Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hoopism is two years old today

Happy birthday to the Hoopism blog, and thanks for reading. The number of readers who check in every day has grown substantially from my first post two years ago.

I strive to cover girl's and women's basketball, from high school to club to college to pro. And as I always say, if anyone knows of a player, a coach, a team and/or a program that is deserving but lacking coverage, hit me up. I want to know about it.

FILA Nationals Championship on the line today

Suwanee, GA - Cal Sparks Gold of Los Angeles and Spiece Indy Gym Rats of Indianapolis will face off in less than two hours for the FILA Nationals Championship, after both won their semifinal game last night.

Relative unknowns Spiece took out Kentucky Premier to advance. Cal Sparks Gold defeated the Jacksonville Lady Rams, 68-54 in a dominating performance that surprised many.

The Lady Rams come from a private school and play nationally year-round. They forego a regular high school season to play tournaments and events, so they know each other very well. They had been thought by many at this tournament to have the most complete overall play of any team.

Yet last night, Cal Sparks Gold took control of the game early on. The Lady Rams literally charge at their opponents, using an aggressive, attack-style defense. On offense, they have the same attacking mentality. But Gold point guard Ariya Crook-Williams repeatedly broke their two-woman traps, sliding or spinning through, and other teammates battled back under the basket and away from it. Crook-Williams hit three consecutive three-shots in the second half, which effectively buried the Rams into a hole from which they couldn't emerge. Crook-Williams had to take full charge after the team's other PG, Chante Miles, was injured early in the first half.

Gold has dominated opponents that spectators didn't expect them to. Their performance has been even more impressive because they have only eight of their 12-woman roster; one player was injured three weeks ago, one had a medical appointment this week and two elected not to come.

"The chemistry of this team right now is unbelievable," Cal Sparks Coach and Director Elbert Kinnebrew said.

Spiece has quietly advanced up the ladder themselves, beating lesser-named but quality opponents. As they're relatively unknown, a scouting report is hard to come by.

The two teams face off at 10:50 a.m. PDT/1:50 p.m. EDT.

Friday, July 30, 2010

WNBA earns an "A" in diversity

Racial and Gender Report Card. Pretty cool.

FILA Nationals, Day 3

Suwanee, GA - Cal Sparks Gold is representing their state well in this tournament. Earlier today they beat a tough Lady Fire team from Chicago, 76-70, to win their bracket and advance to the "final four." They'll play the Lady Rams of Jacksonville, FL, who beat Seattle-based Tree of Hope in the other quarterfinal match today to win their bracket.

On the other side of the "tree," Kentucky Premier bested KC Select White (the winner of an intense overtime game last night) to take Bracket A. They'll face Spiece Indy Gym, who defeated Memphis Elite Daniels for the last bracket.

Cal Sparks Gold Coach Elbert Kinnebrew said this is the farthest the team has gone in the tournament in the organization's history. He had called this year's squad his "deepest ever."

Today's victory over the Lady Fire was Gold's most cohesive game, as they used a zone defense to stymie a team that featured all players from top-ranked Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Besides the usual standouts - Reshanda Gray and Ariya Crook-Williams - newcomer Erica McCall and Kari Korver were clutch for Gold. McCall grabbed some crucial rebounds and Korver had unmatched hustle.

Semifinals begin at 4:40 PDT.

Nike Nationals

Nike Nationals is going on in Augusta, Georgia.

U17 gold medal winner Jordan Adams came back from France and went straight there.

Apparently Essence is the team to beat at this tournament. ESPN may be surprised, but I'm not.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FILA Nationals report so far

Suwanee, GA - Today is the second day of this large tournament just north of Atlanta. Yesterday began with 152 teams, and by the end of the night, that number was whittled to 76. At the end of two rounds today, that number should be reduced to 19.

In the absence of pictures for now, here's the setting........

This is a beautiful area, full of lush greenery and wide open spaces. But the price residents pay for this is deluge rain at times, and constant humidity. People's ideas of "not that far away" here means the destination is at least 3-5 miles out.

The Suwanee Sports Academy and the Dobbs Center are the sites for this tournament. SSA is a nice facility with two large gyms that house eight courts. The Dobbs Center is several miles down the road, and has no air conditioning. There are eight courts there as well, and playing there is a miserable experience. Heck, it's not fun to be a spectator. We are all wondering why Michael T. White would choose to have Dobbs Center as one of his locations - especially in Georgia in the summertime. Fortunately, however, most teams will only play there once.

The impressive array of teams here are from all over the country. It's really a privilege to be able to see teams I would never see otherwise.....New York, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia and Texas teams, to name a few. I've seen a lot of talent so far, and have stories in the works that I don't want to get too much into now because I haven't yet conducted the interviews. But lots of interesting teams, people and situations here.

There are also a heckuva lot of coaches in attendance. I've seen every coach from the PAC-10, and coaches from a few colleges I've never heard of before.

At our hotel, there are interesting folks. I met an east coast basketball mom yesterday who gave me one of my story ideas. Late last night I wandered into the dining room to use the microwave and ran into a low-key drinking party. It was some coaches and parents from a Virginia team. They were pretty funny; invited me to join them. It's fun because wherever we go, people are speaking girl's basketball, i.e. that's what the conversations are about. I wish I could live in that world more often.

Besides the humidity, the three-hour time difference is a big adjustment. Traveling east is always more difficult than going west.

More later.....gotta chill for a bit because there are three more games I'm going to check out tonight. Looking forward to posting the pictures.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Storm come from behind to beat Phoenix

Wow, what a game! But I can't say I'm surprised. I came in on it during halftime when the Storm were down by 21, and I thought, "they aren't going to let that happen at their house." They didn't.

In college news, is this Oregon State revisited?

Forgive the brevity.....I'm in ATL for this big tournament, and the Internet is endangered. But of course, I'll have pictures and a full report......

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And tonight's winners are.......

Cal Sparks Gold prevailed over JBS Purple this afternoon to win the Michael T. White West Tournament. Earlier in the day, the Sparks blew out Premier Elite Black 70-34, and JBS out ran Tree of Hope, 54-48. I can't tell from the bracket who got third place, but Tree of Hope does in my eyes. They're so very good this year.

The Seattle Storm have 20 wins now, after beating Tulsa 75-59.

The Atlanta Dream are in second place in the Eastern Conference after escaping the Liberty today, 82-75.

Just Say No League quarter- and semifinals

It'll be PHP and last year's runners up LA Spirit in next Saturday's Just Say No League championship game, after today's full round of quarterfinal and semifinal games at the HAX in Hawthorne, CA.

Scores from the four games I saw today:

2K10 57, Westsiders 55 (2 OT) - quarterfinal
Fast Break 33, Cal Poly Pomona 31 - quarterfinal

LA Spirit 55, 2K10 38 - semifinal
PHP 46, Fast Break 43 - semifinal

Maybe the best game of the day was 2K10 vs. the Westsiders. The players on each team matched up very well, and both teams fought hard. Either team could have won it, but 2K10 had the lucky shot today.

Defending champions Fast Break vs. Cal Poly Pomona was also a fierce battle. Fast Break got out to an early lead, but in the second half CPP went on a run and caught up. FB held them off for the win.

LA Spirit and 2K10 started off pretty evenly, but LAS ran away with it at the end.

The second semifinal saw PHP take an early lead, but Fast Break surged to catch them. PHP stayed ahead by 2-4 points the last few minutes, due mostly to their great shooting; Fast Break's shots seemed to be off. The refereeing was also horrible, and here's where I have to go off.

For all the women's games today, refs in training were used. You know - where they use officials that have to practice to earn certification, and at timeouts they all meet on the court with the referee teachers? Right after the last semifinal game, the men's Just Say No League took over the court, and a whole new set of refs came with them: experienced LA City Section refs that I recognized, who today were wearing "Pro Am League" referee shirts, indicating they have extra certifications.

Why do the women get the crap refs and the men get the good refs? That pissed me off.



Defending league champions Fast Break (white uniforms) and Cal Poly Pomona battle for position under the basket in a quarterfinal matchup today.



Fast Break point guard Mykiea Russell sets up the play......



....and a few plays later initiates a drive.



A few hours later, Fast Break (still white) battled PHP in one semifinal game.



A bad shooting day and even worse referees did Fast Break in, though.

U17s take the gold!

Lookit all the happy faces and gold medals in the picture that accompanies this piece. Gotta love it to death.

USA Basketball story.

FIBA story.

Congrats to all. What a great job.

A couple of morning news items

The Seattle Storm is trying to match the Houston Comets' old winning record. That would be so cool if they did.

Good interview with Oregon State Coach Scott Rueck, who never had a losing record in 14 years at George Fox. (I didn't know that)

U17s advance to gold medal game today

Our young women didn't surge until late in yesterday's semifinal game against China, but it was enough to put them away, 97-74. The U17s face France in the gold medal today in just a few moments (8:30 a.m. PDT).

Fingers crossed!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

WNBA tonight

What is it with Phoenix and overtime games? It took two of them to beat Minnesota tonight, 127-124.

And ayyyyeeee....the Sparks actually won a game. They beat the Sun, 89-80.

Sun rookie Tina Charles may do something astounding for a first-year player: she could beat the WNBA's record for the rebounds part of a double-double. Wow.

Michael T. White Tournament West, Saturday

All I have to say is, what happened to Seattle-based Tree of Hope since last summer? They were good last year, but they're beasts now. And tall as the trees they're named after.

Last night they beat Team Elite 76-26, and early this morning they put away the Oregon Reign 66-49. This afternoon they overpowered and dismantled a solid Texas team. I was impressed. Tomorrow morning's matchup with reigning tournament champion JBS Purple should be quite the game, as JBS was also looking strong today.



Reshanda Gray and Nita Iamaleava of Cal Sparks Gold freeze in their defensive position in this morning's game, as the ref calls a bogus foul on Gray. Gold saw a 15-point second half lead disappear, but hung on to beat So Cal Magic Black 62-60.



Wall 'o coaches for the afternoon session. The coach from the school furthest away that I saw was North Carolina State.



Some players, like these from the JBS squad, are fatigued by the end of July.



Kathryn Tolbert of the Texas D-1 Ambassadors brings the ball up court as Tree of Hope's Aminah Williams steps in on defense.



Tolbert looks to pass around Williams.



The Austin-based Ambassadors were very fast, but Tree of Hope's smothering defense and dominating play was too much for them.



Ambassador Julie Diriengo attempts a drive. The team didn't understand the officiating today. One player remarked to me that "In Texas, they let us tackle each other. Here they call every little thing."



The coaching wall was packed for the Cal Sparks Gold-Hanford Heat game this afternoon.



Ariya Crook-Williams (far left) had a crazy reverse spinning layup that went in (above).



Gray is poised for the offensive rebound, but it's not necessary. Gold blew them out, 79-27.



Kari Korver, a mere junior this coming year, is one to watch. She's got a silky three-shot, poise of an older player, and fights for every loose possession. A fun player to see.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tina Thompson no-shows at ESPN chat today

Really? Yes.

She's far from being alone in lacking regular attendance lately. What's going on with the Sparks besides their losing record?

Corporations and schools? Now there's an idea

Ben the technician was just at my house, and we were talking about how little high school coaches get paid. He said he's always thought schools should get corporate sponsorship for athletics. That corporations would get their money's worth in having their name put in a kid's ear when they're young and still listen to commercials and ads. That the company would have customers for life because of such a sponsorship, and school athletic programs wouldn't have to suffer and fund raise.

This sounds great, but you know some companies wouldn't let it be that simple. Darn few have the common sense of Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation. Some corporations would put stipulations on how their money is spent, insisting it only be for this and only be for that. Just look at the way some club teams sponsored by shoe companies have to play in the tournaments of those shoe companies.

Laws would have to be passed which dictate that sponsoring companies wouldn't have a say in how money is spent at the donor school of their choice; that those decisions would be left up to the school district or school site. Not only would that create a new government regulatory agency that costs us all money, there would be the question as to whether or not corporations would still want to sponsor schools under those stipulations. I'm not business-savy enough to know, but I would guess not.

Another option would be for the US government to require corporations in certain tax brackets to donate a percentage of their profits to schools. But then there would be a contingent that would say that this is a dictatorship; that the government shouldn't be able to tell companies how to spend their money in a capitalistic society.

I'd agree with them if a portion of our taxes didn't already go to schools. Everyone pays for schools, whether they have kids or not. So why not require that of large corporations, too? Even a small amount would help cash-starved schools and athletic departments right now. If a company gave each school in my school district $1000, it would help fund buses and uniforms, and the company would be out less than $25,000.

I wish there was a way.

U17s in the finals

The young women of the USA defeated Spain 86-57 a few hours ago, which sends them into the semifinals against China tomorrow. ESPN's story is a good one.

Does anyone smell gold yet?

Mercury acquires Kara Braxton

A little bird told me about this early this morning, but I had to wait for the official release.

So what exactly is Tulsa getting out of this??

Busy Friday morning

USA Basketball:

The U17s are playing Spain as I write. Here's the quarterfinals preview.

WNBA:

Last night the Phoenix Mercury broke their own scoring record, set earlier this season, by defeating the Shock 123-91.

Tamika Catchings sat down to talk about the Indiana Fever.

Mel Greenberg says that in the WNBA, every night is playoff night.

Taylor Lilley has gone from Mac Court in Eugene to the White House.

Other:

The AAU National Championships drew out the best of the best.

Gold ol' Simone Edwards gives the Jamaican team props after they beat Mexico.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association has launched its new website.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

News from the Northwest

Oregon State women's basketball has named Mark Campbell its first assistant coach in Scott Rueck's program. Campbell's recent past has been a mixture of stints at several different colleges including Clackamas Community College, Pepperdine and St. Mary's College in California.

A longtime Seattle Times columnist says more people should get on the Storm's bandwagon. What happened since I left Seattle that this type of column would be necessary? Wow.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The year-round sports backlash has begun?

Great piece in the Wall Street Journal about how some parents and kids are rebelling against the increasing demands of sports today, i.e. club sports.

I'm actually surprised this didn't happen sooner.

USA Basketball, Oregon State, club ball news

The U17 team shut down Japan yesterday, 133-71. That's the most ridiculous score I've ever heard. Chris Hansen's story is terrific. USA plays Spain Friday.

The FIBA site did a nice feature on parents who travel the world to follow their daughters.

Eugene-based KEZI interviewed Oregon State Coach Scott Rueck, and discussed his monumental task of rebuilding the program from the basement up. Somehow the University has found the money to pay Rueck $210,000 annually. Hey, I'd be smiling too.

Wrapping up the first half of July's recruiting period, ESPN's Mark Lewis profiles the top players of the Battle of the Boro.

Lisa Bodine chronicles the athletes of the Run for the Roses tourney in Kentucky.

And in WNBA news, the Mystics beat the Dream tonight, which puts the teams in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amber Gray won't be cleared to play

Sad day for Lady Vol Amber Gray, who has worked hard to rehabilitate since suffering a brain aneurysm a year ago. She won't be cleared to return to the court. She can either stay and remain on scholarship or transfer.

NCAA Academic top 25

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association has recognized the programs whose players have the top GPAs, and the list is impressive:

Division Institution 2009-10 Head Coach Team GPA

NCAA I Utah Valley University Cathy Nixon 3.630
NCAA II Michigan Technological University John Barnes 3.732
NCAA III Carnegie Mellon University Geraldine Seidle 3.616
NAIA Dana College M. Shane Larson 3.727
JC/CC Sheridan College Frank McCarthy 3.575

Rank School 2009-10 Head Coach Team GPA

1 Utah Valley University Cathy Nixon 3.630
2 South Dakota State University Aaron Johnston 3.622
3 Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County Phil Stern 3.578
4 Indiana State University Teri Moren 3.508
5 Creighton University Jim Flanery 3.506
6 Bowling Green State University Curt Miller 3.500
7 University of Northern Iowa Tanya Warren 3.464
8 DePaul University Douglas Bruno 3.455
9 Lipscomb University Frank Bennett 3.452
10 University of North Dakota Gene Roebuck 3.442
11 University of New Mexico Don Flanagan 3.433
12 North Dakota State University Carolyn DeHoff 3.427
13 Northern Arizona University Laurie Kelly 3.425
14 Bucknell University Kathy Fedorjaka 3.422
15 Monmouth University Stephanie Gaitley 3.412
16 University of South Dakota Ryun Williams 3.368
17 Saint Bonaventure University Jim Crowley 3.354
18 University of Northern Colorado Jaime White 3.351
19 University of Denver Erik Johnson 3.342
20 Seattle University Joan Bonvicini 3.341
21 University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Sandy Botham 3.340
22 Eastern Washington University Wendy Schuller 3.328
23 University of Hartford Jennifer Rizzotti 3.321
24 Oakland University Beckie Francis 3.318
25 Cornell University Dayna Smith 3.308

I'd love to see a full list of every school in the country, if you know what I mean.

And as mentioned before in this space, it appears that the U17 team doesn't have to worry about missing the July viewing period, because plenty of NCAA coaches are coming to them in France. That includes USC Coach Michael Cooper.

The U17s are playing Turkey right now.....cross everything on your body.

Washington Post columnist gets it

Lots of WNBA news this morning........

Crystal Langhorne is an example for all WNBA players, says one Washington Post columnist. Check this out:

But Langhorne needs to be trumpeted by the WNBA more than most. She is a window into not just her team's evolution -- where young players have consistently become more polished and poised -- but also women's basketball in this country as a whole.

One of the often-missed qualities about the WNBA is that many of the players understand their roles. Not rebounding or shutdown defense, but their roles in the landscape of American sports.

As far as cross-promotion, the NBA has all but forsaken them. Even before many teams became independently owned, many NBA owners privately wanted to stop underwriting the WNBA years ago, convinced it was an economic loser.

Beyond the loyalists, fans and media outlets have all but deserted them. That's not even counting those who won't watch women's sports, presumably because they have convinced themselves Adam Dunn is more svelte and a better athlete than Venus Williams.

And the great thing about the obstacles to interest is, most WNBA players such as Langhorne don't care.

They plod on, understanding they are still in pioneering mode, still happy they can play hoops for a living 13 years after the league tipped off.

"I've been reading a book about Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird," said Coleman, the Mystics' second-year forward, of Jackie MacMullan's book, "When the Game Was Ours." "And when you see those guys signing Converse shoe contracts for $20,000 or whatever, it puts it in perspective. If they had to go through that when people were just getting interested in the NBA again, of course we're going to go through it."


See - finally someone gets it. This is one of the reasons why I never read or put up links to pieces by WNBA haters. Those people are irrelevant.

Number-one draft pick Tina Charles has exceeded all expectations.

Phoenix Mercury point guard Temeka Johnson calls her trip to the White House yesterday a once in a lifetime experience.

She-who-is-booed-in-LA, aka Chamique Holdsclaw, has received the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award. (I'll always love ya, 'Claw)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mercury meet President Obama...and other news

The 2009 WNBA champs Phoenix Mercury were honored at the White House today. All those happy, smilin' faces.

Storm veteran point guard Sue Bird discusses the first half of the season, and shares some of her photos.

This piece is a few days old, but I love it: the Eastern Conference is kicking the butts of the Western Conference. Remember when it was always the other way around?

And the ESPN tip sheet on the Nike Summer Showcase in Elgin, Illinois sure makes me wish I had been there. The midwest appears to be loaded with talent.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Upcoming Michael T. White tournaments

Four major tournaments coming up over the next two weeks.

Showtime East and West brackets here.

Atlanta tournament brackets here.

Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA will play host for these games, these games and these games this week.

Gotta love it.

U17s whump Canada

And the hurt goes on: 114-57. Turkey will be the next victims - I mean opponents - on Tuesday.

Some parents and players need to speak up

There is always much made of the over-active, meddling high school basketball parent. You know - the one who not only likes to complain about their daughter's playing time but tries to micro-manage or run the entire program. The one who tries to make the life of the coaches a living hell.

To be sure, this is an issue in some quarters. There are some parents who will always think they know better than the coach, and there are those who will never think their daughter gets enough court time. But at the risk of angering some, this seems to be mostly a suburban - and not an inner-city - problem. Players and parents of city schools tend to be the opposite of the squawkers: they don't speak up enough.

I've seen it enough the last few years in various parts of socio-economically-challenged Los Angeles. A coach is verbally-abusive to athletes, has unethical practices, doesn't develop players' abilities, creates a culture of fear and negativity instead of fun and learning. Yet the players don't say anything and neither do the parents.

Athletes are usually hesitant to speak up for one of two reasons: either they "don't think it will do any good" to talk to the school athletic director or administration, or they fear retribution from the coach. With parents it's usually either not believing they'll be listened to, or fear of making waves.

Though these mindsets are frustrating to watch, I understand them. If you don't think you'll be heard, why try? The world we live in is still discriminative, racist and frustrating at times.

Yet, I see the "culture of refusing to speak up" as a generational problem, too. Back in the day, both young and old tended to believe that if they spoke up they could make a difference. Remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising the "black power" sign at the 1968 Olympics? And what happened to rap and music groups like Public Enemy, who were not afraid to stir up controversy to make their point? Those days seem to be behind us, as our music and culture have melted into sameness.

Many times in high school basketball, parents are disgruntled for no substantial reason; a coach can't please all the people all the time. But in some cases, players and parents have legitimate gripes. Coaches who berate players personally and continuously, try to involve themselves in an athlete's life outside of basketball, don't help a player develop better skills or get her into a college, and who help kill the love of the game in a young person are examples of issues that need to be addressed. And it is a parent's job to make sure such issues are dealt with.

Every parent has a job to look out for the welfare and well-being of their child. If something isn't right, speak up. Go to the school's athletic director or principal, and if they don't address the issues, keep taking them up the ladder until you find someone who will. Don't stop until the issues are resolves to the satisfaction of you and your child. Because a girl is only on her high school basketball team once in her life, and those should be some of her best times.

I always do what I can to encourage athletes and their parents to speak up against perceived wrongs. And I hope that more of a sense of empowerment flows back into the inner cities. Everyone's voice needs to be heard.

A lil WNBA update

I'm diggin' this analysis by Sports Page Magazine's James Bowman of the Atlanta Dream. Herfindahl Index? If you're a research geek like me, you'll love it.

A Chicago writer says that although WNBA players might not make much, they love the game.

Foreign players are taking some chill time right now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

U17s put the hurt on Russia (and other news)

82-38 - ouch.

ESPN's Chris Hansen has an in-depth analysis of the win and some of the players behind it, including what may lie in wait for the USA team:

The shocker and perhaps biggest threat to the USA and their pursuit of gold is the Chinese 92-75 win over Australia, a team that defeated the U.S. team in exhibition play earlier this month. The Chinese team shot 39 3-pointers against the Aussies, converting on 14 for 46 percent of their scoring.

Defending the 3-point line has not been a strong suit for the U.S., allowing 31 attempts to Russia and 24 to France. But before the Chinese long-range bombardment, Team USA needs to take care of their remaining pool play games against Canada, Turkey and Japan.


Also, a good piece on U17 team leaders Elizabeth Williams and Cierra Burdick.

Ben York has a good story on the emergence of Sylvia "Big Syl" Fowles.

Danielle McCray may be out of the WNBA for the moment, but she's in with the kids.

Top Austin Peay player Ashley Herring will give up her senior season as she trains to be a minister.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And the dead period begins........

No official NCAA viewing for the next six days.

Tournaments wrapped up today in preparation for this dormant period, including the Cal Sparks Summer Games.

Cal Sparks Gold won the Elite Group A pool.

West Coast Premier Black won the Elite Group B pool.

EBO Red won the Elite Group C pool.

West Coast Premier Red won the Elite Group D pool.

I wish there were other bloggers around the country who would post the results of the NCAA viewing tourneys of the last few days.

Last day of evaluation before the six-day dead period

After today, action will start up again on July 22. In the meantime, ESPN's Chris Hansen has a tip sheet from the Big State Flava Jam.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cal Sparks Summer Games, day 1

The action was fast and furious today. So far only the scores of the exhibition games have been posted, but the brackets will be filled in soon.

I caught a few games earlier in the day, including Cal Sparks Gold's matchup with the Arizona Lady Rebels. Sparks Director Elbert Kinnebrew had said USA Basketball Under-18 team gold medalist Reshanda Gray continued to improve with every game; that last week at the End of the Trails Tournament in Oregon she had played one of the best games he'd seen a high school player play. I was slightly skeptical, but after seeing her play the Arizona team, I'm not anymore. She was doing things I hadn't seen her do before, like spin, put up reverse layups with the authority of a five-star general, and knock down a 15-foot jumper that shimmeyed through the net so cleanly that I had a mild outburst. Go'head, Gray.

The most anticipated matchup of the night was West Coast Premier Black against Cal Sparks Gold. WCP had won their championship at EOT last week, and Sparks Gold placed third.

The Sparks got off to a slow start and weren't rebounding. WCP capitalized on this and were helped by the referees, who seemed to miss the same calls on WCP that they made on the Sparks. WCP is a tall team, and I was confused by the Sparks' substitution patterns. If my team wasn't rebounding, I'd put at least three of my four bigs in, but that's just me.

WCP took a 15-point lead by the beginning of the second half, but the Sparks charged back and closed the gap to four points. Both teams clamped down and played each other hard, resulting in a double-technical with just over a minute to go. That and the whistle-happy refs kept things off-kilter. But in the end, it was the Sparks' own errors that kept them from winning. WCP took it, 60-55.

Action on day two begins tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.



A number of college coaches were in the house today, from up and down the west coast and across the country. They included Oregon Coach Paul Westhead (tan khakis), his assistant Kai Felton (green Ducks shirt) and Cal State Northridge Coach Jason Flowers (red shirt on right).



Charli Turner Thorne (ASU, black capri pants on left), Joanne Boyle (Cal shirt) and Tia Jackson (UW, purple shirt). I also saw UCLA assistant Toni Perotti, USC Coach Michael Cooper, and assistants from Arizona and WSU. Only Oregon State and Stanford coaches were missing from the Pac-10 roster.



Salesian Force (white uniforms) is a new LA team on the rise. Here they beat the Stockton Mustangs Future, 69-28, in their second game of the day.



6:15 p.m.: all five courts at the HAX are in use.



Tipoff: West Coast Premier Black's Kacy Swain (white uniform) and Cal Sparks Gold's Reshanda Gray (black uniform) battle for control.



WCP filled up the paint, but the Sparks could have got more rebounds if they tried.



WCP's Swain, who has committed to UCLA, was sent to the free throw line an insane number of times in the first half tonight.



Sparks forward Janitha Iamaleava puts up two.



WCP guard Lauren Holiday fights to retain control of the ball.



The matchup between Gray (second from right) and WCP's Devin Hudson (far right) was intense at times. Maybe it's because of a 2009 high school playoff game that I remember well.



Both teams gird for the Sparks charge up the court in the second half.



Gray makes a run for the basket.



As time is ticking down in the game, both teams are tired. Swain grabs her shorts as Sparks point guard Ariya Crook-Williams shoots a free throw.

________________

Meanwhile in Cincinati, the Adidas National Women's Basketball Championships attracted a grip of teams and NCAA coaches this week.

DFW Elite is honoring their late co-founder Marques Jackson this summer with outstanding play.

Big things that went down today

I remember the Seattle Storm's first triple-overtime game on July 3, 2001. They had another one today on the road, in Phoenix. The Storm hung on to win, 111-107, despite Diana Taurasi's 44 points. That would have been so fun to watch.

And.......

Chiney Ogwumike has been named Gatorade's 2010 Female High School Athlete of the Year. She was honored at a ceremony in Los Angeles today. She was also featured as a special guest on the ESPY Awards show.

Ogwumike led her high school team to a seventh-place national ranking and the Texas Class 5A state tournament title this past season. She averaged 22.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 blocks playing 18 minutes per game.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pat Summitt's son to walk on to Tennessee men's team

Tyler Summitt's going to be a Gentleman Vol.

NCAA recruiting madness stops in LA

The Cal Sparks Summer Games take center stage at the Hangar Athletic Exchange (HAX) tomorrow and Thursday in Hawthorne, Calif.

Reshanda Gray, Ariya Crook-Williams and the rest of the Cal Sparks Gold team are in the Elite Group A pool with OGDL - the reincarnated program that nurtured a lot of Narbonne High School-turned WNBA players.

Elite Group B features West Coast Premier Black, which just won the End of the Trails Tournament without Jordan Adams, who is in Spain/France playing for the U17 team.

The showcase game schedule is intense.

I can't wait for the post eight-hours-of-game-watchin' high tomorrow night.

In the meantime, the Midwest tournaments have been heating up.

And whaddya know - the Sparks won one on the road tonight for the first time this season. They beat Tulsa 87-71.

Thanks, youtube - it's the U17s

What did you do yesterday? The U17 team rode the bus from Spain to France.

West Virginia? Work ethic, and Jackson's back

Who knows......if West Virginia State Coach Renee Bostic keeps up her recruiting efforts, maybe we'll start hearing about some big-time basketball in that forgotten state.

Jackie Stiles wishes kids today had a better work ethic. Many of us do.

Watch out, WNBA, because Storm center Lauren Jackson is back on the court since sustaining a concussion two weeks ago.

"Guru" Mel Greenberg has a solid preview of the upcoming second half of the WNBA season.

Monday, July 12, 2010

All over the board on a Monday

ESPN comes up for a breath of air during this first half of the July recruiting period with a couple of tip sheets: one from the Oregon City tournament, and the other from the big games at Penn State.

Three other tournaments are currently underway.

The USA women will play Australia and Spain in September exhibitions.

A fun aside: Mercury forward Candice Dupree talks about her sneaks.

Finally, the schedule for the Just Say No League in Los Angeles has been posted. Though they got that date wrong for the championship game.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

USA Basketball 99, WNBA All-Stars 72

Sylvia Fowles put on a show today, putting up 23 points, pulling down eight rebounds, and becoming the all-star game MVP. She "stole the spotlight" from the rest of the USA Basketball team, which featured six former or current University of Connecticut players on the roster. Katie Douglas had 15 points for the WNBA squad.

Fowles is being tapped to fill the shoes of the retired Lisa Leslie.

EXPN's Graham Hays' game analysis.

Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck analyze.

Video highlights.

Photos.

I hope to see Big Syl play this year, as in both of her WNBA seasons so far, she's been injured and not with the team by the time the Chicago Sky arrived to play the Sparks. Their showdown at Staples Center this year is Aug. 4.

Australia beats U17s in exhibition

Wake-up call: Australia took advantage of the USA's poor shooting to win today, 64-58.

Tomorrow they'll play Spain, and Monday they leave for France where they'll play for real. Here's the schedule.

Friday, July 9, 2010

WNBA all stars practice

Both WNBA and USA Basketball practiced today in preparation for the game this weekend. The Hartford Courant has some good "ramblings" about the game. WNBA President Donna Orender has some pretty corporate-sounding thoughts on the game.

In the meantime, replacements are coming out of the woodwork. Lindsay Whalen will replace San Antonio's Becky Hammon, who suffered a quadriceps injury in last night's game against Minnesota. And as previously mentioned, Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding will replace Lauren Jackson and Sancho Lyttle, who both have concussions.

WNBA all-star quotes.

USA Basketball all-star quotes.

Rosters.

Ahhhh, here we go again: U17s throttle Canada (and other youthful news items)

93-47 was the score today, as the U17s beat Canada in their first exhibition in Spain. They were lead by Southern California's own Kaleena Lewis (is she dropping Mosqueda?) with 17 points.

The End of the Trail Tournament in Oregon City, Oregon is over, and we have our bracket winners:

The Minnesota Metro Stars won the Gold Division.

Cal Swish Black took the Silver Division.

West Coast Premier Black won the Platinum Division.

I love that Cali teams took two of those brackets.

ESPN's Chris Hansen is a busy man. He hit the Big State Flava Jam earlier this week, and then went to the Premier Basketball Super 64 in Frisco, Texas, where he penned this great scouting report on some of the state's best.

Now it's the U17's turn

The U17 team is in Spain now, where they'll play exhibition games against Canada, Australia and Spain before going to France for the big showdown.

Good luck, ladies.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

WNBA and high school news

Members of the WNBA and USA squads visited ESPN headquarters this morning to promote Sunday's all-star game.

Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding were named as alternates on the teams.

Interesting: though Candace Parker is out for the season and Lisa Leslie is retired, their jerseys are still the first- and third-best sellers, respectively. The Sparks have the best-selling WNBA merchandise, too.

On the health and fitness tip:

Storm point guard Sue Bird talked to ESPN Rise Magazine about the importance of conditioning and eating healthfully.

The Shock's Shanna Crossley talks about her workouts.

More on Justine Hartman's decision to go to UCLA.

Great ESPN feature on a young California "silent assassin" who is tough as nails.

Stop sending the ignorant reporters

Earlier this WNBA season I was working as media for a game. I quickly saw that two of my reporter colleagues seemed not to know anything about women's basketball. And they were from two of the bigger news organizations represented. We were in a press conference and one of the guys acknowledged it when asked if he had any questions.

"Just listening and learning," he said with a smile. And he had no questions.

The other guy didn't know who Donna Orender is.

I, on the other hand, knew the history of both teams playing that night, the players, the play-by-play people and the fans. So did another female reporter. A couple other (male) reporters from smaller news organizations seemed to possess some knowledge, and sitting at the press table with a local sports radio host was fun for me, because he knew about all the Sparks players from 1997 to the present day.

This isn't an uncommon scenario, because women's sports don't usually get covered by big news organizations. They send whomever is available, and that person usually goes without doing any kind of research first.

In the meantime, small-time operations and bloggers like myself can sit there rattling off history and statistics like a book. The whole thing is pretty ironic, because guess who makes more money working those games? Not the little guys.

I think Big News should hire some bloggers to do reporting instead of sending ignorant representatives. People with love for, knowledge of and passion for the game would write much higher-quality stories. The unknowledgeable, bored reporters could go write about something else, and the women's hoops bloggers could do what they love, reporter-style.

Lovers of the game know how much fun it is to meet someone else who they can "speak" women's basketball with. Those are the people who should be writing game stories. Sports reporters have been writing about men's teams with knowledge and passion for a long time. Women's basketball deserves the same treatment.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WNBA: Something Just Ain't Right

Something is different about the WNBA this year.

I'm not talking about the so-called parity that has resulted in teams with veteran basketball stars regularly getting their butts kicked. I'm talking about the way many longtime WNBA supporters and fans have distanced themselves from games - from the entire league. I've never seen large scale apathy from such hard core fans, and it concerns me.

I first noticed it pre-season when some Sparks season ticket holders told me they were foregoing their seats this year for the first time (they'd been there since the league opener in 1997) for Dodgers tickets. Dodgers tickets?

But then I got to Staples for the first few games and saw they weren't the only ones; there are a lot of old-timers who aren't there this year. And don't think it's just an LA problem.

A friend of mine in New York who had courtside Liberty seats for years barely goes to games anymore. I understand many more people have followed her lead recently.

Key Arena in Seattle has had many empty seats at some games this year. I don't remember seeing empty seats in that crazy place since about 2002, when the Storm made the playoffs for the first time.

I think it's a familiarity/brand name problem, where the players are the brand names. There's been too much player shuffling, and fans don't feel attached to their teams anymore. They barely know who their teams are.

In the cases of collapsed teams, it's not the fault of the players. Tina Thompson had planned to retire a Houston Comet before the franchise folded two years ago. And I'm sure none of the Sacramento Monarchs anticipated they'd be looking for work at this time last year.

But the result was the same: athletes from those two teams were picked up by others, and suddenly fans are looking at a former arch enemy wearing the uniform of their own team. Weird, as one fan put it recently when watching Monarch-turned-Spark Ticha Penicheiro dribble up the court.

Then, there have been a lot of trades the last few years. The most recent big one was the Phoenix-New York-Chicago trade that put Shameka Christon and Kathrine Kraayeveld in Chicago, Candice Dupree in Phoenix and Cappie Pondexter in New York. New York fans lost two of their favorites, Chicago fans had just got used to Dupree, and Pondexter had just helped Phoenix win their second championship. Fans are still pissed. And some wondered why a fight almost broke out last weekend at the Mercury-Liberty game.

Humans are creatures of habit. Sports fans tend to be sentimental, and they can be irrational. They expect to see the same/their favorite players on their teams year after year. Sports fans equate those players with their team; they become interchangeable. For example:

Babe Ruth = Yankees
Magic Johnson = Lakers
Larry Bird = Celtics

So it's not hard to see how WNBA fans can be feeling a little funky right now, because players have been changing teams like underwear the last few years. The only team I can think of off the top of my head that has stayed basically the same for a long time is the Seattle Storm. That's one team out of the entire league. Everyone else - fans just don't know. They have no idea whether or not the player they can't stand this year is the one that will be introduced in their team's starting lineup next year.

To increase fan stability and league viability, the WNBA would be wise to help each team develop an identity again - and one that centers around the players on the team. It is too much about the team name now, whereas in the early days of the league it was all about the players on the team. Liberty? T-Spoon and Sue Wicks. Sting? Dawn Staley. Lynx? Katie Smith. Comets? Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson.

Women's basketball fans are more attached to the players as people and personas, so why not play on that? And start with trying to keep players on the same team for a while. Quit all the jumping around.

It's unfortunate to see this bump in the road of the WNBA. But I'm hoping they wake up, look back, and right the ship.

This is why they teach history in schools, you see. You gotta learn from the past.

It's all about July recruiting right now

The schedule was set a long time ago, and the last two days, every coach I follow on twitter has been hopping planes, fighting sleep deprivation and watching basketball until their eyes fall out. It's exciting.

The last EOT games of the night are still wrapping up, but they'll be posted within the next few hours on the brackets.

Hoopgurlz has been doing a good job with the blow-by-blow not only there, but at the Big State Flava Jam in Texas.

Interesting little tidbit on that page about Brea Olinda's Justine Hartman:

Justine Hartman decides she wants to be closer to home, picks UCLA after decommiting from Boston College.
about 4 hours ago via Twitterrific


Wow.

And Hoopgurlz has a nice feature on Moriah Jefferson, the DFW Elite player who was cut from the U18 team. She's using the snub as motivation to do better. Good for her.

Four interesting but unrelated news items

Alana Beard blogs about Marissa Coleman....it's a big sister thing.

Interesting interview with the Storm's Lauren Jackson.

Famous Australian Coach Tom Maher is now coaching Great Britain's Olympic team. Is he available to coach in Los Angeles during the summertime?

Canada has announced its U17 roster.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oregon's End of the Trail Tournament tips off tomorrow

The biggest club ball tournament west of the Mississippi had its exhibition games today.

The schedule for tomorrow is set. Makes me drool. I've seen a lot of those teams and players.

Wonder what's goin' on at the Big State Flava Jam in Texas? Their website isn't as user-friendly as EOT's.

"Back to work" day for the pros

First of all, Sylvia Fowles and Lauren Jackson were named Eastern and Western Conference players of the week, respectively. It's Fowles second such honor this season, and Jackson's fourth. Jackson didn't play in the Storm's noon game today against the Liberty, which they won, 78-70, thanks to a fourth quarter surge. She's still being evaluated for a concussion.

The new MVP rankings are out today, and right now it's:

1. Lauren Jackson
2. Tina Charles
3. Cappie Pondexter
4. Diana Taurasi
5. Angel McCoughtry
6. Crystal Langhorne
7. Sylvia Fowles
8. Tamika Catchings
9. Sancho Lyttle
10. Monique Currie

The WNBA-USA Basketball teams were announced today:

WNBA

Player Team

Jayne Appel San Antonio Silver Stars
Rebekkah Brunson Minnesota Lynx
Becky Hammon San Antonio Silver Stars
Iziane Castro Marques Atlanta Dream
Katie Douglas Indiana Fever
Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm
Crystal Langhorne Washington Mystics
Sancho Lyttle Atlanta Dream
Michelle Snow San Antonio Silver Stars
Penny Taylor Phoenix Mercury
Sophia Young San Antonio Silver Stars

USA BASKETBALL

Player Team

Sue Bird Seattle Storm
Swin Cash Seattle Storm
Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
Tina Charles Connecticut Sun
Candice Dupree Phoenix Mercury
Sylvia Fowles Chicago Sky
Angel McCoughtry Atlanta Dream
Maya Moore University of Connecticut
Renee Montgomery Connecticut Sun
Cappie Pondexter New York Liberty
Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury beat the Sparks tonight (I didn't go). Maybe the LA Times' piece this morning on rookie guard Andrea Riley helped, because the youngin played over 12 minutes and put up nine points. Very nice.

San Antonio actually won a game, beating Connecticut 79-66.

WNBA rule book too loose

So Cappie Pondexter got fined for the flagrant foul in Saturday's Liberty-Mercury game. Ketia Swanier was suspended one game for coming off the bench. I haven't talked to anyone today who can make any sense of that.

Mechelle Voepel has a good summary and outlook on the situation:

But if you want my two cents, here it is: I thought the WNBA would not have been wrong to give Pondexter a one-game suspension. However, I’m also not surprised that didn’t happen. I think the WNBA is generally rather reticent to really discipline its star players. There aren’t that many of them, and the league obviously tries to avoid negative publicity toward them at all costs.

In my view, Pondexter’s foul on Penny Taylor going to the basket was just too reckless and the kind of thing I don’t like. Some may suggest that Pondexter was only going for the ball and just “accidentally” hit Taylor in the neck/head. I can’t quite buy that. Now, do I think Pondexter intentionally set out to hurt Taylor? No, I don’t. But by the same token, she really didn’t seem to care whether she hurt her or not. And that was disappointing to see.

Then Pondexter’s reaction to Diana Taurasi, who was running in to check on Taylor and seemed focused only on her teammate, to me was another indication that Pondexter really did sense she’d stepped over a line. Pondexter put an elbow up to shove Taurasi away because she apparently was expecting Taurasi to go after her. But why would she be worried about that if she didn’t think DT had a good reason to confront her? Bit of a guilty conscience on Pondexter’s part? I thought Taurasi seemed pretty surprised that Pondexter had done any of this.


I agree with the first paragraph in particular. On the one hand, it's chickensh*tty that the WNBA doesn't have Pondexter's fine listed on its front page. But on the other hand, maybe they're afraid to upset the delicate acceptance of the league with negative publicity. As usual, I can see both sides.

Maybe the NCAA rule book isn't so bad. Sure it's hundreds of pages and goes over every last living detail of any possible situation. But everyone is treated fairly and players and coaches know where they stand.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Holiday weekend end

Curious.......

Ketia Swanier has been suspended one game for leaving the Mercury bench Saturday night when the altercation broke out between her team and the Liberty's Cappie Pondexter. It makes one wonder why Swanier's suspension would be the first one announced, and what's going to happen to the players who were directly involved in the incident.

Ouch.......

Lauren Jackson sustained a concussion in Saturday's game against the Sparks. Some sources say it was from Delisha Milton-Jones' foul on Jackson. The Storm center will probably be out for at least a week, I'm guessing.

The many lives of Ivory Latta.......

The Tulsa Shock have waived rookie guard Natasha Lacy and signed Ivora Latta.

Sue Bird gets award.......

Veteran Storm point guard Sue Bird has been given the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for the month of June by the league.

Much respect.......

Great Debbie Yow bio, including how she used to play basketball with the (hostile, at first) boys 46 years ago. Now that's courageous.

July recruiting period: it's on like Donkey Kong tomorrow

Major club ball tournaments get underway across the country tomorrow, as athletes compete for college scholarships. Leading the way are the USA Basketball members.

The schedule for the major Los Angeles July tournament on the 14-15 is here.

Some of the top tournaments of the month are listed here (forget the moronic lead sentence).

Let's gooooo!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberty-Mercury fight: some writers need to take a chill pill

Fourteen hours after the Mercury-Liberty skirmish we have the predictable elements: pictures of the incident, and fans trying to make rational sense of/explain a fight, when fights are never based on reason in the first place - just emotion.

But we also have some writings up online that I find very disturbing, because they are opinions trying to pass themselves off as journalism.

First we have a piece by Seth Pollack entitled, "Cappie Pondexter's cheap foul and cowardly post-game reaction." The author has decided that Pondexter's foul "was not incidental, and her actions immediately following the foul only reinforce that." He criticizes Pondexter for not helping Taylor up and not speaking to the media afterwards, and ends by calling her cheap and cowardly.

A little later, the same writer posts again and proclaims, without a doubt, that Pondexter's foul was intentional. The writer says it's the worst foul he's seen in a long time, and Pondexter should be ashamed of herself.

I've never been a fan of convicting someone without hearing their side of the story, and neither were the United States founders. It's why they invented that branch of government called the court system that calls for a trial by jury. Journalists are NEVER supposed to convict someone anyway. Journalists are supposed to explain what happened and present both sides of the story - not let their emotions get the best of them and jump into the fray.

The only "obvious" foul is when someone throws a punch at someone, or tries to. Pondexter's foul of Taylor looks like a typical hard foul to me. Maybe Pollack needs to watch more high school girls basketball, because I've seen much, much harder fouls. Women and girls play hard, and it's not unusual for a player to get caught up in the game and forget to put her intensity in check.

The truth is, we don't know why it all went down last night. If there's one thing I've learned in my 40-plus years, it's that you NEVER know what someone is thinking unless you hear it come out of their mouth. Psychoanalysis and second-guessing are a waste of time. The only way to know for sure what's on somebody's mind is for her to tell you. Until she does, you don't have the right to say you know what she's thinking.

Assuming Pondexter's guilt is behind her not wanting to talk to the media last night is faulty. We don't know Pondexter; maybe she's an introvert. Maybe she was upset and didn't feel like talking. Maybe she didn't know what to say. Journalists are not supposed to draw conclusions and make unfounded assumptions like the SB Nation writer did.

Should Pondexter be suspended for trying to throw a punch last night? Yes. But let the league deal with that, and save the self-righteousness for......actually, don't get self-righteous. It's really annoying. Who amongst us hasn't made mistakes?

One thing I was surprised at is Ben York's column on this incident. Overall it's a balanced piece, focused mainly on how the evening changed from warm to dark. But this line isn't necessary:

"Penny Taylor, one of the kindest human beings on the planet and Mercury fan-favorite...."

If Penny was an asshole instead of "a kind human being," would it be any less of a foul? Journalists should keep their opinions about various players out of their work.

Besides the trend toward biased journalism the last several years, another change that concerns me is the need of some writers to tell everything. Heard about the reporters who knew John F. Kennedy was having affairs but never said anything? They realized there was no purpose in revealing that information other than to hurt the Kennedy family. Too bad more people don't know that today. If Corey Gaines really made that comment about Pondexter, what purpose is served by reporting it? To make Pondexter feel like crap? I see and hear a lot of things in the basketball world in here Los Angeles - including Sparks stuff - that I would never report in this space. I recommend others get similarly "old-fashioned."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Storm 75, Sparks 62

Story.

Box score.

I took my favorite college point guard to the game today, and she hadn't been to see the Sparks live yet this year. So with fresh eyes, she's a better judge than those of us who have been watching this pain for a month now. I'll let her live game comments tell the story.

Sparks:

"Too much one-on-one ball! They need to pass the ball!"

"There's no offensive rebounding!"

"People are just trying to score and are hogging the ball."

"Their inside-the-paint D is horrible. Why don't they go zone?"

Storm:

"They really move the ball well."

"They know exactly where each other is during the play and out of the play."

"Their defense is stifling."

YUP.

I wish this hadn't been on TV.

But Seattle's my second-favorite team, and if they win it all this year, I won't be sad at all. They've worked hard for years and it shows. They've also had the same core group of players for the last several seasons. Think that makes a difference? Hell yeah it does.

Seattle Storm, 2010 WNBA champs. Just watch.



The pre-game "downtown dribble" event outside Staples Center went well, with lots of happy participants.



The Storm have some mild hair issues. What is Ashley Robinson doing here? The other side of her head is not dyed.



Lauren Jackson, sporting orange this year, may have set the tone for those hair issues.



Sue Bird had a great warm-up. It was obvious her back wasn't bothering her, and I could tell she was going to have a good game.



Candace Parker walks into the arena for the first time in several weeks after having shoulder surgery Monday.



Candace seemed to miss playing, as she took one of the balls used for the pre-game event and dribbled it a few times......



...palmed it and twisted it up.



She then shared a laugh with someone before taking her seat.



A few people on the Sparks message board like to say that the Sparks have no leader anymore since Lisa Leslie is retired. I see something different. Today Candace Parker was back talking to the starters emphatically before they took the floor for tipoff - something she always does.



She kept talking to them.....



....and even made them laugh. Looks like a leader to me. She was that at Tennessee, so the role isn't new to her.



The Sparks started out so slowly that this was their first point of the game - a Tina Thompson free throw.



The Storm's offense is very effective because they cut and screen instead of standing around like the Sparks. Here, Svetlana Abrosimova's pass has just reached Lauren Jackson's hands, but Svet is long gone and making the plant to cut.



Swin Cash looks to pass in the second quarter. She was hot today and finished with 18 points.



Ticha Penicheiro sets it up and calls out directions in the third quarter.



Kristi Tolliver has a nice bounce pass to Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, but she is surrounded by the swarming Storm defense.



Ditto for Delisha Milton-Jones.



Here's the Candace Parker bobblehead we received today. It doesn't look anything like her, but I admire the attempt. It's sitting on my desk right now.



The box was so cool. Here's two sides of it.



The other two sides.

My final Sparks questions:

Why do they keep Chanel Mokango if they never let her play? Why not get another center who could actually contribute?

Why did they keep Riley and cut Bobbitt? Riley hasn't played in two weeks.

Pondexter tossed from the game in Phoenix

Drama in Phoenix tonight:

PHOENIX(AP) —New York’s Cappie Pondexter was ejected for smacking former teammate Penny Taylor in the face during the Liberty’s game against the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday night.

Pondexter, who won the WNBA title with the Mercury last season, struck Taylor as she drove to the basket for a layup. Taylor got up and looked as if she would retaliate, but players and officials got in between the two.

Pondexter was assessed a flagrant 2 foul and Taylor received a technical with 9:06 left in the third quarter.

Pondexter, who played her first three seasons in Phoenix and was the most valuable player of the 2007 WNBA Finals, was part of a three-team trade that sent her to New York and Chicagos Candice Dupree to Phoenix.


Sounds like some issues never got resolved when that trade went down.

Update: game photos of the fight. It looks like though Taylor was fouled, it was Taurasi who was ready to fight. The older and more mature Taj McWilliams-Franklin was working damned hard to stop it.

What a mess.

Typical crammed July 3

What is it about the day before July Fourth that always makes it a busy one. Some of the best WNBA games I've seen have been on this day, and maybe that'll happen again, as four games are scheduled today. There's a heckuva lotta news, too.

WNBA:

The Tulsa Shock's nine-game losing streak is proving a strain to the team.

Storm (starting, now) guard Tanisha Wright has won over fans with improved play. I love tales of hard work. When she first started with the team, fans were pretty critical of her.

Sue Bird practiced with the Storm Thursday for the first time since going out with back spasms last week. But who knows whether she'll even play today, in the game against the Sparks in LA.

Connecticut forward Asjha Jones is designing a shoe line for women who wear sizes 10.5-15. How great is that?

Charde Houston of the Minnesota Lynx made an appearance at an AAU league kickoff last night.

Rocky Top League:

The inaugural women's league in Knoxville, TN was a success, both basketball-wise and atmospherically. The organizer wants to do it again next summer.

USA Basketball:

Jen Rizzotti said it was an honor to coach the U18 team to a gold last weekend.

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Friday in July

WNBA:

The Chicago Sky waived Abi Olajuwon, and then had the nerve to call her time with the team, "a great learning experience." I want the Sky to lose now.

Candace Parker will go home to Chicago during the break to conduct a basketball clinic for some lucky youngstas. And by the way - Parker twittered today that this was her first day getting out of the house since her shoulder surgery Monday. She called herself "the one-armed bandit."

Kathy Goodman blogged about the Sparks' win last night.

NCAA:

The NCAA will publish the Academic Performance Report of coaches for their student athletes. This could be interesting.

Oregon State's football coach helped convince Scott Rueck to take the women's basketball coach job.

It seems like yesterday that we were watching Abby Waner play for Duke. But it wasn't - she's now part of the Colorado State University football radio announcer team.

USA Basketball:

Hmmmm, maybe my diatribe on USA Basketball's Facebook page helped: they're going to stream the U17 championship game. I'm waiting for a DVD of the U18 game that I wanted to see but couldn't.