Training Camp Notes: Week 2

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: May 10, 2010

As the second week of training camp comes to a close, I can say without hesitation that the Phoenix Mercury will be even more fun to watch in 2010 than perhaps at any other point in franchise history. Even more amazing, I feel comfortable making such a bold statement without the arrivals of Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor.

You might be saying to yourself, “C’mon, Ben. How could they be more fun to watch?”

I’d be happy to answer that in one word – options.

This Mercury team will, quite literally, have an unlimited amount of options on the offensive end while also fortifying their defensive front. Taurasi, Smith, Dupree, Johnson, Bonner, and Taylor could easily go for 20+ points on any given night. The great part about that is that every singe one of those players is so unique and different that opposing teams can’t game-plan for any one player. Dupree could take over a game in the paint, Taurasi could take over a game anywhere, and there are multiple scoring threats both on the perimeter and in the post. Something to keep an eye on – DeWanna Bonner has put on a few pounds and her outside shot looks much improved. If she gets more minutes, she could average 15-18 points per game.

Simply put, the team loves playing basketball with one another. They want to be here, they love working hard, and they are excited about their potential. In week 2, Brooke Smith, Nicole Ohlde, Tangela Smith, DeWanna Bonner and Temeka Johnson arrived which gave Corey Gaines, Julie Hairgrove, and Bridget Pettis a more complete roster to work with.

Brooke Smith and Nicole Ohlde both looked great from the start. They each came into camp in fantastic shape and have already added value to the team in the frontcourt. Tangela Smith and Temeka Johnson also gave the team a boost with their electric style of play. Their veteran presence has been a great example for rookie Nyeshia Stevenson who is competing for a roster spot along with Sequoia Holmes. Lenae Williams was also with the team this week and quickly proved to me how valuable of a piece she could be. I remember the first practice I had the opportunity to watch her – I saw her miss maybe 2 shots the entire time.

The Merc also scrimmaged against the male practice squad a couple times. Now, admittedly, the practice squad has some great talent – long, athletic, and strong – but they were no match for the Mercury. In fact, there are two distinct plays I’d love to share with you….

The first involved Ketia Swanier and Candice Dupree. Ketia was just left of the top of the key and Candice was on her way to set a pick for Ketia. When Ketia saw Candice coming for the pick, she faked her man right and went left. Not coincidentally, I checked to make sure her defender didn’t have any broken ankles – somehow, he didn’t. Ketia then drove to the hoop, stepped back, faked a shot, and passed to Candice who was rolling back to the basket. This was immediately followed by a chorus of “oooohh’s” and “ahhh’s.”

The other phenomenal play was with Temeka Johnson and Tangela Smith. Meek, who looks even quicker and stronger than she did last year, came off a solid screen by Tangela. Meek then crossed-over her defender and drew a double team in the paint. Tangela was wide open for the three at the top of the key (remember those two shots she hit in game 5 of the Finals last year?) and nailed the jumper. By the way, this happened in their first practice together in over 6 months.