Wednesday, February 29, 2012

College ball, everywhere

Pac-12:

USC - Taking a look at the Briana Gilbreath-Ashley Corral legacy.

Cal - Layshia Clarendon is a quiet superstar. Best quote: "But when the drama is at its highest, Clarendon is at her best."

Big 12:

Yvonne Anderson and Chassidy Fussell both eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in Texas' win last night over Missouri.

The Fennellys make Iowa State go.

Big Ten:

Conference coaches praise Nebraska, their newest member.

ESPN says Michigan is on the rise.

Atlantic Sun:

Tonight's first-round tournament results.

Broadcasts:

This is dope - ESPN and Facebook will team up to show conference tournaments.

ESPN conference picks:

Favorites, dark horses, "keep an eye on"s.

High school:

Janee' Lewis leads the Franklin Quakers into the state 3A basketball tournament this week. She got her competitiveness from her football-playing father.

More conference awards

The SEC:

First Team All-SEC
C'eira Ricketts, Arkansas
Jennifer George, Florida
Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia
A'dia Mathies, Kentucky
LaSondra Barrett, LSU
Glory Johnson, Tennessee
Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee
Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt

Coach of the Year
Tom Collen, Arkansas

Player of the Year
A’dia Mathies, Kentucky

Freshman of the Year
Bria Goss, Kentucky

Defensive Player of the Year
Glory Johnson, Tennessee

6th Woman of the Year
Deana Allen, Florida
Keyla Snowden, Kentucky

Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Blanche Alverson, Auburn

Atlantic 10:

First Team
Justine Raterman Dayton
Abby Oliver Richmond
Jessica Jenkins St. Bonaventure
Megan Van Tatenhove St. Bonaventure
Shey Peddy Temple

Player of the Year: Shey Peddy, Temple
Rookie of the Year: Andrea Hoover, Dayton
Defensive Player of the Year: Shey Peddy, Temple
Sixth Player of the Year: Epiphany Woodson, Charlotte
Most Improved Player of the Year: Becca Wann, Richmond
Coach of the Year: Jim Crowley, St. Bonaventure

West Coast Conference:

All-Conference Team
Dominique Conners, USD
Alex Cowling, LMU
Natalie Day, POR
Jazmine Jackson, PEP
Katelan Redmon, GON
Kristen Riley, BYU
Jasmine Smith, SMC
Kayla Standish, GON
Haley Steed, BYU
Morgan Woodrow, USD

Player of the Year
Kristen Riley, BYU

Defensive Player of the Year
Jazmine Jackson, PEP

Coach of the Year
Cindy Fisher, USD

Old Dominion University bids a fond farewell to super-rebounder Tia Lewis

Tonight Old Dominion hosts Towson in their final regular-season home game, during which they will honor senior Tia Lewis.

The 6-foot-3 center/forward leaves the program as the seventh player of all time to record 1,000 rebounds - only 21 away from being fifth in school history. She is eleventh on the all-time scoring list, with 1,586 points. Lewis recorded a career-high 30 points in the Jan. 4 Georgia State game, and she has had 11 double-doubles this year. She leads the team in scoring this season with 16.6 points per game, and her rebound average is 9.1.

"She has continued to lead an unbelievable legacy here at Old Dominion University," first-year Coach Karen Barefoot said. "I'm just so proud of what she's accomplished this year so far. I think she's really lead our team by the way she competes hard every game."

"She's done it on both ends of the floor, and she's had to help rebuild this program, and she's just done a tremendous job. She'll be missed, but she'll never be forgotten because she's done some amazing things here at Old Dominion."

Lady Monarchs fan Tawanna Washington was impressed with Lewis' game, because she said she does it all.

"She handles the ball well, she's a rebounding machine, and she gets on the floor for every loose ball," Washington said. "She plays almost 40 minutes a game because her team needs her. And she has a nice 10-15-foot jumper."

Tonight's game begins at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Lewis video highlights.

______________________________________________________

Is there an unsung hero who deserves more recognition than what she gets? Hit me up on twitter.com/hoopism, or hoopism@yahoo.com.

NJCAA rankings

Not much change in the top seven, but plenty of flip flops further down the list:

1 Trinity Valley Community College
2 Hutchinson Community College
3 Central Arizona College
4 Casper College
5 Gulf Coast State College
6 Shelton State Community College
7 North Idaho College
7 Pensacola State College
9 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid
10 Walters State Community College
11 Northwest Florida State College
12 Jefferson College
13 Midland College
14 Otero Junior College
15 Weatherford College
16 Tyler Junior College
17 Palm Beach State College
18 Arizona Western College
19 Independence Community College
20 Monroe Community College

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conference tournaments start tomorrow

March madness is coming! Heck, if it wasn't for leap year, it would begin tomorrow.

Conference tournaments begin tomorrow with the Atlantic Sun, and run through March 11. Here is the exciting list.

NCAA news:

Rebecca Lobo asks Skylar Diggins five questions.

Florida's Jennifer George is embracing her leadership role.

Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork commented on the state of the women's basketball program.

WNBA news:

Interesting transactions today......

The Minnesota Lynx signed and traded Charde Houston and the 24th pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft to the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for the 18 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft.

The Connecticut Sun signed Sidney Spencer.

The Chicago Sky signed Felicia Chester.

Powerade Fab 50 rankings, week 12

Whitney Young moved up from sixth to third place in this week's rankings, due to a huge four-overtime win over Bolingbrook:

1. Saint Marys
2. McEachern
3. Whitney Young
4. Windward
5. Bolingbrook
6. Riverdale
7. Clarksville
8. Riverdale Baptist
9. Hoover
10. Mater Dei

USA Today/ESPN top 25 poll: not a lot of changes

Vanderbilt drops out, Purdue drops in, St. John's takes a jump this week:

1. Baylor
2. Stanford
3. Notre Dame
4. Connecticut
5. Maryland
6. Duke
7. Miami
8. Delaware
9. Kentucky
10. Tennessee
11. Wisconsin-Green Bay
12. Penn State
13. Texas A&M
14. Georgetown
15. Georgia
16. Ohio State
17. Louisville
18. Georgia Tech
19. Rutgers
20. Gonzaga
21. St. John's
22. St. Bonaventure
23. DePaul
24. Nebraska
25. Purdue

Monday, February 27, 2012

Big East night, and awards

Big night for the Big East:

#3 Notre Dame dropped #4 UConn 72-59, and clinched the Big East title. Wow.

Surging #25 St. John's beat #13 Georgetown, 54-45.

#17 Louisville over Seton Hall; #20 Rutgers defeated Marquette; #18 DePaul took down Cincinnati; Villanova held on to beat Syracuse.

The Big East Tournament bracket is set.

Also.....#1 Baylor hung on to win again - this time over Texas A&M.

Award time:

The Big 10 player of the year is Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis. The entire first team:

Jordan Hooper, Nebraska
Tayler Hill, Ohio State
Alex Bentley, Penn State
Maggie Lucas, Penn State
Samantha Prahalis, Ohio State

Coach of the year is Penn State's Coquese Washington.

The ACC has announced its first, second and third teams. Here's the first:

Chelsea Gray, So., G, Duke
Shenise Johnson, Sr., G, Miami
Alyssa Thomas, So., F, Maryland
Elizabeth Williams, Fr., C, Duke
Riquna Williams, Sr., G, Miami

Pat Summitt:

If only Pat Summitt could coach forever, muses one writer.

Pre-NCAA:

Lady Vol commit Bashaara Graves talks about her pre-game music rituals.

WNBA:

Dishin & Swishin talks to Sparks Coach Carol Ross.

Shock sign Morris, Storm sign Thompson

The Tulsa Shock have signed Jene Morris.

The Seattle Storm have signed veteran Tina Thompson.

USC sweeps the Arizona schools

Check out my story on USC's victory Saturday over Arizona State, which included a ceremony honoring the team's seniors prior to the game. It was great to see Jacki Gemelos in full uniform again, and it was touching to see the love between members of the Gilbreath family.

Full photo gallery.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

WNBA stars shine at all-star weekend

Cappie Pondexter was 4-for-4 in the shooting contest at NBA All-Star weekend. Video recap. And photos.

WNBA blog.

Tamika Catchings participated in the Dribble to Stop Diabetes.

Lindsey Harding had a carnival.

Pro bonus:

Chamique Holdsclaw talks to the New York Times.

It's a wrap

It's almost conference tourney time after today's action.......

Kentucky took the SEC title - their first in 30 years.

Tennessee took second place by defeating Florida. It was senior day for the Lady Vols.

Georgia thumped LSU to take third place.

The SEC schedule has been set.

Duke clinched the ACC title.

Princeton sewed up the Ivy League title.

Delaware finished a perfect home season stand today. They've tied a school record with 26 wins.

Speaking of consecutive home wins, Miami has 40.

And what would the day be without an upset: #23 Nebraska over #14 Ohio State.

Chamique Holdsclaw book enters presale Wednesday, with release scheduled for March 15


Yesterday's SoCal high school basketball playoff results

City scores, and schedule for next weekend:

DIVISION I

Semifinals, Saturday

Narbonne 72, Carson 34

Fairfax 44, El Camino Real 37

DIVISION II

Semifinals, Friday

Monroe 51, Eagle Rock 36

Palisades 53, Los Angeles Roosevelt 39

DIVISION III

Semifinals, Saturday

Los Angeles University 65, Bell 52

Los Angeles Marshall 49, Cleveland 39

One division of the Southern Section results:

DIVISION 1AA

Quarterfinals, Saturday

Long Beach Poly 53, Etiwanda 48

Brea Olinda 72, Edison 49

Corona Santiago 55, Troy 41

Mater Dei 83, Rialto 39

Saturday, February 25, 2012

California high school playoffs: #5 Windward 59, St. Bernard 52

What could have turned into a rout became an exciting game in the second half, as St. Bernard rallied to beat #5 Windward, but came up short as the hosts won, 59-52.

Windward didn't heat up until just under two minutes to go in the first quarter, when they went on a 9-4 run to close out the period ahead 17-8. The second quarter was all Windward, as St. Bernard kept missing close shots - several under the basket. The hosts used full-court, pressure defense and two of their best weapons - Courtney Jaco (12.6 ppg) and Jordin Canada (11 ppg) - to make the difference. At the half, it was 31-19.

St. Bernard surged midway through the third quarter and cut the deficit to 31-35 with about three minutes left, but Windward center Imani Stafford swished a shot to put the lead back to six. Demoria White answered back for St. Bernard, but Windward answered in turn with two consecutive buckets and a Stafford block. They lead 42-35 at the end of three.

The last period saw the hosts go up by 11, their biggest lead. St. Bernard again clawed back, but this time could cut it only to seven, two times. Lajahna Drummer, Michelle Curry and Chyanne Butler came up especially strong for the visiting team.

Notes:

- St. Bernard was fearless, and they never gave up. They also never were intimidated by their nationally-ranked opponents; they just kept driving to the basket and trying to grab every rebound - even against Stafford, who is 6-foot-6. They are fiesty.....and also young, which is scary for their future opponents. They need to learn to finish shots, and they could be ranked too. Seriously.

- Imani Stafford should be dominating games. Tonight she missed shots under the basket, she shot free throws completely uninspired, and she was a fouling machine. Her whole demeanor wasn't one of urgency whatsoever, which is what it should be in a playoff game. She even got crossed over once in the first half, and fell to the floor (took forever to get up, too). Stafford looks like she has relied on her height in playing basketball for a very long time. There's no reason someone as tall as she is averaged less than 10 points per game during the regular season.

- The refs called fouls against St. Bernard to the tune of 10-2 in the second half. The parents were about to go nuts with rage. Then Windward scored those two buckets in a row, and some of their parents turned and mocked the St. Bernard parents. I thought it was going to get ugly for a second, but then all of that just fell away. Thank goodness, because the game was physical enough without having to worry about anything else.

- Division I coaches in attendance: Arizona's Niya Butts, Michael Cooper I and II of USC, and Tony Newnam from UCLA.

- The intensity of the game was palpable. It's why I love high school ball.

Windward moves on to face their next opponent, Serra, sometime next week (brackets will be drawn Monday).

Apologies for the few and poor quality photos. The lighting in the Windward gym wasn't working for my camera.


Windward center Imani Stafford


Windward huddle


St. Bernard's had a few players taking turns at the point position

Finishes

St. Bonaventure finished a perfect Atlantic 10 season by defeating Rhode Island.

Green Bay has the Horizon League title after a win over Butler.

Stanford already clinched the Pac-12 title, but today's victory over Utah was Coach Tara VanDerveer's 700th.

Cal clinched the second-place spot in the conference by beating Colorado.

Gonzaga routed BYU to take the West Coast Conference title.

There were no upsets today! Amazing.

Scoreboard.

Pro bonus:

Iziane Castro-Marques might be going back to the Seattle Storm.

Senior day

There are 116 Division I games around the NCAA today, and for many, it's senior day, which means it'll be the last time for these players on their home courts.

I want to congratulate all the seniors, and recognize the hard work and discipline they've exhibited the last four years. Being a student athlete is a tremendous challenge, and the lessons learned from that experience will remain for a lifetime. I hope every senior can reflect today on the tremendous blessings they've experienced through their basketball and school experiences.

Good luck.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The heat is on

NCAA:

The heat is on in Texas for coaches Goestenkors, Curry and Henrickson.

Don't think this hasn't crossed my mind too - especially for Goestenkors. Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt addressed the situation head on:

“We’re not in an ideal position,” Hocutt said of the program, “but Kristy has my confidence and trust. Kristy is our basketball coach and will continue to be our basketball coach. She is going to be our basketball coach next year.”


On the other side of the coin, the field is crowded for Coach of the Year.

More on the Lady Raiders.....senior forward Kierra Mallard has been suspended for a violation of team rules.

After collapsing during a game last night and being hospitalized, Long Beach State freshman Bianka Balthazar is in good condition today, thankfully.

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese stays positive as her son battles leukemia.

Tonight's big game:

#7 Duke beat #5 Miami to clinch the top seed in the ACC.

USA Basketball:

The National Team's exhibition schedule has been unveiled, along with a new logo.

WNBA players:

Apparently Tamika Catchings' East team won the celebrity game at NBA-All Star festivities, but there is only one game picture of her playing that I can find (though it was tweeted that she blocked a shot by R&B singer Ne-Yo). One photo I did find on the dot-com was of Catchings and rapper Common, before the game.

WNBA transactions:

The Liberty signed Kelly Miller.

Major club ball merger: Cal Sparks Norcal

In what is perhaps the first major club ball program merger on the west coat, Cal Sparks of Southern California has joined forces with Sacramento Elite. They will begin the season next month as Cal Sparks Norcal.

The new entity will feature 11 high school teams playing in three sections of California: Norcal, which includes Sacramento and the Bay Area; Central, consisting of Fresno and Bakersfield players; and SoCal - six teams from the greater Los Angeles area.

Cal Sparks Director Elbert Kinnebrew said the merger helps meet both his goals, and those of Sacramento Elite Director Michele Massari.

"The overall service mission of both entities is to position our group as a state wide provider of developmental elite girls basketball," Kinnebrew said. "Michele is known for her commitment to young women in Northern California at both the scholastic high school level and club arenas."

Kinnebrew co-founded Cal Sparks in 1999, and the program has grown especially over the last three years. In 2010, the Sparks claimed their first national club ball title, winning the FILA Nationals Tournament in Atlanta, Geo.

Massari helped run Norcal Elite for a time, and is also the head basketball coach at Sacramento High School. She eventually left Norcal Elite to form Sacramento Elite, which consists largely of players from the high school. Through playing together year-round, SHS players were able to take a California Interscholastic Federation championship last year.

Both programs have yielded high-caliber players who have gone on to play at Division I, II and III schools, as well as junior colleges. So blending them was a natural for both parties.

"I respect Elbert," Massari said. "He's very truthful, and there are a lot of people in the game who aren't."

Massari said her role is important to her because of the current lack of female coaches and program directors at all levels of basketball.

Tryouts begin next month in all three areas of the state. There will be tournaments both in the spring and fall where all 11 teams will be participating.

"Players are expected to stay with their own area teams unless it is determined by all directors that a team move becomes necessary for a particular player," Kinnebrew said. "But that is not expected at this time."

The new organization will also hold a skills academy, which will be open to players from other club ball teams.

The new website is: www.calsparksnorcal.com

Pictured below are two current players from Massari's program (pictures by Norcal Elite) and two pictures from the Cal Sparks' FILA Nationals win in 2010 (pictures by me).


Onome Jemerigbe, class of 2013, dribbles up the court for NorCal Elite


Dezja James, class of 2013, putting up a shot for NorCal Elite


Reshanda Gray and Ariya Crook, class of 2011, during FILA Nationals in Atlanta, July, 2010


Cal Sparks Gold won the tournament title, July 31, 2010

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enough to wear a hoop head out

NCAA upsets tonight:

Arkansas over #9 Tennessee, 72-71 in overtime. The victory was the first for the Razorbacks in Knoxville. The loss, coupled with Kentucky's win over South Carolina, drops the Vols into second place in the SEC. The Lady Vols were distraught: Shekinna Stricklen had be be picked up off the court by Kamiko Williams.

Michigan State beat #23 Nebraska, 73-53.

Also, Long Beach State's Bianca Balthazar collapsed on the sidelines of a home game against Cal Poly tonight, and the 49ers opted to forfeit as she was taken to the hospital. Preliminary reports are that Balthazar will be allright.

Happier NCAA news:

San Diego State - one of the nation's most improved teams this year - are the Mountain West Conference champions.

Dishin & Swishin has goodies this week, as usual: Kim Barnes Arico and bracket talk.

Stanford owns the nation's longest winning streak, and they extended that to 77 tonight with a victory over Colorado. It was Coach Tara VanDerveer's 700th win, and senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike surpassed Kate Starbird to move into second place on Stanford's all-time scoring list.

Samantha Prahalis destroyed Ohio State's single-game scoring record in tonight's romp over Minnesota: she put up 42.

WNBA:

Dishin & Swishin exclusive - Pokey Chatman discusses the signing of veteran Ticha Penicheiro.

The Sparks release a statement on the acquisition of Nicky Anosike.

Following up on Oklahoma State:

Medical examiners in Oklahoma are still unable to find a cause for the plane crash that killed Oklahoma State Coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna last Nov. 17. The University plans to review its travel policy.

Seattle Times: Tina Thompson will sign with Storm

The Seattle Times is reporting that "multiple sources" say veteran Tina Thompson will sign with the Storm. Here's the rationale:

Los Angeles traded reserves Natasha Lacy and LaToya Pringle to Washington in exchange for Nicky Anosike, an All-Star center. The Sparks also have the No. 1 pick in April's draft and are expected to select Stanford forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

Couple Ogwumike and Anosike with returning young stars Candace Parker, Jantel Lavender and Ebony Hoffman, and there appears to be little room or salary-cap space for Thompson on the L.A. roster.


This trade and signing season for the WNBA is proving to be as wild as this year's NCAA season. The Sparks, the Mystics and the Storm have a lock on power moves. Who will join them?

Southern California Southern Section Wednesday high school results

And field narrows.....quarterfinals next Wednesday.

Brackets.

Bonus:

The underrated Kailee Johnson.

McDonald's All-American Game coaches unveiled

McDONALD’S® ANNOUNCES HEAD COACHES FOR 2012 ALL AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL GAMES IN CHICAGO

Chicagoland, Kentucky, South Carolina Head Coaches to Lead Nation’s Premier High School Basketball Event

CHICAGO, Ill. (Feb. 23, 2012) – Today, the McDonald’s All American® Games announced its four prep coaches from Chicagoland, Kentucky and South Carolina to lead the top high school talent in the country during the 2012 McDonald’s All American Games on Wednesday, March 28 at the United Center in Chicago, Ill.

Tanya Johnson of Zion-Benton High School in Zion, Ill. will lead the Girls West team, while Anne Long of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. will coach the Girls East team. Gordon Kerkman of Aurora West High School in Aurora, Ill. will lead the Boys West and Billy Hicks of Scott County High School in Georgetown, Ky. will serve as head coach of the Boys East team.

“The four standout coaches selected to lead the 2012 McDonald’s All American Games have won a total of 11 state championships and combine for more than 2,900 wins and 132 years of head-coaching experience,” said Douglas Freeland, director of the McDonald’s All American Games. “We’re delighted that some of the best high school basketball coaches from across the country will be on the sideline in Chicago this year.”

The 11th Annual Girls Game will begin at 6:00 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPNU, followed by the 35th Anniversary Boys Game at 8:30 p.m. CT which will air live on ESPN. Tickets to the Games can be purchased via Ticketmaster, charge-by-phone at 1-866-909-GAME and at the United Center box office. Free United Center parking is included with all ticket purchases. Proceeds from the 2012 McDonald’s All American Games will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI). Funds raised will help to build the nation’s largest Ronald McDonald House®, located in downtown Chicago.

2012 McDonald’s All American Head Coach Bios

Tanya Johnson (Girls West) is currently in her 28th season as a head coach and third season as head coach at Zion-Benton High School. She has compiled a record of 634-191 while claiming two IHSA Class AA State Championships (1997 and 1998), seven Sectional Championships and 17 Regional Championships. Johnson is a member of three Hall of Fames including the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA), and has twice been named the IBCA Coach of the Year (1997, 1998). Coach Johnson was also named the 2011 IHSA Coach of the Year after leading Zion-Benton to the state championship game and finishing runner-up. Joining her on the sideline as assistants will be Mary Just (Loyola Academy, Ill.) and Ellen O’Brian (Downers Grove South High School, Ill).

Anne Long (Girls East) has 36 years of coaching experience and is currently in her fourth season as head coach for the Spring Valley Lady Vikings. She has a career record of 758-183 and has guided her teams to 11 State Championship Games, emerging victorious in six (1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 2009 and 2011). A seven-time South Carolina State Coach of the Year, Long has helped produce more than 100 college basketball players including current McDonald’s All American, Xylina McDaniel. Following her most recent State Championship in 2011, Coach Long was inducted into the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Joining Long on the sideline will be her current assistants Doretha Garland and Gregory Bauldrick.

Sparks sign point guard Sharnee' Zoll

The Sparks aren't doing much talking this year - they're just making a lot of big moves. From Sparks HQ:

Los Angeles Sparks Sign Point Guard SharneƩ Zoll
Free Agent Acquisition is the ACC Record Holder for Career Assists

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Sparks have signed point guard SharneĆ© Zoll to a free agent contract, Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced Thursday. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The 5-foot- Zoll graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008 as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time assist leader (785) and has played extensively in Europe over the past four seasons, the last two with CCC Polkowice in Poland. Currently leading the Polish League in assists (6.0 per game) for a second straight year, Zoll has also helped Polkowice reach the knockout stage of the 2011-12 EuroLeague. Among her teammates is Sparks center Jantel Lavender.

“I’m really excited about ‘Zollie’,” said Sparks Head Coach Carol Ross, who previously worked with Zoll while an assistant on USA Basketball’s gold-medal winning team at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships. “She brings a lot of spirit and energy to the court, is a great teammate and loves to get up-and-down the floor. I feel very fortunate that she’s hopping aboard the LA Sparks’ train.”

Zoll was a three-time All-ACC performer at Virginia, where she broke Dawn Staley’s school and ACC record for career assists. The Marlboro, N.J., native scored 1,169 points in her four-year Cavalier career, and as a senior was a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s top point guard. Starting all but one of her 132 career games at UVa, Zoll was a three-time team captain.

“This is a dream come true. Most little girls dream of coming to LA to become an actress, but I’ve always dreamed of becoming a Spark,” Zoll said. “Ever since the league formed, the Sparks have been a marquee franchise, and I want to help this team return to a championship level. I’m going to get the ball where it needs to go; we have a lot of great scorers it can go to.”

The Sparks will tip-off the 2012 season Friday, May 18 at the Seattle Storm before the same two teams do battle at STAPLES Center on Sunday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m. For group and season ticket information, call 877-44-SPARKS or visit LASparks.com.

What a difference five months can make: Tamika Catchings is back

2011 MVP Tamika Catchings has risen again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Biggest turnarounds in women's basketball this year

Cal State Northridge assistant media relations director Geoff Herberg has compiled a list of the most improved programs this year. To no one's surprise that's been reading this column, CSUN is on top. Coach Jason Flowers and his staff have done an amazing job rebuilding the Matador program.

The other schools are definitely captivating, as well. Check it out:

BEST TURNAROUNDS IN NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

AS OF FEBRUARY 22, 2012

Team 10-11, Wins 11-12, Wins Difference

Cal State Northridge 4, 16, +12
San Diego State 12, 21, +9
North Texas 5, 14, +9
Niagra 1, 10, +9
Miami (OH) 11, 20, +9
UNLV 11, 19, +8
IUPUI 4, 12, +8
UTEP 16, 24, +8
Oregon State 9, 17, +8
Nebraska 13, 20, +7
William & Mary 3, 10, +7
Towson 9, 16, +7
Seattle 8, 15, +7
San Jose State 2, 9, +7
Florida Atlantic 7, 14, +7
Quinnipiac 14, 21, +7
Sacramento State 4, 10, +6
Eastern Kentuky 6, 12, +6
Rider 5, 11, +6
Cincinnati 9, 15, +6
Tulsa 5, 11, +6
Marshall 9, 15, +6
Stephen F. Austin 12, 18, +6
Nicholls State 8, 14, +6
Texas A&M CC 2, 8, +6
SIU-Edwardsville 11, 16, +5
Howard 16, 21, +5
Mount St. Mary’s 8, 13, +5
Southern Illinois 2, 7, +5
Pacific 9, 14, +5

Mercedes Russell looks like player of the year

ESPN is watching the stars of high school basketball. But they missed one of the biggest in the hoops constellation: Mercedes Russell of Springfield, Ore.

The 6-foot-5 junior this season is averaging 28.25 points, 15.4 rebounds, 6.5 blocks, 4.6 assists, and has an 82 percent free throw shooting percentage. Russell, who always shows up for big games, had one outburst for 35 and another for 32 points this year, as the Millers try to defend the state title they won last year.

She has my vote.


Mercedes Russell

Picture: Steven Maikoski/USA Basketball

YET another ACL tear, and Holdsclaw in Knoxville

Yep, Shanay Washington tore her ACL last night during Baylor's win over Texas. Just heartbreaking. When will it stop???????????????????

Chamique Holdsclaw:

Holdsclaw was in Knoxville today for the Big Orange Tipoff Club's final gathering of the season. She spoke about her time in the WNBA, her new book, and her work as a mental health speaker.

The video of her talking about her book is good, but the video of her talking about her time in the WNBA might require a tissue or two.

Her book, "Breaking Through: beating the odds shot after shot," is scheduled to be released mid-March.

Mystics trade Nicky Anosike to Sparks for Natasha Lacy and Latoya Pringle Sanders

Well this one sure slipped by: The Washington Mystics traded Nicky Anosike to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Natasha Lacy and LaToya Pringle Sanders.

On February 17.

No announcement from either team? Just a tweet a few hour from Anosike saying there would be "a big announcement coming soon"?

Interesting and mysterious.

And Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike together again?

A good thing.

This season is already intriguing.

NJCAA rankings this week

Lots of movement....Pensacola State and Chipola College drop like stones, Northwest Florida State rises, and Midland and Weatherford Colleges enter:

1 Trinity Valley Community College
2 Hutchinson Community College
3 Central Arizona College
4 Casper College
5 Gulf Coast State College
6 Shelton State Community College
7 North Idaho College
8 Northwest Florida State College
9 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid
10 Arizona Western College
11 Walters State Community College
12 Pensacola State College
13 Otero Junior College
14 Jefferson College
15 Independence Community College
16 Tyler Junior College
17 Chipola College
18 Midland College
19 Weatherford College
20 Vincennes University

Sky sign Ticha Penicheiro

Chicago Sky sign veteran point guard Ticha Penicheiro.

I guess she's not retiring.

The Sparks are going to be on fire this year.

LA City Section Tuesday playoff results

Results from last night.

DIVISION I

Quarterfinals, Tuesday

Narbonne 65, Chatsworth 25
Carson 67, Taft 50
El Camino Real 63, Washington 37
Fairfax 67, Crenshaw 25

Semifinals, Saturday at Cal State Dominguez Hills

#1 Narbonne vs. #5 Carson, 2 p.m.
#3 El Camino Real vs. #2 Fairfax , 4 p.m.

Notes: Championship, Mar. 3 (6 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills).

DIVISION II

Quarterfinals, Tuesday

Palisades 76, Venice 27
Los Angeles Roosevelt 35, Granada Hills 33
Eagle Rock 50, Los Angeles Jordan 44
Monroe 54, Westchester 27

Semifinals, Friday at Los Angeles Kennedy

#6 Eagle Rock vs. #2 Monroe, 6 p.m.
#1 Palisades vs. #4 Los Angeles Roosevelt, 8 p.m.

Notes: Championship, Mar. 2 (6 p.m. at Roybal).

DIVISION III

Quarterfinals, Tuesday

Los Angeles Marshall 58, Gardena 36
Cleveland 32, Wilmington Banning 29
Los Angeles University 46, Granada Hills Kennedy 43
Bell 56, Garfield 43

Semifinals, Saturday at Venice

#6 Los Angeles University vs. #7 Bell, noon
#9 Los Angeles Marshall vs. Cleveland, 2 p.m.

Notes: Championship, Mar. 3 (1 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills).

All my horses are out of the races, so it's official: I have no investment in any state titles in these parts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Upsets, ACLs, coaching changes (again)

Tonight's action:

Two upsets - Oklahoma dropped #11 Texas A&M, and Syracuse took down #18 DePaul.

In the battle of the giant slayers, it was #25 St. John's over West Virginia. The Red Storm have won 12 of their last 14 games, including Saturday's big victory over UConn.

#1 Baylor clinched the Big 12 title, but may have lost guard Shanay Washington to knee injury yet again.

More coaching changes:

Auburn Coach Nell Fortner is resigning. Writing on the wall?

(Told ya - change is coming)

Gulf Coast State College Roonie Scovel will step down, and become an academic adviser at the school.

Thinkin Olympics:

Check out Tamika Catchings modeling the new USA Basketball uniforms. Somebody's been in the weight room!

WNBA:

The Mystics re-signed Monique Currie, and the Sky re-signed Tamera Young.

Powerade Fab 50 rankings: week 11

Unlike the college rankings, there isn't much change on this week's list. Mater Dei does move into the top ten, however:

1. Saint Marys
2. McEachern
3. Bolingbrook
4. Windward
5. Riverdale
6. Whitney Young
7. Clarksville
8. Riverdale Baptist
9. Hoover
10. Mater Dei

USA Today/ESPN top 25 poll: changes

Stanford and Notre Dame move up while Connecticut, Duke and Kentucky fall. St. John's breaks in and Purdue falls six slots to out:

1. Baylor
2. Stanford
3. Notre Dame
4. Connecticut
5. Miami
6. Maryland
7. Duke
8. Delaware
9. Tennessee
10. Kentucky
11. Texas A&M
12. Wisconsin-Green Bay
13. Georgetown
14. Ohio State
15. Penn State
16. Georgia
17. Louisville
18. DePaul
19. Georgia Tech
20. Rutgers
21. Gonzaga
22. St. Bonaventure
23. Nebraska
24. Vanderbilt
25. St. John's

Monday, February 20, 2012

The beginning of the exodus?

A legend retires: Sharon Fanning-Otis will retire as coach at Mississippi State at the end of this season, after 36 years in the business.

I've heard rumblings that, due to conference realignments and accompanying TV deals, that this spring will see numerous coaching changes - the likes of which we may not have seen before. Don't say I didn't warn you: change may be coming.

Tonight's news:

Penn State upset #9 Ohio State, and in the process clinched the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They've come a long way.

Notre Dame moved a step closer to taking the Big East title, with a win over Louisville.

With their stunning upset of UConn Saturday, St. John's announced their arrival noisily.

ESPN comments on the wave of upsets that have become a regular thing this season.

San Bernardino's own Layshia Clarendon was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. The Cal guard averaged 24.5 points and five rebounds in leading her team two a pair of wins last week.

USC sweeps the crosstown rivalry with UCLA; McGee sisters honored

Yesterday was a day to celebrate in the Land of Troy, at USC. Not only did the Trojans sweep the Bruins in this year's series with a 66-54 win, two of the school's greats saw their jerseys retired. Pamela and Paula McGee were honored at a halftime ceremony, and Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, Linda Sharp and Rhonda Windham were also on hand to show their support.

My story.

Full 31-picture photo gallery.

Sometimes I miss the good ol' days in women's hoops.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More upsets, of course

#7 Maryland gave #5 Duke their first ACC loss.....63-61.

Florida 61, #15 Georgia 57.

In overtime, it was Michigan State 67, #19 Purdue 52. (What a colossal meltdown that must have been).

Not an upset, but interesting:

#6 Miami has now won 13 consecutive games, including today over Florida State. They're now sharing the lead atop the ACC.

#9 Delaware barely escaped an upset by Drexel - 40-39.

Last night's SoCal Southern Section high school playoff results

No true surprises from last night's first-round results, as the usual top suspects - Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly and Brea Olinda - advance.

Emotional night at Middle Tennessee State

It's been almost a year since Middle Tennessee State's Tina Stewart was stabbed to death. Last night - senior night - the Lady Raiders paid tribute to their fallen teammate, with her parents present.

Interviews of her teammates and MTSU coach Rick Insell were shown on the large Blue Tubes, and her parents were presented with Stewart’s framed No. 20 game jersey.

“It’s such a special day for me to know her loving memory is still here,” said Stewart’s father, Adrian Jackson. “That’s why I’m not breaking down. I’ve always been so proud of Tina, and the pride is still there today.

“She loved MTSU and Murfreesboro, and she spoke of it all the time. It’s made me love MTSU, because this is a true family. There is nothing fake about it.”
......

“It means a lot to our family,” said Stewart’s mother, Ida Jackson. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the thoughtful prayers, phone calls and letters we have received. Today is so special. It means so much to me that Tina meant so much to so many people.”

The lump in my throat is exacerbated by the T-shirt Stewart's father is wearing in the picture.

__________________

UCLA at USC preview: Trojan Coach Michael Cooper is still getting used to the college life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

St. John's upsets #2 UConn, 57-56, snaps long winning streak

Junior Shenneika Smith's three-pointer with eight seconds to go lifted the St. John's Red Storm over #2 UConn, snapping the Huskies' 99-game winning streak that dated back to 2007. No doubt, the biggest upset of the year so far.

Statistical breakdown and quotes.

Pictures, including the game-winning shot (far right, third row....looks like some of the UConn fans can see what's about to happen).

Highlights.

Just, wow.

#1 Baylor narrowly avoided an upset of their own, holding off Texas Tech, which lead the game much of the way. Baylor clinches at least a share of the Big 12 title.

Speaking of titles, Stanford grabbed the Pac-12 title outright today with a win over Oregon. It's the first title of the new conference.

#12 Green Bay also held off an upset, overcoming Youngstown State in overtime, 77-72.

West Virginia was trying to pull off their third upset, and had #20 DePaul by 14. But the Blue Demons surged back for the 77-63 win.

The 20s:

Cal's victory today over Oregon State puts them at 20 wins on the season.

San Diego State earned 20 by stuffing Air Force.

Another close one for CSUN:

The Matadors trailed UC Davis by 15, but rallied for the 63-60 victory.

Bonuses:

Deep: Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss has been on this road before.

UC San Diego students will vote whether or not to move from DII to DI.

Tomorrow:

It's the UCLA-USC rematch, this time in the land of Troy. There will be a jersey retirement ceremony at halftime for Pam and Paula McGee. Like the Jackson Five, I'll be there.

NCAA: it's time to do something about ACL tears

Jacki Gemelos, Carolyn Davis, Kristi Kingma, China Crosby, Richa Jackson and Antonye Nyingifa are just a few of the many, many basketball players who have torn their Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL) this year, which put them out for the season.

It's a storyline hoops fans unfortunately know well, as female athletes have long been known to sustain ACL tears at far greater frequency than male athletes. It is estimated that a staggering 38,000 women suffer ACL tears annually - a rate that is two to eight times more than the rate for men. It seems like to many, more of these injuries have occurred in collegiate hoops this year than usual.

The disparity has been commonly attributed to one or a combination of these factors: the angle of the femur to the knee with the wider hips of females; different muscle recruitment patterns during movement and landings; and hormonal changes during menstrual cycles causing joint laxity.

Interestingly, as can be seen from the same above link, the majority of ACL tears in women occur during non-contact events, such as deceleration activities that happen when landing from a jump, or cutting. This was known at least 17 years ago.

With this in mind, it is outrageous that the NCAA hasn't done anything to actively prevent ACL tears in its female athletes. Biology is one thing, but preventative jumping and cutting techniques can - and should - be taught. I'm sure there are some strength and conditioning coaches out there that already do this, but clearly, there need to be more. The NCAA needs to mandate that all such coaches teach proper deceleration technique to athletes. Further, they need to train head and assistant coaches to make sure that athletes follow the protocol in regular practices.

Every athlete that loses a season, or a career, due to an ACL injury is one too many. Unless widespread coaching education is implemented, the problem will continue, and may get even worse as the athleticism of the game increases significantly every year.

It is time for the NCAA to take a pro-active approach and develop a program to prevent ACL tears. Now.

Tonight's SoCal Southern Section high school playoff matchups

So many divisions, so many games tonight.

Key matchups:

#2 Mater Dei tries to defend their title, taking on King.

#1 Long Beach Poly takes on Valencia.

In Division 4A, Sherrise Smith's #9 Marlborough team visits #8 LaSalle, in what promises to be a fiery contest.

This is only the first and second rounds of much more great basketball to come.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who is the best?

Despite the presence of other monster players like Skylar Diggins, Elena Delle Donne and Nnemkadi Ogwumike, ESPN says Brittney Griner leads the race for player of the year. (Love that the story reminds me of the "back in the day" WNBA commercials). Griner may not be the best player, but she's the most dominant.

College news:

Scary....nine Pacific University ball players were hospitalized with the flu today. They are rescheduling their game against Long Beach State.

Duke sophomore Richa Jackson has torn her ACL and is out for the season.

St. Bonaventure dares to consider that they might go to the big dance this year.

NCAA tourney:

Debbie Antonelli and Beth Mowins talk March Madness with Cheryl Coward and David Siegal from hoopfeed.com, and Stephanie White.

Behind the scenes of the selection committee process.

Mock selection shows more.

WNBA:

Lindsey Harding, Cappie Pondexter, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Sophia Young will compete in the NBA Haier Shooting Stars event Feb. 25. (Don't mind the typo headline that gives the wrong year).

Scholanda Dorrell (formerly Robinson) will return to the Tulsa Shock.

Round 1, LA City Section playoffs

Last night's first round of the Los Angeles City Section basketball playoffs are a wrap. Here is how teams in the various divisions fared:

DIVISION I

First round, Thursday

Narbonne 82, Van Nuys 21

Chatsworth 50, West Adams 43

Carson 59, Franklin 44

Taft 51, Lincoln 16

El Camino Real 74, Verdugo Hills 17

Washington 53, Huntington Park 49

Crenshaw 56, San Pedro 41

Fairfax 65, Belmont 22

DIVISION II

First round, Thursday

Palisades 81, Hollywood 21

Venice 53, North Hollywood 42

Granada Hills 50, San Fernando 36

Los Angeles Roosevelt 51, Los Angeles Wilson 30

Los Angeles Jordan 74, Arleta 20

Eagle Rock 64, Dorsey 42

Westchester 61, Reseda 44

Monroe 47, Birmingham 35

DIVISION III

First round, Thursday

Gardena 63, Panorama 43

Los Angeles Marshall 42, Locke 27

Cleveland 55, Grant 33

Wilmington Banning 48, Jefferson 37

Granada Hills Kennedy 60, Sun Valley Poly 33

Los Angeles University 57, South East 23

Bell 65, Los Angeles 29

Garfield 51, Sylmar 35

Quarterfinals are Tuesday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A whiff of WNBA

Coming home a bit ago, I was watching the glow of the sunset on downtown LA and thinking that the sun would be nowhere near setting as I head to Sparks games this summer. I am looking forward to the season! And the WNBA transactions continue:

The Silver Stars have added Ify Ibekwe, Kalisha Keane and Latoya Williams.

The Mystics have signed Ashley Walker, Kerri Gardin, Laura Harper, and they re-signed Crystal Langhorne.

And Tulsa Shock Coach Gary Kloppenburg's plans for the team don't include Sheryl Swoopes or Betty Lennox.

College news:

Dishin & Swishin talks to Miami's Katie Meier and WVU's Mike Carey, among others.

Another fine broadcast of Pac-12's "Inside the Paint," with Roslyn Gold-Onwude.

Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons' 25-point outburst Monday night against Kentucky inspired the entire team.

NJCAA rankings this week

Trinity Valley and Hutchinson Valley are both still undefeated at 24-0 and remain #1 and #2, respectively. Gulf Coast State College and Arizona Western each took tumbles; Chipola College and New Mexico Junior College both rose. Here's the list:

1 Trinity Valley Community College
2 Hutchinson Community College
3 Central Arizona College
4 Pensacola State College
5 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid
6 Casper College
7 Chipola College
8 Shelton State Community College
9 Gulf Coast State College
9 North Idaho College
11 New Mexico Junior College
12 Walters State Community College
13 Arizona Western College
14 Otero Junior College
15 Jefferson College
16 Northwest Florida State College
17 Independence Community College
18 Tyler Junior College
19 Seward County Community College
20 Hill College

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Australia names their Olympic team finalists

Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Suzy Batkovic, Kristi Harrower, Belinda Snell, Liz Cambage, Abby Bishop and Jenna O'Hea headline the list for Australia's prospective basketball team Olympians. It may be the strongest that list has been in many years.

Honorees

The Women's Sports Foundation has named Tamika Catchings one of its four new trustees.

Salina, Kansas, will name its Bicentennial Center Basketball Court after native Kurt Budke. The dedication ceremony will be March 24, during the NJCAA Women's Basketball Championship tournament.

The rhythm

NCAA:

Kansas has to step up in the absence of Carolyn Davis, who is out for the season. But they had a misstep tonight, falling 47-66 to Iowa State.

To avoid another beat down, Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell says the Wildcats need to shoot better against zones.

Arizona State is nursing injuries.

Tonight's upset:

It's West Virginia again, this time taking down #18 Rutgers, 60-50.

Business:

Karl Benson is leaving the Western Athletic Conference after 20 years to be commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.

WNBA:

The Dream re-signed Coco Miller and Courtney Paris.

ESPN sees the Sparks' acquisition of Alana Beard as the most intriguing transaction so far in this off-season.

High School:

Despite the loss of their longtime coach, and the impending closure of their school, Nazareth of Brooklyn continues to win.

High-larious:

Kevin Hart is schooled by the UConn Huskies.

Conference happenings

The SEC will honor and recognize eleven "SEC Greats" athletes during the conference's women's basketball tournament, March 1-4 in Nashville. Inductees include ballers Carolyn Peck (Vanderbilt), Chamique Holdsclaw (Tennessee), Jocelyn Penn (South Carolina), Yolanda Moore (Ole Miss), Camille Low (Georgia), Cassie Macia (Florida), Laticia Morris (Auburn), and Sytia Messer (Arkansas.)

Pac-12 current standings:

Team Conference Overall

Stanford 13-0 22-1
California 9-4 18-7
Oregon St. 8-5 17-7
Arizona St. 7-6 16-8
USC 7-6 13-11
UCLA 7-6 12-12
Oregon 6-7 14-11
Colorado 5-8 16-8
Washington 5-8 13-10
Utah 5-8 12-12
Washington St. 4-9 10-15
Arizona 2-11 13-12

Yes, Oregon State is in sole possession of third place. Hats off to them. They have exceeded expectations.

Here are some highlights from the Cal website of last Saturday's overtime loss to USC. All that passion is one of the beautiful things about the college game.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Powerade Fab 50 rankings: week 10

Lots of movement in the top 10 this week, due to some upsets:

1. Saint Mary's
2. McEachern
3. Bolingbrook
4. Windward
5. Riverdale
6. Nazareth
7. Whitney Young
8. Clarksville
9. Riverdale Baptist
10. Hoover

Mid-week news buffet

WNBA transactions:

The Storm traded Ashley Robinson to the Mystics in exchange for Victoria Dunlap. Seattle also re-signed Katie Smith.

The Fever re-signed Shyra Ely.

The Liberty have re-signed Leilani Mitchell.

The Dream signed former Mystic Laurie Koehn to a training camp contract.

College features:

Anjale Barrett makes the Maryland Terps better.

UW-Milwaukee twin frosh Janna and Jasmine Swopshire cause double-takes on the court.

College coaches:

Married CSUN coaches Jason and Tairia Flowers make it work.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Coach Jodie Burton has notched her 500th win.

Business:

The Pac-12 broke ground on its new San Francisco studios today.

West Virginia has settled its lawsuit with the Big East, and will move to the Big 12 in July.

Texas is asking fans for patience with the new Longhorn Network.

Where is she now?:

Kate Starbird has gone from on-court genius to academia master.

And perhaps the biggest news of the day: THERE WERE NO UPSETS in college basketball.

USA Today/ESPN Top 25

Look who finally made the rankings - St. Bonaventure, who climbs into the #25 spot:

1. Baylor
2. Connecticut
3. Stanford
4. Notre Dame
5. Duke
6. Miami
7. Maryland
8. Kentucky
9. Delaware
10. Tennessee
11. Ohio State
12. Wisconsin-Green Bay
13. Texas A&M
14. Georgetown
15. Georgia
16. Louisville
17. Penn State
18. Rutgers
19. Purdue
20. DePaul
21. Nebraska
22. Georgia Tech
23. Gonzaga
24. Vanderbilt
25. St. Bonaventure

Monday, February 13, 2012

Taking upset to another level

#11 Tennessee didn't just upset #7 Kentucky tonight - they handed them their behinds. Final score: 91-54.

The Lady Vols crashed out of the gates and played some of the most urgent, feverish and complete ball that we've seen in a while, dominating the Wildcats from beginning to end. Tennessee's tone was on display early in the first half, when sophomore guard Meighan Simmons (who lead the Vols with 25 points) and senior forward Shekinna Stricklen (18 points) forced a key turnover, together. They started screaming at each other and chest bumping like they were about to win the championship. Govolsxtra writer Dan Fleser said it looked to him like the Lady Vols were playing "almost angry." Whatever it was, it was something to behold.

Highlights.

Govolsxtra wants to know how far you think Tennessee can make it in the NCAA Tournament.

Another upset this evening:

Minnesota upended #15 Nebraska, 64-58.

Sad news:

Kansas forward Carolyn Davis will miss the rest of the season after both tearing her ACL and dislocating her knee in yesterday's game against Kansas State.

Other Tennessee news:

There is no handbook for Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick's role now that Coach Pat Summitt has early-onset dementia.

Don't harp on Summitt's illness, says one fan.

NCAA happenings and news:

Sites for the first and second rounds of next year's tournament have been chosen.

The Mountain West Conference and C-USA will form a new conference.

WNBA signings:

The Tulsa Shock has re-signed Jennifer Lacy to a multi-year deal.

The Atlanta Dream has signed Aneika Henry to a training camp contract.

The Minnesota Lynx have signed free agent Erin Thorn.

Twenty-one finalists named to Olympic team roster

The list:

Jayne Appel
Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
Rebekkah Brunson
Swin Cash
Tamika Catchings
Tina Charles
Candice Dupree
Sylvia Fowles
Brittney Griner
Lindsey Harding
Asjha Jones
Kara Lawson
Angel McCoughtry
Renee Montgomery
Maya Moore
Candace Parker
Cappie Pondexter
Diana Taurasi
Lindsay Whalen
Sophia Young

Lots of new faces, including the only collegian on the list, Brittney Griner.

Who are the for-sure selections? Who is on the bubble?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The other half of coaching: motivation

Motivation has always fascinated me. I have books on the topic; wrote papers about it in grad school.

Any coach that's worth anything knows that motivating players is just as important as teaching them skills. You can tell when a coach knows how to do this, because their players play hard, and they give it their all, every time they step on the court.

This week I asked three West Coast coaches to give me their philosophies on motivating athletes. The coaches I chose each have teams that are experiencing a bit of adversity this season. Yet, players on these squads leave everything on the floor and often win despite their circumstances - and over teams that were expected to beat them.

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb just took over the Cal program this year. She has four freshman on her roster, four sophomores, four juniors, and no seniors. The Bears are in second place in the Pac-12 Conference, and two of the freshmen - Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd - are second and third on the team, respectively, in scoring.

Coach Greg McCall took the helm of the Cal State Bakersfield program this year, and the Roadrunners have been decimated by injuries - five, to be exact. This has left them with six suited-up players for most games. Yet they harass and suffocate other teams, coming very close to beating many of them. They never give up.

The situation at UCLA is very similar. New Coach Cori Close saw her leading rebounder out for the season in September, and four more key players have followed, leaving the Bruins with a very thin bench. Yet they are relentless and have won some key match ups. Improbably, they are tied for third in the Pac-12 Conference.

I asked them:

What do you do to motivate your team to play hard and win? As a coach, what do you think is important to impart to a team?

Here are their responses:

At the most foundational level, I believe strongly that the best motivational factor for female athletes to play hard and win is to let them know you care about them as people and athletes. I have found that my players will run through a wall for me when they truly believe that I have their back in all situations.

Secondly, I believe in empowering players to see how good they could be...to believe in their potential. If a coach can successfully impart a belief in self, then that coach will also be able to reach players on technical and tactical corrections.


- Lindsay Gottlieb


To get them to play hard, I want them to know that we have to get better each time we set foot on the floor for practice and games. In order for them to do that we have to give 100% effort each drill in practice or each possession is games.

- Greg McCall

I try to get to know them as best I can and build relationships so you know the character of your team. If you don’t build relationships and you don’t know who they are collectively and individually, it’s really hard to pick the right mode of motivation. After that, you choose, whether you need to be harder on them or to praise them more, you’re doing that as a response to knowing who they are as young women and as a collective unit.

Giving them a greater yes, and what I mean by that is instead of harping on them about what they aren’t doing to motivate them, to give them a stronger sense of your goal and vision. The more their eyes are strictly focused on what they want to accomplish, the more willing they are to overcome the hurdles or the obstacles to get around to that goal. It’s intensifying what the goal is so there is more motivation to minimize the distractions.


- Cori Close

Amazing responses.

Reader thoughts on motivation?

This season is off the chain

Catching up from last night:

Cal and USC took it to overtime, and the Trojans slipped by the Bears 76-75. Freshman point guard showed up big for USC, scoring 21 points - 11 of them in the extra period. This freshman class is so very talented.

Oregon fought back from behind to beat WSU, 67-62. Amanda Johnson lead the Ducks with 23 points - 18 of which were in the second half.

Lots of great, close games today. But the biggest surprise so far is West Virginia's 65-63 upset of #2 Notre Dame. What??

Update at 8 p.m.:

Wrap-up of today's "Play4Kay" action.

Tomorrow night, #7 Kentucky visits #11 Tennessee. Preview.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday action

Pending:

Will the NCAA hear Drey Mingo's plea and give the Purdue forward a sixth season of eligibility? I sure hope so.

Today's games, so far:

#1 Baylor destroyed defending NCAA champs #14 Texas A&M 71-48.

#9 Green Bay rebounded to defeat Wright State, and #18 Gonzaga returned to form to beat San Francisco.

Oregon State is now 17-7 after taking Washington, 78-73.

CSUN and Long Beach State just went into overtime.

The Pac-12 has some late-night games, as Cal hosts USC and Washington State hosts Oregon, both at 8 p.m. PST.

General college news:

Princeton is still perfect in the Ivy League.

Oklahoma's Joanna McFarland is back after having missed six games due to a broken jaw.

The struggles of Tennessee continue.

UConn's Caroline Doty is finally getting comfortable.

Kentucky's A'dia Mathies is handling increased attention.

High school upset:

St. Anthony's of Huntington, N.Y. has upset #2 Riverdale Baptist.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Major free agent camp coming up April 1

Merit Management, Inc. is hosting it's 15th annual Free Agent Camp on April 1 in Denver, Colo. - the site of this year's NCAA Final Four. This year's event will be at Denver East High School. An application is available here. Those selected are invited to camp, and often drafted by WNBA teams the following week.

Merit Management President Stephanie Stanley said the camp should be competitive, as usual.

"This year our goal remains the same, which is to provide a platform for top players to be evaluated and signed to professional contracts," Stanley said. "This is an invite-only event, so the camp is extremely competitive and loaded with talent.

"To date, 36 players have signed WNBA contracts for full season or training camp as a result of their participation in our camp. We've even had two players get drafted (Martina Weber and Emily Fox)."

Players who were signed after participating in the camp include Breanna Salley, Rashidat Juniad, Jennifer Lacy, Kelley Gibson, Octavia Blue, Kisha Ford, Leigh Aziz, Juana Brown, Ta'Shia Philips and Vivian Frieson.

More information about Merit Management is here.

Alana Beard happy to be with Sparks; Ticha Penicheiro still undecided on retirement

Check out my piece on the newest Spark, and the rest of the team.

In other news, the Lynx have re-signed Candice Wiggins, and Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey welcomes forward/center Michelle Snow to the team.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Six upsets!

In a season of upsets, six in one night is still a bit outrageous.

Perhaps the biggest is Detroit's upset of #9 Green Bay, 70-58. The Phoenix had been unbeaten before tonight; now Baylor is the only team who can claim such a record.

BYU inexplicably smashed #18 Gonzaga, 70-40.

#25 Vanderbilt ran away from #11 Tennessee, 93-79.

Thanks to a last-second layup, Illinois upended #10 Ohio State, 66-65.

Michigan surprised #15 Nebraska, 63-52.

Arkansas has won seven straight, including routing #24 South Carolina, 68-47.

Grab a plate

NCAA coaches:

Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly is cleared as cancer-free.

Former coach Marsha Sharp is digging her new role in Texas Tech's athletic department.

NCAA teams:

The Nebraska Huskers are hanging tough after a down year. Coach Connie Yori feels fortunate.

Skylar Diggins knows what she wants.

Dishin & Swishin talks Play4Kay, Stefanie Dolson and Jennifer Azzi.

Pac-12:

Great piece on Cal Coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

The latest broadcast of the Pac-12's "inside the paint."

Liz Brenner didn't even come to Oregon to play basketball, but she's making a difference for the Ducks.

The Arizona Wildcats are staying positive despite a losing streak.

SEC:

Right now, SEC teams are down in the polls.

The Lady Vols are channeling Lauren Avant's defense.

High school:

Nazareth High School - home to one of the nation's top-ranked girls basketball teams - will close at the end of the year. The program is also being investigated for the possible use of an ineligible player.

I thought North Dakota was cold: Nebraska girls team is given a technical foul for wearing pink uniforms at their cancer fundraising game. (Good lord!)

Pro transactions

And the transactions continue.

Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright have signed multi-year contracts with the Storm.

Coach Brian Agler talks about it.

Michelle Snow has joined the Mystics.

The Dream has re-signed Yelena Leuchanka.



McDonald's All-American teams announced

Feast your eyes:

East

Brianna Butler
Kahleah Copper
Bashaara Graves
Bria Holmes
Malina Howard
Niya Johnson
Michaela Mabrey
Sierra Moore
Alexis Prince
Brianna Stewart
Brittney Sykes
Janee Thompson

West

Jordan Adams
Candice Agee
Katie Collier
Nirra Field
Moriah Jefferson
Alexis Jones
Jordan Jones
Jewell Loyd
Xylina McDaniel
Imani Stafford
Morgan Tuck
Courtney Williams

Katie Collier made the team while undergoing treatment for leukemia.

Four California players and one from Washington on the All-American teams, and the West coast still gets no love.

Analyst Carolyn Peck set off Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer with her assertion that #5 Duke might be one of the four top seeds in the NCAA Tournament instead of the #4 Cardinal. Now there is a Pac-12-vs-ACC twitter war going on. Peck just tweeted a friend of mine:

No disrespect 2 Stanford but the ACC has 4 teams in the top 10 & total of 6 in top 25. Committee has 2 consider that.

VanDerveer is also hitting the airwaves. I've tweeted some of her statements at twitter.com/hoopism

Log on and check it out.

Juco poll this week

Lots of changes this week:

1 Trinity Valley Community College
2 Hutchinson Community College
3 Central Arizona College
4 Pensacola State College
5 Gulf Coast State College
6 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid
7 Arizona Western College
8 Casper College
9 Shelton State Community College
10 Monroe Community College
11 Seward County Community College
12 North Idaho College
13 Chipola College
14 Walters State Community College
15 Independence Community College
16 Otero Junior College
17 New Mexico Junior College
18 Northwest Florida State College
19 Paris Junior College
20 Jefferson College

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is this signing day?

Whoa!

Sparks sign Alana Beard.

From Sparks HQ:

Los Angeles Sparks Sign Four-Time All-Star Alana Beard

Free Agent Guard/Forward Has Averaged
16.2 Points, 4.2 Rebounds in Six WNBA Seasons


LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Sparks have signed four-time WNBA All-Star Alana Beard to a free agent contract, Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced Wednesday. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Beard, a 5’11” guard/forward, averaged 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds 2.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game in six seasons with the Washington Mystics before missing the 2010 and 2011 campaigns with ankle and foot injuries, respectively. Prior to her injuries, Beard appeared in 193 of a possible 204 regular-season games dating back to her rookie campaign of 2004, starting 192. She earned WNBA All-Star Game selections from 2005-07 and again in 2009 – three times as a starter – and garnered 2006 Second Team All-WNBA honors.

“I’m excited that Alana has decided to join our Sparks family,” Toler said. “Alana is healthy and motivated to return to her All-Star form, and just as important she’s hungry to help the Sparks win a Championship. Alana is a proven winner and her leadership qualities will be a tremendous asset to the Sparks.”

Beard was selected second overall by Washington in the 2004 WNBA Draft from Duke, where she became the first player in women’s college basketball history to claim the John R. Wooden, State Farm Wade Trophy and Naismith Player of the Year Awards as a senior. As a rookie with the Mystics, she earned her first of four consecutive WNBA All-Defensive Team selections and set a new franchise record for steals in a season.

Beard’s breakthrough season came in 2006 when she averaged career-highs of 19.2 points (sixth in the WNBA) and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 49.5% from the floor. The following season the Shreveport, La., native was nearly as productive at 18.8 points per game, fourth-highest average in the league. She made three Playoff appearances during her Washington career, most recently in 2009.

Beard is currently playing in Israel with Elitzur Ramla.

“I am extremely thankful and grateful to Sparks owners Paula and Roosevelt Madison, Penny Toler, Coach Ross and the entire organization for this opportunity,” Beard said. “I look forward to being a part of this team and playing with some of the best frontcourt players in the game in Candace Parker, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Ebony Hoffman.”

Off the court, Beard is one of the WNBA’s most community-minded players. She serves as an ambassador for the league’s Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign, while through the Alana Beard Foundation she fosters a "no-excuse" environment to provide the young women of tomorrow with the necessary resources critical to achieving success on or off court.