Monday, November 30, 2009

The what? The good and the bad

From the "what the hell?" department: Marion Jones is attempting a comeback as a pro basketball player. The New York Times also had a story about it, but referred to the San Antonio Silver Stars as the Silver Streaks in an earlier online edition. Now it appears they've fixed that.

This guy kicks ass for girls basketball.

Oklahoma sophomore shooting guard Whitney Hand is out for the season after tearing her ACL in last Friday's game against San Diego State. It makes me so sad, as I love her game and her heart. Get well quick, Whitney.

Tennessee sophomore center Kelley Cain will sit out for a few with a concussion. That sucks.

And Lisa Leslie is going to have a second child. I wonder when.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Justine Hartman out for the year

Brea Olinda junior center Justine Hartman will sit out this basketball season after tearing her ACL earlier this month, Coach Jeff Sink said. The loss leaves the defending state champions, ranked sixth in the country by ESPN, with a hole in the middle of the floor.

"It's a huge loss for us, but we'll be allright," Sink said.

Hartman played on the USA Basketball U16 team this summer, which won a gold medal. She is ranked seventh on ESPN's Super 60 list for the class of 2011.

Baylor 87, Lamar 65

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this piece includes some very interesting quotes:

“You just don’t have an answer for Griner,” Lamar coach Larry Tidwell said of Baylor’s post. “And if you do, you don’t have an answer for Melissa Jones. And I think Melissa Jones is one of the very best basketball players in the whole country.”

Lamar had no answer for Griner on either end. She repeatedly reached over smaller opponents to grab offensive rebounds and anchored Baylor’s defense by tying her career high for blocked shots.

“That kid is phenomenal,” Tidwell said. “We took it in there and she would send it right back. It’s sort of like Lew Alcindor before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar....”


I agree about Melissa Jones.

Meanwhile, the ESPN/USA Today top five remains the same:

1. Connecticut
2. Stanford
3. Ohio State
4. North Carolina
5. Tennessee

It's already a very interesting season.

Orange County (and beyond) tournament brackets

Brea Olinda 30th Annual Ladycat Classic 2009

Monday, Nov. 30, 2009:

2:45 p.m. - Canyon Springs vs. Keppel
4:30 p.m. - Narbonne vs. Bishop Alemany
6:15 p.m. - Brea Olinda vs. JSerra Catholic
8 p.m. - Santa Monica vs. Riverside Poly

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009:

2:45 p.m. - Riverside Poly vs. Summit
4:30 p.m. - Brea Olinda vs. Fairfax
6:15 p.m. - Hanford vs. Canyon Springs
8 p.m. - Oak Ridge vs. Bishop Alemany

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009:

2:45 p.m. - Santa Monica vs. Summit
4:30 p.m. - Oak Ridge vs. Narbonne
6:15 p.m. - Hanford vs. Keppel
8 p.m. - JSerra Catholic vs. Fairfax

Bracket play begins Thursday, Dec. 3, with the championship Saturday, Dec. 5.

Here are some other tourney brackets:

The La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 Tournament starts Wednesday in La Jolla, CA.

The South Coast Holiday Classic in Irvine, CA begins Saturday.

The Troy Varsity Girls Hoops Showcase starts Monday, Dec. 7 in Fullerton, CA.

The 2009 Girls Varsity Christmas Classic at Magnolia High School begins Dec. 14, in Anaheim, CA.

The Garden Grove Varsity Tournament starts Dec. 26 in Garden Grove, CA.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's time for high school tournaments

Next week is the week of tournaments in the Los Angeles area. Here's the first-day schedule for the Inglewood Classic, which begins Monday:

Monday Nov 30, at St. Marys Academy HS

3:00pm Redondo vs King Drew
4:30pm Serra vs St.Mary
6:00pm Taft vs Marlborough

Monday Nov 30, at St. Bernard HS

3:00pm Beverly Hills vs Sun Valley Poly
4:30pm South Torrance vs St. Bernard
6:00pm Huntington Park vs Culver City
7:30pm Crenshaw vs Wasington Prep

Monday Nov 30, at Morningside HS

3:00pm Mira Costa vs Morningside
4:30pm Bishop Montgomery vs SouthEast
6:00pm LB Jordan vs Peninsula
7:30pm BellJeff vs University

Monday Nov 30, at Inglewood HS

3:00pm Westchester vs Blair
4:30pm Venice vs Sierra Canyon
6:00pm Chatsworth vs Monroe

Inglewood and Long Beach Poly 1st round bye.

Second and third rounds are played Tuesday and Wednesday, and the tournament takes a break Thursday. Games resume Friday, with the championship Saturday.

Brea Olinda's Ladycat Classic is next week, also. As soon as Brea Coach Jeff Sink posts or sends me a schedule, I'll run it.

Coaches: feel free to send me your holiday tournament schedule, no matter where you are in the U.S., and I'll post it.

Freshmen taking over?

Everybody's talking about the class of 2011, but there are three in the class of 2009 who are looking pretty scary right now.

Baylor freshman Brittney Griner continued her rampage of consistency today against Louisiana-Lafayette, putting up 14 points and pulling down 14 boards in a mere 19 minutes in the Bears win, 89-42. It was a career best in rebounds for Griner as she lead her team.

In the Tennessee-UCLA matchup, it was Vol frosh Taber Spani who heated up to give her team the juice to close out the win. She lead the Vols in scoring with 16points.

On the other side of the court it was Bruin frosh Markel Walker who lead her team - something she's been doing a lot lately - with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Griner's performances have been somewhat surprising, because freshmen almost always experience the "small fish in a big pond" syndrome when they first get to college - even when they can dunk the ball. Spani has risen from the middle to top of the pack in the 2009 class that I saw play at the Women's College Basketball Association high school all-star game in St. Louis last April. Tennessee fans say her maturity is unusual for her age, and that she seems to have been bred for college hoops.

Walker is perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch. She was on the white team in the WBCA game, was ranked fourth by ESPN, but still flew under the radar. She wasn't as well-known as, say, Skylar Diggins or Kelsey Bone. But she not only made the starting line-up of a D I team, she's one of its leading scorers.

Big ups to these three. I can't wait to see what each of them do next.

In Pac-10 news, USC beat another ranked opponent today, besting #22 Mississippi State 64-60. Wisconsin squeaks one out over Oregon, 58-57. And Oregon State tonight won the Northern Arizona University Classic.

Hoopgurlz' Glenn Nelson doesn't like to be called thin-skinned

Glenn Nelson began a thread a few days ago asking readers whether or not to continue the Hoopgurlz forums.

On the second page, one poster, "mygirlcanflatoutball," dares to speak up and say that she/he feels like Nelson's management of the board has "limited posting to a certain extent." In case Nelson deletes the thread entirely, I'll go ahead and post the discussion:

Quote:
Originally Posted by glenn
I think I've made a bigger push than others to keep the hate off the boards. Do you think people have confused that effort and now are afraid to post? Even if we assume that we have a registration issue, we do have more than 8,000 registered users, which would make us one of the largest sports communities, especially on female sports, on the Web.

mygirlcanflatoutball: I do think it is possible that your management of the forums has limited posting to an extent. You have made it clear it's your world; one can assimilate to your processes and mindset or choose to not participate. If not they will be banned for lack of compliance.

The forums make good reading even if many of us choose not to post on a regular basis. I come here as much for the forum as for the national correspondent based coverage. I think they are a vital part of your offering. It’d be a shame to see them go away.


(11/25/09)

glenn: Well, yes, mygirlcanflatoutball is correct in the sense that if you disagree with my policy of not slamming teenaged girls, I have no tolerance. I make no apologies for that. That has nothing to do with people choosing not to post information or having constructive discussion.

(11/25/09)

Quote:
Originally Posted by glenn
Well, yes, mygirlcanflatoutball is correct in the sense that if you disagree with my policy of not slamming teenaged girls, I have no tolerance. I make no apologies for that. That has nothing to do with people choosing not to post information or having constructive discussion.

mygirlcanflatoutball: Your response to my post serves as an excellent example of what I was talking about as politely as possible in my previous post. Glenn I do not know you personally, but you sure give the appearance of having fairly thin skin and being a bit prickly to boot. I have always found that a little unsettling

You jump in aggressively if there is even a whiff of something you do not like. That trait gives me pause when I consider posting, in fact I was torn as to post or not post my opinion on this issue, not wanting to be attacked or dismissed by you. I’ll go back to reading the posts and staying silent for the most part. I really do like my local area forum and enjoy skimming the national one as well. I think they represent the great tradition of Hoopgurlz before it got bigger and perhaps even better.


(11/26/09)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mygirlcanflatoutball
Your response to my post serves as an excellent example of what I was talking about as politely as possible in my previous post. Glenn I do not know you personally, but you sure give the appearance of having fairly thin skin and being a bit prickly to boot. I have always found that a little unsettling

You jump in aggressively if there is even a whiff of something you do not like. That trait gives me pause when I consider posting, in fact I was torn as to post or not post my opinion on this issue, not wanting to be attacked or dismissed by you. I’ll go back to reading the posts and staying silent for the most part. I really do like my local area forum and enjoy skimming the national one as well. I think they represent the great tradition of Hoopgurlz before it got bigger and perhaps even better.

scribe: You've stated that so very eloquently, mygirlcanflatoutball. Thank you very much.

The reasons you've stated are the reasons why I don't post here - I just lurk. You feel that if you don't conform to the "accepted" viewpoints here, whatever that is, that you'll be banned.


(11/26/09)

glenn: mygirlcanflatoutball, scribe: I don't get it. I didn't slam anyone. I'm a writer, so I'm pretty clear in my posts. Do I get penalized for that trait? Meanwhile, you guys use pretty charged words to aim at me, and you address me by name while you remain anonymous. I guess I'm at a loss as to how you would feel the equation is tilted against you.

Most people have -- and probably will -- say the forums should be continued, but there are many people who seem overly sensitive and then project that sensitivity onto me. And that, quite frankly, ruins the forum experience for me.

The only "accepted" viewpoint here is that you do not slam teenaged girls who either read or used to read these forums. They are in a critical stage of developing identity and ego and it's just not right. If you don't agree, then, yes, do not post.


(11/26/09)

scribe went on to post something to this effect Friday morning:

mygirlcanflatoutball said it about as politely as possible. If you feel like she used "charged words," then you do seem like you're thin-skinned.

That post is now gone, and scribe has now been banned, as you can see from the fact that her/his name is no longer bolded and the number of posts she/he had is no longer listed.

Does anyone else see the irony in someone being called over-sensitive banning someone from a message board for saying he appears to be over-sensitive?

Nelson wouldn't last long on the rebkell board.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brittany Spears and Whitney Houston play basketball

The New York Times calls attention to the fact that two of the University of Colorado starters have celebrity names in a story that ran yesterday. It's a story worth noting, as I can attest to the oddity of hearing a basketball emcee call out a singer's name. I watched Brittany Spears play all summer long.

The junior forward was home in Pasadena and played for the Fastbreak team in the Say No Classic League - the same team, coincidentally, that included my favorite point guard, that was coached by a friend of mine, and that won the league championship title.

Spears has a silky shot, and was one of the top scorers for Fastbreak. I thoroughlly enjoyed watching her play. But I remember the first time the announcer said her name after she made a dazzling bucket. I questioned my coach friend later, in disbelief.

"Is her name really Brittany Spears?" I asked.

One morning he had to give her a ride.

"I had to pick up Brittany Spears in Pasadena," he told me.

But I didn't realize she had a teammate named Whitney Houston. You gotta love it.

In other news......

Thin-bench USC got its first win over a ranked opponent today, beating #14 Texas 61-54 at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

After Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw notched 500 wins last night, UConn Coach Geno Auriemma got his 700th tonight.

UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell is banning her family from wearing orange for tomorrow's game against Tennessee.

And Oregon is unbeaten, and last night almost broke the school record for scoring. Should I scream yet?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nikki Caldwell goes back to Knox Vegas, and Pat Summitt

I so wish I could be there Saturday for the UCLA @ Tennessee game - the first time Bruin Coach Nikki Caldwell plays her former boss' team. But plane tickets, even back in September, were $500 freakin dollars.

This story sums things up well:

She has brought her Tennessee ties with her to L.A. Her assistants, Tasha Butts and Tony Perotti are both Tennessee natives and worked in the Tennessee program. And she has brought more than a little of Summitt, too. Caldwell is cool and controlled, confident and persuasive. She has more than a few of the legendary coach's personality traits.

Caldwell said Summitt taught her to be on top of her game, as a coach, in every setting.

"Whether it's a fundraiser or speaking to donors, speaking to fans or getting the team prepared to play," Caldwell said. "She always talked a lot about not taking possessions off. You can't take them off as a coach either. You are always, always on."


And:

Summitt knew Caldwell would be a good fit for UCLA. She pushed her for the job – an endorsement that's hard to beat.

"I've felt all along that she was head coach material," Summitt said. "Watching her work in our practices and just seeing her toughness; a lot of people think she is the next Pat Summitt as far as what she demands. She demands a lot. I always say 'you don't get what you expect, you get what you demand,' and I think Nikki Caldwell understands that."


I hope my UCLA season ticket holder friends keep their promise and take pictures and bring me stuff.

Edit Friday morning to add:

Tennessee Assistant Coach Holly Warlick and Caldwell are trash talking this A.M. on twitter. Warlick wrote to Caldwell, "I hope you are ready for tomorrow!" To which Caldwell responded: "I am always ready for you, Warlick. Are you?"

:-D

Maybe I'm glad I'm not there after all. I would be torn in my allegiances.

Things I'm grateful for in basketball

1. High school coaches who (must) ride the bus with the team, take kids home, buy them food, handle jersey and shoe sizes for ordering, organize fundraisers, yell and scream, give love, provide band-aids and pre-wrap, and a bunch of other things.

2. Junior college coaches who have to drive the van to tournaments. And a bunch of other things.

3. D I coaches who twitter. It shows they love their team.

4. WNBA owners who throw MVP parties for season ticket holders, who don't let their general managers make idiot moves, and who don't close up shop out of the blue.

5. D II and D III coaches. They are underappreciated.

6. The sound of squeaking shoes and referee whistles when you walk into a tournament. Best sound in the world.

7. The fact that female basketball players, for the most part, get along just fine - if they don't outright love each other - regardless of sexual orientation. You can't say the same for male basketball players.

8. Title IX.

9. Seeing more women's college games on TV.

10. The increasing respect for the women's game. We've come a long way since Kim Mulkey, with the braid, was playing with Louisiana Tech in the first NCAA championship game in 1982 (I remember that well).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New York Liberty players update

While fans continue to bemoan Liberty Vice President and General Manager Carol Blazejowski's horrendous trade decisions (why is she still allowed to work there, anyway?), the players themselves are doing what they're supposed to do. It's been Liberty vs. Liberty in overseas play, of late.

I would think that should make for some intense games.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What a newsy kinda day

Brittney Griner finally got that first dunk off her back in tonight's defeat of Jacksonville State. The video shows it to be a nice solid slam, complete with the "clunk" of the rim. Love it.

Tennessee's active roster drops to 11 players with today's announcement that freshman Faith Dupree will sit out the season with a back problem.

The Minnesota Lynx' Seimone Augustus, who tore her ACL last June, is roaring back.

And what a fascinating piece by ESPN, interviewing a number of NCAA coaches about the 2010 recruits they just signed. ESPN pointedly leaves out Tennessee and Connecticut, interestingly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fourth USC player out with an ACL tear

It's true: Michelle Jenkins tore her ACL last week during the USC-Gonzaga game. Check it out at the bottom left of this page.

Unbelievable.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another ACL tear at USC?

First there was USC recruit Thaddesia Southall's injury.

Then sophomore Michelle Jenkins sustained a knee injury in last week's game. Rumor has it that it's another ACL tear.

I'm speechless.

Griner is the truth

Over the summer there was discussion about whether or not incoming Baylor freshman and dunking sensation Brittney Griner would be overwhelmed in college, and relegated to the "small fish in a big pond" level once she got there.

Guess not.

She just finished the win over Cal with 15 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal. Not bad for a freshman. She's come out stronger than a lot of people expected; well, people who didn't know her.

I'm sure she will have not-so-hot games - who doesn't. But I have a good feeling about this kid. I think she's going to be very consistent. The way she's started is a very good sign.

A big thumbs down to Cal fans today, though. In the play-by-play announcer's words, they were excited when it looked like she would dunk, but then booed her after she missed it. What kind of attitude is that?

Keep throwing it down, Griner.

A lil Pac-10, a lil Big 12, a big lil dunker

UCLA kicked the butts of Utah last night, 69-33. It looks like the Bruins continue their balanced scoring attack, but the low number of rebounds concerns me.

Big game coming up in a few hours in Cal, as the Bears take on the Bears of Baylor. Raaahh! Very cute pic of Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey with freshman Brittney Griner here.

Yes, Arizona State is overrated.

And all those people who freak out and trip when women dunk are out of luck. Here's a (grainy) video of an eighth-grader who can stuff it. You can't stop it, so just enjoy it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The importance of team meetings

In 2003 I completed a Master's Thesis based on a survey of the Women's National Basketball League of Australia. I found that women are significantly more effected by the moods and feelings of their teammates than their male counterparts. They were also more effected by the moods and feelings of their coaches than males. My findings corroborated those of earlier studies.

Women's coaches don't need to be told about my second finding. They already know they can't yell at girls or women the way coaches of boys and men do at them, or they wouldn't have a team left.

Yet, often players and coaches don't realize the importance of female team members - at the very least - coming to an agreement and at best, having love for each other. They don't understand that good communication, getting along and being on the same page can literally make the difference between a winning and a losing season for a female team.

Bottom line: Girls and women need to talk it out. Build relationships.

No joke.

In the midst of completing my Thesis, I was working with a high school girl's basketball team that was going through a tumultuous season. There was tension, frustration, misconceptions between players - you name it. I sent them to dinner at this spaghetti place - by themselves - for a team meeting. Several hours, one good discussion and a few tears later, things were worked out and they were back to getting along well. They went on to place third in state.

I've seen and worked with teams that really needed a team meeting but wouldn't have one. When you see players yelling at each other on the court, that's not a good sign, and a coach that lets it happen should be reprimanded.

But I know of a team who had a meeting today, and it went well. Their issues weren't gigantic, but they were stress fractures that, if not rectified, would eventually turn into a full break.

Two team members said, in the midst of it all, that they were "having for real communication." But the good signs were afterwards when all emerged from the restaurant and stood in a circle for several minutes in the parking lot, laughing together. Successssss.

Venerated Los Angeles point guard Mykiea Russell, currently a sophomore at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, knows a little something about team meetings. She has called two this fall since players and several team newcomers arrived at school. She explains the reasons team meetings are important, and what such meetings do for players individually and as a whole, better than I could:

Mykiea: Team meetings are extremely important for good team chemistry. Good team chemistry leads to a successful team. Meetings can be confrontational, and they allow the team to communicate and express their emotions.

Females tend to take a situation and perceive it a certain way, make assumptions, and then are effected personally. Basically, things begin as misunderstandings and can turn into conflicts. Teams can become out of sync because individual perception varies with experience and goal orientation. Team meetings help people express their feelings and actual intentions and clarify what someone "thought" happened or "thought" she meant this or said that.

I insisted on having our first team meeting to basically inform the newcomers (everyone!) on what to expect at practices. I even put extras on it just so there were no dreadful surprises. It went well because it was informative. and I did all the talking and answering questions.

The second meeting was not so nice. We'd been beating up on each other for two weeks and there was a ton of tension and issues on and off the court. Sooo it was time for another team meeting.

A team is like a family, and I don't know a family that doesn't have issues at times. The meeting was pretty bad, but it did the job. Everyone let out how they felt, good or bad, nice or mean. When there were no more secrets, and by evaluating how people felt straight up, we had to re-evaluate our goals and figure out what we needed to fix for us to be a championship team.

A month later, a week before our first tournament, we were all friends and loved each other to death. We still have our moments where we argue and can't stand each other (just like sisters), but without a doubt, we have each other's backs and are willing to sacrifice our bodies on the court for one another.

Good teams play with each other, while great teams play "for" each other! Team meetings facilitate good chemistry, and in this case, a great team in the making.


____________________________________________



Mykiea Russell playing in the Nike Say No League this past summer, in Los Angeles. How did this kid get to be so smart?

____________________________________________

If you're a high school coach, you may need to call the team meeting. If you're a college player, the task might be yours. But if it needs to happen, the sooner the better.

Does your team need to have a team meeting and work things out?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two interesting but unrelated tidbits

Are the Louisville Cardinals rebuilding or reloading?

"Jeff Walz is one of the best coaches in the country," Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. "I think that their team is going to be a lot harder to beat at the end of the year than they are now. And I think that Louisville is going to be a team that's in the top echelon of women's basketball for a long time if he's there."

I agree.

And it looks like the Eastern conferences got the best of the class of 2010, according to ESPN.

UCLA 98, Hawaii 52

Coach Nikki Caldell said it herself: it was a balanced scoring attack with five players in double figures. And an interesting five players they were.

Erica Tukiainen began the first six minutes of the game with four silky three-pointers. She ended 6-8 for those shots.

Starters Doreena Campbell and Nina Earl were having off-nights, so Christina Nzekwe and Rebekah Gardner put in 11 and 15 points, respectively.

Freshman Markel Walker played more minutes than anyone, and had a double-double to show for it with 12 points and 12 boards. This kid is going to be big! Our section is really impressed.

I would get excited with 52.5 percent shooting if Hawaii weren't so bad. They really didn't have any defense to speak of. Hopefully the Bruins will find more of a challenge tomorrow night, when they play Utah at San Diego State.



Hawaii on offense in the first half.



The Bruins coaching staff sometimes takes so long deciding what to say at a timeout that they pretty much run out of timeout. But they still kick booty.



Freshman point guard Mariah Williams sets up the play.



Coach Nikki Caldwell at a timeout when she gets to say stuff for a while.



The injured Antonye Nyngifa would get up after a big bucket and walk down the line of her sitting teammates and high-five them. This is right at the end of one of those.

Sacramento Monarchs fold

The news came out earlier today that yet another of the WNBA's original teams has closed up shop. Now it seems that they will be relocating to the Bay Area instead of folding. Further ponderings on where exactly the team will go have since been released to the public.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

University of Tennessee: the view from the (direct) sideline



Glory Johnson goes up for a shot during the recent game against Baylor.

__________________________________________________________

Again this year, Hoopism is pleased to interview respected scout.com reporter Maria M. Cornelius on the Tennessee Lady Vols. Cornelius is about as big an expert on the team that there is, as she attends virtually every team practice. The deep, detailed pieces she writes are legendary.

Hoopism wanted insight into this year's squad, and Cornelius was gracious enough to oblige.

M.M.C.: The biggest question mark going into this season was how big of a leap would the freshmen make as sophomores. They spent late March and early April with a very disappointed Pat Summitt, whose reaction to the first round loss was to work harder.

They practiced, ran the ramp at Gate 10 at Neyland Stadium and flipped 150-pound tires across the indoor football complex, among other exercises.

When the spring semester ended, they were on their own to work out. They did.

Hoopism: How did the returning players look coming back? Especially the sophomores who were freshmen last year. Are they in shape, have they improved their games noticeably? How's their enthusiasm and drive?

M.M.C.: For the most part, excellent.

Alicia Manning made a tremendous jump in overall strength and attitude. She went from somewhat bewildered as a freshman - something that could be said of all of them - to understanding how much work it takes to play big-time college basketball. She is an excellent rebounder and has provided some depth at point guard. With her size she can play on the perimeter or post up on the high block. She is a very versatile player who seems willing to accept whatever her role needs to be from game to game.

Glory Johnson is in a very good place right now mentally and physically. Last year her athleticism overwhelmed teams and they didn't know how to guard her. Then, scouting film got circulated and teams come up with schemes to stop, or at least slow down players.

This happened to Johnson and she wasn't prepared to adjust. She had played one way in high school - full speed ahead - and she continued to do so. In the off season she worked on her left hand, free throw shooting and her composure at the rim. She is now playing both under control and with high energy. It's a tricky balance for anyone, and she's getting it as a sophomore.

Also, as hard as it is to believe, she's in even better condition. She was already the best athlete on the team. She is now trying to become the most athletic basketball player on the team.

Briana Bass did everything asked of her in the off-season. She worked on lateral quickness, shooting and raising her voice. Tennessee is using Shekinna Stricklen at point guard because of her size, but the 5'2 Bass will still play a role for the Lady Vols. She is a nice change-of-pace point guard who can enter when an opponent has started to tire a little and run the ball up their backs.

The key for Bass is to handle her new role and bring energy every time she enters the game. Pat Summitt will reward effort and it starts in practice for the coach. Bass has shown a willingness to work hard and be an excellent player in practice.

Shekinna Stricklen has started the season showing why she could be an All-American at Tennessee. She is quick, can shoot from long range, drive to the basket and rebound. She is finally comfortable at the point spot - a position she resisted a season ago - and seems to want the ball in her hands to open the game. She has an unflappable personality and seems to just love to play basketball. As Summitt has said, she has a chance to have a very special college career.

Alyssia Brewer is a supremely talented power forward/center who understands angles and positioning in the post. She also may be the teams' best interior passer and is very effective on either end of the high-low game. She can fill up a stat sheet in points and will also get on the boards, but she must become a better defender and be able to run the floor for longer periods of time. Her practice habits still need to improve. If the switch flips for Brewer this season she could really help the team, especially with Vicki Baugh still out to rehab her ACL.

Amber Gray was the sixth member of the freshman class but will miss this season to rehab from shoulder surgery and recover from a stroke brought on by an aneurysm in her brain. She has re-joined her team on the sidelines at home games and attends practice. This season is a sponge-soaking one for her, as she will watch and listen to the coaches. It could springboard her into a better player - her goal is to return to the court - and will also help in her future plans to be a basketball coach.

Kelley Cain is a redshirt sophomore and is finally healthy after having surgery last April to remove two screws migrating out of her lower leg bone. The screws had been placed there in December 2007 in a complicated surgery to realign her right kneecap. She recovered well from that after a lengthy rehab, only to have the screws begin to move. That caused tremendous pain and she played last season quite hobbled.

She has started strong this season and is the centerpiece of the post game. A healthy Cain makes Tennessee a much different team.

Hoopism: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the freshmen, and how are they meshing with the returned players?

M.M.C.: By all accounts, the freshmen get along very well with each other and the rest of their teammates.

Faith Dupree, a 6'3 forward, was a teammate of Johnson's in high school, so that eased her transition. Dupree has size and a deft shooting touch for one who looks like a classic post. She can step out and knock down a three. She is very coachable - that will earn points with the coaches - and arrived on campus fundamentally sound.

Dupree must work on becoming a better post defender - though she seems to already understand the concepts - and she also, like all freshmen, will have to get in better condition to play extended minutes. That comes with time and she already runs the floor pretty well for a big.

Taber Spani, a 6'1 forward/guard, has shifted inside for the Lady Vols while Baugh remains in recovery. Spani has deep three-ball range, so she plays a very untraditional power forward. She also will play minutes on the perimeter at small forward and can team with Stricklen and Angie Bjorklund to give the Lady Vols three long-range bombers.

Spani is fundamentally sound, coachable and willing to work as hard as any freshman since Nicky Anosike and Tamika Catchings were on campus. She arrived on campus with considerable strength and conditioning training and will build on that base at Tennessee. She will have to learn to defend inside - a new position for her - and absorb the intricacies of playing perimeter defense with the concepts of help, switching, et al.

Kamiko Williams is a tremendous talent with the ball in her hand and has the potential to be an excellent defender. But she spent her first 14 years in Germany - where she said fouls were rarely called and players could grab and hold each other - and is behind on defense. She also is adjusting to playing for a coach as demanding as Pat Summitt. But she has the skill set to help the team this season and once she gets up to speed in terms of terminology and understanding that Summitt puts a premium on daily practice performance, she will be fine.

Hoopism: Who is emerging as a team leader(s) this year?

M.M.C.: Angie Bjorklund has been vocal from day one. Summitt has asked Stricklen ro raise her volume. Cain is also showing signs of being willing to talk on the court. It is definitely leadership by committee - Taber Spani will talk, too - but Angie is the most consistent in terms of talking. She is leading on and off the court, and team seems to respond to her. She also knows the offenses and defenses better than anyone so she needs to be the QB, so to speak, on the court, and she has shown signs of being willing to do so.

Hoopism: What are Pat and company emphasizing in practices right now? How is this different, if at all, from last year when there was such a number of frosh?

M.M.C.: Defense, defense, defense. Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. She has gone back to instilling those principles in her players from day one.

Last year there were so many new players that had to learn everything. So practice was consumed by teaching, demonstrating and re-teaching. This year, with just three freshmen, there is a lot more action on the court as the returning players know what to do and the three freshmen can watch, learn and execute. Last year's freshmen didn't really have that luxury - there were sometimes four of them on the floor at one time and they learned on the spot - but the three newcomers are able to mesh with returning players

Hoopism: How did Nicky Anosike contribute to practice sessions during her recent visit?

M.M.C.: Nicky Anosike was a godsend for the team. She is so tough inside and she gave Kelley Cain a big, strong body to go against in practice that knew the Lady Vol system so well. Anosike has since left for Romania to join her pro team, but she made a difference during her time here. She also hung out with the players off the court, so that was beneficial.

Hoopism: Does the team seem to be on a mission to avenge their first-round loss last year?

M.M.C.: Yes. As Summitt said, they were embarrassed by what happened and it showed in the off-season with their commitment to work out with Heather Mason on a voluntary basis. They heard from former players, fans and the coaches and they know that they represent the long orange line, and expectations are so high. They seem to have bought into the Tennessee Way. They remain young, but they are much more mature than a year ago.

Hoopism: Any uncertainties going into the season?

M.M.C.: The one question mark is the status of Vicki Baugh. If she can play this season, Tennessee becomes an automatic contender. She is that good inside and would combine with Johnson and Cain to give Tennessee a big frontline.

But she has had two ACL surgeries on her left knee in one calendar year so the approach has been one of extreme caution. She will practice on a limited basis at times, but has not been cleared to play. The Lady Vols are a much improved team from a year ago. Baugh makes them even better. But it is not yet known if she will play this season, and that decision likely won't be made for a few weeks. She must first be able to practice full-time and then evaluate how the knee responds.

Her spirits seem to be high, and she is vocal at practice, even on the sidelines.

Overall, the future is very bright for the Lady Vols. The current players get it, and recruiting continues to be top notch with the signing of guards Lauren Avant and Meighan Simmons from the class of 2010.

Tennessee is getting back to looking like Tennessee - pressure defense, dominant board play and a team that competes every game.

Support your local girl's basketball team

It's that time of the year when high school players are pushing candy, washing cars, making food and otherwise doing any and everything they can to raise money for their team. The money goes to tournaments, uniforms, travel expenses, shoes and the like. And because girl's games don't make as much money as their male counterparts, fundraisers are especially important.

I'd like to invite any coach, player or parent with a team who's got a fundraiser going on or coming up to let me know. I'll be happy to publish the notice, no matter what state you live in or how big or small your city.

I'm going to get the ball rolling with one of my very favorite Los Angeles City Section teams, the Washington Prep Lady Generals. They're having their annual pancake breakfast from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 at Darby Park, 3400 West Arbor Vitae Street, Inglewood, CA 90305. Please stop by, get your breakfast on and support the girls. They're pretty awesome.



This message brought to you by Reshanda "Too Tall" Gray, seen above (middle) this past Saturday at the HAX showcase tournament. She is currently ranked 38 on the ESPN class of 2011 "Super Sixty."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ESPN Rise, USA Today pick their top high school teams

Rise does it in three parts: 1-10, 11-25, and 26-50.

USA Today lists 25.

Both lists look similar, which is a good sign that they both got it pretty right on.

Now if the high school season could just start. *Itch, itch*

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some "wows" in college ball tonight

Hartford took out number 19 Louisville. What?

Baby-faced Baylor freshman Brittney Griner almost had a triple-double tonight in her team's monster victory over Tennessee Tech.

San Bernardino's own Layshia Clarendon hit a jumper and a free throw in the final 48 seconds of tonight's game against St. Mary's to lift her team to the win, 68-65.

On the Pac-10 tip, the Paul Westhead began in Oregon last night with a big win over Eastern Washington University.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unconscionable behavior on the part of Duke

If you know you don't want a recruit after all, tell her right after the July viewing period - not three weeks before National Signing Day. It's well-known that all the prime spots are filled the second Wednesday in November, and those waiting until the late signing period in April will take what they can get, for the most part, as coaches fill in the holes that are left on their rosters.

But I guess that's what you can expect from a head coach who used to, and still may, make players schedule an appointment to talk to her.

Seasonal first thoughts

Michelle Smith has some great observations. I can't say I disagree with anything on her list.

ESPN's Graham Hays ponders the meaning of this weekend's upsets.

But the "What the Hell" of the day goes to this item from Tennessee: sophomore Alyssia Brewer and Kamiko Williams have been suspended for Tuesday's game for violating team rules. Word is they were already with the team on the way to San Antonio when it all went down.

USC 68, Fresno State 63

The game was even for the first half with neither team having more than a five-point lead. The first five minutes of the game was a series of missed shots and the score five minutes in was USC 5-2. The next five minutes the scoring picked up and USC led 16-15 half way through the first half.

USC's scoring was more balanced than Fresno States. In fact there were only two girls on Fresno State that impressed me: #2 Haley Munro, a 6'1" junior from Australia, and #4 Jaleesa Ross, a 5'8" junior from Pinole, CA. Both athletes ended up with over 20 points, and nobody else had more than five points.

Munro is a three-point shooter with occasional drives to the hoops. Ross is the PG/SG who has very good control of the offensive flow. In fact she had no turnovers for the game.

The first half closed out with Fresno leading 32-29.

The second half started with teams trading baskets and small leads by both teams.
Halfway through the second half, Fresno State opened up an eight-point lead to take the score to 55-47. Then USC went on a 14-0 run to take a six-point lead at 61-55, with about four minutes left. Fresno came back and tied the game at 63-63 with 1:32 left, then USC got the last fove points to finish out the game at 68-63.

USC had four players in double figures, led by Briana Gilbreath's 1 17 points. Freshman Christina Marinacci scored 12 points in her second college game and finished tied in rebounds with seven, including six offensive rebounds. Marinacci blended into the offense well and played almost half the game. Kari Laplante added 12 points and Ashley Corral, 10.

Notes: One of the refs was injured about midway through the first half. (I think she was knocked down by a USC player after a basket under the hoop). She was on the floor for a few minutes and appeared to be favoring her hip. She didnt return.

In the crowd was Mater Dei's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who recently verbally committed to the University of Connecticut; Elbert Kinnebrew, the director of the Cal Sparks, and USC 2010 USC recruits De'Nesia Stallworth and Cassie Harberts.

Attendance was about 850, including the four USC Song girls, 12 USC dancing team members and about 25 members of the USC band.

I can see why the PAC-10 has the WBB tournament in this venue.

- IM in OC

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tennessee 74, Baylor 65

Everyone knows by now that the Vols pulled it off today, and without a whole lot of difficulty. I was at the HAX and didn't get to the game until near the end of the first half, but after that was when Tennessee took over.

The Vols double-teamed Baylor freshman dunking sensation Brittney Griner, so she didn't get one off. But the kid had a nice game and is looking great. Give her some time and she's going to be scary as hell.

Shekinna Stricklen is continuing the rampage she began at the end of last season, and I couldn't be happier. I think she's my favorite Lady Vol since about last February. And it's so nice to see Tennessee looking like the Tennessee of old. (Did they learn a lesson?) I pray this wasn't a fluke today, but I really don't think it is.

Some former Vols are pretty happy today, too, and it seems a huge number of them were watching the game. Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike twittered throughout the game and ended with, "thats how we do! good job lady vols!! great win!"

Anosike was the funniest: "Hahahaha!!! Did someone say 9 National Championships??? UCONN we'll take it from here. lol"

But the next best thing about this game after the win was the way people knew it was going on and tuned in. People stopped what they were doing at the HAX, turned away from games in progress, to watch. Now it may seem like a gimmie at a place like that, but this isn't always the case. Just as some women's college fans are ignorant about the next level (WNBA), so can some high school players and parents be in the dark about college. Not so today.

Coupled with yesterday's big turnout for the Poly-Mater Dei showdown, I am excited about the rise of the women's game. You can feel it.

Other college games:

Stanford knocked off Rutgers by 15 freakin points. Stanford is very, very scary right now.

Texas A&M thrashed Duke, which is pretty darned amusing.

Georgia upset Oklahoma.

So will it be one of those years? We'll see.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mater Dei 52, Long Beach Poly 48

They came, and they kept coming. Five minutes before Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly tipped off today, the folks at the Hangar Athletic Xchange in Hawthorne, CA, graciously dragged out another rack of bleachers to accommodate the swelling crowd.

In the end, it was standing room only, and the teams everyone came to see didn't let the crowd down.

It was an intense matchup that featured a number of ranked players: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei and Ariyah Crook-Williams of Poly - numbers 2 and 20, respectively; and Jordan Adams of Mater Dei, ranked first in the class of 2012.

Poly got off to a slow start, and Mater Dei capitalized on it and built a lead that got up to as much as 13 points midway through the first half. The Monarchs have ridiculously good execution, and seemingly can hit any shot at will from anywhere on the floor. Coach Kevin Kiernan looked like he was absolutely chillin' on the bench at points in the first half. And when Mater Dei did start to miss shots in the second, their fans would literally scream in shock.

The Jackrabbits clawed back as Crook-Williams caught fire, and the last quarter of the game turned into a shootout between her and Mosqueda-Lewis. With more than a minute to go, the Monarchs lead 48-45 when Crook-Williams unleashed an NBA-range three that caused the crowd to erupt. But with (I think) 18 seconds to go, Mosqueda-Lewis answered with three of her own, and a foul shot at the end sealed the win for them.

It was everything you could want in a game, and at the end I jumped up and down a couple times, making my kids laugh. But that's what great basketball does to me.



Mater Dei junior forward Alexyz Vaioletama is still out with stress fractures in her legs, so had to settle for passing the ball to teammates in warmups (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis running by to the right).



Vaioletama is about ready to suit up again, and is itching to play.



Here's a rankorama: Jordan Adams (#1) passes over Ariya Crook-Williams to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.



Both teams huddle during a timeout in the first half.



Here's a matchup I loved with a passion: Adams vs. Crook-Williams. Adams brings the ball up court halfway hunched over, like a panther ready to strike. But this was a one-sided love affair for me, as Adams doesn't guard the PG on defense - that is left to another teammate. On defense, Adams plays the 2. Interesting, huh?



Second half action: Poly's shots weren't falling as much for a little while in the first half......



.....but by the second half they'd caught up. They just kept shooting through the problem until it was solved.



People stood in the corners - three deep - clogging them up. Lotsa video taping going on, too - looked a lil like the NCAAs, in fact.



Eventually people also stood behind the two team benches to watch the game.

Here are the complete results from day one of the weekend's showcase:

11:20 AM
Troy 30
Bishop Montgomery 42

12:30 PM
Washington Prep 37
Mayfair 45

12:30 PM
Inglewood 18
Brea Olinda 45

1:40 PM
Inglewood 45
St. Anthony 42

1:40 PM
Corona Centennial 33
Mater Dei 54

1:40 PM
Troy 35
Lynwood 40

2:50 PM
Mayfair 22
Long Beach Jordan 51

4:00 PM
Lynwood 49
Bishop Montgomery 54

4:00 PM
Cajon 29
Brea Olinda 48

4:00 PM
Long Beach Poly 48
Mater Dei 52

5:10 PM
SMCHS 42
St. Anthony 34

6:20 PM
Long Beach Jordan 54
Washington Prep 39

6:20 PM
Long Beach Poly 59
Corona Centennial 47

7:30 PM
SMCHS 39
Lynwood 56

7:30 PM
Cajon 38
Inglewood 35

Chatsworth was supposed to play but didn't show up. What's up with that?

Tennessee, Bowling Green State tidbits

The Volunteers are making it a top priority to keep Baylor freshman Brittney Griner from dunking in their matchup tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'd want to put that in writing, myself.

Meanwhile, at Bowling Green State, former Oregon guard Tamika Nurse helped pace the Falcons to a 76-41 victory over Chicago State last night (what the hell is the pre-season WNIT?). It's nice to see Nurse succeeding, as she was needlessly driven out of the Oregon program by former coach Bev Smith, who has proven why she is working at a YMCA now instead of coaching.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Xavier 81, USC 71 (OT)

The Galen Center is not normally where I head to start my college basketball season but I couldn't resist seeing the Xavier Musketeers head to California, especially after all the preseason hype of their front line-up of Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips. And they did not disappoint coming with an 81-71 victory over USC in the season opener.

After all the injuries the Ladies of Troy have undergone, I thought they would be hard-pressed to keep up with the size of the Musketeers, and they did for most of the first half. USC had more turnovers and were outrebounded. I also wanted to see how Michael Cooper, the new coach, would do in his first outing. The team did not seem cohesive at first, looking confused on plays. They were also having trouble scoring and turning the ball over.

In the second half, USC came out firing and three things were key in my opinion; USC stopped turning the ball over, they were boxing out and rebounding, and Phillips got in foul trouble which reduced the Muskateers second chance opportunities. The Ladies of Troy were able to grab the lead on a floater from Heather Oliver but were not able to pull away to take the game in regulation.

In overtime, the Musketeers completely took over and Phillips went to work on the glass alongside of Harris who was isolated on many plays to take advantage of her size.

My impression of Xavier as a whole is that they have a lot of good athletes that can go off the bounce and the point guard, Special Jennings, is solid. Harris is the real deal and can shoot the three or post up. Ta'Shia Phillips is big and strong and can probably battle with any big-time center in the women's game. The Musketeers also can go to their bench a bit more than I expected with lots of athletic versatile players.

USC looked impressive in the second half, but at the end, it seems that the lack of size and lack of depth was their undoing. Christina Marinacci made her debut and she was impressive showing that she could slash to the basket or pull up for the three. Ashley Corral was the key to the second half as she led the team back from the deficit. She, along with Gilbreath, will most likely be the main offensive threats this season. The team will have big competition in the next few weeks going against Gonzaga, Rutgers, Texas and Mississippi State, so we will know soon enough if they can break through against top competition.

- Daniel Uribe

Best high school players by state

What an interesting list by ESPN Rise. Notice how many are juniors. (ESPN agrees).

The class of 2011 is ridiculous.

ALABAMA
Kaneisha Horn (Ramsay, Birmingham) 6-1 Sr.

ALASKA
Katie Anderson (Dimond, Anchorage) 6-2 Jr.

ARIZONA
Aley Rohde (Pinnacle, Phoenix) 6-5 Jr.

ARKANSAS
Taylor Murphy (Har-Ber, Springdale) 5-7 Sr.

CALIFORNIA
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-0 Jr.

COLORADO
Eliza Normen (Monarch, Louisville) 6-1 Jr.

CONNECTICUT
Keylantra Langley (Lauralton Hall, Milford) 5-11 Sr.

DELAWARE
Betnijah Laney (Smyrna) 6-0 Jr.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Ronika Ransford (Woodson) 5-6 Sr.

FLORIDA
Amber Henson (Sickles, Tampa) 6-3 Jr.

GEORGIA
Brianna Banks (Northgate, Newnan) 5-9 Jr.

HAWAII
Kamie Imai (Waiakea, Hilo) 5-8 Sr.

IDAHO
Jenna Cacchillo (Capital, Boise) 5-7 Sr.

ILLINOIS
Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook) 5-6 Jr.

INDIANA
Courtney Moses (Oak Hill, Converse) 5-7 Sr.

IOWA
Kiah Stokes (Linn-Mar, Marion) 6-3 Jr.

KANSAS
Jhasmin Bowen (Heights, Wichita) 5-11 Jr.

KENTUCKY
Antonita Slaughter (Christian Academy, Louisville) 6-1 Sr.

LOUISIANA
Tori Scott (John Ehret, Marrero) 5-10 Jr.

MAINE
Carly Grenfell (York) 5-7 Sr.

MARYLAND

Sheronne Vails (Arundel, Gambrills) 6-4 Sr.

MASSACHUSETTS
Katie Zenevitch (Central Catholic, Lawrence) 6-3 Sr.

MICHIGAN
Crystal Bradford (Inkster) 6-0 Jr.

MINNESOTA
Suriya McGuire (Roosevelt, Minneapolis) 5-9 Sr.

MISSISSIPPI
Valencia McFarland (Raymond) 5-6 Sr.

MISSOURI
Anne Marie Hartung (Bowling Green) 6-3 Sr.

MONTANA
Jordan Sullivan (Sidney) 6-2 Sr.

NEBRASKA
Emily Cady (Seward) 6-2 Jr.

NEVADA
Aaryn Ellenberg (Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas) 5-7 Sr.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Tiffany Ruffin (Winnacunnet, Hampton) 5-8 Sr.

NEW JERSEY
Briyona Canty (Trenton Catholic, Trenton) 5-9 Jr.

NEW MEXICO
Amber Battle (Cibola, Albuquerque) 5-9 Jr.

NEW YORK
Kristen Doherty (Sachem East, Farmingville) 5-10 Sr.

NORTH CAROLINA
Cierra Burdick (Butler, Matthews) 6-2 Jr.

NORTH DAKOTA
Meghan Roehrich (Fargo South, Fargo) 5-10 Jr.

OHIO
Natasha Howard (Waite, Toledo) 6-3 Sr.

OKLAHOMA
Richa Jackson (Midwest City) 6-1 Sr.

OREGON
Shoni Schimmel (Franklin, Portland), 5-9 Sr.

PENNSYLVANIA
Alyssa Thomas (Central Dauphin, Harrisburg) 6-0 Sr.

RHODE ISLAND
Meg Morrissey (South Kingstown, Wakefield) 5-6 Sr.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Camille Glymph (J.L. Mann, Greenville) 5-9 Sr.

SOUTH DAKOTA
Carsey Barden (Sturgis) 5-11 Sr.

TENNESSEE
Lakeisha Crouch (Hillsboro, Nashville) 6-0 Sr.

TEXAS
Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair, Cypress) 6-3 Sr.

UTAH
Jasmine Porter (Layton) 6-2 Sr.

VERMONT
Abbey Lalime (Lake Region, Orleans), 5-8 Sr.

VIRGINIA
Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne, Virginia Beach) 6-3 Jr.

WASHINGTON
Erika Johnson (Holy Names Academy, Seattle) 6-1 Jr.

WEST VIRGINIA
Whitney Bays (Huntington) 6-2 Sr.

WISCONSIN
Alexandra Cohen (Nicolet, Glendale) 6-5 Jr.

WYOMING
Kayla Fakelman (Kelly Walsh, Casper) 6-0 Sr.

First day of counting NCAA games

It's on like donkey kong.

Lookit all these scores.

Longtime Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan earned her 700th win tonight in a victory over UMBC.

Dayton University had the upset of the day, defeating tenth-ranked Michigan State, 77-74.

Hoopism writer Daniel Uribe went to USC's free home opener today, at the unusual time of 1:30 p.m., and was treated to a helluva game. Xavier, ranked 15, pulled it out in OT, 81-71. Uribe will have a report soon.

In the meantime, here's the news:

The Maryland Terrapins are beseiged with questions.

A Texas player remembers Coach G's wrath.

The Kellie Harper era begins at NC State, and with a win, too.

ESPN names it's All-American predictions.

The Oregon Ducks need to keep up with the Oregon State Beavers this year.

Lady Vol Glory Johnson returned to practice today after sustaining a shoulder injury earlier in the week. And Taber Spani will start in Sunday's showdown with Baylor. She'll be the 13th freshman to start for the Vols.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Who won the round one recruiting battle

USA Today says it's Duke, but I'm not so sure about that. I'm thinking Baylor. And California is going to be scary, scary good starting next year.

Thanks to all who commented on yesterday's post. Chiney Ogwumike went to Stanford, to no one's surprise, and Daisha Simmons chose Rutgers. Like a Hoopism reader, I'm also wondering what happened with UCLA's recruiting class, because the three they got aren't much. There is an interesting development on the current squad, though, so stay tuned here for details when they become apparent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bad news for Lady Vols, good news for Cal

Here we go again? Glory Johnson was injured in practice today. That's one stake through my orange heart.....I don't want another.

This year it's only three instead of seven, but the Cal Bears keep roping 'em in.

Jeff Walz inked four for the Cards.

I checked the Rutgers page, but no news of any signings. Did they sign any players or not?

"I never gave up"

Recently a young player asked me how I thought she did in a tough game when both her team and the referees weren't doing so well. I told her what I thought was good about her game. Then she volunteered an answer for herself: "I never gave up," she said. It was a profound statement from someone who's given up in games before, and it underscored a point.

High school coaches teach defense, offense, and everything that's a part of the game. But do they teach perseverance? They should.

You don't see much giving up at the pro level, and you see some in college ball, depending upon the identity of the coach. But at the high school level, giving up can be epidemic. Young people aren't always taught how to persevere through difficult circumstances and how to keep foraging ahead when the terrain looks rough. As a result, you see both individual and team meltdowns that don't need to happen. This is where a coach needs to step in.

It's as simple as telling a kid not to give up. If she sits down hard on the bench, sighs, grunts in frustration, rolls her eyes or the like, then it's time to tell her that she's got to keep on going, no matter what. My line is always, "if you give up, you have no chance of winning, but if you keep going, it's at least 50-50."

High school coaches need to be pro-active in these instances, and not assume a kid has the coping skills to overcome frustration. For some athletes, it's a skill that must be taught, and the sooner the better if they're to continue evolving as players.

I hope to hear more young athletes say "I never gave up," whether they win or lose.

College stories of the day, so far

San Diego State University is on the rise.

ESPN's Mechelle Voepel contemplates the top collegiate players of the year.

Odyssey Sims, regarded as the nation's top point guard for the class of 2010, has signed with Baylor University today.

Oregon is becoming a run and gun team.

And top pick Chiney Ogwumike has postponed the announcement of her chosen school until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twas the night before National Signing Day......

Louisville Coach Jeff Walz has twittered his excitement about tomorrow, as has Cal assistant coach Charmin Smith. Hmmmm, I wonder what the day could have in store? Pretty exciting!

Pac-10 preview: the University of California Berkeley

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the final installment of the Pac-10 previews: the University of Califorina, Berkeley Bears.

by Daniel Uribe

The Cal Bears have a strange roster this year: there is only one junior on the team, and no sophomores. There are four seniors, and six freshmen. It's not often that there is such an example of extremes, but such is life in transition for an up-and-coming program.

Coach Joanne Boyle and her staff last year had what many deemed the number one recruiting class in the nation, with seven heralded freshmen: DeNesha Stallworth, a 6'3" forward/center from Richmond, CA; McDonald's All-Americans Gennifer Brandon, a 6'2" forward from Chatsworth, CA, and Eliza Pierre, a 5'7" guard from Pasadena, CA; 6'3" centers Talia Caldwell, from Los Angeles, CA and Brenna Heater, from Ashland, OR; and WBCA All-American Layshia Clarendon, a 5'9" guard from San Bernardino, CA. Tierra Rogers, the seventh freshman recruited by Boyle, will no longer play after being diagnosed with a heart defect and undergoing surgery last month. However, Rogers is still on scholarship and is part of the basketball program.

The last vestige of the heralded 2009 class, Alexis Gray-Lawson, is still here to usher in the next generation of freshmen and pass the torch, so to speak. With that new generation comes the hope of many California hoop fans that their state will remain strong national player producers and grow into a power that will also challenge Stanford for West Coast supremacy.

While the freshman now outnumber the returning players, the Golden Bears will rely heavily on Gray-Lawson (12.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and senior guards Natasha Vital (8.6 ppg, 2.8 apg) and Lauren Greif (6.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) to pick up the slack after the departure of program stalwarths Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton. Arguably, the most experienced backcourt in the Pac-10, Cal will most likely look to open up the floor to allow the guards to attack more while the group of freshmen posts adjusts to the college level. Increased production will be expected from Gray-Lawson, who had a 37-point performance in the first game versus Stanford, and must pick up the slack offensively if the Bears are to have success.

The only veteran experience left in the post is senior forward/center Rama N'Diaye (2.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg) who missed most of last season after a knee injury suffered at the end of her sophomore year. N'Diaye is coming off surgery in the offseason to repair her meniscus and is still rehabing but is expected to play during the nonconference season. After the loss of Kelsey Adrian, Casey Morris and Angelei Aguirre last year due to transfers, the only other returning member is junior guard Rachelle Federico (1.3 ppg, 0.5 rpg), which will leave the Bears with only 11 activer players, but the teams roster has never been very large considering it has gone through transfers and players decommitting in the past.

California will open the season at home versus Idaho State on Nov. 15.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).

ESPN previews high school season

Just as ESPN did the other day for college hoops, ESPN Rise Magazine asks five burning questions about the high school game. Thought provoking reading, to be sure. Answers:

1. For now, yes.
2. Ogwumike is probably it.
3. Tough to say, but I must agree.
4. When hell freezes over. OK, maybe just Los Angeles.
5. I think so. But it'll take more time.

Elsewhere on ESPN, pre-season rankings are tied up with a report on Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA) forward Alexyz Vaioletama. I caught the talented junior sitting out of a club ball tournament in early October wrapping the knees of her teammates in her spare time. She has still not been cleared to play, due to the stress fractures in her legs. This is a bummer for me, as I enjoy Vaioletama's game more than anyone else on her team, and I was looking forward to seeing her play at the HAX this weekend.

In the meantime, St. Mary's High School of Stockton, CA is atop the rankings once again. Brea Olinda of Brea, CA is ranked eighth. California the tops, indeed.

UCLA 80, Master's College 66

Some of the mystery was removed last night, but UCLA's full potential still has much left to reveal.

The Bruins got off to a slow start in their game against Master's College, and lead by only six at halftime. But within the last 10 minutes of the game, UCLA turned on the gas and built a lead, thanks to Erica Tukianien (16 points), Doreena Campbell (13 points) and Nina Earl (13 points). (The box score is here.) The early pace of the Bruins is put into perspective when considering that they are missing three key players, and still have one more recruit left to take to the court.

Forward Antonye Nyingifa is still on the mend from a May knee injury she suffered during the USA Basketball trials, and guard Allison Taka has foot pain due to a previous injury. Forward Candice Brown was nowhere to be seen last night. Turns out she's been dismissed from the team due to "repeatedly violating team rules." Then there is Jasmine Dixon, who left Rutgers last Dec. 8 and transfered to Westwood. She will be eligible to play mid-December.

So, not bad for nine Bruin players.

Starters were Darxia Morris at point, Campbell, Tukianien, Earl and freshman Markel Walker. The newcomer from Philadelphia looked very comfortable on the floor, and pulled down 11 rebounds to go with her eight points. There is great potential there, and thank goodness for that, as the loss of Brown creates a problem. Moniquee Alexander is now the lone UCLA big, and though she seems to have improved her game from last year, she still isn't a strong post. For example, she still went up too soft on several layups, and in the first half she traveled under the basket twice.

But if Walker can step up and develop under Coach Nikki Caldwell, and if the guards - and even forwards - get as fast as they can, the Bruins could still be contenders this year.

As a team, UCLA's defense is very good; there were several traps successfully executed last night, for example. Rebounds are also good, as last night they hit 54, which is where they were at their peak last season. Offensively, the Bruins still need to get into a flow, and they need to start hitting their shots.

I'm bummed because my camera memory card is having issues, so I'm unable to post the pictures I took last night. I had pictures of both Walker and the other freshman, Mariah Williams from Colorado. There's a picture of Caldwell sitting in the huddle surrounded by her team. In another shot is a mystery player who a UCLA spokesman told fullcourt.com today has walked on to the team (he's finding out more information on it). And there is a picture of former Lady Vol Shyra Ely, sitting courtside. (She was in town to help Caldwell and assistant coach Tasha Butts with their season wardrobes for the year).

The Bruins' next home game is Nov. 19, against Hawaii.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Five burning questions for college basketball fans this season

Great questions from Mechelle Voepel. She hits the nails on the head.

2011 class starting to make some noise

Cierra Burdick of North Carolina - ranked sixth in her class by ESPN - visited Tennessee this weekend, and verballed a little while ago:

"Any questions?" Burdick asked the group.

Pat Summitt, the legendary Tennessee head coach, had one: "What's taking you so long?"

"Nobody knew," Burdick said later. "Even I didn't know."


Wow.

Here's ESPN's Super 60 for the class of 2011. Lots of California girls on the list, including a couple I know. Makes me proud.

Pac-10 preview: the University of Arizona

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the ninth installment of the Pac-10 previews: the University of Arizona Wildcats.

A large coaching turnover throughout the NCAA in the spring of 2008 was followed by an exodus of players from those programs throughout the resulting season. No program lost more players than the University of Arizona, where four freshmen and a junior left last spring.

Coach Niya Butts attributed the players quitting to the differences in vision of the program: hers versus theirs. And it's true that predecessor Joan Bonvicini and Butts have completely opposite coaching styles. But it concerned me that so many left, and I continue to wonder about the future of Arizona basketball.

Besides the five, the Wildcats lost three seniors. A mere five players remain from last year: junior guard Faihza Hill, junior forward Ify Ibekwe, senior guard Ashley Frazier, sophomore guard Reiko Thomas, and sophomore guard Tasha Dickey. Only one genuine recruit from high school is on the Arizona roster this year: Davellyn Whyte of Phoenix. Four of this year's five other new players are from junior colleges. Sophomore guard Brooke Jackson is from Mesa Community College; junior center Jennifer Kioa comes from Foothill Community College; junior forward Soana Lucet hails from the College of Southern Idaho; and junior forward/center Amanda Pierson is from Seward Community College in Kansas. The final new edition to the team is Shanita Arnold, a junior guard transfer from the University of Arkansas.

It is fantastic that Butts is utilizing so many JC players, as small colleges are often a gold mine of talent. But she would be well-served to balance out that mix with more freshmen, or she will be heavily recruiting every single year.

Arizona finished in a tie for eighth place in the Pac-10 last year, and I definitely saw some sparks of brilliance during the conference tournament in March. Yet, the team has a long way to go, and hopefully Butts knows that the talented Ibekwe can't put the team on her back every single game.

I have heard rumblings that a few of the Arizona players who are still there are unhappy with the program and the coach. But on the other hand, I watched Ibekwe take great care to attend to a coughing Butts during a press conference last spring.

To be sure, this will be the year of truth for Butts, to see if she might turn the once-elite Wildcat program back around. With so many new players this year, it's almost like she's starting all over again. Time will tell.

Arizona won its first exhibition game Thursday against Fort Lewis College, 75-60. They tip off right now in their second pre-season game, against Grand Canyon College.

Best media guide cover in the last several years

The Cal Bears go gangsta.

Alexis Gray-Lawson's expression is the best, as she looks like she's about to knock someone out. And look at mild-mannered freshman Layshia Clarendon.

It's incredibly cool that Tierra Rogers is in this picture, much less front and center.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Knoxville youth in heaven: an AAU team with Lady Vol players

What a booyah for Knox Vegas.

And extra, extra: Baylor's Brittney Griner dunked in tonight's exhibition game against Incarnate Word (WTF kinda name is that?).

Beverly Hills Fall League, final

Championship Game:

Bishop Alemany 26, Bishop Montgomery 24




Bishop Alemany (white uniforms) and Bishop Montgomery played a very physical game.



Alemany has very strong defense and a high shooting percentage.

In an afternoon of close finals games for the Beverly Hills Fall League, the championship game was no exception in a battle of the Bishops. In the end, it was Bishop Alemany who held off Bishop Montgomery for the close win.

Here are today's results:

Peninsula 54 Marlborough 37
PV 51 Marlborough 43
BEverly Hills 48 SaCulver. City 28
Santa Monica
Santa Monica 50 Ventura 38

Consolation Semis:

Canyon 42 Marymount 34
Oaks Christian 28 Burroughs 20
Marymount 39 Burroughs 39 (Tie)
Oaks Christian 27 Canyon 25

Semis:

Bishop Montgomery 42 Harvard Westlake 28
Alemany 37 Inglewood 33

Harvard Westlake was to play Inglewood for the 3rd-5th game, but HW forfeited. Word in the arena today was that the Wolverines were without star forward Nicole Hung, who was injured, and they didn't want to play without her. Apparently HW has done this before. If that's true, that's completely lame. You play with or without your stars, period.

The only other negative today was that the officials sucked.

On a positive note, "Canyon parent" posted this about Beverly Hills Coach and league director Charles Solomon on socalhoops.com:

The Beverly Hills program did a fantastic job in running this Fall League and tournament. The BH program truly put the interests of the participating teams ahead of their own. Here are some examples: 1)Today, when Culver city had some injuries and were short girls, 4 BH girls played for Culver City against Ventura to make for a competitive game. 2) The BH JV team also stepped in and played when some other teams were no shows. 3) The Coach also refereed on several occasions when the refs didn't show up. 4) Lastly, no entrance fee until the final tournament games.

Thanks coach for a great job with this Fall League. Your efforts, and the efforts of your girls did not go unnoticed.


I didn't talk to Charles, who I've known for almost three years, about that, but I suspect it's all true. Last weekend he threw his JV girls into a game to replace a team that forfeited, to give the other team someone to play against. I love old school people with class.

Friday, November 6, 2009

*Drool*

LOOK at this tournament lineup at the HAX next weekend! All the LA areas high school-level A-teams in one place.....my head's going to explode.

Saturday schedule here.

Sunday schedule here.

My worlds will collide a bit during this tournament, so it should be very interesting, to say the least.

Pac-10 preview: Stanford University

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the eighth installment of the Pac-10 previews: the Stanford University Cardinal.

by Daniel Uribe

The Stanford women's basketball team has one goal in mind - a National Title - and after falling short last year, they will not settle for just another trip to the Final Four.

As one of the only teams expected to give the buzzsaw that was Connecticut a run last year, the Cardinal came up short in a game they expected to be much more competitive, losing 89-64 in the national semifinals.

This year however, they are hoping to turn the tables on the Huskies and are preparing for their goal with an early-season trip to Connecticut to face the defending national championships on their home court, Dec. 23. The Cardinal's daunting schedule does not end there, with non-conference match-ups against Tennessee, Duke, DePaul, Old Dominion and Gonzaga, among others. Their schedule has been called one of the top five-hardest in the NCAA.

As for the Pac-10, the Cardinal - who are ranked no. 2 in both pre-season polls - are heavily favored to win their 10th consecutive title, and with rivals California and Arizona State losing their vaunted group of seniors, they may have what is considered a much easier path than last year.

Leading the way will be Pac-10 Player of the Year Jayne Appel (16.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) who is heavily-favored to repeat the award. Appel, a pre-season All-American, had off-season knee surgery to repair a cartilage problem but Tara VanDerveer said that she, along with JJ Hones, should be close to full playing capacity by the start of the season.

Hones, who is recovering from a season-ending ACL tear she suffered in last year's game vs. Rutgers on Nov. 23, will lead a group of guards that VanDerveer sees as much improved. Joining Hones will be second team all Pac-10 performer, junior Jeanette Pohlen (10.7 ppg, 3.8 apg); redshirt senior guard Roslyn Gold-Onwude (3.8 ppg, 2.3 apg); redshirt junior guard Melanie Murphy (2.2 ppg, 1.5 apg); sophomore guard Lindy LaRocque (3.5 ppg, 1.0 apg); and sophomore guard Grace Mashore (0.7 ppg, 0.2 rpg). Also joining them will be junior guard Hannah Donaghe (2.4 ppg) who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered on Feb. 18.

The Cardinal's only loss to graduation was forward Jillian Harmon who could best be described as a glue player for the team. A number of players could step up to fill that position including LaRocque, Pohlen or Kayla Pedersen (10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg). The junior forward was named third team All Pac-10 last year and will lead a deep wing crew for the Cardinal. She is joined by Mikaela Ruef, a 6'3" freshman wing and Ohio High School Player of the Year; redshirt junior Michelle Harrison (3.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg); and junior Ashley Cimino (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg).

The post game is Stanford's strength with arguably the best depth in college basketball right now. Appel will be joined by sophomore Nnemkadi (Nneka) Ogwumike (10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who will most likely get more playing time, has worked on her shot all summer and is expected to have a breakout year. Joining them will be 6'3" freshman forward Joslyn Tinkle from Missoula, Montana. Sophomore center Sarah Boothe (5 ppg, 2.7 rpg) underwent off-season foot surgery and may potentially redshirt this season.

Stanford will open it's season on the road with a match-up versus Old Dominion in Norfolk, VA on Nov. 13.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

College news

I'm not going to get too excited at the 124-34 score, because they did it in preseason last year, and look what happened. But I'm way hopeful and optimistic.

At the University of Washington, fans seem to think Coach Tia Jackson's head is on the chopping block. Apparently, the AD didn't get that memo.

I'm not going to talk about today's WNBA draft lottery, because no one is in the top eight that I care about.

I told you USC is cursed

Unbelievable. Stefanie Gilbreath and Vicky Tagalicod will miss the season with knee injuries.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Were the Ducks that good, or was the other team that bad?

109-47 for the Oregon Ducks in their home exhibition last night. Holy crap.

My former teacher went to the game, and here's what she had to say:

It was not a very exciting game. The most fun was when we passed 100. The good news is that the team is much stronger. They have taken to the work outs. No one was even winded after running up and down the court. It is going to be a much more exciting game as the girls seem to be encouraged to play their game, to run and gun and to pass to the spaces. We shall see how it plays out.

Here are the top 25 rankings from ESPN/USA Today. And I thought the AP poll was a little off. Arizona State at 11? As Homey the Clown used to say, I don't think so.

Another ethical question

Should Diana Taurasi win Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year award the same year she was arrested for drunk driving? I want to know what you think again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So many tasty odds and ends

Here's a look at the top five most difficult schedules in the NCAA. Tennessee is at the top, but what else is new. Interesting: three out of last year's Final Four teams are also on the list.

Lots of interesting tidbits in this piece about the Lady Vols, including a glimpse into the frustration of freshman Kamiko Williams.

Seattle University Coach Joan Bonvicini vows that in three years, her team will be ranked.

And the WNBA draft lottery will be Thursday.

Pac-10 preview: Arizona State University

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the seventh installment of the Pac-10 previews: the Arizona State Sun Devils.

by Daniel Uribe

After an Elite Eight finish last season, Arizona State women's basketball is coming off a great high. But they shouldn't get too comfortable, as the rest of the conference is chasing them, and their task this season is to avoid falling back to the pack.

The Sun Devils, ranked #16 in the preseason AP poll, are personified by their head coach Charli Turner Thorne in that they are hardworking and scrappy and are determined to best teams and players with their effort. Yet, they will need every ounce of their fortitude as as they lose the most experience of any Pac-10 team to graduation last year. Gone are starters Briann January and Sybil Dosty, as well as key reserves Lauren Lacey, Kate Engelbrecht and Kirsten Thompson. Add to that the fact that Dymond Simon, last season's leading scorer (13.8 ppg), will redshirt this season, and ASU will find itself with a lot of new pieces to work with.

Returning to help shore up the lack of experience will be seniors Danielle Orsillo (9.3 ppg, 2.4 apg) and Kayli Murphy (5 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Orsillo, who finished third as California's all-time career scorer with 3,340 points, behind only Charde Houston and Cheryl Miller, has the ability to pick up the slack on offense. A big concern will be how often teams will focus their defenses on Orsillo and force the Sun Devils to have other players on the team score.

On a positive note, Murphy and junior Becca Tobin (4.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), will lead a strong post game for the Sun Devils which may lack experience, but not height and numbers. Also returning will be sophomore guard/forward Kimberly Brandon (1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) who's playing time should go up markedly. Newcomers to the team include freshmen 6'5" forward/center Joy Burke from Tempe, AZ, and redshirt freshman 6'3" Janae Fulcher, from La Jolla, CA. Joining them will be redshirt sophomore, 6'5" Kali Bennett who transferred from Washington and has already sat out the requisite year.

The big question for the Sun Devils will be, who is going to handle the point guard duties? With January and Simon gone, ASU will be challenged to to find someone to step up and lead. For the interim, a trio of newcomers is expected to share the position, according to Turner Thorne. The freshmen guards include Deja Mann, 5'7" guard out of Merced, CA, and Sabrina McKinney, a 5'5" guard from Arlington, TX. Joining them in the backcourt will be junior college transfer Tenaya Watson, a 5'9" guard from Long Beach, CA, and Central Arizona College.

Newcomers to the backcourt will be sophomore guard Alex Earl, senior guard Gabby Fage and redshirt freshman Haley Parsons from Tucson.

Arizona State will open it's season at home on Nov. 15 with a stern test versus South Dakota State, the defending Summit League Champions.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).