids. Because you've got to try, try, try again in this life. So what if it didn't work before; that doesn't mean it will never work. West coast residents deserve to be able to host an All-Star game too.

Why not, at the very least, move it to San Antonio in the middle of the country? This is an insatiable basketball town. Where is the women's Final Four to be held next year? You got it.

Wake up, WNBA. Allow others to enjoy the All-Star game.

U19s crush Mali

100-38 was the score, and every available player scored......which means that California's Layshia Clarendon was sick and didn't play.

Get well, young lady.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"No one is taking it harder than me"

Diana Taurasi's comments at the All-Star game site are mature.

ESPN writer says Parker should be a WNBA All-Star

Love the opening line in this piece.

And though I'm not sure I completely agree with the writer's assertion that the league should give "star" treatment to Candace Parker and let her into the game tomorrow, I love him for making the case:

The league should make her an honorary All-Star just for suiting up after giving birth.

Heck, my ex-wife barely got out of bed for two weeks after giving birth.

CP was running suicides.


I also think it's gutsy of the writer to add this line:

On top of that, it still hasn't figured out how to cultivate its large lesbian fan base without fearing the alienation of its straight fans.

Although, as a Storm season ticket holder, everyone got along fine. And Sparks MVP's get along just as well.

If that Lakers player had only put up 10 points halfway through the season after coming back from an injury, would the NBA make him an all-star? It makes you wonder.

The last great hurrah of the wild month of July

For those players, teams and fans who want to take it all the way out to the last day of the month, there is the Nike Nationals Tournament next week in North Augusta, S.C. Action begins Tuesday, and one of my faithful readers is going. This hoop maniac has promised to provide updates throughout the tournament, which I will post here. With such a great pool, I'm looking forward to keeping up on what's going on.

U19s beat China

88-53. Ogwumike and Bone lead their team in scoring, but Diggins in the truth.

Story.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dime Mag says: pay attention

Really nice piece on why the WNBA deserves more fans. Just don't waste any time reading the comments, or you'll remember what a sad society we still live in.

U19s shocked by Spain in first round

Awwwwww.

Looks like only five contributed significant points. How disappointing.

WNBA news: diversity study, Tulsa?

The league gets an A in diversity, according to a study.

And it looks like Tulsa may soon have a WNBA team. Does anyone else think that's an odd location for a franchise?

Angel McCoughtry puts things in perspective

Two things I like about the Atlanta forward are that she's reflective, and she learns quickly. Case in point - meeting a 12-year-old fan who is a cancer patient:

I sent some signed shirts and gifts immediately. I know the doctors say she doesn't have long to live but I believe she does. And I'm asking all of you to pray for Heather as I will pray for her every night in my prayers.

Before I got to know Heather I was very frustrated because I wasn't getting a lot of playing time. I would be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave, I would lift extra and do everything coach asked me to do but I still couldn't figure out why I wasn't playing. But after meeting Heather I realized my problems just aren't that bad and I am truly blessed! God has a plan for us all.


That is some strong faith. If I didn't already like McCoughtry, I would now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WNBA evening wrap up

It took three OT's, but the Storm defeated the Sparks 98-87.

Note to Seattle play-by-play guy Dick Fain: the last time Seattle went to triple OT was July 3, 2001 at home against the Mystics. I know - I was there.

ATL beat Detroit in one OT, 98-95.

(Why doesn't wnba.com list that the game went into an OT or three on the main page? More importantly, why doesn't live access work most of the time?)

The Lynx snapped the Mercury's winning streak.

The Liberty won again (!)

And Sacramento lost again. (No punctuation necessary there, as it is no surprise).

Maybe we could have a California "in the basement" party.

*sigh*

Diana Taurasi's DUI hearing postponed

The Mercury forward's attorney made the motion to postpone the hearing until Aug. 21.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The NCAA dead period is over.......

All over the country today, young basketball players are in transit as the madness starts again tomorrow.

The summer version of the Nike Tournament of Champions is a huge draw - just look at these brackets. Wow.

Meanwhile in Las Vegas, it's the Sonny Vacarro 11th Reebok Big Time High School Tournament. (Perhaps the longest name for a tournament I've ever heard).

Then Sunday, Michael T White brings a tournament to the west coast, at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. The Showtime National Championships west have four brackets: 17 and under bracket A, 17 and under bracket B, 17 and under signature bracket A, 17 and under signature bracket B.

I know I've said it before, but WOO!

Class of 2010 recruiting update

Some senior players have already made their college choices four months before the first signing period.

Today's latest - Hazel Ramirez and Alexis Love - are good to hear about. I sat with Ramirez' parents during one of their daughter's Cal Sparks Gold games last week at the HAX Summer Jam Tournament. Nice people. Ramirez' mother was joking that she wanted Hazel to stay close to home but was leaving it up to her. Guess she got her wish.

Love is just a great kid, period. Great attitude and hard worker. Loyola is lucky. Here are a couple photos I snapped of the 6'2" center:



Lex watches a teammate shoot a free throw.



....and a little while later, shoots one of her own.

Quick hits: Chantelle's commentary, Cooper looking ahead, All-Star design

Former WNBA forward Chantelle Anderson has probably the most sane commentary about DUI-suspended Diana Taurasi to date:

But neither do I think, after all the good she’s done for the community through the league and on her own time, that she should be punished in the court of public opinion for the remainder of her career because of one mistake. Does it make sense that people are mad and maybe a little hurt for a while? Absolutely. Should she be sacrificed as the Michael Vick of the WNBA? No way.

Sparks Coach Michael Cooper is looking ahead to his new job at USC:

"The biggest difference he'll have is that instead of it being a four-hour-a-day job where once the game is over you don't have to worry about your players to becoming a much more time consuming venture," Stanley said......

"He's in for a tough job there dealing with kids who have yet to pay taxes," Thompson said. "But he'll adapt well. He's a really good coach and hopefully he'll get them back where they belong among the Pac-10 elite."


The WNBA All-Star game T-shirt winning design has been revealed. It's OK, but it's kind of plain. They should have picked something more edgy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

WNBA names All-Star reserves

The game will be at 12:30 p.m. PDT/3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, and the rosters are set.

U19s thrash France in friendly exhibition

86-46 yesterday. Diggins and Ogumwike were named co-captains by their teammates. Championship games start Thursday.

Sparks discuss reasons for inconsistencies

....to the LA Times.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Say No league day 4

I watched some more Bruins play today: fresh-faced Rebekah Gardner and the ever-friendly Nina Earl. They're on T.E.A.M. '09, which is coached by Onye Ibekwe - not sure how he's related to graduate Chinyere, but he is.



Bruins in the house: Rebekah Gardner runs toward the hoop during warmups while Nina Earl jogs from it.



Earl and Gardner chattin it up between warmup free throws.

The rosters of these teams are interesting. Azusa Pacific has two teams in the league that consist only of their players. Cal State Dominguez, Cal State LA, Cal State San Bernardino and Compton Community College also each have a squad. The rest of the teams are a mix of D1, 2 and 3 players, JC players, graduates, "undecided"s and those who graduated a loooong time ago.

T.E.A.M. '09 also includes Tamia Seals, formerly of Texas A&M, and Krystal Clay, a Northridge graduate.

Team Excel's roster features Bruins Darxia Morris and Jasmine Dixon, who will begin playing in December.

LA Spirit includes a lot of grads: LaSharee Christian (Jackson St), Tierra Henderson (UCLA), Candice Allen (Cal Poly Pomona), Ofa Tulihihifo (Northridge), Charlee Underwood, Toni Thomas and Amber Pruitt (all Fullerton), and perhaps the most intriguing, Willnett Crockett (UConn). One of the youngsters is Brea Olinda MVP Jonae Ervin, who will play at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this fall.

H&S is full of "undecideds" and grads. Probably the most notorious grad is former Trojan Jessica Cheeks, currently an assistant to Colleen Matsuhara at West LA College. Cheeks, who plays in a lot of leagues around LA, will turn 28 in a few weeks. You can't take the love of the game from some players.............

The woman in charge of the league said the schedule was delayed in getting up on the website, but that it will definitely be posted this week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sparks team intro video

Just look at this video, which is played prior to team introductions before every Sparks game at Staples Center. Then tell me why some people on that popular message board thought Nikki Teasley had a chance of coming back to play for LA.

The U19's are on their way to Thailand

A little bird (and no, it wasn't on twitter) told me that the U19 National Team is in the air right now, doing their 19-hours time on their way to Thailand to play for the world championship. Before she left, Destiny Williams interviewed with IlliniHQ.com about the trip, the games and the opportunity.

Q & A with Angel McCoughtry

Quirky. Relentless. Energetic. As confident as a hostage negotiator. That is McCoughtry.

The reasons I like her, in a nutshell. Lack of arrogance would be another:

SLAM: What is your main role on this team?
AM: My role on this team, so far, is to come in off the bench and bring energy and an extra spark.

SLAM: How did you handle coming off the bench for the first time in your career?
AM: I don’t mind coming off the bench. It doesn’t bother me. My mentality is whatever I do I’m going to be a beast at it, whether I start or come off the bench.

SLAM: How is it playing with veterans like Chamique Holdsclaw?
AM: The vets are great and they are like my mentors. I look up to all of them.


I wonder what Jeff Walz thinks?

Link

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Diana Taurasi suspended for two games without pay for DUI

Mercury's statement, to which the league said it supports team management's actions and won't take further action.

What an unfortunate situation.

Skylar Diggins named national high school athlete of the year

Good for Diggy. Candace Parker and Maya Moore also won best WNBA and best college players, respectively.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DeWanna Bonner named WNBA rookie of the month

To no one's great surprise, Mercury guard/forward DeWanna Bonner was named rookie of the month for June.

It has happened before, where a rookie comes out of the blue and starts blowing the game up. It looks like Bonner has found her fit within the WNBA in Phoenix.

Crammin for the dead period, aka Cal Sparks tourney at the HAX, day 2



4 p.m.........all five courts are in use at the Hanger Athletic Xchange, Hawthorne, CA.

Invitational bracket champions.

Elite bracket champions.

Open bracket champions.

There were more coaches there today than yesterday. I think I saw just about every Pac-10 coach there, or a representative: Charli Turner Thorne, Nikki Caldwell, Paul Westhead, the USC, Cal, WSU, and Washington assistants. Niya Butts and LaVonda Wagner were back from yesterday. I didn't see anyone from Stanford there, but I could have missed them. The Rutgers assistant coach was there, wearing a shirt with a huge letter "R" on the front and back.

I talked to Paul Westhead for a minute, introducing myself as a U of O alumni. He was perfectly pleasant, and I enjoyed meeting him.

Only a very few coaches stayed until the bitter end today, including the Fresno State assistant. It's a hard job, to watch game after game and girl after girl. The Cal Sparks are to be commended for putting on a quality, professional tournament.

Now begins the NCAA dead period through Monday, July 20.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A female baller logo!

It's extremely rare that I promote a company, but every once in a while one comes along that is deserving. The LA-based business that set up shop at the HAX tournament today is such an exception.

Imagine two large tables filled with shorts, tank tops, sweats, T-shirts, sandals and accessories that feature the leaping logo that made Air Jordans famous. Then picture that logo being a female baller.

Bingo: you have www.loveandhoops.net, and you have what founder Melanie Williams brought to sell today.

Words can't express how exciting it was to see a female hooper on an entire clothing line. I bought a pair of shorts, a tank top and a pair of sandals. I might have to go back tomorrow and get a couple other things, too.

Williams wanted to create a line of clothing that girls and women could call their own. I say, so far so good. Check it out.

Sparks quick hits

Uno: Candace Parker says hell no, daughter Lailaa will not go to UConn.

Dos: A quick bit on Tina Thompson.

Tres: At the Sparks game viewing party tonight, I picked up a flyer inviting fans to send in a demo DVD if they want to perform the National Anthem before a game. Please, fans, if you do this, be a group and not a lone singer. Groups with harmonies don't tear the Anthem up; singles do.

Quatro: Shelden Williams was again holding a blanket with a baby in it close to his chest during tonight's Sparks @ Connecticut game. We still haven't seen the baby yet, but that's another topic. What occured to me when ESPN2 flashed "Shelden and Lailaa Williams" on the screen was that this was a scene from the movie "Love and Basketball." Sometimes art imitates life and other times life imitates art. This is a case of the latter.

Cal Sparks Summer Jam Tournament at the HAX, day 1

So many NCAA coaches. I counted representatives from almost 40 different schools, and I'm sure more came in at the end of the day for the late afternoon and evening games.

The marquee game of the morning was between two of the top teams in Southern California: Cal Sparks Gold and West Coast Premier Black. The Sparks have members from Long Beach Poly, Inglewood and Washington Prep. West Coast Premier has players from everywhere - Poly, Mater Dei, Beverly Hills, Ayala, Diamond Ranch, Colony and Santa Margarita, just to name a few.

The game was close until about the middle of the third, when Premier started pulling away. At least that's what I was told, because I was going back and forth between that game and Cal Sparks Black vs. EBO Red.

Teams have come from throughout the LA metro area, San Diego, Fresno, Arizona, Roseville CA, and Ventura. I was there for a long time because it was so much fun to watch. There was so much talent on all four courts that it was hard to pull away.



Cal Sparks Gold (in dark uniforms) and West Coast Premier Black face off in the premiere morning game.



Super about-to-be-soph Jordan Adams (Mater Dei) left, and super about-to-be-junior Reshanda "Too Tall" Gray (Washington Prep) are two of the reasons the future of the game is so bright.



The referee signals a Cal Sparks Black (in light blue uniforms) three-pointer, as EBO goes to retrieve the ball. The Sparks lost, 39-37 in overtime.



Cal Sparks Gold and West Premier Black battle it out under the hoop.



Each team played hard, but there was no dirty play on anyone's part, which was impressive.



Premier won, 54-46.

As previously mentioned in this space, most of the girls on these teams have had a brutal travel schedule so far this month, to hurry and "be seen" before the NCAA dead period July 16-21. I talked with one of the girls I know, who was still reeling from arriving back yesterday to turn around and do this tournament over the next two days. I told her to hang in there and remember she has days off coming up. And that when she is in college and doesn't have to pay a dime for it, she'll be glad. The guy sitting there taking tickets at the door smiled, nodded and said to her, "yup." It's a good lesson in life for the girls; sometimes you gotta just cram.

WNBA All-Stars announced

Lauren Jackson's a forward? Diana Taurasi's not on the list?

Well, that one's easier to comprehend. The Phoenix Mercury forward was basically charged with triple DUI. Yikes!

Monday, July 13, 2009

EOT, ATL tournament results

Oregon City End of the Trail Tournament results and MVP list.

Fila Showtime National Championships results.

On those lists lies the future, ladies and gentlemen.

Reaction to Jenny Boucek firing

From this piece we find that:

- Boucek is taking the spiritual approach to her dismissal, which was a surprise to her.

- She won't seek the LA Sparks job, or any WNBA job for right now.

- Storm player Sue Bird, and possibly some Monarchs, are upset about the move.

Coach Marianne Stanley in the spotlight

The guru interviews the longtime coach.

Oregon Ducks update

Team members find new Coach Paul Westhead's energy "infectious." Someone's getting a "believe" tattoo.

Hey, this is sounding hopeful.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

California summer games, July 14-15 at the HAX

Cal Sparks are putting on the tournament. Here's their welcome announcement:

Welcome to Cal Sparks Tournaments !

Our Next Event
California Summer Games 2009
NCAA-Certified

July 14th and 15th

Hangar Athletic Xchange, Hawthorne CA.

HAX Parking slots will be prepaid by Cal Sparks and thus free to fans this event.

Overflow parking will be available on the Street in front of facility.

Daily Admission: $10 Children 10 and under Free.

4 Games Guaranteed All Teams
Some teams will play 5 Games.
Minimum 2 Games each day.


Invitational division bracket

Elite division bracket

Open division bracket

WOO!

Monarchs fire Coach Jenny Boucek

What a bunch of crap. Now John Whisenant is in charge again.

I really hope Sparks co-owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson are making a phone call tonight..........

Nike Say No Classic Summer Showcase, Day 2

Great day at USC for some hoops. In one gym was the high school division, and in the other, the college. As previously mentioned in this space, the college division includes local ballers of the D1, D2, D3, JC and just-graduated-from high school levels. This is the same modus de operandi followed in most such leagues across the country.

I went to see two games today, due to personal interest/affiliation with some on and/or staffing the teams. Today's schedule is here. Organizers told me the full schedule will be posted Wednesday at www.lass.ws, and will include rosters.



UCLA's (former) Tierra Henderson and (current) Darxia Morris chill during my game one. I think they played earlier.



Another Bruin, Moniquee Alexander, waits for her game to start (my game two), with Henderson.



UCLA forward and Seattle native Christina Nzekwe is on Fastbreak - the team I went to see play at 2 p.m.



......As is two-time LA All City Team member and current Umpqua Community College star Mykiea Russell.



Coach Colleen Matsuhara, aka "Love and Basketball" and current West LA College head coach, walks in with her St. Louis Final Four seat cushion. She showed me some pics taken at Vol world in Tennessee this past winter.



Nzekwe (blurry image on the right) wins the tip, as Russell (far left) looks on.



Fastbreak collapses toward the basket for the offensive rebound.



Another hot shot member of Fastbreak is Whitney Daniels (third from right), who just finished a stellar career at Mira Costa and is headed to the University of San Francisco this fall. This picture was late in the second half when all the starters were sitting, watching the bench players whoop on the opponents.



The 3 p.m. game featured the Show Stoppers, which included one of my favorite Bruins in Doreena Campbell.



Campbell (far left) watches Alexander (#12) post up for a pass. The Show Stoppers beat their opponents just as handily as did Fastbreak.

Going to these tournaments is like hitting the family reunion barbecue. Between saying hi to players, coaches and referees, it still amazes me what a small basketball world it is, even in a big city like LA. And I have no doubt the ball "families" in NY, DC, Chicago, etc, would say the same thing.

I know where I'll be for the next several weekends.

Footnote: Jasmine Dixon was hanging out today. She's obviously been hitting the weight room, because she's ripped! And she said she's really looking forward to playing again in December (when her year of sitting out is over).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Three 2-point games won at the last second?

Don't know when was the last time we saw this kind of a nightly scoreboard/circumstance in the WNBA:

Detroit 79, Connecticut 77
New York 71, Atlanta 69
Phoenix 107, Sacramento 105

Katie Smith made a jumper with 6.3 seconds left in overtime to seal the win for the Shock.

The Liberty won on two free throws from Cathrine Kraayeveld.

The Mercury beat their opponents off of a time-expired shot by Temeka Johnson.

Good lord!

The only score with a substantial margin today was the Mystics defeat of the Sparks, 75-63. I have nothing to say about that one because I just don't get it.

Big girls play summer ball too

Since today marks the commencement of one of the premier adult women's basketball leagues in Los Angeles, I thought it was high time to link the NCAA-certified list of summer leagues. These leagues represent a prime opportunity for fans to see their favorite collegiate players in a competitive environment that isn't their own team. Today there were numerous D1, 2, 3 and JC athletes ballin it up at USC.

Here are the NCAA guidelines for participation, as stated at the top of the above-linked page:

NCAA Division I student-athletes with remaining eligibility may participate in the following certified summer leagues only on the dates identified in the "Certified Dates" column and only after receiving Director of Athletics' Permission. All Division I players must limit their competition to one team in one league (See:One Team, One League). If a student-athlete participates in a two-day activity those student-athletes cannot participate in any other organized basketball activity for the duration of the summer.

Leagues are listed in alphabetical order by the league name.

Note: League certification DOES NOT permit NCAA Division I basketball coaching staff members to attend. Please consult the list of certified events to identify those competitions that Division I coaches may attend.


Between the LA Summer Showcase and all the club ball team games I'm attending this month, I won't be missing my WNBA team (out of town for a month) much right now.

Bevilaqua mentoring January

Maybe because I'm a mentor myself, I looooove a good mentoring story. The ongoing point guard transition on the Indiana Fever squad is a great example of that. Eternally-optimistic and positive veteran Tully Bevilaqua has taken rookie Briann January under her wing in what seems like a beneficial relationship for both.

I like this part:

Being the future face of the franchise and talking nice about her teammates can only get January so far. But it doesn't exclude her from any innocent rookie hazing, including from Bevilaqua.

"She's never called me January. I pretty much have gotten every other month of the year other than January," she said. "It's just good fun."

Friday, July 10, 2009

The NY Times writes about someone other than Candace Parker

And it's a worthy candidate, too, in Chamique Holdsclaw. The Times says she's back in the WNBA with a purpose.

Mystics Nakia Sanford balances ball with charity work

Very mature, very commendable on her part.

Her road-trippin team is glad to be home to play LA tomorrow.

A more complete list of summer club ball tournaments

The NCAA-certified list is the best.

So many good tourneys there that my head might explode.

Nice reflective pice here on the End of the Trail Tourney in Oregon City.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Storm name all-decade team

Not only did the Seattle Storm beat the Sacramento Monarchs tonight, the Storm organization announced their All-Decade Team. Fans voted for the selections, in commemoration of the tenth year of the team. The roster:

Kamila Vodichkova
Lauren Jackson
Sue Bird
Betty Lennox
Adia Barnes
Tully Bevilaqua
Simone Edwards
Iziane Castro-Marques
Janell Burse
Swin Cash

Vodi, Jackson, Bird, Lennox, Barnes, Bevilaqua, Edwards and Burse are obvious selections to me, either for their court performances or off- and on-court personas and contributions. But I'm not sold on Cash or Castro-Marques. Cash has been with the team not even two seasons, and her performance has been less than stellar. Castro-Marques was nice, but she did nothing special for the Storm during her tenure.

I would have picked Sheri Sam and Tanisha Wright. In the case of each player, the team couldn't have done it without them many times. That should be one of the main criteria for an all-decade team member.

Sparks win a road game! (and other stuff)

If anyone told me last spring that it would take a month into the season before the Sparks won a road game, I'd have said they were nuts. But so be it. I'll take tonight's 69-60 win over the Liberty.

Interesting starting lineup in Tina Thompson, Delisha Milton-Jones, Candace Parker, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Shannon Bobbitt. Betty Lennox scored 20 points off the bench and Kristi Harrower, 4.

For the first few minutes of the game, though, I was wondering what the hell the Sparks were doing. Glad they got it together.

Assistant Coach Marianne Stanley weighs in with her thoughts on the season so far in an interview released today.

In the Sparks MVP newsletter of today, fans are given humorous player facts collected on the road trip so far:

- Marie Ferdinand-Harris has a shoe deal with Reebok and her shoes that are made up in purple and gold have "MFH 24" on the tongue. She has had this shoe deal for the past four years.

- The team has a nickname for Betty which is "Big Buckets Betty." The name means that she has her game face on and is ready to drop "Big Buckets" on our opponent.

- While riding down the escalator at our hotel with DeLisha on Wednesday, she mentioned that we had another whole night in New York and that this big city was a little too much for her. She likes New York and that all the different cultures co-exist here but in her exact words, "there is TOO much going on here for me!"

- Madison Square Garden, located on 7th Avenue in New York, is one of the oldest and most well-known arenas in the world and even to us it's still a tourist attraction. Candace Parker took time before shootaround on Thursday to get a picture of baby Lailaa on the floor next to the MSG logo.

- Tina Thompson is not just an incredible basketball player; it seems that she is also wise when it comes to motion sickness. She shared that she sits in the middle of the bus because she gets motion sickness from time to time. Her advice to thwart it:
1. Sit in the middle of the bus
2. Don't read
3. Don't stare at one thing for long periods of time
4. If you are listening to music try to close your eyes

- Bobbitt and Vanessa listen to their music at a higher decibel than should be legally allowed. Whether we're on the bus, in the airport or stuck on the slowest freight elevator in history, we can all get down to their music because it seems as though it's on a loud speaker. This morning in the freight elevator at MSG, we were all jamming to Beyonce's Halo courtesy of Vanessa.

- Coach Stanley has the hook-up! Having spent time in both NY and D.C., she knows a lot of the ins and outs for getting around NYC, getting discounted show tickets and even how to get from inside the Garden to an underground NY pizza joint. If you are headed to NY anytime soon, make sure you ask Coach Stanley for tips.

And finally, Candace Parker's ESPN commercial is out.

Tennessee's Amber Gray transferred to Cincinnati hospital

The forward suffered complications after shoulder surgery last week, so she's being moved to an out-of-state hospital.

Wow. UT has a good hospital, too. I wonder what's up?

Dan Hughes, Lin Dunn to coach WNBA All-Star game

It should be interesting, seeing two who used to coach together coach against one another. Game is July 25.

Courtney Paris "wasn't familiar with a lot of the WNBA players"?

In an interview published in today's Oklahoman, former Sooner and Monarchs rookie Courtney Paris says she's unhappy with her minutes. But at the same time, she confesses:

"I can’t honestly say I was familiar with a lot of the players and what they do,” she said. "In the summers, I was doing stuff, so it’s not like I paid attention as much to the WNBA.

I wish that were an uncommon perspective, but I've found that it's not. Plenty of female high school basketball players don't watch many WNBA games, and/or don't know who key players are even if they don't tune in. I can think of only one girl off the top of my head who I can have an intelligent conversation with about WNBA players.

It's definitely a classic mistake of youth - being unprepared. And it can be somewhat overlooked in high school. But if you're one of the top collegiate players in the country for practically all four years at your school, and it looks like the WNBA will want to draft you when you're done, you should have thought to start checking up on the players and the games earlier.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A good charitable cause

Normally I'd say two posts in one day about one's hometown WNBA team would be too "homerish." But today the Sparks posted a story on their web page about their trip to the Jenesse Center - a shelter for battered women and children. The Sparks will partner with the Center and with Home Sweet Home, and sealed the deal by helping renovate some apartments last week. On the Sparks home page, there's a picture of team members with Halle Berry.

Now that's a good cause to get behind.

Ah, to live in NYC

Great pics on Sportspagemag of the West 4th Street Women's Pro Classic from this past Saturday.

The Nike West 4th St Pro Classic Women's Basketball Summer League runs annually. Exodus (A) is one of several Exodus teams that is coached by former Scarlet Knight Epiphanny Prince's AAU coach. Besides Prince, featured players are Erica Morrow (Syracuse), Shennika Smith (incoming St. John's freshman), and Samantha Prahalis - once she returns from USA Basketball.

It would be fun to just be able to walk down the street and catch this league in action on a given day.

Candace Parker is a "celebrity mom"

Nice interview with workingmother.com. And a CP promo ad for public libraries on the top left. Very nice all the way around.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A lil LA gossip

Yesterday I was working out at the Long Beach location of my health club, and I stopped by the water fountain. I drank and stood up to see Lisa Willis right in front of me, on the other side of the glass, on the basketball court. She was the lone woman playing pickup with a bunch of dudes, and she was doing just fine. (Women jump in and play pickup regularly at all the locations of my gym, as well as another franchise gym that I visit regularly). Willis was wearing blue Candace Parkers. Love those shoes - I have a Tennessee orange pair...........

Item 2: both Parker and Shelden Williams twittered this evening that 55-day-old daughter Lailaa did fine on the plane ride this afternoon from LA to New York, as part of the Sparks' road trip. I wonder who will take care of the little one during Thursday's game?

U19 team finalized

The U19 team has been finalized, according to USA Basketball. After training camp in Colorado, they're going to Thailand! Players leave their homes today or tomorrow.

The list:

Kelsey Bone
Skylar Diggins
Kelly Faris
Nnemkadi Ogwumike
Samantha Prahalis
LaSondra Barrett
Layshia Clarendon (Cali representin!)
Shenise Johnson
C'eira Ricketts
Chay Shegog
Taber Spani
Destiny Williams

Congratulations, ladies.

Southern Cali ballers: clinics coming up

Former USC point guard Camille LeNoir will conduct a basketball clinic this weekend around her old home turf near Narbonne High School, where she helped the Gauchos win a state title:

2009 Camille LeNoir Summer Youth Basketball Camp
Saturday, July 11 & Sunday, July 12 @ Harbor City Park
24901 Frampton Avenue (off of Lomita and Normandie)
Harbor City, CA 90710
$50 per person (includes a t-shirt and snacks)
Boys & GIrls
9am to 12noon - ages 7-10
1pm to 4pm - ages 11-13

Camille played college basketball at USC where she was a 4 year starter. By the end of her senior season, she went on to move up to #13 all-time with 1396 career points. LeNoir also passed up Trojan greats Cynthia Cooper and Cheryl Miller on the career assists list with 466 and took over #3 all-time in career 3-pointers (154). This fall she will be playing overseas.

For more information, call: (310) 270-7363

At the LeBron James camp in San Diego in a couple weekends, one lucky entrant will have the chance to participate for free:

Weplay.com, the online home for youth sports, and NBA All-Star and the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, have partnered to offer a scholarship to the LeBron James King’s Academy summer basketball camp in San Diego from July 24-28, 2009.

“One of the reasons I partnered with Weplay.com is because their goal is to help kids lead a healthier, active lifestyle through participation in youth sports. While growing up in Akron, Ohio, my time spent playing basketball shaped me into the player that I am today,” said LeBron James. “I am excited that a kid will have a chance to participate in the King’s Academy to learn more about the game of basketball and to understand that what they do off the court, in their schools and communities, is just as important as having a good jump shot.”

Weplay.com offers the millions of children, coaches and parents involved in youth sports worldwide the opportunity to connect, create, share and stay organized. The dedicated youth basketball section features news, member photos, discussion groups, coaching tips and Skills & Drills videos featuring top coaches and athletes. Each professional athlete, including LeBron, has a personal profile where they blog, post photos and videos and interact directly with Weplay.com users.

The five-day camp will be held at the University of California San Diego campus and will teach kids the fundamentals of basketball, team play, good sportsmanship and healthy habits. LeBron attends the camp and spends time with the campers by conducting lectures, refereeing games and competing in the evening counselor games.

“LeBron is the epitome of a youth athlete who has realized his dream,” said Steve Hansen, Chief Executive Officer of Weplay.com. “His skills on the court and his dedication to kids and youth athletics is clear from his work on his LeBron James King’s Academy and his support of Weplay.com. By being so active in the youth sports community, LeBron is giving these kids the benefit of his experiences as both a youth athlete and NBA powerhouse.

For more information, please visit http://www.weplay.com.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nicky Anosike does it all for the Lynx

The former Lady Vol's contributions can be found "sprinkled throughout the box score."

Check out that footnote that Seimone Augustus is having ACL repair surgery Tuesday.

Nice peek at incoming Cal frosh

Courtesy of Caltriplethreat, courtesy of dfineguy, who was at the Pro-Am game in San Francisco yesterday.

Sparks preparing for six-game road trip

The LA Times' Mark Medina has been spending a lot of time at Sparks practices lately, as he's had a story almost every day for the last few days. Apparently in today's practice, Coach Michael Cooper paused for a moment to ask them why they still weren't getting a training camp drill right.

Oh boy. It might be a long trip considering that, and the fact that Lisa Leslie still hasn't been cleared. But according to his twitter, Candace Parker's husband Shelden Williams is packing. I wonder if that means he and Lailaa are going with the team?

The road trip starts Thursday in New York.

Shock waive old-timer Barb Farris

Another of the foursome on my "Bad Girls" poster is gone now.

*sigh*

Layshia Clarendon speaks

It's so easy to get a wrong impression of someone, and Cal-bound Layshia Clarendon is a perfect example. At times during her high school career she seemed like a drama queen. In reality, she had almost her entire team on her shoulders for a long time. Who knows, but maybe the almost-a-Bear will have it easier in college in comparison - at least as far as carrying the load. I wish this soft-spoken young lady all the luck in the world.

College recruiters: ready, set, GO!!

Today marks the start of the first main college recruiting push of the summer for NCAA and JC coaches. There are major high school tournaments going on around the country from today through July 15. From July 16-20 is an NCAA dead period, where coaches are not allowed to even speak to prospective recruits. Then July 21 it's "game on" again, with a second round of tournaments that run through the end of the month.

If you're a player, you need to bring your best game during these days. If you're a coach, you need to be able to watch continuous games all day long, for days on end. July, more than any other month of the year, is when college scholarships are born.

Many girls I know are playing in the End of the Trail Tournament in Oregon City, Oregon this week. A hot tournament in the south is the Big State Flava Jam in Texas. Other prestigious tournaments:

July 5-8: USA Invitational, Penn State
July 6-8: Southern Premier, Atlanta
July 6-8: USJN Midwest, Cincinati
July 9-11: Boo Williams Jr. All-Americana Showcase, Hampton, VA
July 10-12: Showtime Nationals and Top 10 Camp, Atlanta
July 11-15: Nike Summer Showcase, Chicago
July 12-15: Battle in the 'Boro, Murfreesboro, TN
July 21-15: Battle on the Bayou, New Orleans
July 22-25: USJN Nationals, Washington DC
July 28-31: Nike Nationals, North Augusta, S.C.
July 29-31: Candace Parker Invitational, Greenwood, S.C.

If you're anywhere near any of these cities and want to check out a hot slice of the future, GO!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mercury 104, Sparks 89

I know what happened - I just don't know why. Other fans from my awesome section are similarly perplexed.

The Sparks seemed to abandon their "reboot the season" plan to play killer defense, and in the last half of tonight's game they weren't boxing out at all. The box score says Phoenix out-rebounded LA 40-31 (15-6 team rebounds), but frankly I'm surprised it wasn't a wider margin.

Then there was the lack of offense. The numbers don't look bad; 43.8 percent shooting is respectable, and they kept the turnovers low at 11. But the Sparks just seemed to lack offensive rhythm and cohesiveness. One of the season ticket holders who sits behind me aptly commented during the fourth quarter, "They just look confused - like it's the first game of the season."

It's one of the most frustrating situations for fans and one of the most agonizing for players: when a team has all the talent in the world but isn't, for whatever reason, putting it together. I really hope the Sparks can turn it around soon, but as Daniel said before leaving tonight, they've dug themselves an awfully big hole.

Positives:

- Saw DeWanna Bonner's dad outside Staples Center before the game, and he remembered me from the Final Four. He said his daughter has found the perfect team for her in the Mercury, and she and the whole family are pleased. Good deal.

- The music for the Sparks kids has improved. Just last game I was complaining to one of my seat partners that the kids were dancing to "Yeah" from 2003, and tonight they rolled out some new routines complete with new tunes. Very nice! Now if they could change the music they play while the team is on the court, and during timeouts.

- The guy who replaced the annoying rollergirl had a replacement tonight, and she was the best one yet. We think they should keep her, because she has just the right amount of enthusiasm in her voice without being over the top. She is also louder than the man, but not too loud.

- What a nice sized crowd! Almost 10,000 in attendence at Staples.

- Nice piece from the Daily Breeze on Candace Parker's return, but women will never get credit for having kids that's equal to the attention men get, even when they've been suspended for drug use.

- And speaking of CP, it was just damned nice to see her out there, even if she was a little slow and not quite in her rhythm. Six points, four rebounds, two assists and one turnover is not bad for being gone for 10 months.

- Diana Taurasi was very focused and serious tonight, and put up 20 points. No antics, no jawing, no spitting, no standing halfway on the court when she's not playing, no faces at opponents or officials. Just all business.



Unsurprisingly, Candace Parker did the pre-game welcome duties on the mic.



Kinda weird seeing the non-starter huddle include Parker (and Lisa Leslie).



CP took the court at the 5:35 mark in the first quarter, to standing applause.



CP at the free throw line.



Action in the third quarter.



The pummeling continued in the fourth quarter.

The Sparks are now on the road for a month, and fans will not see them again until August 6.

Edit to add: Kathy Goodman blogs about the game.

Early decisions growing in college ball

The Lansing State Journal notes the increasing trend in early signings in women's basketball.

"There's definitely pressure to do it and get it done with," said Madison Williams, a Detroit Country Day senior-to-be, who committed to the Spartans in May. "From my family and high school coaches and AAU coaches, they understood I couldn't make my decision until I was ready. Most of the people around me wanted me to wait until I was ready, but a lot of coaches were like, 'Now, now, now.'"

Is there a correlation between this and the (previously noted in this space) increasingly high college transfer rates? Absolutely. Are kids getting offers increasingly early? Hell yes.

One amazing young lady I know, who just finished her sophomore year, already has offers from five colleges. Five. At this rate, universities will be offering middle school players by the time I turn 50.

Basketball is now a year-round sport, and kids are pushed to join AAU teams at earlier and earlier ages. With the explosion of interest in girl's basketball, there are more and more young women competing for available scholarships, so the need for a girl to stand out is greater. Over the years, competition has driven sports from a casual pursuit to a scientifically-calculated endeavor.

I'm far from the only one I know that laments what amounts to a loss of some childhood for baller kids. Their time is scheduled so tightly, and I worry that some don't get the down time that they need. And I always feel bad when I inadvertently make an athlete squirm when I ask what she plans to study in college.

"I don't know," the kid will say shrugging, her face a mask of confusion and embarrassment.

I'll tell her she has plenty of time to figure that out, but obviously she already feels the weight of expectation that she must have her life figured out by the time she gets her high school diploma.

Since the moods and lives of teens change weekly, if not daily, who's to say that the college a girl picks when she's 16 is a place she will like and feel is right for her at age 19?

If colleges are going to exert pressure like they do, coaches have no business complaining about high transfer rates.

Technology's effect on recruiting

This article basically says nothing, though it obstensibly pretends to address the effect of twitter.com on recruiting. For the last few years, the NCAA has made noises about slapping regulations on facebook and myspace, but nothing's happened yet. So why would they try to regulate twitter? Obviously the NCAA and its sanctions are scary enough already, or someone would have violated a policy by now.

Lynx updates

Minnesota Lynx Coach Jennifer Gillom answers questions in this interview.

Too bad more coaches don't understand this:

Motivation is the key. These girls respond to the enthusiasm, the encouragement. They need that because they are so young. I also think that instruction is definitely the key because they are young, they are still learning. So you want to teach them tricks, you want to add on to their game, develop them as players.

Is it any wonder the Lynx are still doing well despite the loss of Seimone Agustus?

Meanwhile, I'm mad that no one told me Candice Wiggins was in the 'hood recently. I would have stopped by.

Friday, July 3, 2009

CP back in the building

While I was away from the Internet today, the Sparks announced that Candace Parker will return to the court Sunday, for the game against the Mercury.

Best news I've heard all season. Whether she plays 30 seconds or 30 minutes, it will be great to see her in her team uniform rather than street clothes.

___________________

Diana Taurasi DUI update: in a public statement released today, she says she's embarrassed about the incident.

WNBA still upside down

Indiana's on a seven-game winning streak. Chicago is second to them in the East, and Washington is close behind. Phoenix and Minnesota now sit atop the West, with Seattle in third place.

This fine piece sums up the situation, and the first two paragraphs are perhaps the best:

When the Liberty and the Detroit Shock saw each other for the last time last season in Michigan, the buzzer had sounded to end Game 3 of the W.N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference finals and the Shock was walking off the court with a ticket to the title round, heading in the direction of a championship.

But when the teams saw each other Thursday night at Madison Square Garden for the first time since then, their worlds had turned upside down. They were both hanging out at the bottom of the conference standings.

"Are you the girl?"

Kelsey Bone is already making a splash on the campus of the University of South Carolina. Yet, she was a little shy at first:

But when she met her new teammates and housemates, Bone was a bit tongue tied, the normally talkative teen who tweets up to 10 times a day, instead hung back among the older players.

Then one day, Bone chimed in with the other Gamecocks. Teammate Jewel May "was like, 'Oh Kelsey, you talk,'" Bone said.


I wonder if any of the people who asked her why she was going to USC know anything about the history of women's basketball.

Baltimore Sun addresses Division I transfer issue

I've been puzzling over this since early spring, when the exodus began. Now the Baltimore Sun has written about the transfer issue, albeit briefly:

COLLEGE PARK — - Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese says an alarming number of women are transferring this year from Division I programs in the sport, leaving coaches and experts to figure out why.

"It's amazing," Frese said as she examined the names of about 100 recent transfers on a list compiled by Dan Olson, owner of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a subscription service.

"I've never seen a list like that before," Frese said this week. "It's almost a new trend, and not a positive trend."


and:

Frese said young college athletes and their supporters often bring high - and sometimes unrealistic - expectations about playing time and their abilities.

"I also think these kids are committing at early ages without doing their homework and doing the visits," Frese said. "They're deciding sooner, and maybe they didn't have a full picture of what everything is going to be like."


men having the same problem:

In men's basketball, the National Association of Basketball Coaches says it has talked with the NCAA about whether transfer rules need to be reformed.

Story link.

Personally, I don't think it's the impulsivity of young people causing the trend. I think it's a combination of two factors that prevail in today's society.

One is the continual breakdown of things that used to scare people. Youth don't believe adults know as much as they once did and they aren't afraid of consequences the way they used to be. Athletes used to never want to lose a year of eligibility, but now it doesn't seem to be a big deal to them.

The second factor is the increasing impatience of young people and society as a whole. Instead of giving a program or a person a chance, they bail instead.

I have no idea what this means for society as a whole, but I'm not liking it. I would advocate revising NCAA rules.

Atlanta waives Nikki Teasley

About two hours ago, Dream forward Chamique Holdsclaw twittered about how much she was going to miss teammate Nikki Teasley. Less than five minutes ago she posted again, this time: "Nikki T was waived today!"

Atlanta has sure developed a reputation for waiving higher-profile players. But this one makes me think they've got someone specifically in mind to replace Teasley.

Edit at 9:21 to add: Surprise! Ivory Latta is back with the Dream, as per Holdsclaw's twitter. Wow.

9:30 a.m. - it's official.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tennessee's Amber Gray has shoulder surgery, will be out six months

You have to raise an eyebrow when "Pat Summitt is not optimistic." Gray may sit out next season.

Diana Taurasi cited for DUI

The Mercury star was cited early this morning in Phoenix, following her team's win over the Storm.

Taurasi has always had a Mercurial personality, but this surprises me.