Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seattle Storm waive......

Sheryl Swoopes?


US Junior Nationals gearing up for spring and summer

This just in (via email:

2009 Event Schedule

Our 2009 USJN schedule is as follows:

April 17-19 Windy City Classic (Chicagoland, IL)
April 17-19 California Classic (Los Angeles, CA)
May 2-3 Gateway Challenge (St. Louis, MO)
May 16-17 Mid America Challenge (Normal, IL)
May 16-17 Steel City Challenge (Pittsburgh, PA)
May 23-24 Memorial Day Chalenge (Toledo, OH)
May 23-24 Big Apple Challenge (Northern NJ)
June 6-7 Battle at the Border (Kansas City, MO)
June 12-14 USJN's Midwest National Championships (9U-13U) (Indy, IN)
June 19-21 Southern Showcase (Atlanta, GA)
June 26-28 Great America Showcase (Chicagoland, IL)
June 26-28 West Coast Showcase (Irvine, CA)
July 27-30 Hershey Showcase (Hershey Park, PA)
July 5-8 Premier Invitational - EAST (Hampton, VA)
July 5-8 Premier Invitational - MIDWEST (Cincinnati, OH)
July 9-11 Blue Star Select Tournament (Las Vegas, NV)
July 9-11 Vegas "Sweet 16" Invitational (Las Vegas, NV)
July 9-10 Midwest Challenge (Chicagoland, IL)
July 11-12 East Coast Challenge (Philadelphia, PA)
July 22-25 Nike 17U National Championships (Washington, DC)
July 25-27 15-12U National Championships (Washington, DC)
July 25-27 Mountain Madness (Denver, CO)
July 25-27 Summer Final - MIDWEST (Chicagoland, IL)
July 28-30 Blue Star's Elite Invitational (Augusta, GA)
July 30-31 Summer Final - EAST (Philadelphia, PA)

Event locations are still being finalized, according to Chris Menning of Bluestar Basketball.

More info about the organization:

US Junior Nationals / Blue Star Basketball

US Junior Nationals has the track record of providing some of the best competition in the country & providing the opportunity to compete in front of college coaches & national evaluators. Please be aware that there are many oranizations out there trying to replicate/market using our good name. Please be careful and know that the only place you will find USJN events is at

The Blue Star Invitational Camps & US Junior Nationals were started in 1981 with the singular purpose of giving girls basketball players an opportunity to compete against the nation's best players, in first class settings, in front of college coaches during the NCAA observation periods. In Late 90’s, to reflect the changes to the NCAA Observation Calendar, we have revised our event schedule to include the Blue Star College Showcases to recognize the importance of spring/summer/fall exposure and competition in front of college coaches. Blue Star has the largest database of college women’s basketball coaches in the country for all levels D1/D2/D3/NAIA/JC allowing us to be the ‘bridge’ between prospects/teams and college recruiters.

Thank you again for your continued support of USJN. We look forward to you enjoying the familiarity of our tournament experience. If you have any questions or comments, please contact the main office at 215-245-9080 or email at Please go to the specific event pages to find prices, locations, schedules, hotel specials, etc.

Thanks. We look forward to seeing you at this year's USJN/Blue Star Basketball Events!

If I was rich and idle, I'd make these tournaments my excuse for a good road trip.

Finally, the Rutgers freshmen speak

April Sykes, Brooklyn Pope, Nikki Speed and Chelsey Lee share what it's been like adjusting to a big-time D1 program from high school - including, "I could still be on the beach. You know that, right?"

On the verge of "a cool grand," Summitt reflects

It's always nice to read about Coach Pat Summitt, but some stories are especially excellent, like the one from Check this:

“It’s an amazing number, is it?” she said.

The thing she recalled most vividly about that first loss was calling her father, Richard, after the game.

She was 22 years old and uncertain about this coaching thing. He was a Tennessee dairy farmer who didn’t take kindly to losing.

“He was a very stern, very competitive man,” Summitt said Tuesday from her office. “I was scared to call home. Mom answered and she never even asked about the game. She probably forgot we were playing.

“I said, ‘Mom, is Dad there?’

“He picked up the phone and said, ‘All right.’ I never heard him say hello. He said, ‘Did you win?’

“ ‘No sir.’

“There was a long pause. I mean a looong pause. I was nervous. And finally he said, ‘Well, you need to learn one thing. You don’t take a donkey to the Kentucky Derby.’ ”

She laughed at the retelling.

“He was telling me you better get yourself some players,” she said. “And let me tell you something; he was right about that.”

Summitt, 56, said she never has been much for numbers or records or things like that. She likes NCAA championships, and the record eight she’s won at UT through the years is the ultimate goal.

She’s more concerned with getting the most out of her current team, which after consecutive NCAA titles is young and, by UT standards, rebuilding. The Lady Vols are 16-4.

“I was joking with [the team that] I just hope we get [the 1,000th victory] this year,” Summitt laughed.

One more victory will happen, and even for someone unconcerned about career numbers, Summitt can’t brush off the magnitude of a cool grand.

She said she’s spent more time in recent weeks looking at the pictures of all her All-Americans and the 18 NCAA Final Four teams and even some of the less decorated athletes that fought so hard for her.

“I think about all the players who wore the orange uniform and made a commitment to winning,” she said.

She’s spent 35 years bringing the best recruits from across the country to the edge of the Smoky Mountains, and that’s the key to all these victories. She never had a team full of donkeys, she said.


Kay Yow speaks at her own funeral

Just watch these two videos in their entirety:

The first is a video Yow made several weeks ago for the purposes of being read at her own funeral. In it, she describes the importance of Christianity in her life, and reads a poem she wrote that was inspired by her faith.

Equally moving is the video immediately following - a tribute to Yow that includes lots of footage from times past. It reminds us all of the place she had in building up the women's game to where it is today, and how strong she was throughout her battle with cancer; truly inspirational.

Great piece in today's Charlotte Observer:

May Coach Yow's legacy live on.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sparks trade Christi Thomas for Vanessa Hayden

This just in on STH's email:


LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Sparks have traded center Christi Thomas to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for center Vanessa Hayden it was announced today. Drafted 12th overall in the 2004 Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, Thomas has played in 144 games and averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in five seasons. Sidelined by a knee injury mid-way through the 2008 season, Thomas played in 20 games averaging 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

Hayden, drafted 7th overall in the 2004 Draft by the Lynx, is a four-year veteran and graduate of the University of Florida. She comes to the Sparks after playing in 30 games in 2008 and averaging 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Hayden sat out the 2007 season to give birth to her daughter, Zyon Brianna Johnson on June 3, 2007. Her most successful season came in 2005 when she started 25 of 31 games and averaged 7.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. For her career she is averaging 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

"We are incredibly happy to be adding a player of Vanessa's size and talent to our roster. She is an extremely athletic and physical player that will really add to our presence in the post," said Sparks Head Coach Michael Cooper.

The Sparks open the 2009 season at the STAPLES Center June 6th against the Defending Champion Detroit Shock on ABC at 11:30am. For more information on Sparks single-game tickets or one of the affordable full and partial season ticket plans, visit or call 877-44-SPARKS.

This is good. Nothing personal against Thomas, but she became pretty useless this past summer, and that was before her injury. (Though maybe that has more to do with Cooper, who some have said is too laid-back a coach - I don't know).

And Minnesota is wheeling and dealing today....from

The Minnesota Lynx traded Lindsey Harding, their second-round draft picks in 2009 (23rd overall) and 2010 to the Washington Mystics for their first-round (ninth overall) and second round (15th overall) draft picks in the 2009 draft.

LA Southern Section championships to be hosted at #1-ranked school

Girl's basketball: Mater Dei to host championship games

With the Pyramid in Long Beach unavailable, Santa Ana Mater Dei will be the site for the Southern Section girls' championship games on March 6 and 7.

That could set the stage for a rare situation, where Mater Dei's heavily favored girls' team gets to play a home game for the Division II-A championship.

"It was the best venue to take care of the girls' and CIF needs," Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said.

The good news is that Mater Dei won't be charging for parking. The same can't be said for Ontario Colony, which will host lower-division boys' finals and possibly some girls' finals and charge $4 for parking. It's a fundraiser for the school.

But that's mere change compared to the boys' finals at the Honda Center, which will charge $12 parking. Sorry, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for those who make people pay for parking at a high school sporting event.

-- Eric Sondheimer


I agree with many of the comments below this piece. The championships should be at a neutral site. There are plenty of them in this huge area. The CIF is lame.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday night lights

Shekinna Stricklen hugs Angie Bjorklund after her last-second 3 won the game for the Lady Vols, 60-59 over Mississippi.

I didn't think I had much to worry about tonight with Tennessee hosting Mississippi, but I should have learned from previous games this season. The last minute of the game just about put me into cardiac arrest. But somehow, once Alex Fuller got that rebound, a calm settled over me. I knew they'd be OK.

Bjorklund's three-pointer was so pretty. If I were at home I would have yelled, as usual, but I was in the gym sitting on a bike that I had grabbed for dear life. When the ball swished through the net I started saying thankyougodthankyouuniverseohmylord. And the guy next to me started a conversation. I've had more sports bonding moments in the gym with men over basketball games; it's really funny.

Pat Summitt: 999 wins! She's almost there.

I love these play-by-play logs:

Florida State (20) beat Duke (6) 82-75.

And in the most surprising game of the night, unranked Georgia defeated fourth-ranked Auburn 67-58. Previously, the Tigers had been unbeaten.

UCLA put up a valiant fight for the first three-quarters of the game against Cal tonight before the Bears began to slip away. I was really impressed with the scrappy play of the Bruins. They are getting better with each game.

For the next two nights, I'm attending high school games. More later.

College games galore

I've said it before, but pretty soon every college game will be webcast, at the very least. In the meantime, we're getting there.

Tonight's games on ESPN360 are:

Kentucky vs. Florida, 7 p.m. EST
Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt, 9 p.m. EST

Other webcasts:

UCLA @ Cal, 7 p.m. PST @
USC @ Stanford, 7 p.m. PST @
Ole Miss @ Tennessee, 7 p.m. EST on ESPNU and audio at


Iowa vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m. EST
Ohio State vs. Michigan, 7 p.m. EST
Penn State vs. Indiana, 7 p.m. EST
Purdue vs. Wisconsin, 8 p.m. EST


Team dealing with Yow's death

The "Wolfpack" is still absorbing the loss of longtime Coach Kay Yow, who died Saturday after a 22-year battle with breast cancer. Tonight they play their first game, against Boston College, since her death. Tomorrow is Yow's funeral and Saturday, she will be buried.

This part will bring tears to your eyes:

To listen to Glance, memories of the players’ last visit with Yow will linger for a long time. The coaching staff had visited Yow often in the hospital — she was admitted the week before her death—and wanted to prepare the players for seeing her frail, weakened and bedridden.

Instead, when the players arrived with a custom-made teddy bear as a gift, Yow was sitting in a chair, alert and eager for the visit filled with jokes, smiles and tears.

“The room was full of energy,” Bell said. “I told some of my teammates the other day she looked full of life. It was her. It was coach Yow, the normal coach Yow.”

Glance called it Yow’s “last gift to the team.”

“She had to have mustered up every bit of energy she had left,” she said.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

USA Today: Pat Summitt at 998 wins

Nice piece on Her Majesty:


When Pat Summitt became women's basketball coach at Tennessee in 1974, she was 22 and Title IX was 2.
Not that she had a clue the legislation and her career would help revolutionize women's sports.

Nor did she have designs on collecting NCAA titles. The NCAA was seven years away from taking control of women's sports from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Nor did she have any notion of getting rich.

Her concerns were basic: "I was trying to figure out how to organize a practice."


Leon Barmore, a Hall of Fame coach for his work at Louisiana Tech and now an assistant at Baylor, equates Summitt to men's coach John Wooden, who won 10 titles at UCLA.

"She's the best of our game. There's nothing in the game she can't do. She can administrate, coach x's and o's and motivate."

And not just players. "I've said it before: she made my career," Barmore says. "Me playing against Pat Summitt, she gave me that person and program that made me reach deeper than I ever thought I could reach, if I was going to play them. I really compliment that now."


Summitt's confrontations now are informed challenges. Tennessee players take personality tests and meet with a sports psychologist so Summitt knows what buttons to push. "We didn't take any personality tests," says Warlick, one of the 70 former Summitt players, assistants or managers who have gone into coaching.

Summitt wants every edge, psychological, physical or tactical.

Smart woman. Now if the Baby Vols could get it together and get those two more wins for her......

LA Times high school rankings

Top 25 as of yesterday, by Melissa Rohlin:

1. Mater Dei (21-0)
2. Brea Olinda (18-2)
3. Cajon (18-1)
4. Long Beach Poly (16-2)
5. Foothill (17-1)
6. Troy (17-1)
7. Millikan (18-2)
8. Bell-Jeff (20-1)
9. Woodbridge (18-2)
10. Summit (16-4)
11. Inglewood (6-14)
12. Santa Monica (14-5)
13. Colony (14-2)
14. Etiwanda (13-6)
15. Chatsworth (11-6)
16. Muir (13-3)
17. Canyon Springs (13-6)
18. Corona Santiago (14-6)
19. Orange Lutheran (15-2)
20. Pacific Hills (12-9)
21. Santa Maria St. Joseph (17-1)
22. Santa Margarita (11-8)
23. Beverly Hills (16-6)
24. Vista del Lago (16-2)
25. Agoura (18-2)

Congratulations to Charles Solomon, whose team is ranked 23rd. Way to go, Charles.

And thanks to a reader, I've been made aware of a great afternoon tournament Feb. 6 at Mater Dei:

3 p.m. - Dana Hills vs. St Paul
4:30 p.m. - Santa Margarita vs. Villa Park
6 p.m. - Foothill vs. Long Beach Wilson
7:30 p.m. - Cajon vs. Mater Dei

It is the first of a two-day Nike Extravaganza Tournament.

I've wanted to see Foothill, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita for the longest. Mater Dei is the only undefeated team left, and I've heard great things about Foothill.

I will have to beat it out of school the second the bell rings and get on the road before traffic gets too bad. I'm excited!

Breast Cancer benefit game this Saturday in Los Angeles

The Lynwood and Washington Prep High School varsity and JV girl’s basketball teams will face off this Saturday in mini-tournament to benefit the Kay Yow Foundation for breast cancer research. JV plays at 3 p.m. and varsity, 5 p.m. Both games are at Washington Prep, 10860 South Denker Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for ages 12 and under.

Monday, January 26, 2009

When you have a bunch of consecutive losses.......

A week ago tonight, North Carolina surprised us by getting blown out by Connecticut. This past week they increased that surprise level tenfold by losing twice more, to Georgia Tech and Maryland. The formerly second-ranked team now sits in the tenth spot, according to today's AP poll.

Apparently Coach Sylvia Hatchell was on "Sports Center" tonight saying the losses were on the heels (no pun intended) of a "tough schedule."

I don't know - does this schedule look that tough before the past week?

Tues. Nov. 4 Carson-Newman (Exhibition) Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 7 Premier Players (Exhibition) Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Women’s National Invitational Tournament
Fri. Nov. 14 Western Carolina Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 16 WNIT Second Round Chapel Hill 5 p.m.
Mon. Nov. 17 Kennesaw State Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Wed./Thurs. Nov. 19/20 WNIT Semifinals TBA TBA
Sun. Nov. 23 WNIT Finals TBA TBA
Tues. Nov. 25 Wofford Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Junkanoo Jam
Fri. Nov. 28 vs. Pacific Grand Bahama Island 8:30 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 29 vs. Arkansas/Oregon State Grand Bahama Island TBA
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Wed. Dec. 3 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio Big Ten 9 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 13 Coastal Carolina Chapel Hill Noon
Mon. Dec. 15 Arkansas Pine-Bluff Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 20 vs. Illinois* Myrtle Beach, S.C. 3 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 28 Western Michigan Chapel Hill 2 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 30 Austin Peay Chapel Hill 2 p.m.
Thurs. Jan. 8 at Clemson Clemson, S.C. 7 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 11 NC State Chapel Hill RSN 1 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 16 Virginia Chapel Hill RSN 8:30 p.m.
Mon. Jan. 19 Connecticut Chapel Hill ESPN2 7 p.m.
Thurs. Jan. 22 at Georgia Tech Atlanta, Ga. 7 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 25 at Maryland College Park, Md. ESPN2 7 p.m.
Thurs. Jan. 29 Wake Forest Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 1 North Carolina Central Chapel Hill 2 p.m.
Thurs. Feb. 5 Virginia Tech Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 9 Duke Chapel Hill ESPN2 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 13 at Florida State Tallahassee, Fla. RSN 6:30 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 15 Georgia Tech Chapel Hill RSN 3 p.m.
Thurs. Feb. 19 at Boston College Chestnut Hill, Mass. 7 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 23 at NC State Raleigh, N.C. RSN 7 p.m.
Thurs. Feb. 26 Miami Chapel Hill 7 p.m.
Sun. March 1 at Duke Durham, N.C. FSN

I guess I'm wondering how they got to be ranked second in the first place.

Speaking of a buttload of losses, Rutgers dropped out of the top 25 today, but hope is alive. Coach C. Vivian Stringer has announced she's changing up the team's offense to "dribble-drive motion." This is great to hear. Stringer has been due for a change for a while now. Let's hope it takes.

Story link:

Today's ESPN/USA Today poll

AP Top 25

1. Connecticut (45) 19-0 1125
2. Oklahoma 16-2 1062
3. Duke 17-1 1002
4. Baylor 17-1 997
5. Auburn 20-0 959
6. Louisville 19-1 906
7. California 16-2 843
8. Maryland 16-3 773
9. Stanford 15-4 747
10. North Carolina 17-3 716
11. Texas A&M 15-3 697
12. Florida 18-2 595
13. Tennessee 15-4 593
14. Kansas State 17-1 490
15. Ohio State 16-3 466
16. Texas 14-4 448
17. Notre Dame 15-3 443
18. Florida State 17-4 347
19. Virginia 15-4 307
20. Vanderbilt 15-5 246
21. Pittsburgh 14-4 168
22. Iowa State 15-4 130
23. Xavier 17-4 118
24. South Dakota State 19-2 97
25. DePaul 15-5 86

Rutgers is out after losing to DePaul, who is now in.

North Carolina drops like a stone.

Duke and Louisville climbing.

Texas and Tennessee staying in what is the basement for them.

Pittsburgh and South Dakota State?

Texas coach fired after 100-0 win

By now, most have heard about the Covenant School's 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy Jan. 13.

Yesterday, Covenant fired Coach Micah Grimes, calling the blowout "shameful." Grimes, however, emailed the Dallas Morning News disagreeing with the decision.

I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed," Grimes wrote in the e-mail, according to the newspaper.

The game has ignited an old debate on message boards about whether or not playing such a game is running up the score, or just how the cookie crumbles.

What I thought most interesting in the story released today is that Texas has no mercy rule in girl's basketball. Why not? It's the right thing to do.

In California, our mercy rule states that when a team attains a 40-point lead the clock then runs, not stopping for timeouts or free throws, even if the lead again dips below 40.

Story link:

NJCAA head resigns

Wayne Baker, executive director of the National Junior College Athletic Association, has stepped down after 24 years, due to health reasons. Associate Director Mary Ellen Leicht has been named acting director.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

#3 Brea Olinda 58, #2 Cajon 47

Brea pulled off the upset last night, beating longtime rival Cajon and avenging their December loss to the Cowgirls in the championship game of their own tournament. It was also Cajon's first loss of the season.

In front of a packed Brea gym of about 1000 vocal fans, the Wildcats won in dramatic fashion, out-hustling and out-shooting Cajon in the last 10 minutes of the game. These teams were supposedly second- and third-ranked not only in California, but the nation. Add to that backdrop some outrageous theatrics by players and coaches alike, and the evening was pure entertainment.

Both teams were slow to start, missing their first few shot attempts. Then they traded threes and layups, and the score was knotted at 9 at the end of the first quarter. Cajon's biggest lead was four points at the 9-5 mark, while Brea's biggest lead was three points at 5-2.

First thing in the second quarter, Cajon's Layshia Clarendon heated up and fired off a two, a three-shot and went around a pick and scored a layup. Brea kept pace with buckets by Jonae Ervin and Kelsey Harris.

There were a lot of jump balls in this quarter, with the ball going back and forth from team to team after the call. Monique and I counted eight jump balls. But for the most part, the refs let them play and didn't call a lot of fouls.

Clarendon had 10 of her 25 points in the first half, and Darshae Burnside had five of her 15. For Brea, Justine Hartman had nine at the half and Harris, seven. Brea was up 22-20 at the break.

As the buzzer sounded, the Brea student section stood and began chanting, "o-ver-ray-ted!" at the Cowgirls. Monique and I were amused by this, because Brea was only ahead by two and hadn't looked any better than their opponents. Two of the top teams in the nation should be able to score more than 22 by halftime, anyway.

Both teams begun the third quarter on fire. Burnside made a tough shot, and on the next possession, Wildcat freshman Jeanier Olukeme scored on a back door play. Burnside scored, then on Cajon's next possession, Hartman decisively blocked Clarendon. Hartman blocked again on the next play, and Clarendon went into assist mode, making two in a row.

Cajon lead 28-26 at the 4:06 mark. But it was then that Brea went on a 10-2 run that culminated in four straight Kendall Rodriguez free throws and a bucket at the buzzer to put her team up 36-30 at the end of three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Burnside made the first basket, but the Wildcats then went on a 10-0 run to put them up 42-32 at the first timeout, at 5:16 to go. There was a brief moment of hope for Cajon with under a minute to play, when they cut Brea's lead to 52-45 after a Burnside two and a Clarendon three. But at 35 seconds left the Cowgirls had to foul, and Brea made all of their free throw shots.

In fact, Brea made most of their free throw shots in the game, period, which is good for them, and their outside shots were falling. Brea also seemed to want the victory more than their opponents.

For the Wildcats, Harris finished with 16, Rodriguez 15, and Hartman 13. Ervin, Olukeme and Clarendon had six assists each.

I know both these teams, from personal experience last year.

Clarendon seemed to be having an off-night, because she was slow-moving. She would often keep the ball until the shot clock had almost run out, then try to shoot it. She brought the ball up the court walking, even at times when she should have been pushing it. There seemed to be no urgency in her play whatsoever, until the last minute of the game when Cajon was closing the scoring gap.

Monique and I also disliked her tendency to be a ball hog. There were numerous times when she could have and should have given the rock to a teammate who was more open, but she chose to drive and attempt the layup. Clarendon had six assists, but she could have had 11 or 12 if she would have quit trying to be Superwoman. If she plays like she did last night, she will have a hard time at Cal next year.

Hartman, a sophomore who was named to the Nike TOC first team last month, was impressive last night. She only had three blocks, but each was a monster block. She hustles well for a big girl.

Besides the game, there was a heck of a lot taking place on the benches and the sidelines.

First, the setting: Brea Olinda High School is located at the top of a big hill in Brea, Orange County. There is a lot of money in the area and in the school, as is evidenced by the school's spacious athletic facilities that cater to every sport, the fact that there are separate girls and boys athletics directors, and the cleanliness and flawlessness of the gym and gym floor.

The "Ladycats" coaches have a painted office with a green recliner, and the parents are organized, money-making machines with the snack bar and raffles. Students are polite and actually sit and watch the game, and oh, the number of people who turn out for those games.

I have to give it up to the Brea community, because the gym was packed last night. More people came to that game than I've seen at many D1 and D2 showdowns. The student section's chants were annoying at times, but I've seen worse. The only thing missing were cheerleaders. If they show up for the boy's games but not the girls, Brea loses points.

Then there was the coaches: The contrast between the coaching styles on the two benches couldn't have been more striking.

On the Cajon side there was Coach Mark Lehman, who rose from the bench only at timeouts until the last two minutes of the game. The rest of the time, he sat with his leg crossed. At the timeout before the start of the second quarter, Lehman didn't even say anything organized to his team; it was just he and his two assistants standing over them having random conversations with each other or players.

Monique and I noticed that none of the coaches ever say anything to Clarendon during timeouts; they just speak to the other four players. Also, Lehman only played two of his four bench players until less than a minute to go, when it was almost certain they'd lost.

On the other bench is type-AAA Brea Coach Jeff Sink, who Monique and I are convinced is crazy. His shiny white forehead jutted from his receeding hairline, and he never sat down once. He paced back and forth the entire game, between sips of a Diet Coke he clearly didn't need, and took turns yelling at the refs, screaming at his players or getting on one of his assistant coaches.

In fact, next to Clarendon walking up the court, Sink's propensity to require an explanation from the refs on every single call that went Cajon's way annoyed us the most. I can understand asking about one or two calls, but not each and every one. It makes me wonder what he's like at home.

Sink has a young male assistant coach who seems to be just as intense as he is. They speak to each other with their faces close together, doing lots of pointing. During the last few minutes of the game, young coach grabbed the back of the shirt of the female assistant coach and began talking to her, making hand gestures in her face. He guided her to sit down, and once there, he leaned down into her face and made some more hand gestures while speaking, eyes wide open.

No one seems to be phased by this - least of all, the players. At one point Sink was halfway onto the court yelling at a girl like a crazy man, and she just looked him in the face and nodded, saying something that I couldn't hear. Then she calmly walked off.

Sink has the respect of the students, too. During one of the courses of "o-ver-ray-ted!" Sink held up his palm to the student crowd, and they suddenly fell silent. It was amazing. After the game, the same group of students gathered on the court as the team walked out to the locker room and chanted, "Sink! Sink! Sink! Sink!" Does he feel like a celebrity yet? I would.

From the "what the heck?" department: Burnside did something in the fourth quarter that Monique and I had never seen before. When the ball went out of bounds off of Cajon, Burnside would make sure she was right there as the ref came back with the ball. He'd hand it to her, and she'd set the ball down on the baseline and then stand over it. This would force the Brea player to reach down and get it, which would eat up precious time. It was clearly an in-your-face thing on the part of Burnside.

Burnside did this twice, and on the third try, the ref finally called her for delay of game. Monique and I didn't understand why they let her get away with it twice beforehand. And what are the Cajon coaches teaching their kids in either letting them do that or instructing them to do so? Wow.

Interesting fact: Brea has 17 girls on its varsity team. 17!

Interesting fact 2: Sink seems to be insistent on making at least five passes during an offensive set. Monique would hear him say "one more" at times when a player was stalling with the ball at the side of the key.

Bottom line: It was hard for Monique and I to believe that these teams were ranked second and third in the state, much less second or third in the nation. We saw better play earlier this month at the Fairfax Tournament than we saw last night. It's obviously time for some new rankings.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

UCLA 83, Washington State 48

It wasn't as bad as the score would indicate. In fact, UCLA was up 59-42 with 6:35 left in the game. I guess they decided to go nuts and put the whoop on WSU after that.

The Bruins started a little slow, and to be sure, Coach Nikki Caldwell substituted all five players at once, two times during the game. She was not pleased. But in fairness, the Cougars have a lot of potential. They are 2-3 (post) players away from being contenders.

Jazmine Perkins is fearless. She is a relentless pickpocket (four steals in Thursday's game - a high for both teams) who drives to the basket like it's the most natural thing in the world. She finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists to go with her steals.

Also impressive is Katie Appleton and her 3's. She was 4-5 the other night, and she shot two of them right in a row. WSU needs to work on their shooting - except for her.

The Cougars have an impressive array of guards, including April Cook and Danielle LeNoir. What they need are some effective posts. Heather Molzen is OK, but she doesn't make shots under the hoop. Ebonee Coates should be more aggressive. Ditto for Jessica Oestreicher, though she's only a freshman, so I cut her some slack.

I like the way the WSU team supports each other on the bench and communicates during the game. They seem to have the enthusiasm and the cameraderie. Hopefully Coach June Daugherty can bring their skills along to match that.

On the UCLA side, Antonye Nyingifa got her first start Thursday night. She responded with eight points. Team scoring was once again balanced, with Doreena Campbell leading the way with 15 points, Nina Earl following with 12, and Erica Tukiainen with 11.


- During the game, I sat with a UCLA usher who's worked there for four years. He said the change in the Bruin players this year, under Caldwell, has been dramatic. Before, they seemed apathetic and uncaring about winning, he said. Now they are enthusiastic and energetic, and with that has come more aggressive play. Some girls, the usher said, never got off the bench under former coach Kathy Oliver; now they're starting or getting significant minutes (read Christina Nzekwe).

That just proves my theory: Kathy Oliver couldn't recognize talent if it hit her in the face. Also, it proves that motivation starts with the coach. If you have given up, then your players will as well.

- Transfer Jasmine Dixon was wearing a boot on her right foot. She must have done something in practice.

Today I'm going to catch Washington State play at USC, instead of going to the UCLA game. I've been waiting to see Camille and Danielle LeNoir play against each other for the longest time.

This evening, Monique and I are going to the Brea-Cajon game. I have found my batgirl!

Coach Kay Yow passes away

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State's Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame women's basketball coach who won more than 700 games while earning fans with her decades-long fight against breast cancer, died on Saturday. She was 66.

Yow, first diagnosed with the disease in 1987, died Saturday morning at WakeMed Cary Hospital after being admitted there last week, university spokeswoman Annabelle Myers said.

"I think she understood that keeping going was inspirational to other people who were in the same boat she was in," Dr. Mark Graham, Yow's longtime oncologist, said Saturday.

Yow won more than 700 games in a career filled with milestones. She coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1988, won four Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships, earned 20 NCAA tournament bids and reached the Final Four in 1998.

She also was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002, while North Carolina State dedicated "Kay Yow Court" in Reynolds Coliseum in 2007.

But for many fans, Yow was best defined by her unwavering resolve while fighting cancer, from raising awareness and money for research to staying with her team through the debilitating effects of the disease and chemotherapy treatments. In her final months, Yow was on hormonal therapy as the cancer spread to her liver and bone.

She never flinched or complained, relying on her faith as the disease progressed. She commonly noted there were other patients with "harder battles than I'm fighting" and said it was inspiring for her to stay with her team.

"Almost everybody is dealing with something," Yow said in a 2006 interview.

"We're all faced with a lot of tough issues that we're dealing with," she said. "We know we need to just come to the court and let that be our catharsis in a way. You can't bring it on the court with you, but we can all just think of basketball as an escape for a few hours."

Yow was a past president and founding member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. The group's president and CEO both hailed her impact on the game and her legacy.

"In sickness and in health she was a bastion of courage and kindness," said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale, the group's president. "Her zest for life and her determination to make a difference in this world have galvanized our profession while inspiring millions."

"Words cannot even begin to express the impact that Coach Yow had on me personally and on this Association," said Beth Bass, the association's CEO. "I have known her for 32 years, and she is by far one of the most amazing people I have had the opportunity to get to know. Her legacy and impact will continue to live on even in her passing through her foundation leading us toward a cure."

"I am honored to have a Fund established in partnership with The V Foundation that bears the name of Kay Yow," said V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano. "Her courage, faith and legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of those she helped to inspire throughout her coaching career and battle with cancer."

"Kay taught us all to live life with passion and to never give up. She carried herself with great faith and dignity," said ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer, who served on the V Foundation board with Yow. "ESPN will always be committed to the Kay Yow Fund of The V Foundation in her memory. She was truly a beautiful person."

Yow announced earlier this month that she would not return to the team this season after she missed four games because of what was described as an extremely low energy level.

The team visited Yow in the hospital before leaving Wednesday for a game at Miami. Associate head coach Stephanie Glance -- who led the team in Yow's absences -- met with the team Saturday morning to inform them Yow had died, Myers said.

Yow's fight was never more public than when she took a 16-game leave to focus on her treatments during the 2006-07 season. After her return, her inspired Wolfpack won 12 of its final 15 games with wins against highly ranked rivals Duke and North Carolina in a run that attracted plenty of fans wearing pink -- the color of breast-cancer awareness.

Her players also wore pink shoelaces for their coach.

"There were so many times I felt like giving up," forward Khadijah Whittington said after the Wolfpack's loss to Connecticut in the 2007 NCAA tournament's round of 16, "and then I see Coach Yow and she never gives up."

Yow always found ways to keep coaching even as she fought the disease. She spent most of games during that emotional 2007 run sitting on the bench while Glance stood to shout instructions at players or to help a weakened Yow to her feet.

"She's the Iron Woman, with the Lord's help," Glance said.

Yow was quick to embrace her role as an example for others battling the disease. She often found herself going about her daily activities in Raleigh only to have someone stop her and say they were praying for her or that she was an inspiration to them.

"When they say that, it really gives me a lift because it's at that time I know for sure that I'm not going through it for nothing," Yow said in 2007. "That means a lot to me. I have to go through it. I accept that, and I'm not panicked about it because the Lord is in control. But it just would be so saddening if I had to go through it and I couldn't help people.

"But then I see I'm helping others in a greater way than I ever have. That's the amazing thing, you know?"

Born March 14, 1942, Sandra Kay Yow originally took up coaching to secure a job teaching high school English at Allen Jay High School in High Point in the 1960s. Her boss, along with the boys' coach, agreed to help her plan practices and to sit on the bench with her during games. Midway through the season, Yow was on her own.

"Really, it was like love at first sight," she said in 2004.

She spent four years there followed by another year in her hometown at Gibsonville High, compiling a 92-27 record. She moved on to Elon, going 57-19 in four seasons before being hired at N.C. State in 1975.

Her original cancer diagnosis came the year before coaching the United States to the gold in the Seoul Olympics. She had a mastectomy as part of her treatment, then discovered a lump in November 2004 close to where cancer was first discovered. She had surgery that December and started on a regimen of radiation and daily hormone therapy. Still, the cancer came back again and again.

She missed two games of the 2004-05 season while attending an eight-day nutritional modification program, which called on her to eat an organic-food diet free of meat, dairy products and sugar. She stayed on the diet for eight months, losing 40 pounds by keeping junk food and Southern favorites like biscuits and gravy off her menu.

Still, she cheated on her organic diet during home recruiting visits because she didn't want to offend anyone by passing on a home-cooked meal.

Over the years, Yow never lost her folksy, easygoing manner and refused to dwell on her health issues, though they colored everything she did almost as much as basketball. Ultimately, her philosophy on both were the same.

"If you start to dwell on the wrong things, it'll take you down fast," Yow said in '07. "Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I think of is I'm thankful. I'm thankful for another day."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Story link:

It's stunning, waking up to this news. Even though it's been known she's been sick for a long time - 22 years, to be exact - she's always been so tough and has fought back. I guess this time she couldn't win.

In an unusually emotional interview, Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt remembers Yow, who she's known for decades:

Rest in peace, Coach Yow. As much as you've been admired and respected for your fight both on and off the court, you will be missed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More upsets!

Georgia Tech beat North Carolina! (Above, featuring Seattle's own Jacqua Williams, screaming on the far left)

Georgia beat Vanderbilt! (No surprise to me since seeing Vandy in person in December - they've got weaknesses)

Tennessee beat Arkansas gets no exclamation point, as the only surprise is they didn't beat them by more.

On the opposite side of upset, four games in the Pac-10 tonight showed that things are still pretty much the same in that conference for now (although there are signs of changes to come). More on that tomorrow - it's so past my bed time right now.

LA Times high school girl's basketball rankings

Just hitting the message boards, though the rankings came out a couple days ago, before some games might have changed things:

Rk. Team (Rec., Div.)
: 1 Mater Dei (19-0, SS-Div. II-A)
: 2 Cajon (16-0, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 3 Brea Olinda (15-2, SS-Div. II-AA)
: 4 Long Beach Poly (14-2, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 5 Foothill (16-1, SS-Div. III-A)
: 6 Troy (14-1, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 7 Millikan (14-2, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 8 Santa Monica (12-3, SS-Div. I-A)
: 9 Summit (14-4, SS-Div. II-A)
: 10 Inglewood (4-13, SS-Div. III-A)
: 11 Pacific Hills (11-7, SS-Div. IV-A)
: 12 St. Paul (11-5, SS-Div. IV-A)
: 13 Bell-Jeff (18-1, SS-Div. IV-AA)
: 14 Chatsworth (11-6, City-Div. I)
: 15 Muir (11-3, SS-Div. III-A)
: 16 Etiwanda (11-6, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 17 Woodbridge (17-2, SS-Div. III-AA)
: 18 Orange Lutheran (15-0, SS-Div. IV-AA)
: 19 Vista del Lago (16-0, SS-Div. II-AA)
: 20 Colony (12-2, SS-Div. I-A)
: 21 Canyon Springs (11-6, SS-Div. I-A)
: 22 Santa Maria St. Joseph (15-1, SS-Div. V-AA)
: 23 Santa Margarita (9-7, SS-Div. III-AA)
: 24 Corona Santiago (13-6, SS-Div. I-AA)
: 25 Marlborough (11-8, SS-Div. III-AA)

Someone on did a computer ranking of the top 50. Not sure what their criteria was to come up with the numbers at the right, but the rankings look pretty right on:

1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) 55.5
2 Cajon (San Bernardino, CA) 52.7
3 Brea Olinda (Brea, CA) 52.2
4 Poly (Long Beach, CA) 46.8
5 Foothill (Santa Ana, CA) 45.5
6 Troy (Fullerton, CA) 40.7
7 Santa Monica (CA) 39.5
8 Summit (Fontana, CA) 38.1
9 Inglewood (CA) 38.1
10 Millikan (Long Beach, CA) 36.5
11 St. Paul (Santa Fe Springs, CA) 36.5
12 Etiwanda (CA) 36.3
13 Bellarmine-Jefferson (Burbank, CA) 36
14 Woodbridge (Irvine, CA) 35.8
15 Colony (Ontario, CA) 35.5
16 Vista del Lago (Moreno Valley, CA) 35
17 Muir (Pasadena, CA) 34.9
18 Pacific Hills (Los Angeles, CA) 34.9
19 Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley, CA) 34.8
20 Santiago (Corona, CA) 34.1
21 Lutheran (Orange, CA) 33.9
22 Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) 33.9
23 St. Joseph (Santa Maria, CA) 33.5
24 Marlborough (Los Angeles, CA) 33.2
25 Edison (Huntington Beach, CA) 33.2
26 Ayala (Chino Hills, CA) 33
27 Villa Park (CA) 33
28 Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, CA) 32.4
29 Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, CA) 31.6
30 Norco (CA) 31.4
31 Agoura (CA) 31.4
32 Perris (CA) 31
33 San Clemente (CA) 30.9
34 Buena (Ventura, CA) 30.6
35 Beverly Hills (CA) 30.6
36 Bishop Amat (La Puente, CA) 30.3
37 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, CA) 30
38 Ventura (CA) 30
39 St. Mary's Academy (Inglewood, CA) 30
40 Thousand Oaks (CA) 29.9
41 Canyon (Canyon Country, CA) 29.9
42 Huntington Beach (CA) 29.6
43 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, CA) 29.6
44 Rosary (Fullerton, CA) 29.3
45 Lynwood (CA) 29.2
46 Windward (Los Angeles, CA) 29
47 Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) 28.8
48 Chatsworth (CA) 28.7
49 Great Oak (Temecula, CA) 28.6
50 Newbury Park (CA) 28.5

I'm going to the Cajon @ Brea Olinda game Saturday, with my homey Monique. I guess I'll need to see Mater Dei and Foothill sometime soon, to round out my top five viewing.

Pretty soon we'll just have recruiters in the maternity ward

Giving in to the young-and-younger movement in college basketball recruiting, the NCAA has decreed that seventh-graders are now officially classified as prospects.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

North Carolina State Coach Kay Yow hospitalized

It was bad enough that longtime "Wolfpack" Coach Kay Yow had to give up coaching for the remainder of the season because of her ongoing battle with breast cancer. Now Yow has been hospitalized.

Today, before her team left on a road trip, they stopped by to see her. "The hardest part was having to leave," reported

(Sad) link:

New WNBA draft order

My homey pt is reporting on the Atlanta Dream blog that since trading Alison Bales to Phoenix the other day, this is the new draft order for April. Well, at least until someone else makes a deal:

The newest version of the WNBA Draft Order after the Bales-to-Phoenix trade.


1. Atlanta
2. Washington
3. Chicago
4. Minnesota
5. Phoenix
6. Indiana
7. Sacramento
8. New York
9. Washington (from Los Angeles)
10. Connecticut
11. Detroit
12. Seattle
13. Los Angeles (San Antonio to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Los Angeles)


14. San Antonio (from Atlanta)
15. Washington
16. Chicago
17. Connecticut (from Minnesota) *
18. Atlanta (from Phoenix)
19. Indiana
20. Sacramento
21. New York
22. Los Angeles
23. Minnesota (from Connecticut) *
24. Washington (from Detroit)
25. Atlanta (from Seattle)
26. San Antonio


27. Atlanta
28. Washington
29. Chicago
30. Minnesota
31. Phoenix
32. Indiana
33. Sacramento
34. Phoenix (from New York)
35. Los Angeles
36. Connecticut
37. Detroit
38. Seattle
39. San Antonio

* - Conditional. Connecticut has the right to swap second round picks with Minnesota; we can only assume that they will.

pt's blog:

WNBA players on the new President, and Catchings is going overseas

Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles native Noelle Quinn is excited about the new President:

Catchings also weighed in a few days ago, but this blog entry is more about how she packed up and went to go play in Poland this week:

This is funny:

…but during the Christmas holidays while I was visiting my family, I went to American Eagle and I bought some socks. I didn't think much of it at the time… just felt like I wanted to get a couple of pairs because I knew they were on sale. So then I got home, tried on the socks and absolutely loved them! I mean I LOVED these socks! They're the softest, most comfortable things I've ever worn on my feet.

Ah, Catch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday wins and Saturday blowups

Cal pulled off a stunner last night at their own Haas Pavilion, in front of 10,126 fans: they beat higher-ranked Stanford 57-54. It was the first time the Bears had beat the Cardinal at home since 1993, and Alexis Gray-Lawson's 37 points was the most by a Cal player since 1987.

Cal Coach Joanne Boyle, who was literally jumping up and down after the game, and her team should be proud. Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer was gracious in defeat, acknowledging the spirit and decibel-level of the Cal crowd.

Across the country, a controversy has emerged in the wake of the Connecticut-Syracuse game. It's the question of who tripped who - did UConn Coach Geno Auriemma trip Syracuse player Nicole Michael, or vice versa?,0,747661.column?page=1


There are also rumors that the Big East Conference is demanding both side impose sanctions on themselves. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, number one Connecticut faces their most formidable opponent to date this season tonight in second-ranked North Carolina. Hold on to your seats.

Staley on the rise

Great Mechelle Voepel piece on Dawn Staley, in reference to yesterday's matchup between her team and Tennessee:

What Tennessee coach Pat Summitt most remembers about facing Staley at Virginia, though, is the year before. Virginia upset Tennessee in the 1990 East Regional final, preventing the host school from playing in that year's Final Four here in Knoxville.

"I do have quite the memory about Dawn Staley," Summitt said. "We were in [that 1990] regional championship game, and we didn't have an answer for her. And we lost.

"We didn't get to come back and play for a national championship at Thompson-Boling Arena. So when I see her, I have to get over that."

Summitt smiled as she said that, but you can tell it still bugs her -- despite now having eight NCAA titles. Meanwhile, Staley said that the 1990 East Regional win over Tennessee actually stands in her mind as the closest Virginia got to an NCAA title.

"That's the only thing we can equate to a national championship, because we never won," Staley said. "I've got two former Volunteers on my staff, and they bring it up more than I do."


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doty tears ACL, Fuller changes number

While Maya Moore was blowing up her point total last night, freshman guard Caroline Doty went down on a play gripping her knee. The news just broke that it is indeed a torn ACL:

As much as I love women's basketball with all my heart and soul, it tears me up that players suffer so many of these injuries. I hope Doty has the will of Sue Bird and Vicki Baugh, among others, and is able to make a full and complete recovery as quickly as possible.

In Orange Country, senior Alex Fuller has switched from number 44 to number 2. Her action is to honor point guard Cait McMahan, who last week gave up her season (and possibly career) due to chronic problems with her knee from an ACL tear in 2005. What an amazing gesture by Fuller.

Finally, Lady Vol graduate Nicky Anosike is in Thompson-Boling arena for today's game against South Carolina. She received a standing ovation from fans before the game.

A meeting of friends disguised as opponents

Like yesterday's UCLA-Arizona game, today's meeting between Tennessee and South Carolina will be an assembly of familiar faces. USC Coach Dawn Staley's assistants, Carla McGhee and Nikki McCray, used to play for Summitt, who will achieve 997 wins if the Vols win today.


Summitt has been coaching at UT for 35 years and her influence is being felt, as so many of her former players and/or assistants are filtering out around the country in head and assistant coaching positions. If we all had a fraction of the legacy of Summitt, we'd have lived an amazing life.

Yet another dope story about Nikki Caldwell

This is the best one yet.

"There is no question that my time under Coach Summitt prepared me for what I'm doing now," Caldwell said. "She always said that a head coach is only as good as the assistants. She was always open to our ideas. There were many times that she allowed me, (assistants) Holly (Warlick) and Dean (Lockwood) to lead practice or take the lead in recruiting. She let us lead in the scouting of future opponents.

"She provided us that experience and it groomed me to be where I am today. So, now I know how it is to run a program. She taught us how to handle media relations. She taught me how to be a head coach. Because of all that she taught me, I haven't felt at any moment that I've been thrown to the wolves. I feel like I've been able to handle everything that has been thrown my way."


"We have a lot of talent here, that's the strength of our team," said Caldwell. "I think the difference here is that we don't have a Candace Parker. We have a young lady, Doreena Campbell, who has the same mentality in that she wants the ball in crunch time. At Tennessee, we ran every play through Parker. At UCLA, since we don't have a superstar like Parker, we're running things a little bit different."


"Something that stood out for me early in the year was during our individual workouts back in April," said Caldwell. "We have a 6-foot-6 post player named Moniquee 'Mo' Alexander. I laughed to her that she would play some point guard for us. She looked at me like I was crazy. So, we started working on her getting the rebound and starting the break. Well, in a game earlier this season Mo came out of a rebound and took a few dribbles and started the break. We executed and converted on the offensive end. Our bench went crazy. It wasn't because we had scored, it was because she did something that she didn't think she could do."


"I think what's helped is the confidence my girls have in what we're trying to do because they've been able to see that the plan works. Any time we ask them to do something, I think they realize that this plan got us those national championships at Tennessee. I reference Pat all the time because they respect all that she stands for. They respect where I've come from."

Strange coincidence:

"Candace Parker and I live in the same neighborhood," says Caldwell. "She comes over to my place and I've been over to hers. I needed a dog friendly neighborhood because I have three dogs. Candace started telling me one day about this great neighborhood where she and (husband) Shelden (Williams) bought and how much they loved it. I told her that that's where I was buying a condo. Small world, I guess."


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday college roundup

Going into today's game against Syracuse, Connecticut's Maya Moore needed 40 points to reach a career 1000.

She got that. And now Moore is the first-fastest Husky to reach that milestone. Oh, and Connecticut whupped Syracuse, 107-53.

No other surprises today. Even in the Pac-10, the victories were predictable: Oregon State over Washington; Oregon over Washington State; Arizona State over USC; and UCLA over Arizona.

The basketball highlight of my day was listening to Umpqua CC and Mount Hood CC battle it out. Apparently online game broadcasts are a relatively new thing in Roseburg, and they're a boon for out-of-town fans like me.

The two teams traded runs all game long. Umpqua, ranked first in the Northwest Association of Community Colleges (all of the Pacific Northwest) with only one loss, was having trouble with the 9-7 Saints. The Riverhawks climbed to a seven-point lead once or twice, but Mount Hood never gave up. They kept coming back, and then they'd take the lead. This precarious lead exchange kept going on and on. It was pacing time for me.

Fortunately, Umpqua point guard Mykiea Russell had a break-out second half, scoring 13 of her team-high 18 points in the period. Her two most important shots were a long-bomb three in the last minute, to put her team ahead again, and a crucial bucket within the last five seconds, just when it looked like the game would go into overtime. Final score: 70-68. I love games like that, even though they're hard on the system.

APR rates for coaches will be compiled next year

USA Today is reporting that the NCAA will begin compiling Annual Percentage Rates for college coaches beginning next year.

The coaches' APRs — "kind of like a lifetime batting average," said University of Hartford President Walt Harrison — are expected to be publicly available on an NCAA-affiliated website by summer 2010. They're intended for use by recruits, their parents and prospective employers in evaluating coaches and programs, along with wins and other competitive and personal criteria.

Sounds like a good idea to me. If coaches can evaluate recruits, recruits should be able to evaluate coaches.


Candace Parker is OK with the boys

I can gauge the acceptance of people and concepts, and thus the tone of the near future, by polling my high school students. What kids think is a measure of how far we've come/progression, so I tune in when I can.

And as far as the teenage boys at my school are concerned, Candace Parker is cool - even being pregnant.

The hottest football recruit at our school has a crush on CP. Whenever I wear one of my Tennessee T-shirts, and especially my Candace Parker MVP/ROY shirt with her picture on it, he just sighs.

I wore my Tennessee-orange Parker signature Adidas shoes to school recently, and one of the basketball players noticed.

"Kevin Garnets?" he asked me.

"Candace Parkers," I said.

"Ohhhh," he nodded.

Tuesday I was with my class of athletes, which includes some football players. I forget how she came up when I was talking to one boy, but he paused and said casually, "she's pregnant."

"They say she'll be back in time to play for the season this year," I said.

"Oh yeah," he said with enthusiasm. "She will, no doubt about it."


In the meantime, this Adidas ad features Parker:

I wonder when they came up with that slogan?

Showdown in the high desert

UCLA tips off at Arizona in about an hour. Bruin Coach Nikki Caldwell and her assistants Tasha Butts and Tony Perotti will coach against fellow Tennessee alum Niya Butts, the Wildcats head coach.

It will also be all-in-the-family on the court, as Chinyere and Ify Ibekwe face off for their respective teams. Chinyere currently can boast more, as UCLA won the matchup last year - the only other time the sisters played each other.

Random statistics from the Bruin website:

- UCLA has held its opponents to an average 62.5 points this season.

- In 15 games, the Bruins have had seven different leading scorers: Moniquee Alexander, Doreena Campbell, Nina Earl, Ibekwe, Darxia Morris, Erica Tukianien and Christina Nzekwe.

- My favorite statistic - UCLA's 50+ rebound games:
Total (Off-Def) - Opponent
54 (25-29) - vs. CSUF (11/16/08)
50 (18-32) - vs. Pepperdine (11/18/08)
54 (26-28) - vs. CSUN (11/30/08)
54 (29-25) - vs. CSUB (12/3/08)
54 (21-33) - vs. Nevada (12/7/08)
53 (21-32) - at Rice (12/17/08)
55 (23-32) - vs. USC (1/11/09)

- In games through Jan. 11, the following Bruins rank in the Pac-10:
Ibekwe, third in rebounding
Campbell, 11th in scoring, fifth in assists, fifth in assists/turnover ratio, third in FT shooting percentage
Nzekwe, sixth in steals, seventh in offensive rebounding, 12th in field goal percentage
Morris, seventh in assists and 11th in assists/turnover ratio
Earl, fifth in steals, 15th in field goal percentage

Finally, Campbell was named Pac-10 player of the week after leading her team to its first victory against USC in over four years last Sunday. She scored 21 points.

Today's game can be heard via the Arizona website:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

So, yesterday.

ASU kicked the butts of UCLA, Oregon beat Washington, WSU beat OSU, and USC had to take it to OT to defeat Arizona. Things are normal in the Pac-10, in other words.

I got home in time to hear the online broadcast of Tennessee vs. Mississippi State. I was housecleaning and listening and cursing/yelling. Three times I stopped to hold a Vol in light because she had gone down with an injury. First it was Alex Fuller, then Kelley Cain, then Shekinna Stricklen. Even the UT announcer said the Vols were "dropping like flies." I don't think anyone was seriously hurt, and Tennessee preserved their all-time winning record over MSU.

So, today.

I'm going to try and figure out this California Community Colleges Athletics Association website over the weekend, because it's still not showing the stats for the conferences. I emailed one of the officers, so I'll try those instructions tomorrow when I'm awake.

But I went to see my girls play in their Juco game (again) tonight, and for the second time this week, they won.

The minute the buzzer sounded, I was (literally) running out to my car to catch the rest of the Carson-Washington Prep game - a rematch of last week's semi-final game at the Fairfax Tournament. I wanted to see if last week's game was a fluke.

It wasn't.

Prep got out to a strong start and lead at the half, 29-16. Kejuana Gardner, aka Kiwi, and Reshanda Gray, aka Too Tall, lead their team in scoring.

The third quarter stayed pretty much the same, with both teams exchanging baskets but no runs made on either side. It was 40-29 to end it.

In the fourth quarter, Carson made a run about halfway through, on the strength of a few threes. It only took about 90 seconds for Prep to get it together, though, and take a six-point lead back up to nine. Only because of a last-second three was the final score 51-44. Prep looked good.

So, tomorrow.

Eventually, all games will be webcast at the very least. While we wait for that technology, we have audio.

Umpqua Community College games will now be audiocast on: Next game is tomorrow at 4 p.m. I'm excited!

If anyone has links of other game audiocasts they'd like to share, please post.

So, blast from the past.

Prior to the 2007 City Section Finals, the LA Times did a story on the Washington Prep Lady Generals and what they meant to the school. Accompanying this piece was a really cute photo of point guard Mykiea Russell and forward Kejuana Gardner (see the Nov. 28, 2008 entry on this blog). After tonight's game, I was inspired to look for this photo online, and I found it!

This is one of the reasons I like teaching high school - so many precious kids.

Mykia and Kejuanna

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American players released from Israel team

Nicky Anosike, Tan White and Adia Barnes were released from their Israeli team Elizur Ramla this week, due to "financial troubles" of the team. Personally, I was wondering if and how the league would carry on after the break ended next week, due to the current strife in that country.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great piece on UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell

The LA Times actually did a piece on Coach Wonder, and it's good, too.

Among other things readers learn is that Caldwell has unflagging confidence, a condo by the Pacific Ocean and an orange Harley, and that UCLA will play Tennessee next year (I thought so).


I like the way she's selling the team, too. Gwan, girl.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits 47, Long Beach Millikan Rams 37

I went to this game last night mostly to check out Poly for the first time this season. But I also wanted to see Millikan; Poly is ranked sixth in California on maxpreps and Millikan, 25th. So I figured it would be a good game.

Not quite. But I do now have a feeling for where defending state champions Poly are, personnel and team-wise.

Poly got off to a quick start, with a bucket a piece from guard Brittany Wilson, guard/forward Kelli Thompson and forward Ta'nitra Byrd. Millikan missed their first few shots, turned the ball over and committed a couple fouls. But a long shot by guard Jaslyn Cosey ignited a small Rams run. Another shot and several free throws later, Poly was only up 9-8 at 2:56. Monique Oliver finally hit one for the Jackrabbits, but both teams committed several errors a piece before the end of the quarter; the score was 14-9 Poly.

Cosey and Oliver traded threes to start the second quarter. This was where the game got more physical, but the refs kept things under control. Poly was missing free throws, but Byrd or someone else was always there for the put-back. In fact, Byrd was amazing in the first half, making bank shots and jump shots besides the put-backs. She finished the half with 11 points.

In the meantime, Millikan players kept missing simple, under-the-basket layups. They didn't look like a top 25 team then, nor in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits begun to run away from their opponents, and the score was 32-16 at halftime. Oliver and Thompson each had six for Poly, and Cosey had eight for Millikan.

The Rams began the second half with a shotclock violation - one of three times they did this during the game. The only thing more amazing was the non-reaction of their coach Lorene Morgan. I would have ripped my squad a new one the first time they pulled that stuff.

Nevertheless, Millikan made a small run, but the Jackrabbits responded. When a Poly player again missed both free throws with 4:02 left in the third, I realized that if this team has a weakness, this is it. They really need to work on their free shots.

Both teams really stepped up their defense at this point, and the last few minutes were a shot-blocking and turnover fest on both sides. Going into the fourth quarter, Poly was up 39-24.

Oliver finally came alive in the last period. She hit one jumper, then scored a three on her team's next possession. She ended the game with 11 points. For the Rams, it was the Sequoia Hernandez show. A reserve freshman guard, Hernandez had scored three in the first half but roared into the last half and added 10 more points to her total.

With a couple minutes to go, Poly Coach Carl Buggs took out most of the starters and put in reserves, and the Rams made a little run. For several minutes the score had been 46-27, but Millikan players out-hustled the Jackrabbit bench and closed the gap. This showed me Poly's key weakness, besides the free throws: they aren't as deep as they used to be. That's why the score ended up being 47-37.

The Jackrabbits lost April Cook, Janae Perkins, Jasmine Dixon, Nicolette Brown and Morgan Turner to graduation last year. They've been replaced with Byrd, a junior transfer from Hawaii, Sheila Boykin, a sophomore transfer from Lynwood, Olivia Montgomery, a freshman, and Tara Burns, a junior whose origin is yet to be determined.

Byrd is the real deal. She's got great presence under the hoop, and wonderful floor vision. The rest of the newbies are bench players.

Millikan's Cosey was amazing in the first half, but didn't score one point in the second. I don't know if this is typical for her, but I hope not. Hernandez was terrific, but I have no idea if that was atypical for her or if she should be put into the starting lineup. The entire team has potential, but they have a way to go.

Bottom line is that Poly - whose two games that they lost by mid-December equaled their losses for all of the 2007-2008 season - is vulnerable this year.

Celebrity sighting: Cal State Fullerton heir to the throne (assistant coach) Marcia Foster. I saw her at the Redondo Tourney last month and the Fairfax tourney last week. She's everywhere.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lady Vols in the dog house

On the heels of their loss to Vanderbilt yesterday, Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt has assigned her players the chore of laundering their own practice gear. Asked how long this detail would last, Summitt said it was "to be determined."


Myself, I'm not trippin. This team is doing better than I thought they would so far this season. They'll be cutting down nets soon enough; they're still learning now.

Hang in there, Baby Vols.

UCLA 87, USC 75

UCLA surged late in the second half Sunday afternoon to decisively beat USC, 87-75. The win marked the first time the Bruins had defeated the Trojans in the regular season in over four years, snapping a seven-game losing streak to USC.

"I told the team, 'this is going to be our game,' and they bought into it," Coach Nikki Caldwell said.

It was USC that got off to a strong start, taking a quick 10-2 lead in just over two minutes of play. Ashley Corral hit some crucial shots, as did Nadia Parker, and the Trojans seemed particularly adept at breaking UCLA's full-court press.

Then the Bruins ralled with a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 11-10, at the 15:29 mark. USC fired back, and were still in the lead by a few at about 6:45, when UCLA made another 9-0 run to regain the lead. Bruin guard Doreena Campbell scored five of her team's points during the last few minutes of the half, and UCLA lead 40-34 going into the locker room.

USC scored the first eight points of the second half, including buckets by Briana Gilbreath and Camille LeNoir. By the 16:24 mark, the Trojans were ahead 45-41. A few moments later, when Bruin reserve guard Alison Taka hit a three to tie the score, a basket-trading fest began. The lead changed eight times before UCLA freshman Rebekah Gardner hit a three to tie the game at 58, with under 10 minutes to play. This sparked a 14-2 Bruin run, and the team never looked back.

Campbell was amazing, with 20 point, nine rebounds and four assists. Gardner scoried a career-high 13 points. But the Beast of the Day Award went to Chinyere Ibekwe, who wrestled down 10 rebounds and put up 17 points. She was under the basket everytime it mattered yesterday, and her defense helped shut USC down.

And speaking of defense, USC's Brynn Cameron never had a chance yesteday, as she was consistently double- and triple-teamed. She scored only three points. The Trojans that shone were LeNoir, with 20 points, and Corral, with 16.

After lapsing the last several games in rebounds, the Bruins were back up to where they were earlier in the season, grabbing 55 team boards yesterday. They only committed 14 turnovers. This appears to be what won the game for the Bruins, as they shot 37.3 for the game to the Trojans' 43.8.

And what is indeed up with USC? I've been wondering that for weeks now - especially after seeing them lose to Duke a few weeks ago. The Trojans are obviously loaded with talent, especially in the shooting department. I don't understand how a team this stacked with All-Americans could have an 8-6 record.

A USC fan who attends every game said it's the irregular rotations and erratic substitutions that throw the players off; they can't get into a rhythm.

Whatever the case, it's unfortunate that those players are under-utilized.


- Tierra Henderson played her first game since being suspended prior to the Dec. 14 game for a violation of team rules. She played 16 minutes and had one assist, two points and three rebounds. It was nice to see her back.

- Jasmine Dixon, who joined the team last week after transferring from Rutgers, took the mic prior to the game and welcomed the 5,203 fans present. She sat with the Bruins, in street clothes, on the bench.

- It was such a pleasure to see that many fans at Pauley Pavilion for the game. The student section even stood throughout the game and made noise, just like they're supposed to.

UCLA staffers said the large number of kids at the game was due to a "UCLA Day" tour they had that day.

- Celebrity sightings: Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman. She sat courtside during the game, and at halftime came into Daniel's and my section to say hello to people. It was nice to see her.

UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was also there to take in the game. I've heard from a reputable source that he's very friendly with and supportive of the women's basketball team.

Next up for UCLA is Arizona State, on Thursday.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tennessee, Rutgers lose

Big win for Vanderbilt over the Lady Vols today, whom I understand played like crap (box score shows only Alex Fuller in double figures - yikes!)

I guess Commodores Coach Melanie Balcomb decided to treat the Tennessee game as something special this time around. I understand having the practice guys wear orange head bands, but I don't get playing "Rocky Top" and putting orange mats in front of the locker room. What was she saying there? I feel like someone told a joke thinking it was obvious, but it's not.

Story link:

And then - holy craparoly, but Rutgers lost again today. Third consecutive loss, and the first time they've lost that many in a row since 1995-96.

The thing that impressed me most about the game story was that Louisville Coach Jeff Walz immediately began talking to his team after the handshake line. Not to be a party pooper, but because he really is serious about building something:

"We're trying to get our program to the next level, where they're talking about us like they're talking about Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers," Walz said.

Story link:

UCLA had a big win over USC today at home, and I'll provide a game report tomorrow.

Fairfax Tournament/LA City Showcase

I always enjoy this premiere high school girl's basketball tournament, and this year was no exception. There was a lot of high-quality ball played, and I was delighted to see a big chunk of it. Living at the tourney was even easier this year because some friends of mine were selling their basketball-themed T-shirts there. I'd watch a game, talk with them on breaks, and go watch another game. Most of the time, Monique went with me to watch the games, leaving her partner in crime to do the sales. Sweet deal.

Title game, Jan. 10: Washington Prep 55, Fairfax, 42

It was not surprising to see these two athletic teams face off in the championship game. What was unexpected was that it took almost three minutes into the first quarter for anyone to get some points on the board - and they were they were Washington free throws, at that. A few seconds later Fairfax got a point from a free throw, and after that, it seemed like a damn broke and the real game was "on."

The Generals went on a run. Reshanda Gray scored on a put-back, then hit on an in-bounds pass; Tayllor Gipson had a nice pull-up jumper from the left corner; Kejuanna Gardner made a sweet backboard shot; Jazmin Gray ran for a layup; Gardner assisted J. Gray on an outside shot. Washington was up 14-3 with about two minutes left in the quarter.

The Lions began to fight back in the middle of the second quarter. Point guard Priscilla Walker made a few crucial points at the end of the first, but the heroics that had saved her team earlier in the week weren't working yesterday, as her shots weren't falling. Nor were the free throw shots of her team, at first. But Fairfax was able to capitalize on a two suspect calls from the refs (who were horrible, by the way) to cut Washington's lead to 18-15 at the 2:56 mark.

It was at this point that the refs demonstrated their incompetency: when Walker drove into the lane, one ref called a charge and the other, a block. Everyone had stopped, and they stared at each other. Then, just like in the WNBA, all three refs had to have a conference about it.

Walker was given her free throw shots, but Gardner then hit from the left, and then Gipson hit two from the charity stripe. Fairfax' Jasmine Grayson hit a pull-up jumper at the end, leaving Washington with a 24-19 lead at the half. Gardner had played the entirety of both quarters.

The Lions came into the half on fire, hitting their first two shots, getting steals, and responding to every Washington basket. The athleticism of both teams was on tap. In one instance, six players from both teams were on the floor fighting for a loose ball. Later on, Gardner passed high to Cheyenne Bonam, who caught it mid-air as her body was sideways, the shape of an upside-down "L." The Generals were up 35-30 at the end of the third.

Both teams continued to battle in the final quarter, and Fairfax stayed within 3-5 points. Candyse Farmer was amazing, stealing the ball again and again, then streaking down the court for the fast break. (Monique had nicknamed her "Steal" earlier in the week).

Gardner was ridiculous. She was doing everything - taking the ball up court (at 5'11"), snatching rebounds, getting the ball into the hoop repeatedly - and sometimes on amazing turn-around jumpers. On one play, she took it up the court, drawing two defenders. She head-faked left and then leaned right and did a one-hand push bounce pass to her teammate, who scored. Both the Lions who had been in pursuit of Gardner fell to the floor.

With about two minutes left to play, Washington broke it open by scoring, while Fairfax committed costly turnovers. They were ahead 49-42 with 57 seconds left, but with the help of a lot of (literally) last-minute free throw shots and two runaway shots at the end, the final score was 55-42.

The game was everything you'd want in a championship game: it was fast-paced, exciting and close most of the time. The crowd was great, too, because while there were fans of both teams, there wasn't any taunting or unsportsperson-like conduct.

Named to the all-tournament team were Fairfax' Grayson and Farmer, and Washington's Gardner, R. Gray and Gipson; Gardner was also the tournament MVP.

"Whenever we can stay focused against the press instead of throwing the ball away, we're doing fine," Generals Coach Ricky Blackmon said of his squad.

Gardner had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in the game. Two days earlier, in the semi-final, she scored 21 points.

I also give props to Fairfax' Walker, who had 21 points in her team's victory Tuesday.

Third and fourth place: Carson and Poly (Sun Valley)

What the heck happened to Carson in the last year? They were a solid squad in 2007-2008, but this year they are contenders in every sense of the word: outside shooting, defense, athleticism, ball movement.

After Thursday's semi-final against Washington, I asked Carson Coach W. Marcel Sanders what he'd done over the course of a year, and he just smiled and said, "hard work." Well, sign me up.

The Generals and the Colts will be battling it out in coming weeks for the Marine League title, and the quest started Thursday. Carson built an early lead in the first quarter and kept it going the entire game. Washington was down by at least 12 most of the time, and as much as 17 at one point.

But thanks to a late fourth-quarter rally, sparked and carried by Gardner, Washington pulled out the win. This sent the Generals to the finals and the Colts to the third-place match, which they won yesterday.

Carson is extremely impressive this year. Monique and I were especially amazed by the outside shooting of Chante Miles and Daphne Rabot. And Miles is only a sophomore! Stay tuned.

Washington and Carson will play their first league game Friday night at Carson, and like the Jackson Five, I'll be there.

Poly of Sun Valley is an up-and-coming team. Their coach (whose name isn't on maxpreps) was cool and knowledgeable, and the girls all played their butts off every time. They easily handled Roosevelt and Garfield before losing to Fairfax on Thursday. This team has a lot of potential.

It was kind of a long haul; I saw 12 games at this tournament. But I'm going to do it again next year.

Final note: Kejuanna Gardner is a beast. A hungry, aggressive, glowering-with-determination beast.

Shock match Sparks' offer and keep Kara Braxton

Ah, the Sparks' quest to fill Candace Parker's shoes isn't going to be easy. Their first coup has failed:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Shock announced Friday they have matched the offer sheet Kara Braxton signed with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Coach Bill Laimbeer said in a release that Detroit's philosophy "is not to allow other teams to steal our players away with money."

Details of Braxton's contract were not released. She is a native of Jackson, Mich.

The 24-year-old former Georgia star was selected by Detroit with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2005 WNBA draft. She has averaged of 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 131 games.

Braxton averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games last season, helping the Shock win their third WNBA championship, and second in three years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cait McMahan gives up basketball career due to injury

University of Tennessee redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan decided earlier today to cut short her collegiate basketball career due to persistent problems in her right knee. The 21-year-old guard will become a student assistant coach for the Lady Vols.

"I have to face reality and accept the fact that my knee can't take the day-to-day pounding to play for this team," McMahan said in a statement from the Univeristy. "I'll try to continue to be a leader for my team from the sidelines."

Since first tearing her ACL in November, 2005, while still in high school, McMahan has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the knee, the last of which was in September. She arrived at her decision to stop playing after consulting with her doctors, Coach Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee officials, and team Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak.

Full release here:

Maria Cornelius, a reporter who covers the Lady Vols, penned a longer piece that ran on the University of Tennessee website today. Among other things, Cornelius chronicled McMahan's difficult last few years, which included losing her mother to cancer in May of 2007.

Those of us who follow the team had a feeling this day was coming, albeit not so soon. McMahan is to be applauded for her courage in stepping away from the game she loves for the good of her health. She will make a great addition to the Lady Vol coaching staff.

Courtney Paris is December WCBA player of the month

A couple days late (thanks, bballfan2005), but still news: Oklahoma's Courtney Paris is December's Women's College Basketball Association Division I national player of the month for December.

"Paris averaged 17.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in five games in December, while playing just 25.2 minutes a game. She shot 77.3 percent from the field, connecting on 33-of-44 field goal attempts. Her rebounds and field goal percentage led the Big 12 in December."

Full link:

I like the list of honorable mentions; looks like the judging is fair.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Pac-10 still has a way to go, and other things

Stanford killed Washington tonight, 112-35. California beat Washington State 68-45. Previously-thought-of-as-good Oregon State continued its free fall to 0-3 in conference play in losing to Arizona State tonight (previously thought of as washed up). Oregon continued its momentum from Sunday, beating Arizona.

So I guess Washington isn't that good. People had been making excuses for them before, but maybe they really are just bad.

I'm concerned about Arizona, though, because they only played seven tonight. Four of the starters played all 40 minutes - that's rough on an athlete. What's going on? Is everyone injured or sick? I need to call their media relations department and find out.

And as for parity in the Pac-10 - it's going to be a lot slower in coming that some would like. For now it's still the Cal and Stanford show.

On the upside, Ashley Walker moved up to second on Cal's all-time scoring list tonight.

In other parts........

Tennessee held on to beat the worst team in the SEC tonight. A W is a W, but I was nervous for a bit, because The Kim was texting me that they were tied with Kentucky at the same time the game I was watching at the Fairfax Tournament became tied. (More on that tourney in a little while, when it's all over, but it's been great!)

And in what sounds like the most exciting game of the evening, Georgia Tech's Jacqua Williams scored a bucket with 3.4 seconds left in overtime to put the Yellow Jackets up by one. But Boston College's Mickel Picco scored on a driving layup with less than a second left to win the game for her team, 65-64. I'm bummed about that because I've enjoyed seeing GT finally take its place in the top 25 this season, and with Williams, of Seattle, leading the way. Hopefully the Yellow Jackets can get back on their feet quickly.

Tomorrow, the only top 25 team playing is #10 Duke.

Myself, I'm going to check out the JC game of my kids tomorrow (for the second time this week - I've been busy).

I love this time of year.

More Parker fall out

Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said the team has made an offer to Detroit Shock restricted free agent Kara Braxton and is considering going after a pair of unrestricted free agents -- Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson.

Toler also said her reaction on hearing the Parker news was simple.

"Wow, just wow," Toler said. "That's kind of my reaction to so many of Candace's plays. Wow."

Now it's up to Toler to figure out how to make Sparks fans say "Wow" until the wow woman herself comes back to play.

Full link:

From the "Beyond the Arc" Sparks newsletter sent to season ticket holders today, an interview with General Manager Penny Toler: What’s in the works for the Sparks?

PT: We’re doing what everybody else is doing. Going after the free agents and hoping that we can land the best of them. You have Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson and Michelle Snow out there – that’s just to name a few. There are a lot of players out there. There are also a lot of restricted free agents out there and we will be putting offer sheets down on some of them. So we’re doing what everyone else is doing. What does it mean for the Sparks that Candace is pregnant?

PT: First things first, we’ll wait for her. She’ll be back, she wants to get back and she’s anxious to get back. At the end of the day as the GM, this is why you prepare the team from top to bottom. Candace is pregnant; it isn’t the end of the world. What about teams that have players out for torn ACLs or back and foot injuries? A pregnancy is nothing compared to some of that stuff and we’re extremely happy for her. I always try to prepare the team from top to bottom because every year someone could be out and at the beginning of this year, it will be Candace. How exciting is it knowing that there are tons of great players in the free agency game right now?

PT: It’s really exciting because the league has gotten tougher and you need a lot of good players to win a championship and we want to be in the running every year. Whether it’s Tina, Lauren, Michelle or whoever else is available – we’re going to continue to go after them. My job is to make this team stronger and it’s not just a matter of preparing the team for 2009 but for 2010, 2011 and beyond. What expectations do you have for 2009?

PT: Our expectation is to win a championship. What is our nickname out here in L.A.? The City of Champions. Our goal is always to win a championship and there is not a team in L.A. that would tell you that they don’t set out every season to win a championship. What are you most looking forward to in 2009?

PT: I’m definitely looking to get out of the Western Conference Finals. I thought we had a great run last year but at the end of the day we don’t have a title. So once again I’m looking forward to putting the best players out there and I think it helps that our players have already been together for a season. There won’t be many changes here, there will be some but going forward, we’re looking to win a championship. Going into your 10th season as GM, what have you learned that has made you so successful?

PT: I would say just being in the LA environment. You do your best; in LA you always have to work to be the best and I strive to be the best I can be. Every year I prepare the team win and LA is never in a rebuilding year. We don’t rebuild, we compete for titles. Going into my 10th year, my goal is the same as it was in my first: we’ve got to win a title and that’s every year.

Since the news was made official yesterday, the Sparks are really blitzing us with communications.

Great piece on UCLA's Chinyere Ibekwe

Great piece in today's Daily Bruin about the senior forward, who is working hard in her senior year instead of getting by on her athleticism alone:

A lot of players are in the same boat.

The story explains that none of this growth would be taking place without first-year coach Nikki Caldwell, who has helped "push her to her athletic limits as never before."

Even before Ibekwe stepped on the court for Caldwell, she had a feeling about her new coach.

“When it was announced that Nikki was our coach, even before I met her, there was something that drew me to her,” Ibekwe said. “When you meet people, you’re either all in or all out, and I was all in with her.”

That is when things started turning around. By deciding she was “in,” Ibekwe committed herself to facing the adversity of her junior year and learning from it.

“(Ibekwe’s success) started with her mental attitude about wanting to have a great senior year. ... She’s somebody who has taken that to heart,” Caldwell said. “I think she has taken pride in wanting to be that go-to player inside. But I think it started with a change in her mindset.”

Under Caldwell, Ibekwe quickly realized it would no longer be enough to coast on her athleticism alone. Caldwell pushed her to bring fire, aggressiveness and discipline every day. She is being pushed to her athletic limits as never before.

“You have to make up your mind every day on what type of leader you want to be when you step on the floor,” Caldwell said. “There are days when she’s done that and days when she needed the help of her teammates to get it done. But she is doing it more than she has probably ever done in the past.”

The numbers verify what Caldwell says. Ibekwe has eclipsed her sophomore statistics and leads the team both in rebounding and blocked shots by quite a bit in Caldwell’s system that preaches board play and defense.

And Ibekwe appreciates everything Caldwell has done for her as a senior.

“I feel (Caldwell) had the choice to not deal with me and focus on her younger classmen, but she has really embraced me, asked me to be a leader, and I’m doing as much as I can to help her,” Ibekwe said.

Lady Vols and coaches visit Children's Hospital

These pictures made me smile - a great team doing a great thing. They need to buy Charles-Furlow some sweats, though. And the picture-clicking sound effect is cool:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another "it's official" entry

Season ticket holders got personally-addressed emails today, though I didn't get mine until about an hour ago when I got home. My friend Monique called to tell me at about 2:30. Here's the official release from Sparks co-owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson:

Dear Sue,

On behalf of the entire Sparks organization, we would like you to join us in congratulating Candace Parker and Shelden Williams on the upcoming birth of their first child this Spring. We are delighted to be adding a new Sparks fan, and we look forward to the one-on-one games between him/her and Lauren Lockwood.

We are excited that Candace plans to return to the court this season, and we are already getting ready for our home opener (which for the first time ever is our season opener) on June 6. We came closer to our goal of another WNBA Championship, and all of our Sparks players share our view that close is never good enough for Los Angeles!

Thank you, as always, for being the best fans in the WNBA. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Kathy and Carla


(January 7, 2008) – Last year was a year of firsts for Candace Parker. In 2008 she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, she was the first woman in the WNBA to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player and she captured her first Olympic Gold Medal at the Summer Games in Beijing. Entering a new year, Parker has another special first to look forward to. This spring, she and husband Shelden Williams of the Sacramento Kings are expecting their first child.

"Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family," said Parker. "We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents."

"We are happy to welcome a new addition into the Sparks family and on behalf of the entire organization we congratulate both Candace and Shelden," said Penny Toler, Los Angeles Sparks General Manager.

Parker will continue to work out in preparation to participate in the 2009 WNBA season.

Parker nearly averaged a double-double her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and she led the WNBA in rebounds. She earned the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award marking the first time in the WNBA's 12 seasons that a rookie has won MVP. Parker won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Lady Vols in 2007 and 2008. She led the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) her final season at Tennessee. Parker was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year and Kodak All-American. She earned the NCAA Final Four MVP award in 2007 and 2008.

On the Sparks board fans are freaking out a bit, as would be expected. One person said the 2009 season is shot. In a later post this person said, "it's disappointing all the fans who bought season tickets to see Candace play. She's the new face of the WNBA, and now she's out indefinitely, how does the WNBA market itself?"

I guess we shall see. You never know in this wild and woolly game of life, what will happen.

Pat Summitt told the News Sentinel that she had talked with Candace about it and both of them are excited. Summitt also said that if it was a girl, she'd hope she would come to Tennessee. Most interesting to me was that Candace released a statement through the University of Tennessee as well as the Sparks. Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol, they say.

Congratulations to Candace.

Link to News Sentinel story: