|You asked for it, so here it is... the Official WNBA.com Blog. "In Other News..." will be your one-stop source for all WNBA-related info and activities taking place throughout the offseason. From news off the court to player appearances, free agency and trade rumors and college prospect tracking and anything else that falls through the net, the Blog will be updated regularly with news, links and photos. All you have to do is keep coming back to get your fill and stay in the loop. | NBA.com Blog Squad|
Hey there! If you haven't noticed, "In Other News... The Official WNBA.com Blog" has moved permanently to our brand-spankin' new Fan Voice site.
Just a quick update for everyone…
I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but the WNBA REGULAR SEASON TIPS OFF on SATURDAY, MAY 19, with a NATIONALLY TELEVISED GAME featuring LAST YEAR'S FINALISTS, the SACRAMENTO MONARCHS AND the DETROIT SHOCK at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Catching you up on the European action from the weekend, the championship series in Turkey will go to a deciding Game 7 after Besiktas overcame Cappie Pondexter's 32 points for Fenerbahce to win Game 6 72-64. Kara Braxton led Besiktas' balanced offense with 18, while Sheri Sam netted 15 and Stacey Lovelace-Tolbert put up 14. The matchup for all the marbles takes place later today at Fenerbahce's home court in Istanbul.
Once that series comes to an end, nearly all of the top WNBA stars will be back with their teams here in the States, after Lauren Jackson and a newly re-signed Sue Bird -- among others who starred in Europe -- returned to Seattle this weekend. Then, yesterday, Storm teammate Barbara Turner made a surprise early return from Turkey, just in time for media day.
As we get closer and closer to opening day -- which, as I believe I've mentioned, is SATURDAY, MAY 19 -- the season previews will start to roll in. Nancy Lieberman -- who just today answered some of your questions -- and ESPN.com have released their preseason power rankings. Like we do here at WNBA.com, they have the defending champion Detroit Shock at No. 1. Who do you think should be atop the heap? Let us know.
Otherwise, the player cuts and signings continue, and there will be more of each as teams finalize their rosters. Keep it locked to our transactions wire for the latest.
Be sure to get your WNBA game tickets today! Keep on reading and keep on clicking. Until next time, that's the blog and I… am… outta here!
Can you feel it, basketball fans? We're so excited for season No. 11 that we're slashing our (non-existent) prices and blowing out our (very existent) coverage. Take a look at our season preview material: We break down each team, talk to players and predict what'll happen in 2007. Good stuff…
But we're chock full of exciting preseason action for the next week, and Thursday night's game between the Sparks and Fever in Indiana -- a possible Finals matchup, perhaps? -- didn't disappoint. Spanish import Marta Fernandez scored 14 points to lead the Sparks to an 81-76 triumph, offsetting 13 apiece from Tamika Catchings and Anna DeForge, who recently rejoined the Fever from Poland. There are plenty more exhibition tilts this weekend, so check out the full schedule here.
As we tick down to the tip-off of the WNBA's regular season, many teams are still without their top players, lots of whom are still over in Europe finishing up their seasons abroad. But they'll be on their way home soon.
Starting off in Russia, Spartak Moscow and its multitude of superstars took home the league title on Thursday, finishing off CSKA Samara 88-72 in Game 5 of their finals series. Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson and Svetlana Abrosimova each had 17 for Spartak in the clincher, while Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, respectively, chipped in with 13 and seven points of their own. Ann Wauters put up 20 for Samara.
Heading over to Turkey, Tammy Sutton-Brown (20 points, nine rebounds) and Cappie Pondexter (12 points) led Fenerbahce to within one game of the title, earning an 85-58 win Thursday over Besiktas. Kara Braxton notched 13 points and 12 boards in a losing effort. Fener leads the series 3-2 and can finish it off with a win on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in Italy, recent WNBA retiree Kedra Holland-Corn put up 18 points and Houston's Astou Ndiaye-Diatta grabbed 11 rebounds as Phard Napoli topped Faenza 58-48 in Game 1 of their finals series.
As I mentioned last time, no matter who you're rooting for overseas, the good news out of these series is that as they end, the WNBA players will be coming back to the States. Look who we'll be getting back after Thursday alone: Jackson, Thompson, Taurasi, Bird, Abrosimova, Ticha Penicheiro and DeMya Walker will all be flying back from Russia in the next few days.
And as these usual suspects are returning to training camps, more cuts are unfortunately on the way. Keep up with the latest here on our transactions wire.
Until next time... keep on clicking in a free world.
Well, we're now less than two weeks from regular season tip-off, so it's about time for a midweek check-in on all the WNBA links that are fit to click.
As you're well aware, the preseason is underway. And in some news that's unlikely to shock you, the … ahem … Shock are 2-0 after weekend wins over Houston and Washington. But in news that might actually shock you, the Chicago Sky are also 2-0 after topping the shorthanded Mystics 63-60 on Friday.
In other action from the weekend, San Antonio topped Minnesota 62-56 in Wichita, Kansas, in what was billed as a matchup of former K-State Wildcats Kendra Wecker and Nicole Ohlde. Wecker sat out after spraining her ankle earlier in the week. Also on Saturday, rookie Kiera Hardy made a solid case for making Connecticut's loaded roster, netting 12 points in their win over New York.
But just as things are beginning here in the "W," seasons are winding down overseas. Taking a look at stars still in action, we head first to Russia, where Spartak Moscow -- yes, the one featuring Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, among others -- is tied 2-2 in the best-of-five finals series with CSKA Samara. Samara took Game 3 on Sunday, despite 69 points from the quartet of Thompson, Jackson, Taurasi and Abrosimova. Then, in Monday's Game 4, Spartak drew even with a 69-60 triumph, thanks to 22 from Taurasi and 18 from Thompson. The deciding Game 5 is set for Thursday.
Meanwhile, Cheryl Ford's monster game of 26 points and 19 boards led UMMC Ekaterinburg past Dynamo Moscow in the third-place playoff series in Russia.
There's nothing more exciting than a deciding Game 7. Well... when you win it. And in Poland, Wisla Can Pack of Krakow did just that, topping Lotos Gdynia 68-54 thanks in large part to 17 points from both Chamique Holdsclaw (the finals MVP) and Anna DeForge. Regular season MVP Dominique Canty added 16 of her own for Wisla, while Nykesha Sales posted 15 in a losing effort.
Also, Spanish power Ros Casares rallied past Perfumerias Avenida in the deciding Game 5 of their series to win their fourth Liga Femenina title in seven years. DeLisha Milton-Jones put up 14 points, Erika De Souza had 10 and Margo Dydek added nine for the victors from Valencia, while Nicole Powell scored 24 and Adrian Williams notched 18 for Avenida.
Finally, checking in with the goings on in Turkey, Fenerbahce lost a 15-point lead but escaped with a 72-70 win on Sunday over Besiktas to take a 2-1 lead in their finals series. Tammy Sutton-Brown scored 16 and Barbara Turner added 12 in the win, while Stacy Lovelace-Tolbert posted 20 and Kara Braxton and Sheri Sam added 16 and 14, respectively, for Besiktas.
So, good news: Many of the straggling WNBA players still overseas will soon be on their way home. But that means they'll be back to reclaim their roster and practice spots from youngsters hoping to land a job in the pros. Two drafted players, Lyndsey Medders (Fever) and Nare Diawara (San Antonio) were waived yesterday, and more are likely to follow in the coming days. Stay tuned to our transactions wire for the latest updates.
Until next time… keep on clicking.
Ladies and gentlemen… we have basketball!
Yes, the Sky's 89-69 win Wednesday night over the Mercury was only the opening game of the WNBA's preseason, but it's fun to see the players get out there and get at it on the court. And Candice Dupree didn't disappoint, leading the way for the up-and-coming Sky with 17 points.
The preseason continues tonight as the Detroit Shock travel to Lubbock, Texas, to take on the Comets while Washington tangles with Chicago at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee. Here's the full schedule for the rest of the WNBA's version of spring training.
While we're exploring the preseason and training camp action, it's my responsibility to point out the incredibly vigilant WNBA blogging going on out there. Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee has been buzzing around the Monarchs, Fever media relations director Kevin Messenger has kept an eye on camp and Seattle is well represented by Kevin Pelton's StormTracker blog and play-by-play man Alan Horton's regularly updated reports.
Moving right along, if you look closely at the box scores… and we both know you do… you'll notice that some of the league's biggest stars haven't yet taken to the court. That's because many are still overseas, lighting up the hardcourt with their winter league squads abroad. So without further ado, here's a mini-European glance with considerations of when these WNBA players will be coming home.
We'll start things off in Turkey, where the headline "Cappie is injury!" certainly caught my eye. No word yet on what she did, but the report out of Turkey is that she didn't play in Thursday's Game 2 finals tilt as her Fenerbahce side fell to Besiktas 74-73. The series is tied 1-1. Stacey Lovelace posted 21 points and Sheri Sam added 16 for Besiktas, while Tammy Sutton-Brown put up 19 boards and five rebounds for Fenerbahce. If it goes seven games, the series could last until May 15.
Next, we're off to Russia, where the latest version of the women's dream team, Spartak Moscow — featuring names like Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and Sue Bird — shockingly dropped Game 1 of the best-of-five-game Russian Superleague Finals on Wednesday to CSKA Samara. But Spartak came back Thursday in Game 2, posting a 74-53 triumph thanks to 22 points from Thompson and 18 from both Jackson and Svetlana Abrosimova. Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday, May 6, while Game 4 will be Monday. Game 5, if necessary, will be played on Thursday, May 10.
Meanwhile, Rebekkah Brunson's Dynamo Moscow squad topped UMMC despite 16 points and 12 rebounds from Cheryl Ford to knot their third-place Russian series at a game apiece.
Elsewhere, Dominique Canty's buzzer-beater in Tuesday's Game 5 of the Polish league finals lifted Wisla Can Pack Krakow to a 65-64 triumph over rival Lotos Gdynia and kept them alive in the series. On Thursday, Wisla scored an 83-79 win -- thanks to 28 points from Chamique Holdsclaw and 22 from Anna DeForge -- to tie the series at three games apiece, setting up a deciding Game 7 on Saturday.
Heading west, Nicole Powell put up 15 points and 11 rebounds in leading Perfumerias Avenida to a 66-60 victory over Ros Casares in Game 4 of the Spanish league finals. Erika De Souza scored 13 points and Delisha Milton added eight points and seven boards in a losing effort. The series is tied at two games each and will head to a deciding Game 5 on Saturday.
Back here in the states, roster moves continue as does our long-lasting, wide-ranging 2007 season preview. Keep checking back for more as we get set to tip off the regular season on May 19. And be sure to buy your tickets now for any regular season game.
Keep your eyes on the ball, keep on clicking and I'll see you next week!
Welcome to another exciting edition of Click and Roll. Last week, we promised more from Rookie Orientation in Chicago, and we're not going to let you down. Matt Wurst described the event in great detail earlier this week. Mystics rookie Megan Vogel also provided her own witty take on the experience in her WNBA.com blog.
But the big news of the week has been the opening of WNBA training camps. And each team has dealt with the excitement in its own fashion.
Despite the positive things coming out of Mystics camp, the top story out of Washington has been the injury to guard Alana Beard. She reportedly strained her shoulder while playing for Team USA during its tour of Italy and is considered week-to-week.
Heading up the East Coast to the tri-state area, the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty each celebrated their respective media days with some laughs with rookies and photos in their slick new uniforms.
Off to Titletown 2006, Detroit, where the Shock opened camp -- in the minds of many -- as the prohibitive favorite to repeat.
Meanwhile, there are many new faces in Minnesota, but it's still full speed ahead for the Lynx. They made news Thursday, waiving 2006 third-round pick Megan Duffy and 2007 second-round pick Brooke Smith.
Like several other teams, Seattle is missing many of its stars. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, among others, are still overseas playing for their club teams. In their stead, Iziane Castro Marques has stepped up and is leading the way for youngsters like first-round pick Katie Gearlds. Meanwhile, the Storm's Kevin Pelton and broadcaster Alan Horton have both been keeping up with the goings-on at camp.
There was a mildly frightening story out of Sacramento earlier in the week when new coach Jenny Boucek was hospitalized due to what were found to be intestinal problems, but we are happy to report she's out of the hospital, back at practice and doing well.
The training camp roster moves are coming all Vin Diesel-style: fast and furious. So be sure to check back with the transactions wire for all of the latest news. Otherwise, keep it locked on WNBA.com for everything related to this exciting league of ours. Oh, and the regular season tips off May 19 with the Finals rematch of Sacramento and Detroit. Buy your tickets -- for that and every game all season -- now!
Until next week… keep on clicking.
Q. I would like to know why the WNBA has not come out and denounced the outrageous,
racist, and sexist remarks made by Don Imus, his producer and guest in regards
to the name calling and degradation of the Rutgers basketball team? I would think
the WNBA would be the first to step up and take a stand against such an individual
and stick up for Rutgers and women everywhere. These are the women that make your
organization what you are today!
— Adrian, Detroit
A. Thanks for the question, Adrian. First, let me say that President Donna Orender did, in fact, make a statement on the matter. Second, let me toss a question back at you. Does the WNBA have to come out and say it for people to realize that these remarks were outrageous, racist, sexist and simply wrong? The official WNBA response? We think the CBS and MSNBC sponsors — along with the resulting action — have spoken loud and clear.
Q. I like the format of the WNBA Web page, but could you make the type size
a little bigger? Not all of us have "young eyes."
— Ellendean, Pittsburg, Calif.
A. I agree. I walk out of the office pretty much every day with a headache (and not just from listening to Wurst's jibber-jabber all day long). That's why WNBA.com will be undergoing a major… a complete... a totally incredible... wait, I can't get into it… yet. Stay tuned in the coming weeks. In the meantime, try upping the resolution on your monitor.
Q. I would like to know how Becky Hammon feels about being traded from the
— Ren, Baton Rouge, La.
Q. I am happy to see Ms. Becky Hammon come to the Great State of Texas!
We welcome her with open arms but would like to know how she feels about coming
to San Antonio, reuniting with VJ, playing for Coach Hughes and leaving New
— Sherry, Houston
A. I can speak for hoops fans in and around New York in saying that it'll be a little weird to watch the Liberty without Hammon, but I'm pretty sure she's excited for the new opportunity. She's a huge fan of Alamos and River Walks, and seeing as San Antone offers the only ones in the league, it was a natural fit.
Q. Hello, I have been all over WNBA.com to try and purchase a lower level
ticket w/air flight packages and I can not seem to find any. Any suggestions?
Thank you. P.S. I went to Ticketmaster, etc.
— Sweetygirl, Suffolk, Va.
A. Why yes, Sweetygirl. I have a suggestion or nine for you. Let's start with the screen name... No, no, it's too easy. Moving along, while WNBA.com is the perfect place to find and buy everything from season tickets to individual-game tickets for the 2007 season, I'd suggest you look elsewhere to make flight reservations. I often turn to Ka'ahele, the Hawaiian god of travel, to help with such matters. If you're really looking to fly away somewhere, perhaps WNBA marketing partner Southwest can get you where you need to go, wherever the Ka'ahele that might be.
Q. Why is it that almost every day of the week we can tune in on TV and
see a men's game? The WNBA needs to push TV to run more of its games. I am a
true Comets fan and only two games are scheduled this year on TV. This is a
slap in the face of the women's sports fans.
— Betty, Houston
A. There's a perfectly good reason why you're seeing lots of NBA games and not a ton of the WNBA variety. I don't know how to say this, Betty, but the season hasn't started yet. (By the way, Opening Day is May 19... Monarchs-Shock at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.) But seriously, I agree that there's a real disparity between men's and women's coverage. And it comes down to the number of viewers and the number of advertising dollars going into TV companies' pockets. While your Comets are only scheduled to be on national TV twice this season, you should be able to see them regularly on your local carrier. If that's not enough and you're really ticked about it, and it sounds like you are, you (and a couple million of your closest friends) should tune into all of the games you can, both national and local. Also try writing a letter to the ESPN/ABC/Disney conglomerate. Hopefully, Minnie Mouse will get behind your cause. It's a small world, after all.
Q. What is Nikki McCray doing now?
— Coach, Webbville, Ky.
A. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA legend is a highly respected assistant coach at Western Kentucky, which went 23-9 and made the Final Four of the WNIT this spring.
Q. PLAYING IN THE WNBA IS A DREAM OF MINE. I HAVE NOT PLAYED BASKETBALL
IN COLLEGE, BUT I KNOW I HAVE THE ABILITY TO PLAY IN THE WNBA. I WAS WONDERING
IF THERE IS ANY INFO OUT THERE AS TO HOW AND WHAT I MAY DO IN ORDER TO FIND
OUT ABOUT BEING ABLE TO PLAY EVEN IF I HAVEN'T PLAYED IN COLLEGE. THANK YOU.
— SHORTY, MADISONVILLE, TEXAS
A. Can't believe I'm actually answering this question… (ahem…) SHORTY… but your best option is probably attending a local team tryout somewhere nearby. According to the map, Houston or San Antonio will be closest for you… (ahem…) SHORTY. Bad news, though, (ahem…) SHORTY: This season's tryouts have already taken place. Keep an eye out next April. And in the meantime, consider a name change. Talk to you next season, Kareem.
Thanks for all the questions, and keep 'em coming. Come back next month for more of the Q&A game. Check you later.
Now they're REALLY ready for the WNBA.
After playing in their final collegiate games within the last month or so and getting drafted by a WNBA team, approximately 35 of the draftees and WNBA rookies took one final trip before their journey to WNBA Training Camps. The incoming rookie class (minus Lindsey Harding and Jessica Davenport, who were in Italy with USA Basketball) spent this past weekend trip in Chicago for the annual WNBA New Player Orientation.
Even before the Orientation, the WNBA put eight players to work (though not one of the rookies there would say that it was anything but fun) at a community ga relations appearance in the Chicago area. Armintie Price, Stephanie Raymond, Carla Thomas, Jenna Rubino, Ivory Latta, Alison Bales and Noelle Quinn were the WNBA rookies who read with, motivated and handed shirts out to members of the fifth and sixth grade boys basketball team following a WNBA Cares Read To Achieve Reading Rally at Smythe Elementary School.
By Thursday night, the rest of the group had flown in from all over the country and met at the Chicago O'Hare Hilton to begin a weekend of learning and preparation. WNBA President Donna Orender and Vice President Renee Brown welcomed the women, who were dressed for business dress (no jeans, no sweats), and told them how honored they should feel to be a part of such a select group, yet not to rest on those laurels because the real challenges were still yet to come.
Leslie Bonci's Recommended Shopping List
- canned ligh fruit
- instant oatmeal
- microwave popcorn
- granola or cereal bars
- baby carrots
- fresh fruit
- freezer waffles
The first two presentations of the night taught players some of the most basic lessons about how to prepare for those challenges: eat right and stay hydrated. Professional sports nutritionist and expert dietician Leslie Bonci, who works with the Pittsburgh Steelers and showed off her Super Bowl ring from last season, discussed a number of topics, including the importance of breakfast and having protein before lifting in the morning. She also said that everyone (even those of us who aren't professional athletes) should eat something within 15 minutes of finishing physical activity ending to repair and restore (sports drink, piece of fruit, handful of pretzels, Gatorade bar, cereal). The body takes 24 hours to recover from the physical duress of a game or practice. Food fuels that recovery.
Considering that these women are out on their own for the first time, Bonci also stressed the importance of keeping healthy foods nearby as well as how to eat right on the road. Pre-game meals should be balanced so that 2/3 of a plate should be carbs with the other third of the contents including proten and healthy fat.
Players like Brooke Smith and Megan Vogel even came up afterwards to ask specific questions related to their diets.
"I'd like to speak with you some more," Vogel said. "I'm a picky eater, but I'm always tired. It's starting to make sense now."
WNBA rookies with Leslie Bonci...
...and Gatorade's Kris Osterberg.
Bonci's presentation was followed up with Gatorade Sports Science Institute scientist Kris Osterberg's education in hydration. She continued to reinforce the messages that what we put in our bodies matters, that pre- and post-workout fuels and foods are critical and that eating well on the road and fluids throughout the day are keys to success. Of course, there was also the riveting explanation of how urine color can indicate levels of dehydration. Osterberg and her group have spent years researching NBA and WNBA players extensively and have come to the conclusion that they should drink 20-30 oz. about two to three hours before practice or a game, then drink another 8-10 oz. about 10 to 20 minutes before practice.
"NBA players can lose up to 10 pounds a game just by sweating," she explained. "And women sweat just like men do."
She was also able to dispel some myths: Not all sports drinks are created equal. Carbohydrates are the most important energy source for the body during exercice. Sodium is the most critical electrolyte lost in sweat. Water is not the best hydrator. With water, which may be a good thirst quencher, the brain may turn off thirst before overall fluid needs are met.
By Friday morning, the messages were beginning to sink in. After a night of contemplating what the nutritionist had to say, Liberty guard Shay Doron knew exactly what she wanted for breakfast. Unfortunately it was not there for her.
"Light cream cheese?" she asked. "Where is the regular cream cheese and Lipton tea? The nutritionist said if it doesn't taste good and isn't working to help us, we shouldn't put it in our mouths."
The first two presentations of the full day on Friday were certainly among the best. The WNBA Community Relations manager, Maggie Glenn, discussed the various programs that players can and will be participating in. That was followed up by a riveting presentation about the evolving dynamics of the internet and how WNBA.com is about to undergo a major change to keep up with our web savvy fans' demands and expectations (stay tuned!). Then the players took part in a closed-door meeting with the WNBA Players Association and WNBPA Director of Operations Pam Wheeler (no doubt talking about uniony things).
Then the players divided into four smaller groups for breakout sessions that covered Financial Planning with representatives from Morgan Stanley, WNBA Benefits and Peak Performance.
Every year, Jeff Janssen's Peak Performance presentation and interactive activities are among the most popular of the weekend. That's why he keeps coming back. He compares the mental aspect of competitive sports to a traffic light.
"Green light means you are confident, focused and in control," he explained. "Yellow means you should use some caution because you are starting to become frustrated and upset. Red means that you have lost control of your mental game and you need to stop before going any further."
His goal is to help the players first recognize what "light" or zone they are in and then how to get to green and stay there. He also shared his tips to strengthening confidence.
"Confidence is something that can be created and strengthening," Jenssen said. "Confidence is simply a choice. It is disciplining yourself to create and focus on the reasons why you can and should be successful."
The equation is simple. Confidence results when the belief in one's own ability
exceeds the demands of the situation. He then had each player ask the following
- "What are my physical and mental strengths?"
- "What things have I accomplished so far that make me proud?"
- "What kinds of practicing, training and overall preparation have I done that give me the right to feel confident?"
- "What have other people said or done that has built my confidence?"
The final exercise Janssen used to drive home the point of believing not only in yourself but learning to trust and communicate with those around you was the always-popular "Minefield" game, where blindfolded players were guided through an obstacle course of cones and ropes by sighted teammates. Not only did it bring out the competitive side of these women, but showed who was able to excel under the stresses of the game. Among those who were able to successfully navigate the course without stepping on a cone were Ashley Shields (guided by Kathrin Ress), Armintie Price (led by Stephanie Raymond - who proclaimed the power of the Chicago Sky upon successful completion) and Ivory Latta (who jumped across the line with five opposing competitors shouting at her not to move).
Armintie Price crosses the finish line ...
...and Ashley Sheilds celebrates with Kathrin Ress.
Friday afternoon sessions included media training with Lisa Bercu-Levine and Health and Medical information session with Dr. Altha Stewart. As WNBA Medical Director, Stewart briefly touched on the league's anti-drug program and the year-round support for other issues like psychological distress, stress management and more.
"There is no immunity from emotional and psychological disorders for professional athletes," Stewart told the players as she listed keys to promoting "mind, body and spirit."
Another highlight of the weekend, as it always is, was the WNBA Player Panel. This year's group of players included Sacramento's Kara Lawson, Chicago's Stacey Dales and San Antonio's Shanna Crossley. They were joined by an elite group of retired legends Jennifer Azzi, Carla McGhee and (are you ready for this?) Cynthia Cooper! They got to ask their peers and role models the questions that burned in their minds... like how hard training camp is, are the veterans going to make it hard for us because we're gunning for their jobs and what the toughest adjustments might be for them at the next level.
The evening session brought the rookies together with the entire group of WNBA officials and referees, who were also at the hotel for their own Orientation. There were even a few rookie officials in the group who could relate to what the players were feeling and going through.
Alison Bales, Jenna Rubino...
...and other rookies now head to training camp..
By Saturday afternoon, everyone was back on their way, off to training camps which are already underway. Many of these rookies will not make opening day rosters, but hopefully all of these women can take some of the things they've learned and turn that into an all-out effort to win a roster spot with their new WNBA team.
Of course, you don't have to take my word for it, but here is what one rookie is saying about the event...
Greetings and welcome to another exciting edition of Click and Roll. We've got plenty on the hoops horizon, so away we'll go...
Let's tip things off with Team USA and its plethora of WNBA stars. This Women's Dream Team rolled past two more Italian exhibition opponents this week, vaulting past Virtus Viterbo 82-42 on Monday and pounding the Pomezia Region All-Stars 81-41 on Tuesday. Tamika Catchings, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and recent No. 2 overall draft pick Jessica Davenport, among others, were impressive for the Americans and seem well on their way to successful seasons in the "W." The top pick in the 2007 draft, Minnesota's Lindsey Harding, has been playing and training with the National Team as well, and she chimes in from overseas in this Q&A.
USA Basketball Photos
WNBA President Donna Orender stopped by in Houston this week to rouse up some excitement about the Comets season and their new ownership group. Did you... you know... "SEE HER?" Whether you did or not, you should already know that individual game tickets for every team and every game (including the All-Star Game) are on sale now. So make plans to SEE HER now!
And while things are looking up in Houston, the plans for the proposed new arena in Seattle to house both the Storm and Sonics have fallen through with local lawmakers, and team owner Clayton Bennett is hinting that a relocation might be on the horizon.
Still, excitement reigns supreme in WNBA Land, as the recently drafted rookies are gathering in Chicago for a couple days of knowledge from the "W" cognoscenti, including a few words of wisdom from regular blogger Matt Wurst. But there's one rookie who already seems to have this online thing down: Megan Vogel, the second-round pick of the Mystics, whose lighthearted, yet insightful blog -- mostly about her preparations for the pro game -- has already received rave reviews.
Next week, we'll have updates from orientation and training camps, so be sure to check back then.
Time flies when you're having fun. But how slow does time go when you're not having fun?
"Why haven't we been having fun?" you ask. It's not because it's Friday the 13th (though we are suffering from a bit of paraskavedekatriaphobia). It's because it's the offseason, and we have missed our beloved game.
But last week's WNBA Draft in Cleveland was the unofficial start to the season, and in the wake of the excitement surrounding that colossal event just steps from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it makes perfect sense to bring back "Click and Roll" for another campaign.
And when you think of campaigns, you think of politics. And when you think of politics, you think of Washington D.C., the site of the WNBA All-Star event this summer. And it may have been lost in last week's pageantry, but individual tickets are now available not only for all 2007 regular season games, but also for the All-Star Game on July 15.
In other news from across the pond, Dynamo Moscow captured the EuroCup crown on Wednesday, topping Faenza 76-56 in the second leg to earn a 150-117 aggregate win. Monarchs forward Rebekkah Brunson posted 24 points and 13 rebounds while Lynx guard Seimone Augustus added nine and four of her own.
Elsewhere in the world of the WNBA, four-time title-winning former Comets coach Van Chancellor has signed on to become the head coach at LSU.
Finally, after all of last week's draft hoopla, you might be wondering what happens to all of the college stars who went unselected. Well, many of them — like Jillian Robbins (played at Tulsa, signed a training camp deal with the Houston Comets), Meredith Alexis (James Madison, Washington Mystics), Elisha Turek (Oral Roberts, Chicago Sky) and Sarah McKay (Indiana, Seattle Storm), among others — will be trying to earn roster spots at training camps around the WNBA.
Check back next week as we peek in on local team tryouts and preview next weekend's Rookie Orientation in Chicago. If it's anything like last year, there will be more than enough star power to get us even more jazzed for the 2007 season.
With more than two hours until the start of the Draft, the most nervous people in the room are not the tech guys, the ESPN broadcasting team or even the WNBA.com team (though we are a close second). The 22 players are already here, in the back room waiting to get their hair and make-up done, taking pictures and trying not to pace the room.
Live coverage begins here on WNBA.com at noon as we will be joined by Tamika Williams and she will be asking the players YOUR questions right after the are picked. Also be sure to tune into ESPN2 at 1 p.m. ET and then switch over to ESPNU or NBA TV for the second round. Good luck to all of the players, teams and anxious fans all around the nation...
They have arrived.
Literally and figuratively. The 22 players who will be on hand for the WNBA Draft have all checked into their hotel rooms and got settled before their first official WNBA event. Along with their family member and coaches who will be joining them at the Draft tomorrow, the prospects then came down for an informal gathering with each of other and some of the league officials.
While you'd think that they all knew each other at this point in their career, many were actually meeting for the first time. Despite playing against each other in the ACC, Ivory Latta and Kathrin Ress introduced themselves.
"We played against each other, right? Latta asked?
"Yes, it's nice to finally meet you," Ress said.
Also former ACC rivals, Shay Doron and Nare Diawara spent some time catching up.
"Those are some long pants," Doron joked.
"Yes, and they are so hard to find, too," Diawara responded as they shared a laugh.
Of course, they were not the only ones to discuss clothing and fashion.
Duke's Alison Bales chatted up ESPN's Rebecca Lobo about where she shops and what kind of shoes she wears.
"I'll wear heels if they are cute," Lobo said.
Teammates Bales and Lindsey Harding spent some time together, but WNBA Vice President Renee Brown encouraged all of the players to "get out of their comfort zones" and meet some new people, whether it was players or other "adults."
Personally, I was tremendously impressed by how mature all of the women are. Latta called everyone sir and ma'am, including Donna Orender's sons, Jacob and Zachary. She also said that she is so excited to be here and could not be more ready. After the Draft, she will return to North Carolina, pack up and get ready to move to whatever city takes her. She actually loaded up on her classes in her first three years so that she did not have to take any classes this semester. Smart move...
"This is what I always dreamt of," she told us.
Her teammate, Camille Little, was also very excited to meet some of the WNBA Marketing and Partnerships folks, saying she was ready to hit the road with them to meet executives and sell, sell, sell. That's exactly the kind of attitude that we need in this league to help it grow.
But no one gets it like Armintie Price gets it. She wants to be an ambassador.
"I have to admit, I'm a little nervous," she said. "But I'll be ok once I get on the court with a team. That's what I know how to do. I'll tell you, we need to make this league as big as the NBA, and I'll do whatever it takes to get it there."
In Other News... Check out what Megan Vogel had to say about her experience at WNBA Pre-Draft Camp.
The players and their families and coaches have begun to arrive, though several never left. Ivory Latta and Camille Little walked from their Final four hotel to the Draft hotel yesterday afternoon. Upon arriving, Latta ran into Nancy Lieberman and the two put on a whole little post-April Fool's joke about how they were meeting for the first time. Quite entertaining. And while checking in this morning, Boston College's Kathrin Ress hinted that she might be wearing brown at the Draft tomorrow. And the good news for Shay Doron when she arrived... her room was actually ready for her this time!
Today is actually a busy day on the Draft set and back-of-house. Over 65 NBA and WNBA production crew members from the live programming and entertainment group are working with about 30 local Cleveland union guys to set up the stage, lighting and overall Draft set. Overall, there are about 100 NBA and WNBA officials already on the scene, including 10 event coordinators, 5 IT technicians, 3 PR officials and 3 WNBA.com writers and staff.
Additionally, there are another 50 people from ESPN setting up their own stage and set, not to mention over 100 credentialed media expected, 22 to 25 players and their families, head coaches and friends. All told, it's going to be big...
I don't make a lot of money. I mean, I do okay, but my studio apartment is sparsely furnished with second-hand furniture and inherited hand-me-downs. I don't have a lot of friends, I am somewhat overweight and prematurely balding.
But I do have the good fortune of living less than four blocks away from a WNBA arena. And life is good.
It was even better when I found out that WNBA tickets are going on sale at noon ET on Wednesday. This is the day I've been waiting for since the schedule came out a few months ago. I have eight games that I absolutely cannot miss this season and I plan on working my entire schedule this summer around those eight dates. Vacations, work events, weddings, dance parties and art class all take a back seat to those nights or afternoons with the WNBA.
Now I'm here in Cleveland for the Draft (obviously), so I won't be able to show up to the arena at the exact time tickets go one sale. But let me tell you about Stuart. I have known Stuart for years and he may be an even bigger WNBA fan than I am. But more importantly, Stuart is my friend. Since he is already camping out these next 43 hours or so by the box office until tickets go on sale, he has offered to buy my tickets for me as well!
What a guy!
In fact, he is already there with nothing but a six-pack lime Gatorade, two boxes of orange-flavored Craisins and a folding chair. I hope he's dressed warmly because I hear it's going to be cold tonight. All across the league, WNBA teams will be selling tickets on Wednesday at noon, so out of solidarity for Stuart, I'm calling on everyone to go out and get their tickets as soon as possible.
Ticha Penicheiro is creative, Betty Lennox is exciting, Katie Douglas is tough, Diana Taurasi is a trip, but Stuart is also one of the many reasons I am proud to be a WNBA fan. When I am sitting at WNBA games watching my favorite players, I'll have Stuart to thank.
Oh, he's also getting me my All-Star Game ticket, as those are also available for purchase on Wednesday at noon.
By the way, since the Minnesota Lynx are unveiling a promotion to host their one millionth fan during their home opener against Sacramento on May 20, anyone who wants to get a ticket for me to that game and invite me to sit with them (and pay for my travel and put me up in their guest room) will get to write a guest blog during opening weekend.
Oh well. Thanks anyway, Stuart. You're still my buddy.
Are you ready? Yeah!
Are you ready? Yeah!
Are you ready? Yeah!
The Women's Final Four was narrowed down to two as everyone here in Cleveland was treated to a fun night at the Q.
Sitting in between a pair of former national champions, Sophia Young and Carla McGhee could not help but remember their own magical runs as they first watched Rutgers and LSU open the doubleheader muching on hot dogs. Rutgers shot the ball tremendously well from the floor and put the game away early en route to a 59-35 win. Rutgers is just one win away from winning its first national title.
As the second game between Tennessee and North Carolina counted down, McGhee and Young chose opposite sides. McGhee, a two-time national champion with the Lady Vols in 1987 and 1989, was naturally rooting for Tennessee in her orange shoes. Young was rooting for North Carolina and cheering openly as she watched the Tar Heels open up a double digit lead. Of course, the former college hoops legends then got personal.
"We won six titles. How many has Baylor won," McGhee chided.
"When was the last time they won though," Young responded?
"How long has Baylor been around," McGhee came back with? "It's not my fault you just got talent."
Then another former national champion, former Purdue and WNBA star Stephanie White, joined us in the suite to watch some of the action. White will be an assistant with the Chicago Sky in 2007 and was accompanied by Sky coach Bo Overton and owner Michael Alter. The team has two first round picks and told us that their third pick will depend on who is chosen ahead of them with the first two picks.
Despite the early foul troubles of UNC star point guard Ivory Latta and Tennesee super soph Candace Parker, the energy of the game never faded. With eight minutes to go in the game and Latta and Parker starting to heat up, North Carolina led by a score of 46-36. But then the Lady Vols went on a 20-4 run to close the game and prevailed, 56-50, to advance to the championship game yet again. In her final game at Carolina, Latta finished with 13.
Rutgers and Tennessee will face off for the title on Tuesday night. The very next day is the 2007 WNBA Draft.
Are you ready? Yeah!
Also celebrating the Spartak title are WNBAers Tamika Whitmore (8 points, 3 rebounds), Sue Bird (6 points, 4 assists), Ticha Penicheiro (2 points, 4 rebounds), Svetlana Abrosimova (4 rebounds, 3 assists) and Agnieszka Bibrzycka (6 points).
Delisha Milton-Jones kept Ros Casares in the game against the high-powered Russian side with 21 points and 11 big rebounds. Erika de Souza added 8 points and 6 boards.
"They fought so hard, we knew today would be tough," Thompson told FIBAEurope.com about her opponents. "They played really hard, Delisha is awesome. What can you say about Diana Taurasi? She is amazing. She hit some big shots for us down the stretch."
Thompson was also named MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four for her second big performance in three nights.
"Spartak have a team full of All-Stars, many weapons," Milton-Jones told FIBAEurope.com. "You can't really help because someone is open and nine times out of ten they make their shot."
Prior to the final on Sunday, DeMya Walker, Ann Wauters, Edwige Lawson and Maria Stepanova (among others) collected the third-place trophy in the EuroLeague as their CSKA Samara squad held off Bourges Basket 68-59.
Meanwhile, the EuroCup final is set for Wednesday, March 4, so we'll try to keep you in the loop on the Dynamo Moscow-Faenza tilt on WNBA Draft day.
So what happens when approximately 1,000 coaches from high school, college and the WNBA get together to blow off a little steam and have fun? No, they weren't calling up plays or exchanging trade secrets at the annual WNBA/WBCA Party last night, but just socializing, eating, dancing and enjoying themselves at the historic Cleveland Convention Center.
The Beatles and Stones played there and even David Bowie made is U.S. debut at this historic building just next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but last night saw everyone from Dawn Staley and Tamika Williams to Bo Overton and Rick Mahorn doing the Electric Slide. Okay, maybe not Overton and Mahorn, but the party was definitely hopping late into the night.
WNBA partners such as Discover and Meridian Wine were also on hand to showcase their products and those in attendance also got to play the new NBA Street Homecourt video game on X-Box.
Meanwhile, the WNBA also made it a special night for retiring Texas coach Jody Conradt in presenting her with the inaugural WNBA Inspiring Coach Award.
With no media timeouts or television commercials to cut away to, we went straight to the second game of the showcase doubleheader. With Teresa Edwards and Sandy Brondello on the sidelines, Team One and Team Two met in the final game of the Camp.
Kamesha Hairston, Noelle Quinn, Kathrin Ress, Bernice Mosby and Lyndsey Medders started for Team One (the home team) and Shay Murphy, Dee Davis, Tiffany Jackson, Carla Thomas and Jessica Dickson started for Team Two, yet, like the first game, the subs were going in and out faster than a Subway sandwich shop.
Despite the star power in the game, both teams struggled from the floor to start missing their first five shots combined and turning the ball over four times before Kamesha Hairston got the scoring going for Team One and Dee Davis hit a 3 for Team Two. Her teammate, Renee Taylor, gave her a rest and came in and scored off the break to give Two its first lead of the game.
Chrissy Givens got on the board with a tough layup in the lane while drawing contact, yet there was not much else in the way of offensive firepower in the first quarter as the two teams combined to score only 10 points. Kamesha Hairston also got poked in the eye and lost a contact lens, which took her out of the game early on.
Carla Thomas showed her range by stepping out and hitting a 3, which obviously impressed the coached in attendance. Not to be outdone, her teammate, Tiffany Jackson hit a 3 as well. Shay Murphy then converted a turnover and Jessica Dickson scored in traffic to give Team Two an 11-point lead. And with Hairston out for Team One, Team Two might be able to put this one away early. In face, this might be the best team we will see here. Teresa Edwards certainly drafted well.
Davis continued to impress after last night's good showing. She made great passes and got her teammates the ball in position to score. Of course, with Jackson, Murphy, Thomas and Dickson on the court, they might not always need the help she was able to provide. Team Two's second unit kept the pressure on as well with Renee Taylor and Carmen Guzman scoring late to end the half with a 24-9 lead. Team Two actually took 11 more attempts (10-of-23) than Team One in that half (3-of-12).
In the second half, we saw more of Dee Davis and Carla Thomas (where have we seen that before?), a nice hook shot by Emily Westerberg and a fast break conversion by Chrissy Givens to keep things rolling along. Thomas showed great versatility in hitting from inside and outside all weekend long. Team One continued to feed the ball down low to Gillian Goring, but Team Two had an answer every time back down the court, whether Jessica Dickson, Tiffany Jackson or Dee Davis. Guzman made big shots, steals and passes, but Davis was the best player on the floor whenever she was out there. Megan Vogel also did her best to score and keep her Team One teammates engaged, but the lead was insurmountable.
With the game out of hand, we focused on some of the individuals in the final quarter, taking note of Noelle Quinn and Bernice Mosby hooking up on a nice basket in transition, Renee Taylor going strong to the hoop on more than one occasion, Quinn finally getting a 3 to fall, stealing the next possession and going all the way for the score. There was Davis getting a steal and giving up to Murphy on the break, Goring finishing on a nice catch-pass from Leah Rush and Adrianne Davie getting the turnaround to fall.
"I wanted to let WNBA teams know that I have an outside shot," Davis said. "A lot of people say I don't shoot from outside all that much, but I wanted to come out here and show that I am a complete player, I can shoot the ball and do everything I need to do. That's what I wanted to show here."
Final stats from the second game: Eight points apiece for Carla Thomas (eight rebounds) and Dee Davis (five assists) for Team Two. 10 points for Bernice Mosby and eight for Noelle Quinn.
After the game, all of the camp participants gathered for one last time at center court. Their work is done as they have given WNBA coaches and scouts some final thoughts to consider. And before walking off for the last time, they huddled in close, put their hands up high as one big team and shouted "WNBA" in unison. For some, that is where they will play their next meaningful basketball. For others in the group, the road ends here. We should know in a few days.
So that just about wraps up the 2007 WNBA Pre-Draft Camp here in Cleveland. We're getting ready to clear out of here as the WBCA High School All-America game will be played on this floor tonight. Those who definitely impressed and saw their stock rise here were Kamesha Hairston, Carla Thomas and Dee Davis. We did hope to see more out of Shay Murphy, Noelle Quinn, Lyndsey Medders and Chrissy Givens, but they were so good all year long that it likely doesn't matter what we think...
"Those who helped themselves out here were Kiera Hardy, Kathrin Ress, Nare Diawarra and Tyresa Smith," said one WNBA coach before heading back home. "Those four jump out at me as people who many of us didn't get to see play all that much. Everyone else, people kind of knew what they could do. They may have gone from third round picks to second round picks or moved up in other ways."
The busy weekend continues with the WBCA Coaches' Convention today and reception tonight... and then two big Final Four games tomorrow.
Up early and back at the gym by 7 a.m., there were no cartoons on this Saturday morning. Nothing but hard work as the 44 players split up into four teams to play two showcase-style games with WNBA rules (with running time).
The first of the two showcase games featured Team Three against Team Four. Of course, there are no names or nicknames or special jerseys, just a thrown-together team of talents that each of the four coaches drafted rotisserie-style on the bus ride over. As far as we know, they did not work as a team to come up with a name a la The Apprenctice. That means we'll refer to them by number from here on out.
Starting in black for Four were Shay Doron, Katie Gearlds, Victoria Lucas-Perry, Jillian Robbins and Nare Diawarra down low while Kiera Hardy, Cori Chambers, Terra Wallace, Meredith Alexis and Brooke Smith were the initial starters for Three (in white)
Prior to the game Four coach Nick DiPillo discussed his team strategy, which is essentially to get as many shots as possible for Shay Doron and Katie Gearlds, then let the bigs clean it up for them down low.
"You're taking 50 shots today," DiPillo told Gearlds during warm-ups. "I told Shay she is the Tom Brady of this camp, she just wins games."
Team Four started running early as Lucas-Perry scored on a lay-up off the tip. But Brooke Smith answered with a lefty hook in the lane to get the scoring going for Three and Hardy hit a long 2-pointer to give Three its first lead. Smith then converted on a right-handed hook in the lane as the lead grew to five points. Gearlds then fed Diawarra in the paint to stop the run before the wholesale substitutions.
With a new crop of players in the game, Cameo Hicks drove and scored for Three, then Yolanda Jones converted on the other end and took the contact, yet missed the accompanying free throw. She then tied the game just a minute later with a 16-foot jumper from the baseline. With less than a minute to go in the first quarter, Kristen Newlin gave Team Three the lead back with a turnaround basket from the elbow. Then Stephanie Raymond hit a 3 with the clock running down to put Three back up by five points to match its largest lead of the game.
Not to be left out of the scoring fun, Cori Chambers showed her best skill and opened the second quarter with a 3 for Three, then Terra Wallace hit a long 2 and scored on a fastbreak to extend the lead to twelve points for Three.
But Shay Doron and Nare Diawarra hit to cut the lead back to five before they left the game once again. Apparently the substitution patterns are calling for swaps every five minutes of action. Of course, that does make it hard to find a rhythm or hot hand.
Coming back off the bench, Victoria Lucas-Perry found the hot hand and hit a 3 and Ashley Awkward hit a pull-up J to bring Four back to within two points and Carrie Moore then tied the game off a jump ball with two minutes to go in the half. But Kristen Newlin and Tyresa Smith scored successively to build the lead anew for Three before the half. The score at the break: Three leads, 29-21.
Coming out strong in the second half was Four's Alisha Dill, who went coast-to-coast and scored before I could even look up from my computer. She followed that up with a 3-pointer on the wing and infused some life back into game. Yet as a tired Katie Gearlds misfired on one end, Brooke Smith and Kristen Newlin scored on the other end and the lead was back up to 11 points for Three. Lucas-Perry and Chambers traded baskets but Four was not able to trim into the lead. Despite getting to the free throw line nearly every possession, Team Four was hurt by the one free throw rule.
"We're not guarding," DiPillo told his team at the third quarter break looking up at a 10-point deficit. "Someone needs to start hitting shots."
Despite the brilliant coaching observations (and continuing to complain about only getting one free throw on fouls), Team Four trailed the rest of the way. Diawarra and Robbins had some nice passing, but Cameo Hicks showed some nice shooting as she, Chambers and Terra Wallace scored for Three as they pulled away and put it away. Final score: Three 60, Four 47.
And not that stats really mean much in games like this with a running clock and mass substitutions, but Cori Chambers led all scorers with 11 points on 4-of-6 from the floor and Terra Wallace was a perfect 5-for-5 for 10 points for Team Three. Lauren Neaves had seven rebounds in 18 minutes of action and Stephanie Raymond dished out four assists. Victoria Lucas-Perry led Team Four with nine points while Shay Doron had seven points on 2-for-8 from the field.
The first day of WNBA Pre-Draft Camp is in the books and a tired group of players is ready to head to bed. There may not be anyone more tired than Purdue star Katie Gearlds, who was up at the crack of dawn in Atlanta this morning to make it to the morning session.
"I have a cramp in my calf," she said after leaving the court tonight. "It's cramping up on me and I'm ready to go to sleep. Grab something to eat, get a lot of liquids in me and go to sleep."
In the final games of the night, we saw some new stars emerge, like UT-Arlington's Terra Wallace and Boston College's Kathrin Ress. Neither was very flashy in the way she played, but both got the job done for their teams. Another player who followed up her strong morning with a good final game was Vanderbilt's Carla Thomas.
"I didn't know Carla Thomas was so good, man," Gearlds said. "She is real good. She was on my team in the first session and I told her to post up and I'd get her the ball every time."
Another player who impressed those in attendance was guard Tyresa Smith.
"I'm happy with the way I played," the Delaware senior said. "I came here wanting to just leave it all out there on the court. I didn't want to do anything out of the ordinary and tried to stick to my game. I didn't want to try anything I don't do normally so I took some pull-ups and played good defense."
Of course, tomorrow morning is the last chance for these women to make a statement. It will be the absolutely last time that the coaches and decision-makers at WNBA teams get to see them play. The Saturday morning session will feature full-court, full-length WNBA-style games. It will be the final test and the players know it.
"I think I can always be a little bit more aggressive and get to the rim more, so I'll try and work on that for tomorrow," Smith said.
Katie Gearlds concurred.
"It's the last showdown tomorrow morning," she said. "But I would hope that these coaches know what I can do. Obviously I'm a shooter and just taking advantage of every jump shot I can get out here and get other people involved."
Session Three begins at 8 a.m. For now, it's time to hit the showers.
In Other News... So with all the GMs together in one room, was there any discussion about swapping picks or players? Well, we did overhear Shock assistant Rick Mahorn trying to trade Cheryl Ford to Phoenix for Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi. We don't think he was serious, but then again, we cannot really ever be sure with Rick, now can we?
The most poignant moment of Friday, for me, was watching the players walk off the court after their final games of the night to meet their college coaches, many of whom were in the stands watching.
Megan Vogel of South Dakota State rushed over to high-five coach Aaron Johnston, who was watching like a proud parent.
Dee Davis and Carla Thomas of Vanderbilt nearly sprinted off the court to greet Vandy assistant coach Vicky Picott, who was on crutches.
Veteran UT-Arlington coach Donna Capps stood watch over point guard Terra Wallace, who was using the short respite to make a call on her cellphone.
Arkansas State teammates Rudy Sims and Adrianne Davie were chatting excitedly with coach Brian Boyer about their day at the Pre-Draft camp.
Lachelle Lyles' coach from Southeast Missouri State, John Ishee, was so excited at Lyles being out on the court than he made her pose for a picture with him.
Players can talk in interviews about how important coaches have been to them, and many did. But to actually see the love, the feeling and the emotion that goes into strong relationships like this speaks to a pretty powerful bond between player and coach.
Even though we've been all Draft, all the time, we'd be remiss if we didn't give some love to the WNBA stars currently playing major roles in Europe's top club tournaments. The two EuroLeague semifinals took place on Friday, and not surprisingly, some big names were tops on the scoresheet.
First off, WNBAers Tina Thompson (26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists), Diana Taurasi (20 points, 4 rebounds) and Agnieszka Bibrzycka (23 points, 7 rebounds) combined for 69 points as Spartak Moscow Region dumped CSKA Volgaburmash 90-76 to book a spot in the EuroLeague final. Sue Bird added 7 points, 4 assists and 4 boards in the victory. Ann Wauters had 17 points and 8 boards in the loss for CSKA.
FIBA.com also has video of a postgame interview with the triumphant Taurasi.
Spartak will face Spanish side Ros Casares in the final, which advanced after topping Bourget Basket 73-59 behind 20 points and 11 rebounds from DeLisha Milton-Jones. Erika De Souza added 19 points and 15 boards as the Valencia-based squad will seek its first ever women's crown of this magnitude.
FIBA.com also caught up with Milton-Jones after her masterful semifinal performance.
So, the EuroLeague final is set. Spartak vs. Ros Casares on Sunday, April 1, in Vidnoje, Russia. We'll be here with coverage.
The EuroCup final pairing is also ready to roll. Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Dynamo Moscow will take on Italian side Faenza in the first leg on April 4, WNBA Draft day. The second leg of the total-points series will be played on April 11.
Tonight's top performer awards go to the SEC backcourt tandem of Dee Davis and Cori Chambers. Vanderbilt's Davis was hitting big shots and making plays from all over the court tonight. She may have come in late, but, boy, did she make an entrance. She is not known for her offensive game, but she really proved that she can play tonight.
In sitting with Doris Burke for some of the action, she expressed that she may be having second thoughts about putting Miami's Renee Taylor ahead of Davis on her list of top point guards in the feature she penned for WNBA.com earlier today. Yet, just as she was saying it, Taylor came down, put a sick crossover move on Davis and finished in traffic plus the foul. These two had some great battles. Doris said that she favored Taylor on her board because of conversations she had with WNBA coaches prior to camp. We'll see if their opinions change.
In a fun moment during a break in the action, Davis spotted Dawn Staley in the stands and said, "Oh my God, there is Dawn Staley." Davis grew up worshipping Staley, wh0 then later recruited Davis to play at Temple. Of course she chose Vandy, and the rest is history. Plus, her teammate, Carla Thomas, also continues to impress here at camp.
As the games continued this evening, you could see some of them starting to get tired. One who looked like she could run for days was Oklahoma's Leah Rush. Rush, who is a fitness nut and wants to be a trainer some day, prides herself on conditioning. In fact, after losing in the NCAA Tournament, Rush was running up stairs the next day. Plus, she also hit some big shots both tonight and over her career at Oklahoma. Those are the types of players you want on your roster.
In Other News... Eetisha Riddle left Pre-Draft Camp this evening on crutches with an ice bag taped to her right knee. We wish her the best.
Who’s impressing the critics so far? I asked that question to several coaches in the stands at Friday night’s session.
For Mercury assistant Bridget Pettis, Renee Taylor from Miami has stood out. “She has a nice game, a nice handle on the ball, a good shot,” says the former WNBA star.
“And the girl from Delaware, Tyresa Smith. I like her game… it’s consistent. She just goes out there and does what she does best. I like players like that. They stick with what their strengths are.”
Sky coach Bo Overton agreed. “(Smith) has impressed me a lot. Her athleticism and her ability to compete out here with this level of player. She’s going to be a good player, no question.”
There are also a bunch of college coaches in attendance. Maryland’s Brenda Frese was in the stands to watch her star Shay Doron, and her first read was a good one.
“From everything she told me, it seems positive. There’s a lot of speed, quickness and athleticism out there, but I’m confident she’ll put her best foot forward.”
Frese was also impressed with the general level of talent on the court.
“There are a lot of big guards,” she pointed out. “It’s a talented class coming out of here. There are going to be a lot of players for these WNBA coaches and teams to choose from.”
Finally, I caught up with Temple coach and WNBA legend Dawn Staley on her way out the door and after a friendly chat with legendary North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.
“I heard from a few people that she improved her stock with the morning session,” Staley said happily of Temple’s potential first-round pick Kamesha Hairston. When I asked about the other players at the combine who her Temple team has faced during the season, she looked at me strangely and said, “I’m pretty much just focused on Kamesha.”
Fair enough, coach.
After a brief respite to catch their breaths, the Pre-Draft campers are back in the gym scrimmaging on adjacent courts. For tonight's session, college coaches are allowed into the gym and there are a lot here... it's almost a who's who of legendary names... Maryland's Brenda Frese, Temple's Dawn Staley, Arizona State's Charli Turner Thorne just to name a few.
And speaking of coaches, new Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek is on the sidelines, but admitted that it might be hard for a player here to make their roster. With Sacramento not picking until late in the second round and the depth of the players already on their roster, it could be tough. Of course, you never know who will make their way around the league in a year or two or three with free agency, trades and potential expansion. That is why she is here...
Ten years ago, Georgia's Cori Chambers was sitting in the rafters at Madison Square Garden to see the first-ever New York Liberty game. Today, the White Plains, N.Y. native played in front of the Liberty coaches.
UCLA guard Noelle Quinn's mom has been a Sparks season-ticket holder since day one. Noelle says she has rarely ever missed a Sparks game in person.
That brings the number of our girls who went to games as kids at four. We already mentioned how Shay Doron went to Liberty games with her dad and Jillian Robbins went to Comets games growing up. Wow, do I wish I had the picture handy of Robbins slapping five with Cooper on the scorer's table after Houston won a title.
With the women’s basketball world in Cleveland focused on the WNBA Draft, Pre-Draft Camp and the Final Four, a few big WNBA stars who were in town snuck away from the spotlight to do some good while in the area. Sophia Young, Tamika Williams and Katie Smith visited Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital this morning and brought with them heavy doses of fun and laughs.
They visited rooms and towed wagons full of WNBA water bottles, wristbands, t-shirts and autograph cards from room to room. They also took lots of pictures and had loads of fun.
It was just a special event and felt the need to share...
The second half of the first session featured two simultaneous full-court scrimmages with a running clock and potential future WNBA officials (current D-League referees).
Among those who stood out were Vanderbilt's Carla Thomas, Baylor's Bernice Mosby and UCLA's Noelle Quinn. Thomas was absolutely killing, hitting turnaround jumpers on the baseline, dishing out of the post and scoring inside while Mosby showed that her long arms are certainly being put to good use. She looks like DeLisha Milton-Jones with those long arms. Katie Gearlds also came right off the plane and made an impact this morning, knocking down shots smoothly and showing no signs of fatigue.
Thomas admitted after the session that she was nervous at first, but then settled down once she found a rhythm.
"It's just more intense with the coaches here," she said. "We want to show what we can do. I want to show that I am versatile and have a good work ethic. The key is finishing this weekend strong."
Temple's Kamesha Hairston was also among this morning's stars.
"Kamesha Hairston really impressed me," Liberty assistant Nick DiPillo said. "I knew she was good, I knew she had a knack for scoring, but I didn't realize she could shoot the ball as well as she can and she is much better defensively than I thought she was. In my opinion, she was the best player in camp this morning."
He should know because he got an up-close view as one of the five WNBA assistants organizing the camp and coaching one of the four rosters.
"The thing here that we get to do here as coaches that we do not get to do when we're out scouting during the season is interact with these players, get a better sense of their basketball IQ. You don't get to see that when you go to their college games and watch in the stands."
Yet not all coaches have the same approach. Mystics coach Richie Adubato admitted that he does very little scouting before the camp. He relies on the front office and his assistants to do their resesarch, but likes to come in to this camp with no preconceived notions.
"I like to come in cold," he said. "But it's the same things that impress me. I look for speed, high release that's hard to stop, then toughness, quickness and size."
Also playing well under watchful eye of WNBA coaches were Tiffany Jackson (Texas) and Jessica Dickson (South Florida). Of course, it all depends on what teams need. Seattle coach Anne Donovan told the NBAE crews that she has her top choice narrowed down to t"two or three candidates" and that her team really needs a shooting guard. Meanwhile, Ann Meyers admitted that her team's top three might not even be at camp. Yet there are still rounds two and three to consider and said that while her team is set on the perimeter, they are here looking for bigs. Virginia Tech's Nare Diawara is a good sleeper pick in the later rounds.
One big who is hard to miss is NC State's Gillian Goring. She played inspired this morning, but it may partially have been the effect of a special visitor who was watching from the bleachers. While college coaches are not officially permitted to watch until the second session tonight, the league made a special exception for coach Kay Yow, who despite the cancer treatments she is regularly undergoing, watched the action with a strong gaze.
Unfortunately, there was one casualty in the morning session. Missouri's EeTisha Riddle went down with a knee injury early in the session and was forced to miss the remainder of the workout. She was noticeably upset and sat on the sidelines for awhile and then re-joined her team to cheer them on.
The players now have several hours to eat, rest and prepare for the night session. Fatigue does play a part in these intense camps, so it is important that they stay off their feet and stay hydrated in the down time. The five or so players who arrived late will go through their physicals and NBAE interview circuit this afternoon. That means more time with us!
Uniformly clad in their reversible black-and-white WNBA practice jerseys, the WNBA Draft prospects have only their sneakers to tell you where they came from. Cameo Hicks in the purple and gold, Kristen Newlin wearing Cardinal red and Gillian Goring still wearing her NC State shoes with the tribute to her ailing coach across the laces.
But at this stage, it doesn't matter where they've been, only where they are going. And with all of the WNBA head coaches, assistants and player personnel staff scattered in the balcony above the court and in the overlooking bleachers, those questions will go a long way towards being answered in the next 30 hours or so.
WNBA Vice President Renee Brown got the morning stared with a bit of a history quiz before group stretching. How many knew when the WNBA started? Who scored the first basket? The first WNBA President? Most were quiet. Probably just nerves. They just wanted to get out and play.
|The new WNBA ball gets a rest and takes a breather during the morning session.|
So far, Brooke Smith has really impressed me (and more importantly, everyone else). She is very good with both hands in deep and from outside as well. she is just solid al around and runs the floor as well as any post player here. With centers and versatile posts at a premium in the WNBA, it was interesting to see that just about all of them could step back and hit the 3. Newlin, B.C.'s Katharin Ress and Tulsa's Jillian Robbins had no problem hitting from beyond the arc on more than once occasion. James Madison center Meredith Alexis showed she has great hands and can put the ball on the floor and beat her defender one-on-one.
Marquette's Christina Quaye is wearing a mask after suffering an injury during her season. Lucky she brought it as she took a ball off the face.
Kiera Hardy is fast and plays great transition defense on the ball. Quick enough backwards to keep up with a guard running forward. Kamesha Hairston is so much stronger than she looks. She is such a great defender, poking passes away, blocking shots before opposing players could get the ball up and out, but also demonstrated the ability to knock down the mid- to long-range jumper.
Of course, it is really interesting when players who have never played together before come together. You get to see a lot about players and who stands out as a vocal leader. South Dakota State's Megan Vogel is definitely a communicator, introducing herself to Victoria Lucas-Perry mid-drill, encouraging the other competitors and high-fiving everyone who walked by. Also taking a more active role was Northern Illinois guard Stephanie Raymond with the guards and Goring with the posts.
Arkansas State guard Rudy Sims is a Deanna Nolan clone on the court. From the tattoos to the hair style and head band to the quickness with the ball. Now she just needs to improve her jumper and maybe we can actually compare her to the Finals MVP.
The Liberty contingent was the last to arrive about ten minutes into the drills. Of course, you could count on GM Carol Blazejowski to voice the sentiments of everyone in the room.
She joked, "If only Phoenix would tell us what they're going to do so we can all figure it out after that..."
In Other News... The Atlanta contingent is here... Katie Gearlds, Lyndsey Medders, Cori Chambers, Shay Murphy and Noelle Quinn. Game on, ladies.
On the campus of Cleveland State University (home of the Vikings!), most students are not up yet. Some may have been pulling all-nighters to get a paper done or cram for an exam. Others may have been up all night for, well, different reasons.
But there are at least 40 college seniors already hard at work here... the future of the WNBA.
The players were up early, some as early as 6 a.m., to get their breakfasts in and game faces on. they are currently warming up under the watchful eye of six WNBA assistant coaches, including San Antonio's Sandy Brondello (a sleeper I left out of my WNBA steals of the draft feature last wekk, by the way...), Minnesota's Teresa Edwards and New York's Nick DiPillo.
We're just about to get started on some half-court drills this morning in Session One.
In Other News... Not yet arrived here in Cleveland (but hopefully on a plane) are a few remaining players... USC's Shay Murphy, UCLA's Noelle Quinn and Purdue's Katie Gearlds. They were apart of the College 3-point shootout in Atlanta (home of the men's final four) last night, competing against each other and the top men's 3-point shooters. Of course, the ladies took center stage when Gearlds beat Oregon's Aaron Brooks. So I guess we now know for sure that Gearlds is the best shooter in the nation.
Speaking of Final Fours, we know the Women's Semifinals get underway on Sunday, but here in cleveland, there is a channel in the hotel that loops the best of the Women's NCAA Final Four videos. I stayed up late last night to watch 1994-2002. Great times. Let's just say I got a good dose of Tennessee and UConn. Yet there is not a single UConn or Tennessee player at Pre-Draft Camp. Pretty amazing. Of course, Tennessee is still playing...
If you couldn't feel it before, can you feel it now? Draft week is officially here.
WNBA Pre-Draft Camp, NCAA Final Four, Women's Basketball Coaches Convention, WNBA Draft.
|WNBA.com Editor Adam Hirshfield talks with Chrissy Givens during The Circuit during the first day of WNBA Pre-Draft Camp in Cleveland.|
You know who else is here? More than 40 of the top college seniors from all over the land, the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp players, have arrived here in the Rock 'n' Roll City. After landing this morning, they were thrown right into the mix, embarking on the first phase of the next step in their basketball career.
Day One of WNBA Pre-Draft camp came and went and there was not a basketball to be seen. Instead, the women made their way through a busy circuit... medical stations with full physicals and EKG test, NBAE video interviews, photos and everyone's favorite... the WNBA.com interviews.
Imagine 40-plus personalities, some of whom are quiet, shy and reserved; other who are loud and boisterous and can talk for hours. We had former competitors and conference foes, NCAA Tournament rivals and even a few former AAU teammates, friends and strangers who had never met coming together as professionals for the first time. They are excited, anxious, nervous, uncertain, curious, eager, ready... you name it, they're feeling it. Of course, many just finished playing as recently as Monday or Tuesday. They are probably tired...
Maryland guard Shay Doron was among the first to arrive, but unfortunately her room was not yet ready, so she sat and waited patiently while they sorted out her situation.
The first two players to actually come through the circuit were Virginia Tech's Nare Diawara and Coastal Carolina's Alisha Dill. Also among the early visitors was Texas forward Tiffany Jackson, a likely first-round selection. Among many, many other more important things, Jackson talked about her love of shopping, talking smack, and obviously, how great an influence Coach Conradt has been on her career.
When asked about weaknesses in her game, Northern Illinois' guard Stephanie Raymond said there none. Then she thought more about it and admitted that she has to work on her mid-range game. And South Dakota State's Megan Vogel had as much energy on the interview circuit as she does on the court.
Unlike previous years, we got the rare treat of getting to chat with a potential top overall pick before the actual Draft as Ohio State's Jessica Davenport made a cameo. Davenport, who came in just for the day, will not be taking part in the on-court work over the next 48 hours. Yet she still suffered through having to talk to us. What a trooper! In one of the more interesting things we learned today, Davenport talked about her father, a truck driver, who actually plans his routes and deliveries to see his daughter play around the country.
So who else is here? Chrissy Givens is here, and she admitted to freaking out when she got her invitation to Pre-Draft camp. Ummm, has she watched herself? Does she really have no clue how good she is?
You know who does know how good she is? Bernice Mosby. One of the most fun interviews we did all day. After the Baylor forward is done playing, she said she'd like to be an assistant coach someday. She thinks she'd be a great recruiter.
"Other coaches would be afraid of me," she joked.
|Washington's Cameo Hicks talkin' hoops with WNBA.com.|
But hands down, the most fun player we've come across was Tulsa's Jillian Robbins.
Before even sitting down for her interview, Robbins joined in on a plate of spicy chicken wings with the NBAE crew, which was enjoying a late lunch. She did pass on the chocolate-covered strawberries, though, as she is allergic. She does not need the sugar.
Robbins talked passionately about her 2-year-old son, Jordan, who just loves watching his mother play basketball.
"He inspires me in every way," she said.
She was also influenced as a WNBA fan growing up. Her father took her to Comets games and she claims to have been at every WNBA Finals game in Houston during their four-year run. Kim Perrot was her favorite and Tina Thompson is her idol now.
"If Cynthia Cooper came in this room right now, I'd pass out," she said.
But don't let all of the jokes and personality fool you. Robbins is as nervous as anyone for what is about to happen at Pre-Draft camp.
"I saw Leah Rush on the plane and told her I want to puke," Robbins admitted.
Maybe it was the chicken wings. Maybe it's the fact that, along with her fellow Pre-Draft Camp attendees, Jillian's final round of her WNBA job interview begins tomorrow at 8 a.m.
Defying expectations and overcoming obstacles her entire career, Sparks guard Temeka Johnson has been doing both since joining the WNBA in 2005. She was the sixth overall pick and ended up winning the Rookie of the Year Award with Washington.
So what does she say was the toughest adjustment as rookie in the WNBA? Believe it or not, it wasn't anything on the court.
"All of the travel was the toughest adjustment," Johnson told me recently. "It’s very hectic. Imagine having to get right off of a plane and going to shootaround. There also isn’t a lot of time to deal with and get over a loss. You can’t dwell on things or even spend a lot of time breaking it down to learn. You have to learn quick in the WNBA and bounce back even quicker. The other one was finding myself something to eat. On the collegiate level, everything is organized and taken care of for you. I remember being hungry at halftime as a rookie and didn’t know why."
San Antonio's Kendra Wecker was a rookie out of the same Draft as Johnson and is just coming into her own. Her advice to the incoming rookies as a seasoned veteran...
"I’m not sure I’m a seasoned veteran at this point, but my advice would be to come in ready to work," she said. "Everyone comes into training camp really nervous, even the returnees, because everyone is out to win a job or a spot, so my advice would be to work hard. You won’t be a leader your first day on the job, but you have to listen to veterans who have been here before."
And we have a Final Four... With Rutgers and LSU advancing despite a lower seed than they might have wanted earlier in the year, Tennessee and North Carolina held form on the other side of the bracket to represent the 1 seeds.
Tennessee ended Mississippi's dream run despite another 30-point game from Armintie Price and another 14 points from Ashley Awkward. In the end, Candace Parker and Sidney Spender (24 and 22 points respectively) were too much. They were a combined 12-for-12 from the free throw line and the Lady Vols won easily to book their trip to Cleveland. We won't see Spencer at WNBA Pre-Draft Camp now, but Price is expected to accept the invitation.
In the second game of the night, the finale in the Dallas bracket, UNC dominated in the paint and held off 2-seeded Purdue for a victory. The Boilermakers came in giving up only 54 ppg, but Carolina had been putting on an offensive show with their speed, rebounding, points off steals and dominance inside. Purdue's Katie Gearlds was tremendous in her final game, especially in the second half again (she should be a lock for the first round) but UNC senior Ivory Latta helped put the game away from the free throw line. Of course, that should come as no surprise for the best free throw shooter in the history of North Carolina.
So we have Tennessee-UCONN and Rutgers-LSU for all the marbles in Cleveland...
And speaking of.. we'll see you from The Forest City on Thursday.
Two teams qualified for the Final Four last night, and neither has serious WNBA prospects... Congratulations to Rutgers and LSU, a 4 and a 3-seed respectively, who advanced on to Cleveland this weekend in easy, double-digit victories. They do feature some tremendous underclassmen who have already taken their teams to new heights and will be a force (and WNBA Draft prospects) in the future.
We will see some great ones in action tomorrow night... Tennessee-Mississippi and Purdue-UNC.
In Other News... The deadline for players who would otherwise be eligible for the 2007 Draft if not for their remaining collegiate eligibility to renounce that remaining collegiate eligibility and make themselves available for the Draft is ten days prior to the Draft. That deadline passed on Sunday night without any player notifying the league office of her intention to renounce her remaining collegiate eligibility. As you may know, however, the WNBA has agreed with the Players Association to extend that deadline for players that are still competing in the tournament.
So yeah, the late game last night... I fell asleep. Sorry. But who starts games at 11:30 p.m. ET and expects anyone on the East coast to be awake? It is true what I wrote on NBA.com last week about a West Coast Bias... Anyway, I can pretend to recap how it went down, but you might as well just read the ESPN.com recap.
On to today's games...
Marist's fantastic run to the Sweet 16 finally came to an end as they were eliminated by the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee. Candace Parker led the way for Tennesse and senior forward Sidney Spencer had 11 points on 4-of-12 from the floor.
They will meet a familiar foe, the Rebs of Mississippi, who knocked off 3-seeded Oklahoma in another upset. Do we even need to mention who led the way for Ole Miss? Armintie Price was absolutely sensational and continues to play her way up the WNBA Draft board. She scored 31 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had five steals in the 90-82 win. Mississippi is a 7-seed and will be the lowest seed left in the Tournament when the elite 8 resumes. Oklahoma's Courtney Paris had 31 as well, but it was ont enough. Senior Leah Rush ended her career with the Sooners scoring nine points. I am seriously excited just to watch Price play again.
SEC foes Tennessee and Mississippi met back on January 24 and Tennessee won, 81-69. In that game, Price had 13 points while Parker had 25. Regardless, you can throw that out the window now as the Elite 8 changes everything. Price was in foul trouble for much of that game, but is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds in the Tournament so far...
Speaking of the SEC, Georgia tried to become the fourth from their conference to qualify for the Elite 8, but ran into Purdue. More specifically, they ran into Katie Gearlds. With her team trailing by one point at halftime, Gearlds simply took over en route to scoring 30 points. You know when you are watching a game and seeing a player absolutely in an unbreakable mental zone? That was Gearlds tonight, the elite player on the floor. Purdue extended its winning streak to ten games with the 78-65 win and Gearlds (featured in the New York Times today) had a ridiculous night shooting the ball. You can see that she is a smart player who has worked hard and improved tremendously over her four years, though it remains to be seen whether she will be a first round pick next week. Georgia's season ends short of the title again as the streaky Cori Chambers did not have her shot going. We will certainly see her at WNBA Pre-Draft camp.
The final Sweet 16 game will feature Ivory Latta and UNC against George Washington, but we'll check back on them tomorrow...
Our bad. In compiling all of the information about the potential prospects who could be selected in the Draft just one week from this coming Wednesday, we left a few out. It's only natural and we do it every year. Working from a list put together by all the coaches and scouts, we left out a few names, including Bowling Green's Ali Mann. In their run to the Sweet 16 that ended earlier today, Mann firmly established herself on the national stage in the first two rounds. But in today's game, Mann, who did all she could to keep the unlikely Falcons in the game scoring 15 points, got little support from her teammates in a 67-49 loss to Arizona State. On the other side, Sun Devils senior leader Emily Westerberg scored 15 points of her own and will play Rutgers on Monday night in the Elite 8.
The second game in Greensboro provided all the drama that makes the NCAA Tournament one of the greatest events in sports. Top-ranked Duke, playing in North Carolina, met a younger, but unfazed, 4-seeded Rutgers. Center Alison Bales was superb for Duke (21 points), especially in the first half. She established herself down low in scoring and blocking shots. But Rutgers fought back and stayed close thanks to its stifling defense. In the closing minutes, with the game on the line, Duke's leader and point guard, the ACC Player of the Year, potential National Player of the Year and top overall WNBA Draft pick Lindsey Harding took center stage.
With less than a minute to go in the game, Harding stumbled on defense and the player she was guarding hit an open 3-pointer to take the lead. Bales missed a jumper but Duke held on the other end. As time ticked down, Harding turned the ball over with Duke still trailing by one point. Yet she recovered her composure, stole the long inbounds pass with five seconds left and dribbled the length of the floor and drove to the hoop. She missed. But she was fouled. With 0.1 seconds.
Duke's best player, who came back for a red-shirt fifth season to win a title, had an extraordinary year. When all is said and done, she will have racked up awards and accolades. But as she stood at that free throw line with the weight of her team and her season on her shoulders, she looked mortal for the first time all season long. First shot: back rim miss. Second shot: back rim miss. The upset, the heartbreak. Next up for Bales and Harding: WNBA.
In the first game out in Fresno, first-seeded UConn and NC State went down to the wire as well... Gillian Goring scored 10 points while Ashley Key, who ran the point for NC State, fouled out down the stretch with nine points. The bank was open late for NC State, who hit two 3-pointers off the glass to keep it close, but the Huskies closed it out from the free throw line. The seniors' run for Coach Kay Yow and the Wolfpack ends in the Sweet 16. Her impact on this Tournament and this sport has been tremendous and we certainly wish her the best for a speedy recovery.
*The fourth and final game of the night will take place too late for this edition... LSU and FSU tip off at 11:30 p.m. ET, which we'll get to tomorrow...
I know I'm not supposed to really be rooting for any particular team in the Tournament, but how much fun is it to watch Duke, Tennessee, Connecticut and North Carolina play on the same night? It seriously doesn't get any better. The top seeds all advanced on Tuesday, but the same cannot be said for many of the other favorites. Of course, instead of recapping all of the games, we will instead check in on how some of the top seniors fared...
We started a bit earlier tonight than on Monday as the top team in the land, the Duke Blue Devils, took the floor against Dawn Staley's Temple team and advanced on with 62-52 victory. Potential top overall Draft pick Lindsey Harding scored 18 points and paced Duke, shooting 8-for-16 from the floor. Her senior running mate Ali Bales struggled from the floor offensively, but grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots. For Temple, senior star Kamesha Hairston tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, but we have certainly not heard the last of her. Harding was also named to the U.S. Women's National Team player pool and should compete for a spot with other point guards like Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen.
In the first overtime game of the tournament, NC State continued its emotional run and edged Baylor in a matchup of more super seniors. Baylor's Bernice Mosby had a huge in first half en route to scoring 26 points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots. The Wolfpack bounced back after blowing an 11-point lead midway through the second half, then dodged a major bullet as Mosby missed a shot on the final play of regulation. NC State senior Gillian Goring, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, scored the go-ahead layup on the Wolfpack's second possession of the extra period as they won. 78-72.
The Lady Vols' road show hit Pittsburgh, a virtual road game for Tennessee as they played the higher-seeded Pitt Panthers on their home floor. Candace Parker was the star of the show in the 68-54 win, but senior Sidney Spencer helped Parker slow down Pitt's star Marcedes Walker. Spencer also chipped in with 11 points for the top-seed. Of course, Tennessee had history on their side as they have advanced to the Sweet 16 in every NCAA Tournament in the women's history.
Michigan State's Victoria Lucas-Perry, another realistic WNBA Draft prospect, had 17 points and 10 rebounds on a tough shooting night against the tough Rutgers D. She was only 4-for-14 from the floor, but 7-for-8 from the charity stripe in the 70-57 loss. At least she went out in front of her home crowd and her fans.
The biggest upset of the night came in that tough Dayton bracket (though Ohio State and Maryland didn't even make it out of the second round) as the 7-seeded Mississippi took out the defending champions from Maryland. If you didn't believe that Armintie Price was the real deal before, you better believe it now. Seriously. She had 29 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, but the entire team stifled Maryland defensively and forced uncharacteristic turnovers. The Terps went down big in the first half and managed to fight back in the second, but simply could not catch Price. This is a legit first rounder we're watching in action here, folks, so enjoy it. Next up for Ole Mis... Oklahoma.
In the late games, we very nearly saw three more upsets until two of three favorites pulled it out late.
Connecticut trailed Wisconsin-Green Bay at the half, but exploded in the second stanza, outscoring the Phoenix of Wisconsin-Green Bay by a score of 56-30 in the second half. Nicole Soulis, who at 6-2, was the Phoenix's only starter over 5-10, finished with 14 points. She may have earned herseld a pre-Draft camp invite, but we'll have to see... Connecticut is a young team loaded with talent (and no seniors!). This is the first time in recent memory that the University of Connecticut has been without a top Draft prospect.
North Carolina also faced a tough test early on against a pesky Notre Dame team, but came from behind and pulled out a close win, 60-51. Guard Ivory Latta continued to be the difference-maker for the Tar Heels, scoring 17 points and hitting 8-of-9 free throws. The game was on the verge of going down the tube before Latta sparked a 15-0 run and hit six free throws to put the game away. She even stepped outside her range and hit a 3-pointer from my backyard. Her senior teammate, Camille Little, had eight points, five assists and two blocked shots.
But we did see one final second round surprise in the final game of the night as Bowling Green took out Vanderbilt (a 2-seed!). The Falcons became the first team in the Mid-American Conference to reach the round of 16, thus eliminating one of the best teams in the nation out of the SEC. Vandy actually trailed for the entire game, but they made it interesting in the end. Carla Thomas, who scored 12 points and 10 rebounds, cut the lead to three points with just 10 seconds to go, but that was as close as they would come and Bowling Green hit their free throws down the stretch. Along with Dee Davis (who made some great passes tonight), Thomas should get a pre-Draft camp invite as well. Of course, with all the seniors I think deserve invites, let's just hope I don't have to lick all the envelopes...
From 64 to 32 on down to 16... only the best remain. And speaking of the best... 10 of the Sweet 16 teams have real WNBA Draft prospect talent on their teams, so we'll be watching come Saturday.
Finally back from men's NCAA Tournament coverage over the weekend and ready to delve into watching WNBA Draft prospects compete on their biggest stage, the women's NCAA Tournament. As the we watched the first eight teams move on to the Sweet 16, things could not have been more fun on Monday night...
First up was 3-6 matchup between Georgia and Iowa State. I was really keen on watching Iowa State point guard Lyndsey Medders, who folks across the WNBA have been most impressed with. While Medders had trouble scoring, she always has a tremendous presence on the court. She finished with 11 points and nine assists (4-for-13 from the field) in what ended up being her last collegiate game. The Cyclones trailed by 25 points midway through the first half and could not catch Georgia in the second.
One reason for this was the play of Georgia senior Cori Chambers. Playing alongside Tasha Humphrey, Chambers rarely gets the big headlines and may be lesser known than her fellow Draft prospects. However she tallied 18 points in the win over Iowa State, all of them coming in the first half as Georgia built up an insurmountable lead. Chambers, who tied Wanda Holloway's school record by playing in her 134th career game, hit seven field goals, including four 3-pointers, in the first 20 minutes as Georgia. She now leads Georgia into the school's 17th regional semifinal and fifth in a row.
Unlike the men's bracket, the women's tournament will have two double-digit seeds playing in the Sweet 16. The Pride of Poughkipsee, Marist College, knocked off Middle Tennessee last night in one of the most unlikely runs you'll ever see in college basketball. Along with former NBA center Rik Smits and last year's Draft prospect Fifi Camara, I now have another great conversation piece to share with my friend's girlfriend, Marie, who played at Marist a few years back. The Red Foxes are the third 13-seed to reach the Sweet 16. The Marist upset does, however, mean the end of the run for Chrissy Givens and Middle Tennessee State. After winning 27 games in a row, Givens could not lead Middle Tennessee into the Sweet 16. Givens, one of the best players in Middle Tennessee history, was held to 16 points (six below her average) on 7-for-16 shooting. Despite the loss, it was fun to Givens play. She just moves like a WNBA player, so quick, athletic and effortless.
Speaking of effortless, Katie Gearlds had another big night as Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16. She scored 26 points and hit four 3-pointers in the win over Georgia Tech. But in the loss, Yellow Jackets senior guard Stephanie Higgs scored 27 points and put up a great effort on the national stage. We may not have heard the last from here, either.
In their win over Marquette, senior Leah Rush was the only other Oklahoma Sooner not name Courtney Paris to score in double figures, netting 10 points and hitting 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
The other big upset of the night came in a late game out west. Playing on their home court as a 2-seed, Stanford saw its season end at the hands of Florida State. While Stanford senior Brooke Smith had a dominant game in the first round (scoring a season-high 29 in Saturday's win), she was was held to 12 points and eight rebounds in her final college game. Florida State was led by its senior, Alicia Gladden, who scored 12 points and 6 rebounds. But the real story is how she took over the game in the final minutes, scoring the final seven points of an 11-0 run that frustrated the Cardinal and sent Florida State to Sweet 16.
In the final game of the night, Arizona State and Louisville went at it in a game featuring two more WNBA Draft prospects. As USC alum Lisa Leslie called the game for ESPN at the new Galen Center (opened last fall) on the campus of Southern Cal, the Arizona State Sun Devils rallyied from a 14-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to advance. Louisville, led by Jazz Covington's 11 points and 12 rebounds, scored the game's first nine points and led 19-4. But senior leader Emily Westerberg (12 points) helped Arizona State pull off their second major comeback in two games. ASU came back from 15 points down to beat 14th-seeded UC Riverside 57-50 in the first round, outscoring the Highlanders 19-2 down the stretch.
In Other News... We've been getting a lot of emails and inquiries about the status of LSU junior Sylvia Fowles. Could she enter this year's Draft? Because she is a junior and still has eligibility left, there is really not much we can say as a league. I mean, yes, she's ridiculously good (did you watch that game last night? She took over! I hate comparing women to men because the game is different, but there is no comparable professional athlete in the WNBA whose game I think of when I watch Fowles. She is a post player like no other in the sport. Instead, she really does remind me of a combination of Shaq's dominance in the paint and Kevin Garnett's versatility everywhere else.)
As for the questions, there is a clause in the WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement that officially states "A player is eligible to be selected in the WNBA Draft if she: (i) will be at least twenty-two (22) years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held." Fowles will 22 until October 6. But she still has one more year left at LSU. So the short answer is I have no idea.
Before getting to the Women's NCAA Tournament picks, I asked a few players about their favorite Tournament memories. For Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, it was about taking her Florida team to the Elite 8. Temeka Johnson and Cappie Pondexter have more recent memories.
"I think the NCAA Tournament is one of the toughest challenges in the game of basketball," Sparks guard Temeka Johnson said. "You have to come and be ready to play every game because the stakes are so high. One loss ends a season. When you have that adrenaline flowing, there is nothing better. First 64, then 32, then 16… getting over each hump is big for the team. Each round takes something out of you. It is a long and overwhelming road to the Final Four, but you still have to enjoy it and have fun. At least as much as you can."
"I loved the closeness with my teammates and coaches, especially Coach Stringer's jokes," Mercury guard Cappie Pondexter said.
No matter what, a whole new set of memories will be made when the games tip off this weekend. Now on to the picks...
In the Dallas region...
- Round One winners: North Carolina, Notre Dame, George Washington, Texas A&M, Washington, Georgia, DePaul, Purdue
- Round Two winners: North Carolina, George Washington, Georgia, Purdue
- Sweet 16 winners: North Carolina, Georgia
- Regional winner: North Carolina
In the Dayton region...
- Round One winners: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Middle Tennessee St., Ohio State, Marquette, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Maryland
- Round Two winners: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Maryland
- Sweet 16 winners: Tennessee, Oklahoma
- Regional winner: Oklahoma
In the Fresno region...
- Round One winners: Connecticut, New Mexico, Baylor, N.C. State, Xavier, LSU, Florida State, Stanford
- Round Two winners: Connecticut, N.C. State, LSU, Stanford
- Sweet 16 winners: Connecticut, Stanford
- Regional winner: Connecticut
In the Greensboro region...
- Round One winners: Duke, Temple, Delaware, Rutgers, Louisville, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt
- Round Two winners: Duke, Delaware, Arizona State, Vanderbilt
- Sweet 16 winners: Duke, Arizona State
- Regional winner: Duke
Four in Cleveland...
- Oklahoma over North Carolina
- Duke over Connecticut
- Oklahoma over Duke
It's March and the best two tournaments of any kind are gearing up to play side-by-side. The men's and women's NCAA Tournaments tip off this week and I've got 37 brackets to fill out.
As you ponder yours, here are some thoughts...
- Swin Cash's brother, Kevin Menifee, is a senior forward for TexasA&M-Corpus Christi, who made the men's draw for the first time ever this year. This school didn't even have a team ten years ago and here they are about to play Wisconsin in the first round.
- Cynthia Cooper, in her second year as head coach, has led Prairie View to the SWAC title. The school earned an automatic bid and its first appearance in the tournament. Their reward? Ivory Latta and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
- Congratulations to Texas coach Jody Conradt. After 900 wins in 38 seasons and one national title, she is retiring. Texas missed the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, but Conradt goes out as the second-winningest D-I coach for men or women. Plus, we'll see one her prize pupils, Tiffany Jackson, in the upcoming Draft.
- Speaking of Texas, Kevin Durant may be my favorite basketball player ever.
- I ran this year's two NCAA Tournament brackets through my database, picking the winner of each game on the basis of higher average SAT scores of its general student body. The winners? Men: Stanford and Penn tied; Women: Harvard.
- Dawn Staley's Temple Owls got an at-large bid after finishing the regular season 24-7. They will play Nebraska in one of those pesky 8-9 games.
- Some other current and former WNBA players who are assistant coaches... Tamika Williams and Debbie Black, assistants for Ohio State; LaKeshia Frett at Georgia; Summer Erb at UNC-Asheville; Shea Ralph at Pitt; Chelsea Newton and Michelle Edwards are staff members for Rutgers; Charlotte Smith at North Carolina; Shaquala Williams is a staff member for Vanderbilt; Coquese Washington and Angie Pothoff at Notre Dame; Trina Trice-Hill for NC State; Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil is back at Texas; Charmin Smith - Stanford; Niele Ivey - Xavier; Semeka Randall - Michigan State.
After winning the EuroLeague All-Star Game MVP Award, we emailed Cappie Pondexter a few quick questions to find out about her experience and catch up. Here is what she had to say...
Q. How was this All-Star experience different than your first WNBA All-Star
"It's different in a lot of ways but one specific area is the off court responsiblity. The all star game speaks for itself because everyone is just competing and having fun!!!"
Q. The format of this game is such
that you were playing AGAINST Fenerbahce teammates - how different was that?
"It was a lot of fun to play against my teammate (Nev). She showcased why she's considered one of the best in europe. I enjoyed watching and competing against her!!!"
How has living in Turkey been compared to what your expectations were before going
" In 2005 I had the opportunity to experience Turkey for the World Championships. My decision to compete this winter was based on my previous experience."
Q. What is your favorite new place that you've gotten
to see in all of your European travels these past few months?
"Well after this past All-Star, I have to say Valencia. Though I played there twice, I didn't get the full experience and after getting the full expereince I must say its one of my favorites!!!"
Q. Back home, Rutgers just knocked
off UCONN to win the Big East Tournament - what are your expectations for how
they will do in the NCAA Tournament and who are your Final Four picks as of now?
"Rutgers will be great during the tourney. I have faith in those girls. Also coach stringer will have them prepared. During the tourney its about great defense and team work. They have the abilty to make it to the final 4!!"
My top 4:
Q. In just a few weeks, the Mercury
have the first pick in the Draft. As someone who is still very familiar with the
top college stars, who would you like to see the team Draft?
"I don't want to say a particular name but I will say I trust that our organization will make the best decision for us... and I love a lot of the potential draftees!!"
|Cappie Pondexter received the Most Valuable Player award after notching 17 points and three assists against Europe.|
Ciamillo Castoria/FIBA Europe
With so many WNBA players competing overseas during the WNBA offseason, it came as no surprise that 12 of the 24 players selected to participate in the game played in the WNBA last summer. Among them were 2006 WNBA All-Stars Cappie Pondexter, Cheryl Ford, Deanna Nolan, Katie Douglas and Tamika Whitmore. Pondexter, coming off an outstanding WNBA rookie campaign, said that playing in the EuroLeague at the tail end of her first WNBA season has been a "great experience. Shooting a blistering 62.5 percent from behind the arc in tonight's game, Pondexter garnered MVP honors, finishing with 17 points for the World team which defeated Europe, 93-80.
For the Europe side, Cappie's Fenerbahce teammate, former WNBA player Nevriye Yilmaz, led with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Sandrine Gruda, the young French phenom from Valenciennes finished with 10 and 8.
The atmosphere in Pabellon Municipal Fuente de San Luis was not unlike what one would expect at a WNBA All-Star Game. The crowd, complete with familiar faces such as Margo Dydek, Allison Feaster (both of whom play for Valencia) and Connecticut Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault, was enthusiastic and passionate, erupting with each fast break or no-look pass. The players were all smiles and played with an abandon not seen at EuroLeague matches at this time of year.
Dalma Ivanyi feels fortunate to have played in both EuroLeague All-Star Games. She thinks "it's great that FIBA Europe has started a program to promote women's basketball and this is a great opportunity for (players) to get together as friends. We're not opponents here."
Just over three weeks from now, competition resumes and a new EuroLeague champion will be crowned. Allison Feaster and DeLisha Milton will each be vying for a third title, their first for Ros Casares. When asked if they were enjoying their time in Valencia, both players grinned widely. "They say time flies when you're having fun," DeLisha offered, "and we've had a lot of fun. It's hard to believe the season's almost over, but I always look forward to coming home to the States."
2006 WNBA All=Star MVP Katie Douglas, currently playing in Vilnius, Lithuania, is also looking forward to the 2007 WNBA season. "I'm really excited about going back to Connecticut," she said. "Although we traded a huge part of our franchise (Taj McWilliams-Franklin), we're getting a young international talent, and we're hoping we can find the right pieces to the puzzle this year and finally win a WNBA Championship.".
In the meantime, Douglas and her fellow EuroLeague All Stars will return to their Club teams in Hungary, Russia, France and elsewhere to continue their respective championship pursuits.
Consider Cappie Pondexter the queen of the Rest of the World.
The Phoenix Mercury (and Fenerbahce) guard made five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points and MVP honors as the "Rest of the World" team topped Europe 93-80 in the EuroLeague All-Star Game Thursday in Valencia, Spain.
"It's a great experience to be among the best players in the world," she told FIBAEurope.com after the victory. "This All-Star Game is a good stepping stone for the Year of Women's Basketball."
Nicole Powell added 12 points and nine rebounds for the World team, while fellow WNBAer Tamika Whitmore put up 11 and five. Vickie Johnson (10 points), Cheryl Ford (six points, six rebounds) and recently re-signed Penny Taylor (seven points, four boards) also pitched in for the non-European squad.
Maria Stepanova scored 10 for the European team, while Agnieszka Bibrzycka and Dalma Ivanyi posted seven apiece.
The EuroCup semifinals get underway next week, so check back then for updates on your favorite WNBA players competing overseas.
The EuroLeague Women's All-Star game is taking place today in Valencia, Spain. We'll have full coverage from Spain after the game (not from a plane), but you can follow it here at the FIBA Europe Web site.
The WNBA players scheduled to play for the World team are Dominique Canty, Katie Douglas, Cheryl Ford, Vickie Johnson, DeLisha Milton, Deanna Nolan, Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell, Penny Taylor and Tamika Whitmore.
Agnieszka Bibrzycka, Dalma Ivanyi, Maria Stepanova of the WNBA will be on the court for the European team.
There's a new basketball movie out there, and it's something resembling a Hoosiers for girls. With Diana Taurasi.
Believe in Me is a film adapted from the 1974 novel Brief Garland: Ponytails, Basketball, and Nothing but Net by Harold Keith. The book tells the true story of Jim Keith, the writer's nephew, who became a legendary high school girls' basketball coach during the '60s in Sayre, Oklahoma.
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., is teaming up with IFC Films to host the film's premiere on Thursday, March 8 at the Regal Pinnacle Theater in Knoxville.
The film follows fictional coach Clayton Driscoll, an assistant on a boys' team who finally earns his first head-coaching gig in a small Oklahoma town. But he's dismayed when he learns that he'll actually be coaching girls. And although the tremors of social change had begun in other parts of the country by 1964, they took slightly longer to surface in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Driscoll is eventually able to overcome the stigma of coaching girls, he and his players grow together to overcome gender prejudice and the team finds itself in the running for the state championship.
The movie was written and directed by Robert Collector and stars Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis and Bruce Dern. And WNBA star Diana Taurasi makes a brief appearance.
"When we first heard about Believe in Me and Jim Keith's fascinating story, we immediately decided that we wanted to be involved with its release," said Karen Tucker, Director of Basketball Relations at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. "After viewing the movie ourselves, we realized that it would be a great way of continuing our mission to 'honor the past, celebrate the present and promote the future' of women's basketball. We are very excited to be hosting the national premiere here in Knoxville."
The film opens in select markets nationwide on March 9. Though the subject matter is girls' basketball, any sports fan is sure to enjoy.
We are ready for the European version of March Madness.
The Final Fours are now complete for each of Europe's major women's club tournaments. Thursday, March 1, saw the second round of the EuroCup quarterfinals' total-points matchups, while the two remaining EuroLeague quarterfinal series came down to third and deciding games on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
|Deanna Jackson, right, had 10 points and 12 boards in a losing effort for Anda Ramat Hasharon.|
Courtesy of FIBA
The other EuroLeague Game 3 on Wednesday took place in Istanbul, where Fenerbahce was favored to dispatch of Spanish side Ros Casares. But a DeLisha Milton-Jones tip-in of an attempted Allison Feaster-Strong 3-pointer tied it at the buzzer for Ros Casares, sending the game to overtime. In the extra period, the Spaniards got out quickly to a six-point advantage and held on for an 82-80 win, which earned them a 2-1 series victory and a spot in the semis against French club Bourges Basket. A dominant Milton-Jones ended up with a game-high of 30 points and 13 rebounds. For Fenerbahce, Tammy Sutton-Brown led the way with 22 points and six boards and Cappie Pondexter chipped in with 20 points of her own.
Bouncing on over to the EuroCup, Rebekkah Brunson (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Seimone Augustus (eight points) helped Dynamo Moscow to an 80-54 win at home, earning the Russian side a 148-111 aggregate win over Anda Ramat Hasharon. Mwadi Mabika led the Israeli side with 16 points, while Deanna Jackson chipped in with 10 points and 12 boards.
Despite a 74-60 loss on Thursday, BC Dynamo Moscow Region moved on to the Final Four with a 127-116 aggregate win over Nadezhda. Chasity Melvin's 12 points and seven rebounds - coupled with Olympia Scott's eight points and 10 boards -- kept Dynamo close enough to advance.
Taranto Cras Basket topped fellow Italian side Lavezzini Basket 73-57 on Thursday, but it wasn't enough to overcome their first-leg loss, allowing Lavezzini to move on to the semis. Australian center Laura Summerton put up 17 for Taranto Cras.
Elsewhere, Faenza chopped up Chevakata in Russia 68-63, which, coupled with their first-leg pounding, made for an easy road to the semifinals.
In the Final Four, it will be Italy versus Russia, as Faenza will face BC Dynamo Moscow Region and Lavezzini Basket will match up against Dynamo Moscow.
Finally, stay tuned for more information on next week's EuroLeague women's All-Star Game in Pecs, Hungary. Last year, the game pitted Europe's top stars against the top players from the rest of the world. Surely, some of the WNBA's finest will be there representing the American game, and we'll have full coverage next week.
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