Some Home Cooking in Store for Mercury

By Steven J. Koek,
Posted: July 15, 2008

This week marks the first time the Mercury have played consecutive games at home since mid-June.

The three-game home stand, which began with a 97-87 loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday night, will give the road-weary club a chance to put away their suitcases for a week and play some games in front of their home crowd.

“It’s great to have the fan support behind us,” Tangela Smith said before registering 10 points and eight rebounds in Tuesday night’s defeat.

Smith has taken the home cooking theme to another level, welcoming some special visitors to the Valley this week.

“My parents are in town,” the veteran center said. “So I’m going spend some time with them, and of course, with my dog, Jade. It’s just good to be here and sleep in your own bed.

The trip won't be all vacation for Smith's parents. She plans on putting her mother to work.

“I love my mom’s spaghetti," she said with a big smile. "I can’t wait until she cooks her spaghetti."

Maz’s Dad's Musings

Smith is not the only player with her folks in town. Louie and Julia Mazzante, parents of guard Kelly Mazzante, arrived in town on Saturday and were sitting courtside at US Airways Center on Tuesday night.

“We’re here for the week,” said Louie Mazzante. “It’s a lot of fun. We try to look at the schedule and come out here every year.”

This is not the first time the Mazzantes had seen their daughter play in person this season. They flew out for the season opener and championship ceremony, and then followed the team for every game on the five-game eastern road trip last month.

Louie still beams with pride at “Maz” and her teammates’ accomplishment last season, and recalls fondly the parade her hometown held in Kelly’s honor. She is one of three professional athletes to have come from the small town in central Pennsylvania, baseball players Mike Mussina and Tom O’Malley being the others.

“All three of them came out of Montoursville and they’re all pros,” Louie said. “Tom won a Japanese series championship, but Kelly is the only one to win a world championship. The town embraced her and it was fantastic.”

Petis: Gillom Deserving of Hall Induction

Even with the team the on the way to taking its first WNBA Championship last fall, some of the loudest cheers at US Airways Center were still reserved for one of the originals.

Jennifer Gillom spent the first six seasons of the Mercury’s existence helping to solidify the new franchise’s fan base with tough play and an infectious, winning attitude, and the X-Factor has not forgotten her.

Fans are not the only ones to take notice. Currently an assistant with the Minnesota Lynx, it was announced that Gillom has been named to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2009.

Former teammate and current Mercury assistant Bridgete Petis appreciates Gillom’s impact on the new organization more than a decade ago.

“I remember all of her hard work that she put in on the court and off the court, her commitment to the game,” Petis said. “I got to see it and appreciated it. The Hall of Fame is an accomplishment that she deserves.

“Besides her smile and her great personality, what made her stand out was how hard she worked. Every night, coming out and playing. Every night, committed to trying to build a championship team.

“Even last year, just in some strange way she was still a part of the championship. Her spirit carried on throughout so many years with this organization. That’s something that every fan felt, and every player that played with her felt.”