Friday, April 30, 2010

Last day of April

Not much cracking today.

The Chicago Sky beat the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 in the first pre-season matchup for both squads.

Lisa Leslie's baby boy came almost a month early.

I can't believe it's May already.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laura Beeman to USC?

Is Mt. San Antonio Coach Laura Beeman, who also served as Sparks assistant coach in 2008, a new assistant at USC?

I'd heard that rumor a couple days ago. Now it's been posted on by a regular poster that Beeman will be at USC soon, if she isn't already. Nothing on the web so far.

Is it true?

Make it difficult to transfer

ESPN's Mark Lewis has some good commentary on the current transfer mania that is plaguing college basketball. Ironically, today Oregon State lost yet another player, as Eisha Sheppard says she wants to be closer to home.

Lewis makes his first great point in this:

There was a time years ago when transferring was an emotional and difficult step to take. It was viewed as an absolute last resort taken only after exhausting every avenue to resolve whatever difficulty the athlete was facing. At the same time, other schools were skeptical about taking transfers and not so quick to provide the open arms that seem to waiting for them at the drop of a hat today. There's no incentive to go the extra mile to make things work. In the first program I worked at we actually made a transfer pay her way the first year to prove that she was serious and wanted to be there. That approach now would pretty much eliminate any school from the transfer derby.

And he suggests making it more difficult to transfer:

The reality is that it's too easy and far too acceptable to transfer. I'm not advocating a "Scarlet T" but if the implications or the avenue to changing schools were more difficult then greater detail and attention might be paid to the recruiting decisions on the front end. Make them pay for the year they have to sit out or take away a year of eligibility. Those may be farfetched concepts, but something should be done to raise the bar.

Somewhere along the line the "privilege" of playing the game became a "right". When that happened the opportunity to play college basketball and the responsibility that goes with it lost something and the floodgates opened.

I can't believe no one's thought of that before - making the athlete pay for the year she has to sit out. I sure wouldn't pay for it, if I were the school. The NCAA needs to make some changes to its transfer rules, and the sooner the better.

Meanwhile, some of those freshmen who are not running away from their teams have been named to Full Court Press' freshmen All-American Honors Team.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All over the world, with more orange

Once again, there is some Tennessee in the news today.

UMMC Ekaterinburg defeated Spartak Moscow for the Russian Cup today, 73-67. Here's a great photo gallery. Nice to see Candace Parker getting her hops back. Cappie Pondexter looks like she's ready to come back to the US and tear it up, too. Here's the "Awww!" shot.

Former Lady Vol Cait McMahan may have hung up her sneakers, but she's got a hip hop track out now. Check it out.

Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell are taking their annual motorcycle trip for breast cancer research to Niagara Falls this year.

And former Lady Vol Nicky Anosike tweeted a few hours ago that she's heard through the grapevine that there will be an assistant coaching job available at Tennessee, and she should hit up Pat Summitt. Really? And really?

USA Today has named it's All-USA team, and Chiney Ogwumike is the player of the year. Kaneisha Horn, Odyssey Sims, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Chelsea Gray round out the team. Mater Dei's Kevin Kiernan is coach of the year.

On the WNBA tip, the Seattle Storm scrimmaged against China today, and two Cal players showed out big. Love this picture.

Tulsa cuts the roster down, and signs Christi Thomas.

WNBA training camp reports

Some teams have provided great reports on the beginning of training camp this week:

LA Sparks

Indiana Fever

Chicago Sky

Minnesota Lynx

Seattle Storm

Tulsa Shock

San Antonio Silver Stars

Phoenix Mercury

New York Liberty

And hoopfeed has some interesting but scary tales.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Orange-colored glasses

Strangely, almost all the news today relates to the University of Tennessee. Works for me.

Tyler Summitt is coaching, and he's got the stare down pat. (HA!)

Kara Lawson is having fun behind enemy lines as part of the Connecticut Sun. But you can't hate on her - she's still playing.

Candace Parker recently flashed someone. And she'll be back on US soil and in training camp within a week, by the way.

Our one non-Lady Vol item: Seattle Storm Coach Brian Agler tries to be a regular parent during his daughter's games. He doesn't quite pull it off, though.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quiet back to work (camp) Monday

WNBA training camp continues...............

The Seattle Storm is now holding training camp at Seattle Pacific University - a private Christian college. The most interesting part of this piece is the final three paragraphs:

Still, the union between the Storm and SPU is odd.

The school is an evangelical university with strict rules regarding sexuality, including disciplinary action for "homosexual sexual activities," according to SPU's student handbook. The Storm has out lesbians on its roster and employed by the front office, plus the owners regularly state the importance of having shared values with their business partners.

But as part of the rental agreement, Storm CEO Karen Bryant said a non-discrimination clause was included. And each party said the experience could be educational for both sides.

Those in Tulsa Shock training camp are going through "40 minutes of hell." Hoopfeed tweeted earlier today that Coach Nolan Richardson was not putting up with anyone walking the ball up court.

In Chicago, the Sky are looking for leaders.

One unrelated NCAA note: Oregon State University signees are saying they're not nervous in the wake of all the recent transfers, but they really are.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Augustus, Wiggins out for a while with surgeries

Holy crap.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus will miss at least the start of the season after having non-cancerous tumors removed from her abdomen and lower back.

Augustus remains in the hospital recovering from the surgery. A Lynx spokesman says she will definitely play this season, but the team will not have a timetable for her return until doctors re-evaluate her in a week to 10 days.

Augustus only played in six games last season after tearing the ACL in her left knee.

The Lynx will also be without forward Candice Wiggins for at least a month. Doctors found a small tear in the meniscus in her right knee. Wiggins will have surgery Tuesday and be out about four weeks.
Wiggins averaged 13.1 points last season.

First weekend of WNBA training camp

Camp is in session beginning this weekend and in some cases, Monday. The league's website has links galore, including player movement central, the transactions page, and Lynx training camp live chat. But there are other links:

The Mystics prepare for life without Alana Beard this season.

The Mercury will try to defend their title this year, of course.

And get this - the same idiot who wrote an anti-WNBA piece for the LA Times in 2008 has now written an LA Sparks preview piece today.

This young person has been covering LA-area preps for the last year, and not doing it too well, either. I can tell by her choppy writing style and omission of much information that she was not trained in journalism. Combine that with her venom towards women's professional basketball in the United States, and she would make a perfect Sparks beat writer, right?

That's why I don't subscribe to the LA Times, is because of crap like that.

Last year the Times had Mark Medina to cover the Sparks, and he did a great job. But he's covering the Lakers this year. Probably this young person is all the paper is willing to afford for the WNBA right now.

It's one of the biggest ironies in basketball life that Southern California has some of the best women's high school and pro (college is coming up too) players and teams in the country, and we're stuck with a rag like the LA Times that won't cover it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More on Wagner and Azzi

Eugene-based KEZI reports that it's not just the fault of Oregon State Coach LaVonda Wagner that so many players have left of late - it's on the shoulders of the community:

But another sports fan says it's more than a coaching issue. Rather, the sport of basketball at OSU isn't getting the support it needs to flourish.

"The basketball team here is kind of unsupported," believes Nate Bodie, an OSU student. "I mean, think about Gill Coliseum. It's a big place and yet, how many seats do we fill in basketball games? Not very many," Bodie added.

Many others hope the universtiy can get its act together before it affects recruiting efforts for other sports.

"I think it says something bad about OSU, too," said Bodie. "And, you know, it's broadcasted. We show that to other people. And other recruiters looking at OSU say, 'Oh, is this the place for me?' Not only in basketball, but other sports as well."

I could have told them that.

In the meantime, one publication is calling for Wagner's head.

One San Francisco writer remembers Jennifer Azzi getting kicked out of a press conference some years back. I went to an informational fitness seminar of hers in Seattle several years ago. It was thoroughlly boring.

Her friends think Azzi's crazy.

Mel Greenburg has retired from the Philadelphia Inquirer, but his musings live on.

On sports journalism and women's basketball

Q makes some good points via Swish Appeal:

Since they have access, journalists should find a way to bring fans closer to the game and add to what everyone is talking about rather than pandering to it.

Ironically, this point was made quite well by Jacob Shapiro of the Columbia Spectator (perhaps only ironic because I have this crazy idea that professionals should be wiser than student reporters...but what do I know?). From the Spectator:

ESPN, sports media need to refocus

There’s no doubt that sports are made by star players who generate the most attention and income. When Albert Pujols hits a homer or LeBron James dunks over four opposing players, I want to see it. But, as Sports Illustrated correctly points out, I don’t want ESPN to cut to Lebron running the floor every time he has the ball, or only show Pujols’ at-bats during the course of a whole baseball game.

Any true fan knows that the beauty of any sport comes in the intricacies of the game, the little things that the common fan doesn’t notice. And this is especially true in team sports where teams win and lose together, regardless of how the star does.

While the message may be inadvertent, this sort of coverage argues that the outcome and excitement of sporting events are only made by the best players in the league and that all other parts of the game (and all other players) can be largely ignored in favor of following one player. Is this not the very message—the “no ‘I’ in team rule,” albeit in disguise—that we attack every day when our children are playing Little League? If it is, let’s hope our sports networks start behaving like it.

In ethnographic terms, we might say that the goal is to give an account of an event as an insider might tell it. In doing so, you take into account the entirety of a situation: context, the actors, and the interactions itself (pet peeve: yes, there are actually variables in qualitative research. They are just a lot messier and definitely not controlled). While that's not exactly what one might want out of sports journalism, it places the same burden on sports journalists: to actually gain an understanding of the event itself before moving to the level of interpretation.

That's what much of the coverage of women's sports lacks right now - an attempt to understand.

Of course, that does not require writers to ignore the bad and only write positive fluff (ask freelantz: I detest fluff). There are situations that call upon journalists to critique an athlete, coach, or general manager. However, there are ways to critique tastefully without just conjuring up a thought and then stringing together bad logic to make (up) a story (e.g. "UConn is bad for women's basketball").

Good analysis.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's official: Jennifer Azzi is in at USF

Jennifer Azzi is the new head coach at University of San Francisco. While I don't share the outrage of the person who commented on last night's post, I do wonder what's behind this hire. Azzi is known more for her fitness expertise than coaching. She's never had an assistant coaching gig, and that's usually how it goes - work your way up through the ranks. Did Azzi know someone at USF?

Tulsa Shock whittling it down

Five players from the Tulsa Shock open practice have been invited to camp:

Juanita Ward - Syracuse
Danielle Green - Oklahoma State
Brittany Gilliam - Southern Methodist University
Moniquee Alexander - UCLA
Kim Sitzmann - University of Arkansas - Little Rock

Not to be mean with regard to at least one player, but was this the best of those who showed up? They might need Marion Jones.

The New York Liberty have signed Brandie Hoskins, Laine Selwyn, Tamara James, April Phillips, Katie Mattera and Erica Williamson to training camp contracts.

The Connecticut Sun have signed Sha Brooks, Alicia Gladden, May Kotsopoulos, Judie Lomax, Pauline Love and Kaitlin Sowinski to training camp contracts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The University of San Francisco will announce their new head coach tomorrow, but rumors are it's Jennifer Azzi.

Lady Vol Vicki Baugh discusses her knee injuries and hopes to coach someday. On a related note, the entire basketball team will sign autographs Saturday before the Tennessee softball game.

Tennessee Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick and UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell are gearing up for their annual motorcycle ride to benefit breast cancer research. I sure wish they came to the west coast.

Assistant Coach Kellee Barney is leaving the sinking Oregon State University program.

In somewhat breaking news, the Seattle Storm has just announced the signing of Svetlana Abrosimova and the release of Janell Burse. That makes me sad. Burse has been with the Storm forever.

Sparks training camp opens Sunday, and they've put up a page to introduce us to the players who will be trying out. Very interesting.

Ben York of slamonline has an incredible story about how the WNBA helped a young girl battling cancer.

Great interview with Temeka Johnson.

Lunch time news

Former Detroit Shock assistant coach Rick Mahorn is bankrupt.

Veteran Taj McWilliams has signed with the Liberty. She's sure been with a lot of teams in the WNBA.

The Oregon State University athletic director addresses concerns about the basketball program, in light of all the transfers this year.

Todd Buchanan will replace Joe Curl as University of Houston coach.

Two former UCLA Bruins are trying out for the Tulsa Shock - Tierra Henderson and Moniquee Alexander.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The Seattle Storm is the latest team to sell - I mean get a sponsor to wear on the front of their jerseys. Until today, I had never heard of Bing. But bling is bling, and you gotta do what you gotta do. At least they're happy about it.

In other WNBA news, the Sparks' Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton has learned much this season from her assistant coaching gig at Purdue.

Several WNBA stars can be seen in this great photo gallery of the UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. Nadezhda Orenburg game. I like this Candace Parker picture, myself.

In college news, Tennessee's Glory Johnson is trying to move her game up to the next level.

Kristen Nash has decided to forego her last year of eligibility at Texas.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Springin' along

Collegiately speaking......

The hemorrhaging continues at Oregon State, where yet another player has left the basketball team. Kassandra McCalister's departure leaves five left on the roster. What's going on at that school? And did the entire team meet and decide to leave?

Stephanie Glance will be the new Illinois State University coach, it was announced today. Glance has worked under Kay Yow and Pat Summitt, so she should do just fine.

The comments of the coach she succeeded, Robin Pingeton, are under fire now. When accepting the University of Missouri job, Pingeton made a big deal out of being a Christian, which made some understandably nervous. We'll see what happens next.

On the club ball tip......

Hoopfeed has another excellent piece on Marques Jackson, founder of Dallas Fort Worth Elite, who recently passed away. He "never left a girl behind."

The West Coast Spring Invitational, at Cal Poly Pomona and Mount Sac May 15-16, will feature all the top teams in California. The Boo Williams team will also be there, believe it or not. Needless to say, I'll be there.

Players at this past weekend's viewing tournaments were getting the pressure from coaches. But perhaps none tops this: an eighth-grader has received an offer from Virginia Tech. Please, please don't let that be the trend of the future.


Ben York takes some time to answer letters in the WNBA mailbag. I like his links list.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Boo, Yum! replacement? WNBA

So much news today. And happy birthday Candace Parker, by the way, who reported having an excellent time in Russia.

First yesterday: USA Basketball had its first exhibition in Connecticut. Here's a video of what attendees say was a good game. Seimone Augustus, who sustained a season-ending ACL injury last June, participated.

ESPN's Lindsay Schnell covered one of the major viewing tournaments this weekend: the Boo Williams Invitational. She has a write up, and there is a video.

Today we have the apparent crisis that is Oregon State. With the exit of Kirsten Tilleman, following Talisa Rhea and Kate Lanz, there are only six players left on the Beaver roster for next year. Lanz told Oregonlive that the atmosphere at OSU wasn't "positive." All I can say is wow.

Then there was this tweet from KeilMoore of Peach State Hoops, claiming that 6'7" Imani Stafford has replace Mater Dei's Jordan Adams at the top of the 2012 class. There was some discussion about that, but so far no evidence that it's true.

The lovely new University of Louisville basketball arena will be called the KFC Yum! Center. Oh. My. God.

The Tulsa Shock and Coach Nolan Richardson have their two assistant coaches in place to begin the season. WNBA training camp begins this weekend for some teams, and next Monday for others.

In NCAA news, former Houston Comets coach Karleen Thompson has been named an assistant at Clemson.

Terri Williams-Flournoy has Georgetown on the right track.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Skimpy viewing tournament news

It's hard to get news about the most significant girls basketball happenings in the country right now, aka the viewing tournaments.

The best is the Hampton, VA Daily Press, which has not one but two player profile stories out of the Boo Williams tourney. And look at all those sidebars on the left of the page. Good job, Daily Press.

The Raleigh-Durham News Observer has jack squat on the Deep South Classic, debunking the myth that a smaller paper will more likely cover such events. I've been getting updates from the Cal Sparks director on twitter, who reports that there have been great and enthusiastic crowds at the event. Sparks power wing Deajanae Scurry made a valiant dunk attempt in her team's first game yesterday, which earned praise from Hoopgurlz.

The Herald Times of Bloomington, IN might have something on the Adidas Hardwood Classic, but I can't tell: you have to be able to log in to see the story, which may entail a subscription. Boooo!

None of the three Chicago dailies have anything on the Windy City Classic. It could have been cancelled for all we know.

If anyone out there has any game and player reports, first or second-hand, please drop them!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Big Ten to be the Big 12, 14 or 16?

Big Ten commissioners are taking the next 12-18 months to study expanding the league. Reading between the lines of that short piece, it almost sounds like a done deal. But which schools would join the conference? Any guesses? And how would the conferences they come from deal? Lots of questions.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Generation of quitters

The news began trickling out this week, about all the athletes that are leaving Division I programs right now. It's clear that this will be another year like last year in which a staggering number of young people give up their scholarships.

It disturbs me deeply. I've been thinking for a few days how to write about it, and then this interview with Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard was posted. The Cyclones have lost all four of their women's basketball recruits from last year, despite reaching the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010. Their male hoopers are leaving too. It's a problem that effects both the men's and women's sides in every conference.

Here are Pollard's very candid remarks:

My peers and I continually discuss the epidemic around the country in the sport of basketball. In the past two years over 500 men’s basketball players have transferred from a Division I team to another program. That number is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately if a kid’s world is not absolutely perfect (in their mind), they run from the problem rather than deal with it. Makes you wonder if it is the first signs of our society’s change in our early education program (no longer give kids grades – everybody passes; can’t keep score, everybody has to win; if you do not like something, have mom or dad complain on your behalf). Personally I wonder how that generation is going to survive in the real world when mom or dad or AAU coach are not there for them during their first job interview or first job evaluation. The bottom line is life is not a video game, you can’t just hit reset if you do not like your initial score.

Education isn't necessarily to blame, as not all elementary schools use the same grading system. High schools use the A-B-C-D-F sytem, and no kid can escape NCAA GPA requirements getting out of high school.

Often times the "using parents as a cop-out" issue does apply, but there are just as many cases where a kid is left on her own and/or not supported much of the time and still quits. I've seen plenty of those cases in the schools where I've been employed.

I work with athletes. I also teach high school students daily - most of whom aren't athletes - and I have my own theory about all the transfers: this generation gives up too easily. They don't seem to have any concept of perseverance and what it takes to reach a goal, the amount of work involved in achievement, and the number of times they'll need to just suck it up to get there.

Examples.....I have had both athletes and students quit after a couple of laps. Kids will say they're going to hit the weight room and never get there. They'll start on something and won't finish it. They're worse than their parents - many of whom begin a workout program and then quit. These kids never really get started in the first place. They get tired after less than five minutes and then they give up.

A mixture of several factors contribute to these circumstances, in my opinion. For one, we live in an instant gratification culture where people expect things to happen fastfastfast. Young people have no patience today because of that, which is another part of the problem. If it doesn't happen right now, they say forget it.

Another factor is that kids don't believe in adults the way they used to when I was younger. Grownups used to be thought of as wise people, and sometimes kids were even afraid of them. A little fear is a good thing sometimes, but today's youth aren't afraid of anything or anyone. They also don't necessarily respect adults; older people have to "earn" their respect (in their eyes). They think they know more than coaches, and sometimes their parents do too.

Pollard is right on the money with the "reset" theory. Kids today think everything can be negotiated or changed if they don't like it. They didn't go to the old school that my father tended - the "tough sh*t" school. That's unfortunate, because it made me and my peers very resilient. This generation has no resilience, for the most part. It's scary.

A lot of times female ballers leave a program because they're homesick. Well, tough beans. If it were my daughter and she tried to levy that excuse, I'd tell her it's only four years, and she can use this as a lesson in putting up with circumstances that don't agree with her, because it will be far from the last time that happens. I'd tell her to suck it up.

What will happen to this next generation, I'm not sure. But it makes me uneasy. Given the massive numbers that would rather stay overweight than begin regular exercise, and the hundreds that are now giving up college scholarships, it's a good thing I plan on working past my retirement age. These quitters are going to need us.

Mercury taking shape

WNBA news:

The Phoenix Mercury might have lost Cappie, but they've still got Penny Taylor and Temeka Johnson. Both signed multi-year contracts today.

Seattle Storm forward Camille Little lead a fitness clinic at a suburban Seattle high school this week.

NCAA news:

Baylor wins one and loses one. Makenzie Robertson of Texas has signed with the team, and sophomore Cherrish Wallace has retired from basketball, due to a chronic leg injury.

The trial in former Montana State University coach Robin Potera-Haskins' discrimination suit is underway. Potera-Haskins alleges MSU treated the men's and women's basketball programs differently; MSU says Potera-Haskins was "overly-critcal, unsensitive and unresponsive" to players, causing several to leave.

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has removed her name from consideration for the University of Houston coaching job.

Five African-American players changing the basketball landscape in Vermont

Love this story by ESPN's Chris Hansen, about the way a small group of basketball players in this 96.5 percent white state are doing it up big in hoops:

"[These adopted kids are] black children with very little know-how of racism," Tammie Lalime said. "And the racism in our community comes from ignorance not hate."

Both Atwood and Lalime say they hear the N-word used by classmates of all races, but both say they've never had it used as a derogatory phrase at them directly. An incident last school year, Atwood's freshman year and Lalime's junior year, put school administrators on edge. A student or someone on campus wrote the N-word on a wall of the back stairwell of the school. It happened a second time the following day and the administration talked to few kids about the consequences of involvement of such behavior.

There have been no further issues.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Viewing period weekend

Beginning tomorrow, NCAA coaches can view potential recruits first-hand - and they can talk to them, too (more on that shortly). It's the first viewing period of the year for coaches and the first major tournament for club ball teams, so everyone is rarin' to go.

The Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, VA has an incredible list of participant teams, including these big guns:

Boo Williams Summer League, Virginia Beach, VA.
Cal Storm, Orange County, CA.
Cy-Fair Shock, Houston, TX.
Tennessee Flight, Murfreesboro, TN.
DFW T-Jack Elite, Dallas, TX.
Philly Belles, Philadelphia, PA.

The Deep South Classic, in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., is loaded:

Cal Sparks, Los Angeles, CA.
Memphis Elite, Memphis, TN.
Charlotte 76ers, Charlotte, N.C.
Illinois X-Citement, Chicago, IL.
Lady Jaguars, Jacksonville, FL.
Team Unique, Washington, D.C.

The Adidas Hardwood Championships will be in Bloomington, IN, and features these name teams:

East Bay Xplosion, Orinda, CA.
Chicago Hoops Express, Chicago, IL.
Full Package, Chicago, ILL.
Indiana Elite-Central, Indianapolis, IN.
S.C. Lady 76ers, Columbia, S.C.

The US Junior Nationals Windy City Classic is in Chicago. Top teams are:

All Iowa Attack, Ames, IA
Cincinnati's Finest, Cincinnati, OH.
Missouri Valley Eclipse, Kansas City, MO.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Shooting Stars, Lincoln, NB.
Oklahoma Select, Oklahoma City, OK.
Sports City U, Hurricane, W.V.

These are the major tournaments, but there will be hundreds of smaller tournaments that coaches at smaller colleges will attend. It's all about scouting right now.

NCAA coaches are bound by a complex set of rules that delegate how and when they talk to recruits. Before the Final Four coaches couldn't call junior prospects, but the kids could call them. Now coaches can call. But after this weekend, the number of calls and playing views will be specified.

If I were an NCAA coach I would have to check every move I made with an interpreter every day. But tomorrow, it's "game on" for the class of 2011.

To respect veterans or not

Ironically, on the night before the Connecticut Sun waived Tamika Whitmore, there was this nice piece on the Sun's Asjha Jones, extolling the virtues of not forgetting the veterans. Hmmm.

Signings and de-signings

Yesterday was the first day of the spring signing period, which lasts until May 19. But it seems that several of those signings have come from de-signings. Kelsey Bone is the most significant example for now. She announced today she's transferring to Texas A&M.

Seattle University has several new players today, including a transfer from Oregon State - Talisa Rhea. That's the second player who's left the Beavers this year.

On the non-signing-related college tip, Monica Wright, Danielle Robinson, Kelsey Griffin and Kalana Greene discuss being a part of USA Basketball.

Monica Wright blogs from camp.

C. Vivian Stringer and John Chaney returned to Cheyney State College, where they both go their start, to have some fun.

And does Chiney Ogwumike have any faults? No obvious ones yet: she's been raising money to feed the hungry.

Two leave Washington State

Kiki Moore and Danielle Lenoir are leaving the Cougar program. Ouch.

I've heard where one of them will land, but nothing is official yet.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

News about seasons

One of my longtime favorite players, Alana Beard, will miss the entire WNBA season this year due to ankle tendon damage. How sad. And I do believe the Washington Mystics are cursed.

The New York Liberty waived point guard Loree Moore last week, but the Seattle Storm picked her up today. Moreover, Coach Brian Agler seems pretty excited about it. This is interesting:

"She had an opportunity to look around," said Agler. "She looked at a variety of teams. I think Seattle was somebody she liked, but we also pursued her. I think she sort of sees herself fitting into a role here, and it could turn into a very substantial role."

In WNBA trade news today, the Tulsa Shock traded Crystal Kelly to San Antonio for Shanna Crossley.

More Euroleague musings, and this time they're Janel McCarville's.

Chiney Ogwumike has a nice guest blog on slamonline about the recent McDonald's All-American game, of which she was a part.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three worthy items

Tamika Catchings shares a gushy moment overseas. Has anyone ever said anything bad about Catch? I haven't ever seen anything.

Delisha Milton-Jones, who played last weekend in the Euroleague championship, has a lot of interesting thoughts on many topics.

Speaking of musings, ESPN's Mechelle Voepel has them about new NCAA coaches. The end is particularly good:

Bottom line, I’ve covered women’s basketball for 26 years. I couldn’t care less if a coach is straight, gay, male, female, has children or doesn’t have them. I care if coaches are good people who treat student-athletes with respect and are committed to their well-being and growth. Having the qualities to nurture and discipline young people is not linked to any certain formula involving a coach’s gender, sexual orientation or marital/parental status.

UCLA team banquet report

The UCLA team banquet was Sunday night. Bruin alumni Patrick Meighan provides this excellent report:

Okay, well, this is the first one of these I've ever gone to (for any sport, ever), so I don't really have a whole lot to compare it to. But my daughter (age 5) and I really had a great time at this one, just watching these young women interact with the world, and with each other. The affection this team seems to have for each other and for their coaching staff (and vice versa) is, to my eyes at least, pretty unmistakeable. They really do seem to like each other. And no wonder, 'cause there seems to be a lot to like *about* them.

A little story: my daughter brought our media guide and a sharpie, intending to get a couple of autographs, but as soon as we got to the UCLA Faculty Center (during the initial cocktails-and-kibbitzing part of the evening) and my daughter was within a few feet of her heroes, she suddenly got very shy and decided that she couldn't bring herself to go talk to any of them. Which was fine, of course. We just sat down at a table in the corner and my daughter began unsteadily scrawling a few players's names in on the media guide pages where their autographs otherwise would have gone. Meanwhile, I went off to the bar to go get her some juice. But by the time I made my way back, Stacie Terry had pulled up a seat next to my daughter, had somehow brought her out of her shell, and was helping her get autographs from all of the players and coaches around her. It was really completely cool. I thanked Coach Terry for taking the time with my daughter like that, and she smiled back at me and said, "It was cute, I asked her if she wanted to get Jasmine Dixon's autograph and she said, 'No thanks, I already wrote her name in.'"

Okay, so my daughter doesn't *completely* understand the whole "autograph" concept yet.

We then proceeded into the banquet hall, got some food, and heard some speeches. Chancellor Block was there, sitting at Coach Caldwell's table. I don't know if he always goes to all of these Bruin athletic banquets ('cause, like I said, I've never been to one of these before), but it struck me as really cool to see the Chancellor there, personally supporting the team like that. It then struck me as slightly less cool a few moments later when he gave a speech and had to read the names of the three seniors off a piece of paper, and had clear difficulty with the pronunciations, to boot. C'mon, Gene, you really should know these names by now.

A couple of you have asked who on the team was given awards at this event. I confess that I wasn't taking notes, but if my memory serves, it went like this:

*Taka got the academic award. (Note: I discovered at this banquet that everyone involved with the team has always called her by her last name, and never by her first name).

*Coach Caldwell presented Moniquee with an award for the most memorable moment of the season: the point near the end of the NC St. game where Moniquee put up a 17-footer from the wing and nailed it.

*Coach Caldwell then presented Doreena with something called the Floor General Award... not because she assumes command of the team while on the court, but because she's always literally falling/sliding onto the floor. Doreena accepted the award, declaring, "Thanks, yeah, that floor is hard sometimes."

*Coach Butts presented Markel with the Newcomer of the Year award, and preceded the presentation with an anecdote about Markel playing poorly during the game in Eugene and being pulled, whereupon she sulked her way down to the end of the bench and reclined with a towel over her head. Caldwell sent Butts down to the end to ask Markel what she was doing, and Markel replied, "Coach, I'm relaxing." Butts returned to Caldwell and said, "I think she's done for the night. She just said to me, 'Coach, I'm relaxing.'" After a couple minutes, Caldwell goes down to the end of the bench and asks Markel, "Are you still relaxing, or are you ready to play some basketball?" Markel replies, "Yeah, I guess I'm done relaxing."

*Coach Perotti presented Rebekah Gardner with some sort of all-around award, the title of which I don't recall, but it had something to do with attitude and citizenship, and maybe there was a "most improved" implied in there as well. Perotti told a story about having made it a personal project, all season long, to needle Rebekah in order to provoke a reaction... hoping to coax a bit more assertiveness out of her, I suppose. And he said that, late in the season during a mid-game huddle, he started to rag on Rebekah as usual, and Rebekah finally fired a shot back at him. He said that he couldn't smile at the time, but that inside he was beaming, because it meant that he'd finally gotten through the nice exterior and found Rebekah's aggressive side. (Note: Rebekah's sister, Rhema, was there at this event as well. I found myself curious what she must be thinking while hearing this anecdote, and wondering if she'd be Perotti's next extended project). (Other note: I was initially alarmed to see that Rhema was clearly several inches shorter than her sister, but then was relieved to discover that Rhema was wearing flat sandals, while Rebekah was wearing impossibly high heels... as were most of the other players, for some reason).

*Coach Terry presented Jasmine Dixon with the POY award, pausing first to encourage us all to boo Jasmine for initially choosing Rutgers.

It then came time for the traditional senior speeches, at which point we were informed that Erika, Taka and Moniquee had opted to skip the speeches, and instead had shot and edited a video about their Bruin experiences. It was a pretty funny video... some very-passable impersonations of the coaching staff in there, and was (all in all) a really nice peek at the personalities *inside* the jerseys. Very nicely done.

Coach Caldwell then gave a really touching speech about those three seniors, tagging each of them with one-word summaries. Erika, she said, is "love." Taka, she said, is a greater embodiment of "peace" than anyone she's ever met. And Moniquee, she said, is "happiness." So for the rest of her life, Coach said, she'll think of those three seniors as "love, peace and happiness."

Then Coach asked each of the remaining classes to stand up, one by one. First the upcoming seniors: Doreena, Darxia, Christina and Nina. "Guys," she said directly to them as they stood there, alone in that crowded and silent banquet hall, "You got one shot left. Understand? One more shot to make it to Indianapolis. Okay? This is your last shot." It was really kind of intense. Then that class sat down and the upcoming junior class was told to stand: Jasmine and Rebekah (Atonye stood too, but Nikki told her to sit back down, because she's also got a redshirt year left). Coach told them, "Okay, you guys have two shots left. Two more shots, and that's it." Then they sat down and the upcoming sophomores were told to stand: Mariah, Markel, Jackie and Atonye (for real this time), "And you guys have three more shots left. Three more shots."

Lots of pregnant pauses during this particular portion of the event. Again, from my point of view, some very palpable intensity there.

After that came a somewhat-standard video reel of the season highlights, followed by Dave Marcus (who had emcee'd the evening) calling the event to a close, only to be cut off by Moniquee, who led the entire banquet hall in an improptu 8-clap. Pretty cool, and a great way to finish off the night.

Again, my daughter and I just had a really great time at this event. As a Bruin alum and a father of a young girl, I was very proud and happy that my daughter was getting the opportunity to see and interact with the exceptionally strong, vibrant, confident and beautiful women who comprise this Bruin team (the players *and* the coaching staff). This program is a keeper. The people running this program are keepers.

I already can't wait 'til next year.

Patrick Meighan
UCLA Class of '95

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leave the women's college season alone

First there was talk of expanding the women's NCAA tournament from 64 to 96 teams. Now one Pennsylvania columnist suggests having the women's season begin two weeks earlier than the men's, so it would end in March rather than April.

Crappiest idea I've heard in a long time.

For one thing, it disrupts the entire recruiting process, which is set in step-by-step procedures and written into NCAA code. The viewing periods would have to be changed, there would be two NCAA rule books, and probably even more NCAA people overseeing things (we need less of them, not more).

Secondly, an earlier end to the season would mess up the WNBA season and club ball season.

Here's my suggestion: leave things as they are and let the women make some more money before trying to change things. There's no compelling reason to change it right now, so don't.

In other news.......

Texas Tech Coach Kristy Curry loves her job, and her athletic director loves her.

Colorado alumni and former baller Linda Lappe has been named to head the Buffs program. Check out the playing days picture of her on the site.

North Dakota State player Hannah Linz has been diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, but her prognosis is great (thank goodness).

Marques Jackson dies

The tweeting started yesterday morning, not long after the long-time club ball coach and director passed away - former players of his, friends of those players and others who were otherwise touched by the man. Also, friends of the New York Liberty's Tiffany Jackson, who has lost her father.

Hoopfeed has the best write-up on the tragedy, which includes a list of the most prominent graduates of his program, the explanation for what DFW Elite stands for, and great links.

Condolences to all.

Recruiting differs

Recruiting is different for girls than for guys, ESPN points out. Good information there, including the fact that there are more NCAA scholarships for women than for men. But those extras translate into more bench-warming.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spartak wins Eugoleague championship

Lead by Diana Taurasi's 29 points and Janel McCarville's 20, Spartak put away Ros Casares today for the Euroleague championship. Candace Parker's team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, took the third-place trophy.

Why do people ask these types of questions?

Sports fans are forever trying to get successful coaches of females to coach men's teams to "prove" themselves. As if it couldn't get more condescending, there is usually a call for extraordinary players to join men's leagues to show their worthiness.

Apparently there was a suggestion that Baylor freshman Brittney Griner could be drafted by the NBA (glad I missed that one). But some website took it seriously enough to look into it and interview USC Coach Michael Cooper and Boston Celtic Shelden Williams about it. They say it won't happen.

Honestly, even if BG got drafted, you couldn't get me to watch the NBA. When can we quit comparing women to men? It's stupid.

In Seattle, Alisa Scott (Sheryl Swoopes' wife) has resigned her post as Shoreline Community College coach. Wonder what she's going to do now?

Candice Dupree and Kayla Pederson have been added to USA Basketball's spring training roster.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tina Charles beats out Maya Moore for Wooden Award by one point

Yes, your vote does count: 252-251.

Final Four tales from the Sink

WBCA Coach of the Year, Brea Olinda's Jeff Sink, coached the White team at the WBCA High School All-American Game at the Final Four in San Antonio last weekend.

(Link to photo here)

For all the fuss made over Jeff Sink, and for all the times he was star struck during the days of last weekend's Final Four, it was one non-game moment that meant the most to him.

He and his WBCA All-American team were walking to the Alamodome for their game. Who should be on the other side of a short fence walking the other way but Stanford junior guard Jeanette Pohlen, whom Sink coached in high school. She spied him and smiled.

"Sink!" she yelled, and hopped the fence to give him a hug.

"I think that impressed my team, because everyone knew who Pohlen was," Sink said.

His White team lost to the Red team by 20 points, but Sink didn't seem to mind. He talked about the game with his usual self-depricating humor.

"I can't coach an All-Star game," he said.

Tell that to Chiney Ogwumike, who put up 24 points for the White team, leading all scorers.

"What a nice kid," Sink said. "She gave me a hug afterward and thanked me. She's so smart, and so well-spoken."

But that isn't really news - we all know Ogwumike and her Cardinal sister Nnemkadi are a cut above. Here's the real story: Texas high school basketball coaches get paid a BUTTLOAD of money. Sink, who is a teacher like myself in addition to his coaching duties, talked about that discovery with wonderment in his voice.

He said the coaches told him that in Texas, head coaches who are teachers don't teach any classes during season; they get the school day to prepare for practice. Then on top of their regular teaching salary, they get a very healthy coaching stipend. If their team makes the playoffs, coaches get a bonus for every round the team wins.

"Some of these coaches are making six figures," Sink said. "And they'd ask me how much my stipend was. I didn't have much to say."

Either I need to move to Texas pronto, or a bunch of Southerners were pulling the WBCA Coach of the Year's leg.

Sink said the folks in Texas seem to think it's Planet Basketball there, and no other teams matter - not even Brea Olinda or Mater Dei, who were both ranked in the top three in the nation all season long.

"I kept hearing 'we don't need to travel' to see the top teams," Sink said with a laugh. "I thought, OK - I'd like your team to play Brea, Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly and see what you'd say then."

As is typical of Sink, he is fair in his observations of the differences between California and Texas high school ball. On one hand, he said California players seem more prepared academically for college, and they are much more sound fundamentally on the court. Conversely, the athleticism of Texas players blows their west coast counterparts away.

"The message to California kids is, there are a lot of kids who can run faster and jump higher than you," Sink said.

The Final Four experience itself was something Sink won't forget. San Antonio is the perfect backdrop for the event, with its rich history in and appreciation of basketball.

"You can just sit there and talk basketball with people all day long," he said.

The schedule for award-winning coaches was very busy, but Sink found time to enjoy the San Antonio Riverwalk and city scenery. At the coaches awards ceremony, he said he was "overwhelmed."

Sink enjoyed the Final Four semifinals, which he called "some of the best college basketball I've seen." It was almost as exciting as Pohlen's buzzer-beating basket the week before, which sent Stanford to the Final Four.

"I was jumping up and down and screaming," he said of that night, when the Cardinal beat Xavier.

This was Sink's first Final Four, but he may be hooked now.

"It's in Indianapolis next year," he said. "I've wanted to go there."

Tulsa Shock in the news

Members of the Tulsa Shock paid a visit to a local high school yesterday, extolling the virtues of keeping grades up. Here are two key points of this piece, at least for me:

The players also fielded questions from some of the students, including what it was like for them when they found out the team was leaving Detroit for Tulsa.

"The initial reaction was that it was not good," Hornbuckle said. "We found out the same time as the rest of the nation. But now that we're here, it feels good."

Aha - the truth comes out. But I'm glad things are looking up now.

Marquette has about 400 students, 80 percent of whom play basketball.

Half of those are girls, said Lisa Robertson, the school's athletic director.

Eighty percent, and half being girls? Wow, maybe I don't live in the right place after all.

Lastly, Marion Jones is still trying to get ready to play for the Shock. Either she'll surprise us, or won't make it. We'll see.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hoop Fit

I was leaving my gym the other day after a good workout. I had my hand on the door handle to my car when a woman, who had just pulled up in the space next to me, asked me out her open window: "do you play basketball?" I had barely replied and she had already jumped out of the car to put a beautiful postcard-sized flyer in my hand for a new business that she had co-founded: Hoop Fit.

After talking with her a bit, I decided Hoop Fit was worth a mention in this space. I don't profile businesses unless they're worthy, but as in one other case last summer, I'm making an exception here. For one thing, the idea is innovative, and of course it's basketball-related. For another, the business is women-founded and women-run.

Here's the intro on the Hoop Fit website:

Hoop Fit was established in 2010 by two former female athletes who recognized and realized how valuable, beneficial and fun exercise through sport is. The idea derived from their own unwillingness to visit the gym and run on a treadmill. Bored with that routine, they thought how fun it would be if all women could practice, train and get in shape just like a sports athlete. Thereafter, Hoop Fit was born.

The woman who jumped out of her car to tell me about her business is co-founder Monica Armstrong, who answered some questions about how Hoop Fit works:

Sue: Where do you conduct your training sessions?
Monica: We just launched our company in April and are currently holding our classes at Jim Gilliam Recreation Center, down the street from 24 Hour Fitness off of La Brea. We will be expanding very soon to other local gyms in the next few months. Right now our classes run Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7pm to 8pm, and Saturday mornings from 8am to 9am. We are currently working on scheduling other days at various locations.

Sue: What's a typical training session like, from beginning to end. What elements does it include?
Monica: A typical Hoop Fit class session from beginning to end includes:
Full-court warm-up basketball drills
Some sort of basketball fundamental work: (ex: shooting, passing, offensive skills development, dribbling, defensive skill techniques, break down of offensive and defensive situations, footwork, etc....)
A training circuit: cardio, agility, footwork, strength training, basketball skills
Cool down/Stretch
This is a typical class plan for sessions lasting 60 minutes. Sessions scheduled for 90 minutes will follow this plan, but will allow more time for a more formal break down of basketball information. I.e., taking the taught fundamentals and then applying them into half-court or the appropriate basketball situation.

Sue: What do you do with many women who are overweight and might have difficulty with the athlete workouts?
Monica: Hoop Fit is taught by myself and another assistant training coach. The class is intended expose more women to fitness through basketball. Many of our clients have not played any basketball recently. We encourage them to push themselves to their limit even, if that means making mistakes in drills that they are not comfortable or familiar with. We promote a supportive environment during class and motivate them to where there is minimal discouragement. Our main goal is raising all our clients fitness levels. By having myself and another coach, we are able to separate skill levels and fitness levels while working with each and every clients physical needs. If anyone needs to take a breather or hydrate themselves, they are encouraged to and then rejoin the group.

Sue: Did you have a certain clientele in mind when you began the business, and has it fit with who's shown up yet?
Monica: Yes and no. Yes, because we wanted to bring the excitement of basketball to all women alike who had even the slightest curiosity about getting on the court and playing. No, because we didn't know exactly what that woman looked like or exactly what demographic they would fall under. Of course we are targeting women who have played basketball before, but may not be currently active through basketball or play in any adult leagues. We are very pleased because so far we have attracted women all across our intended target market. Our clientele consists of women who have never played before, to women who played in high school or college but have not recently, to women who do actively participate in adult leagues. All of them want to exercise in a basketball style format as well as learn more and sharpen up their basketball skills.
Being a coach as my profession, I work with high school and college kids daily and of course it's very rewarding developing young talent. I must admit that working with adults through Hoop Fit has been just as exciting because they are looking for that same knowledge, and are thrilled to take it and translate it on the court. It's pretty amazing.

Sue: Would this be a good place for women to go who play in summer leagues, i.e. recreational, Just Say No League. Have there been any college players come through yet who are wanting to stay in shape?
Monica: Yes I absolutely think so. We encourage women that do play to come because Hoop Fit is the forum to work on their skill set and even develop new skills. This is sort of the reason we started because we wanted women to still be able to train and practice basketball as they once did in high school or college. Most women that do play, just play and don't take the extra time to work on their game. All the skills we teach at Hoop Fit are game-like drills that will transfer seamlessly over to a 5-on-5 game.
Hoop Fit Class teaches fitness first and uses basketball as an avenue for women to have fun and enjoy their workout.
Yes, we have be contacted by current college and high school players. For clients that are still in high school, we offer Hoop Fit Youth specifically designed for skill development to help get them to the next level. For our college athletes, we offer Hoop Fit Personal to help them in off-season training for their next year of eligibility.

Those interested can check out the website. Hoop Fit is also on twitter and Facebook.

Draft grades

The Sun, Lynx, Silver Stars and Fever all got an A, says slamonline.

ESPN's Mechelle Voepel states the obvious: players will have an adjustment curve going into the WNBA.

Day after the Draft news

Even though I have no respect whatsoever for the thin-skinned, fragile ego'ed Glenn Nelson, I'm linking this piece on Vivian Frieson because it's always, all about the kids. And Frieson, drafted yesterday by the Tulsa Shock, deserves the praise.

So does the hard-working Alexis Gray-Lawson, drafted yesterday by the Washington Mystics.

Newly-appointed Missouri Coach Robin Pingeton is a spitfire.

And *yawn* it looks like we're in for more of the same next year, as Stanford and Connecticut plan on coming back strong.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Club ball season set to tip off

In the wake of the end of the high school and college seasons, it's time for the other half of the year: club ball and WNBA seasons. Kick-off for club ball teams all over the country will begin this weekend, in preparation for the third weekend in April, which is the first official NCAA viewing period. Just like that, college coaches will be back in gyms all over the U.S., mining for talent.

The Eighth Annual California Classic will get the season underway this weekend for 72 teams from California, Arizona and Nevada. The tournament, at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA, will run both days. There are four divisions, with eight brackets in the top two and four brackets in the last two divisions. The top matchups are in the Elite Division, and include Cal Sparks Gold, West Coast Premier Black, Cal Storm Taurasi, EBO San Diego and Vegas Elite.

"The rosters from the list of these teams are loaded with Division I recruits," said Elbert Kinnebrew, Director of the Cal Sparks, who is putting on the event.

Lisa Leslie gives birth to a son, and other news

Former Los Angeles Spark Lisa Leslie had her baby boy Tuesday. His name is Michael Joseph, and his parents predict he'll be tall.

USA Basketball added 10 today to the 2010 USA Select Team. They are: Kalana Greene, Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower, Jantel Lavender, Jacinta Monroe, Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Andrea Riley, Danielle Robinson, Jasmine Thomas and Monica Wright.

Nebraska Coach Connie Yori was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year yesterday. She's the first coach from the Big 12 Conference to win the award.

WNBA Draft 2010: let the opinionating begin

Completed draft board:


Pick Team Record

1 Connecticut Sun | Tina Charles | Connecticut 16-18
2 Minnesota Lynx | Monica Wright | Virginia 14-20
3 Minnesota Lynx | Kelsey Griffin | Nebraska (traded to Connecticut) 14-20
4 Chicago Sky | Epiphanny Prince | Botas/Rutgers 16-18
5 San Antonio Silver Stars | Jayne Appel | Stanford 15-19
6 Washington Mystics | Jacinta Monroe | Florida State 16-18
7 Connecticut Sun | Danielle McCray | Kansas 16-18
8 Los Angeles Sparks | Andrea Riley | Oklahoma State 18-16
9 Atlanta Dream | Chanel Mokango | Mississippi State 18-16
10 Seattle Storm | Alison Lacey | Iowa State 20-14
11 Indiana Fever | Jene Morris | San Diego State 22-12
12 Los Angeles Sparks | Bianca Thomas | Mississippi 18-16


Pick Team Record

13 New York Liberty | Kalana Greene | Connecticut 13-21
14 Washington Mystics | Jenna Smith | Illinois 16-18
15 Connecticut Sun | Allison Hightower | Louisiana 16-18
16 New York Liberty | Ashley Houts | Georgia 16-18
17 San Antonio Silver Stars | Alysha Clark | Middle Tennessee 15-19
18 Washington Mystics | Shanavia Dowdell | Louisiana Tech 16-18
19 Tulsa Shock | Amanda Thompson | Oklahoma 18-16
20 Los Angeles Sparks | Angel Robinson | Georgia 18-16
21 Atlanta Dream | Brigitte Ardossi | Georgia Tech 18-16
22 Seattle Storm | Tanisha Smith | Texas A&M 20-14
23 Indiana Fever | Armelie Lumanu | Mississippi State 22-12
24 Phoenix Mercury | Tyra Grant | Penn State 23-11


Pick Team Record

25 New York Liberty | Cory Montgomery | Nebraska 13-21
26 Minnesota Lynx | Gabriela Marginean | Drexel 14-20
27 Connecticut Sun | Johannah Leedham | Franklin Pierce 16-18
28 Chicago Sky | Abi Olajuwon | Oklahoma 16-18
29 San Antonio Silver Stars | Alexis Rack | Mississippi State 15-19
30 Washington Mystics | Alexis Gray-Lawson | California 16-18
31 Tulsa Shock | Vivian Frieson | Gonzaga 18-16
32 Los Angeles Sparks | Rashidat Junaid | Rutgers 18-16
33 Atlanta Dream | Brittainey Raven | Texas 18-16
34 Seattle Storm| Tijana Krivacevic | Hungary 20-14
35 Indiana Fever | Joy Cheek | Duke 22-12
36 Phoenix Mercury | Nyeshia Stevenson | Oklahoma 23-11

This actually ended up being a fairly deep draft. From top to bottom, there is a lot of talent in all 36 slots. The thing that fans might argue about is who should go in each of those positions.

Random musings.....feel free to post your own:

- As a west coast person, I'm pleased to see Vivian Frieson, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Abi Olajuwon selected. I'm praying hard that they'll stick.
- No surprise on any of the top five, although I thought Prince would go ahead of Griffin. I'm glad to see Monica Wright went number two; she's been a tremendous player these past four years.
- Surprised to see Kalana Greene and Alison Hightower go in the second round instead of the first.
- It's ironic that Jayne Appel went to San Antonio, where she just finished her college career.
- As a Sparks season ticket holder, I am mystified as to why Los Angeles took so many guards. The Sparks need a center - someone to help Candace Parker on the low blocks. No offense to Junaid, but I don't know if 5.7 points per game average will cut it. General Manager Penny Toler better have a trade in the works.
- Fans and commentators always get excited when a team picks a player who is from the area or went to school there, such as Tina Charles going to the Sun. Is the same assumption made about male players, that more people will attend a particular NBA game if an athlete is from or went to school in the area? I'm curious.
- I'm wondering why more trades haven't yet occurred. There are usually at least 2-3 good ones on draft day.
- Who came out on top today? I'll leave that up to the experts, who have been strangely silent this afternoon so far.

Pre-draft prep

Hoopfeed has all the draft information one would expect, but also the list of players and coaches who will be on hand.

One Oklahoma columnist was surprised at the Tulsa Shock's trade this week to acquire Chante Black and Amber Holt. She thinks the organization should have held out for local talent, to increase ticket sales. She has a point.

And someone at ESPN agrees with me: this year's draft class lacks star power.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WNBA draft board

There are more prospective draft pick profiles on the night before the draft than I've ever seen before. Could it be because this is a thin draft, most of the potential draftees aren't "stars," or all of the above? Yes to all of the above.

Tomorrow's draft will go down at noon PDT/3 p.m. EDT. Here's the draft board:

Round 1

1. Connecticut Sun
2. Minnesota Lynx
3. Minnesota Lynx
4. Chicago Sky
5. San Antonio Silver Stars
6. Washington Mystics
7. Connecticut Sun
8. Los Angeles Sparks
9. Atlanta Dream
10. Seattle Storm
11. Indiana Fever
12. Los Angeles Sparks

Round 2

13. New York Liberty
14. Washington Mystics
15. Connecticut Sun
16. New York Liberty
17. San Antonio Silver Stars
18. Washington Mystics
19. Tulsa Shock
20. Los Angeles Sparks
21. Atlanta Dream
22. Seattle Storm
23. Indiana Fever
24. Phoenix Mercury

Round 3

25. New York Liberty
26. Minnesota Lynx
27. Connecticut Sun
28. Chicago Sky
29. San Antonio Silver Stars
30. Washington Mystics
31. Tulsa Shock
32. Los Angeles Sparks
33. Atlanta Dream
34. Seattle Storm
35. Indiana Fever
36. Phoenix Mercury

Kelly and Coco Miller just miss Russian subway explosions

The Miller twins had one of those experiences, where a decision to take another train prevented them from likely dying in one that blew up - their usual subway line. Makes me shudder just to think about it. Glad they're OK.

Lunch time tidbits

ESPN says Maya Moore should be like Candace Parker and Epiphany Prince and go pro - forget that senior year.

The Connecticut Sun must have tanked last year so they could get Tina Charles. (*wink*) The LA Times points out that the Sun will draft her tomorrow, and asserts that the Sparks need guards. Aside from the terrific lead on that story, they're off.

Hoopfeed reports two interesting items:

1. President Obama called the UConn team this morning to congratulate them, and called their winning streak "unreal."

2. UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell tweeted yesterday that she was going to meet former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hoopfeed says Caldwell was "speechless" when Rice said, "I know who you are - great season."

Hoopfeed also picked this up: The Connecticut Sun has traded Chante Black and Amber Holt to the Tulsa Shock in exchange for the number 7 pick tomorrow, and their second-round pick next year. Wow! Wonder who they've got their eyes on?

The day after the grande finale

All the UConn stories you could hope to read are here.

The Cardinal gave it away.

Ya gotta feel for Jayne Appel, who played on a bad ankle all night long but couldn't quite be like her usual self. Painful end to her college career.

UConn's Tina Charles is living in the fast lane.

Stanford frosh Joslyn Tinkle's dad Wayne is the University of Montana men's basketball coach. He's proud of his daughter, as you can imagine.

I so so so hate seeing the high school and college seasons end, and now they're both done. *Sigh*

On the humor tip, Oklahoma sports writer Berry Tramel asks: Why play on a court that looks like a paint truck just wrecked? Great question.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Candace Parker bobbleheads!

An email to Sparks season ticket holders this afternoon indicates they'll be giving out Candace Parker bobbleheads at the July 3 game. I am SO excited!! Haven't seen a bobblehead giveaway at a game in YEARS! And it's a CP bobblehead, to boot.

It seems Sparks management heard us, because the email says they'll be giving away foam fingers and schedule magnets on opening weekend (Memorial Day weekend), too.

*Jumping up and down*

It reminds me of the old days of the WNBA.

Check out this schedule: every game has a theme night, and there are four giveaways:

Line 1 - Date
Line 2 - Opponent
Line 3 - Theme
Line 4 - Giveaway

May 28, 2010
Washington Mystics
Opening Night
Sparks Foam Finger courtesy of Farmers Insurance

May 30, 2010
Atlanta Dream
Dads & Daughters Day – Dads and Daughters Can Play on the STAPLES Court Pregame
2010 Schedule Magnet courtesy of Farmers Insurance

June 5, 2010
Seattle Storm
Sparks Sunset Showdown / Outdoor Game

June 8, 2010
Phoenix Mercury
Go Green Night presented by Waste Management
Biodegradable Shoelaces courtesy of Waste Management

June 13, 2010
Minnesota Lynx
Health & Wellness Night

June 18, 2010
Juneteenth Celebration and African-American Heritage Night

June 29, 2010
New York Liberty
'Pay It Forward' Night presented by Trader Joe's

July 1, 2010
San Antonio
Latin Heritage Night

July 3, 2010
Seattle Storm
Sparks Downtown Dribble Day (pregame dribble activities on Chick Heart Ct)
Candace Parker Bobblehead courtesy of Farmers Insurance and adidas

July 6, 2010
Phoenix Mercury
Girls Basketball Night

July 20, 2010
Tulsa Shock
Camp Day

August 4, 2010
Chicago Sky
City of Pasadena Night

August 6, 2010
Tulsa Shock
Inspiring Women Luncheon & Night

August 8, 2010
San Antonio Silver Stars
Kids Day & Sparky's Birthday

August 10, 2010
Indiana Fever
Lisa Leslie Jersey Retirement Ceremony & Breast Health Awareness
Lisa Leslie Commemorative Gift

August 17, 2010
Phoenix Mercury
Girls Night Out presented by LA Trade Tech

August 20, 2010
Minnesota Lynx
Fan Appreciation Night

I'm not going to Thursday's draft lunch, as it costs at least $20. But the Sparks' email is intriguing. They have a team picture that includes Vanessa Hayden, Shannon Bobbitt, Candace Parker, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Tina Thompson, Betty Lennox, Delisha Milton-Jones and Noelle Quinn. There are four figures in the picture who have been blacked out, but they're wearing the following numbers: 8, 12, 20 and 32.

What's that mean?

96-team tournament? Won't happen

The NCAA says they're thinking about expanding the women's tournament to 96 teams. But until they stop the monetary loss at the sites for the 64-team tournament, an expansion isn't going to happen.

Yori and McCarville news

Nebraska Coach Connie Yori is the first recipient of the Kay Yow Award.

Liberty Forward Janel McCarville, who is pretty damned entertaining on twitter, checks in with slamonline.

Eight hours to go

UConn's Tina Charles won the Naismith Award.

Nobody on Stanford's squad is conceeding defeat in tonight's championship matchup.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association wouldn't show "Training Rules," the film about one Penn State player's lawsuit against former coach Rene Portland, at their conference this past weekend. (Portland forbade her players to have intimate relationships with other women, and Harris' lawsuit says she was dismissed from the team because of that policy).

That's chickensh#tty of the WBCA. They should have shown the film.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will attend tonight's championship game.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Britt bits

Cool piece in the New York Times today on how Baylor frosh Brittney Griner is challenging conventional beauty standards.

And I toldja so: I'm not the only one who knows this will be Baylors first of many trips to the Final Four.

Sparks to host WNBA's second outdoor game June 5

As the press conference began, from left to right: Sparks President Kristin Bernert, General Manager Penny Toler, Coach Jennifer Gillom, guard/forward Noelle Quinn.

Here's the official release:


Los Angeles Sparks Launch "Get Outside & Play LA" Campaign in Partnership with Farmers Insurance, First 5 LA and the City of Carson

LOS ANGELES – In partnership with Farmers Insurance, First 5 LA and the City of Carson, the Los Angeles Sparks will introduce their "Get Outside & Play LA" campaign with the Sparks Sunset Showdown, the team's first outdoor game in franchise history.

The Sparks Sunset Showdown will feature the Sparks and the Seattle Storm and will take place at The Home Depot Center in Carson on Saturday, June 5th at 8pm. The game will also be broadcast on Fox Sports West.

"Playing outside, beneath the stars will ensure an unforgettable evening for our players and fans," said Sparks President Kristin Bernert. "But the game also provides a terrific opportunity for our athletes to inspire kids of all ages to lead healthier and more active lifestyles, which is the goal of our broader 'Get Outside and Play LA' campaign this summer."

The "Get Outside & Play LA" campaign is built around events to promote health and wellness for the Los Angeles community. In addition to the outdoor game, the Sparks will also host a "Downtown Dribble" on July 3, a Sparks Fan Fest at the iconic outdoor mall, The Grove in Beverly Hills, and a series of clinics.

The signature event, the Sparks Sunset Showdown, played in The Home Depot Center's state-of-the-art, 8,000 seat tennis stadium, will mark just the second time a WNBA game has been played outdoors. The game will feature a health and fitness expo, highlighting programs like First 5 LA that provides healthy start resources for children in the first five years of life. The night will also include a half-time performance by Zumba ®Fitness – a program that uses hypnotic Latin rhythms to get people physically active.

"We are looking forward to hosting our first-ever professional outdoor basketball game at The Home Depot Center in partnership with the Sparks and their 'Get Outside & Play LA' campaign," said Katie Pandolfo, General Manager, The Home Depot Center. "We couldn't be more proud to welcome some of the world's greatest female athletes to Carson as we support the Sparks and their commitment to healthy living and fitness education in the Southern California community."

The Downtown Dribble will take place on Saturday, July 3rd prior to the Sparks 2pm game at STAPLES Center against the Seattle Storm. Activities including "Dribble Tag," a "Dribble-a-thon," and a "Dribble Like The Pros" clinic will get hundreds of kids dribbling, with the proceeds from the event benefiting the Jenesse Center and their fight against domestic violence. Advance registration is $20 and participants will receive a t-shirt, basketball and game ticket to the Sparks game the same day courtesy of Farmers Insurance.

Lastly, the Sparks will hold a Sparks Fan Fest at the Grove in Beverly Hills on May 23rd that will include a chance to play and interact with the Sparks players. The Sparks will also host several outdoor clinics and workshops at recreation centers across the city of Los Angeles, and will be present for the City of Carson Health Fair on April 17th.

To learn more about any of these activities, please contact Alayne Ingram, Director of Communications at 213-929-1313, or visit

Tickets to the Sparks Sunset Showdown at the Home Depot Center in Carson and all individual game tickets will go on sale on April 8 at 10am PT. You can reserve the best seats by becoming a Sparks season ticket holder.Call 1-877-44-SPARKS or visit for more information.

Here's the extra, to go along with my pictures:

Sparks President Kristin Bernert opened the press conference by announcing the organization's new program "Go outside and play, LA." She cited the fact that obesity rates have tripled since the 1970's, while TV viewing and computer use continue to increase. The Sparks will partner with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Girls Scouts to promote physical activity all summer long. The idea was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to promote exercise, Bernert said. The outdoor game is linked to the "go outside" idea.

Bernert, who came to came to the Sparks in October, 2008 after working in the WNBA League office for many years, told me after the press conference that she helped put together the first outdoor game in New York City that year, when the Liberty took on the Fever. Fan reaction was generally very positive, and the event was deemed a success. Bernert said she's excited to be bringing the same type of event to LA.

The tennis stadium, where the game will be played, is a beautiful facility. It will be fun to see the Sparks and Storm play under the bright lights.

Thursday is the WNBA Draft, and the Sparks get the eighth pick to begin with. General Manager Penny Toler said that in the wake of Lisa Leslie's retirement, the Sparks are building a new team.

"It's a new era, and we will embrace it," she said.

Toler said with a smile that the Sparks will choose "whoever's left on the board" when the eighth pick rolls around, which she characterized as a "no-brainer."

She was cagey when asked what the team's greatest needs are, saying that their "biggest need" was addressed with the acquisition of veteran point guard Ticha Penicheiro a couple months ago.

"If we can get good players, then we can win games, and our goal is to win a national championship," Toler said.

New Coach Jennifer Gillom said she is bringing a philosophy to the team that blends old ways with new ways.

"(Former Coach Michael) Cooper's focus was the half-court game, while with (Oregon Coach Paul) Westhead, you see a running game," Gillom said. "We'll be halfway between those two, with the emphasis being on an up-tempo style."

Bernert said season ticket sales have been breaking even. She said team management was aware of the complaints of many season ticket holders last year that there weren't enough fan events. This year, the Sparks will have more such events all season long, besides the ones that were annouced today. For example, there will be an open practice Friday, May 7, before the game the following day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

No surprises: it's Stanford vs. UConn for the title

The Oklahoma-Stanford game went pretty much like I thought it would, with the Sooners making a great run to almost pull off the upset.

The Baylor-UConn end result was what I thought it would be, but I didn't count on the Bears making things so exciting early in the second half with that run.


1. Stanford has had some close calls lately. Will they be able to hang with UConn, or were their last two games just due to nerves?

2. Why was Baylor still playing zone defense late in the second half when they were down 44-61?

3. Why isn't Baylor better at rebounding and boxing out?


- Former Duke guard Abby Waner tweeted: "Nneka just used 'exhilarated' and 'reciprocate' in her post game interview. I love this girl. An English majors dream."

I like athetic scholars too.

- Baylor mascot "Bruiser" won the mascot challenge, beating out the mascots of the other Final Four teams.

Random observations and/or opinions:

- It was nice to see Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer smiling in a post-game interview. We don't get to see that smile enough.

- It was interesting to see Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma get so upset and mad at his team when Baylor made their run. We don't get to see that very often.

- Nnamkadi Ogwumike is ridiculous - especially with her NCAA record 38 points tonight. A sophomore? Good grief.

- Maya Moore is also ridiculous. I look forward to the Ogwumike-Moore matchup in Tuesday's final game.

- Baylor did pretty damned well for a team full of newcomers. No one picked them to make the Final Four, but they did. The Bears will be pretty scary for the next several years.

- As halftime began, Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey was asked how she thought her team was handling the pressure. She said candidly, but not disparagingly, "like a bunch of freshmen would." She is realistic, and she understands the situation. Many of her players were still in high school less than a year ago. They've got some growing to do both on the off the court.

Super frosh Brittney Griner, who was limited to 13 points, six rebounds and five blocks tonight, provided the best example of this during tonight's game. She was frustrated late in the first half, and asked Mulkey to be taken out. Mulkey told her she needed her, and she wasn't coming out. What a great lesson. Griner is already her team's go-to player, so this won't be the last game where she can't come off. She is best learning how to work through frustration, or other issues, as soon as possible.

Finally, it was very good of ESPN's Mechelle Voepel to pen this piece on Baylor senior Morghan Medlock. The Los Angeles native and graduate of Narbonne High School left USC in 2008 and transferred to Baylor. A half year later, her mother was dead and Mulkey rallied the team around Medlock.

It's been nice to see Medlock have a good senior year.

High-scoring WBCA All-American game showcased up-and-coming college stars

The Red Team beat the White Team 101-81 yesterday, but the score hardly seemed to matter as the future was in the house. Awesome pictures and write up of the game here, on the Full Court Press website.

Two of the athletes who played in that game last year just played tonight: Brittney Griner and Joslyn Tinkle. So it's good to pay attention to this game.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More pre-Final Four bits

Oklahoma was shaky at the beginning of the season when they lost glue-of-the-team Whitney Hand to injury. But winning against Marist turned it around for them.

ESPN's Graham Hays says Jayne Appel, Kayla Pederson and Nnemkadi Ogwumike are the scariest threesome at the tournament.

And two pieces on Baylor freshman Brittney Griner: she's been given a second chance by the sports world, and someone thought they'd use her as a spring board to discuss how physical the women's game has become.

Oklahoma and Stanford tip off at 4 p.m. PDT/7 p.m. EDT tomorrow, while Baylor and Connecticut play at 6 p.m./9 p.m.