In Other News... The WNBA.com Offseason Blog Archive 2
Well, it's almost 2006 and we couldn't be more excited for it to get here... the free agency signing period is almost here (next month!), then the women's NCAA Tournament, the Draft and, before you know it, training camp! The offseason is already half over. But before ringing in the new year, there are some interesting college crossovers happening this weekend featuring WNBA players.
Elsewhere, the Michigan State women's basketball program will honor former Spartan standout and WNBA champion Kristin Haynie at this tonight's game vs. Central Michigan. As part of "Kristin Haynie Night" festivities, the first 1,500 fans will receive a free Kristin Haynie poster. The game also begins at 7 p.m.
Comets guard Dawn Staley is also in the news this week. She was mentioned as part of a larger partnership trust looking into bringing a casino and shopping area to downtown Philadelphia. The Philly native is also the Temple women's coach.
Holiday greetings from the WNBA and WNBA.com staff! Hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend and everyone's wishes came true. With torn-up wrapping paper strewn about and delicious leftovers on this day after Christmas and the first night of Hannukah (and it being my half birthday, thank you thank you), I am most thankful for the autographed Tamika Catchings jersey that my sister got me, the game-worn Cheryl Ford sneakers that my aunt and uncle got me, the complete set of 2005 WNBA trading cards that my parents got for me and the wool sweater and matching booties that my grandmother knitted for me.
As a little gift for those who were asking for it, here is the 2006 WNBA Draft order (pending changes that could take place between now and April).
Also, one more treat you can expect before we head off on our brief vacation to Australia and Korea to watch women's basketball for the next week... the 2005 WNBA.com Awards, also known affectionately as "The Dotties," will be announced this week. They are certainly something to look forward to, so stay tuned. In the meantime, Happy New Year and see you in 2006, the WNBA's big tenth anniversary season year.
With college teams about a third of the way through their season, now is as good
a time as any to take a look at how some of the potential top picks in next April's
WNBA Draft are faring in their senior seasons.
In Other News... The Connecticut Sun recently held their Kids Holiday Party in Connecticut and continue to do great work. Also, Sting forward Tangela Smith is doing an occasional diary for the team site from Korea. That's far.
Seimone Augustus, Louisiana State, G, 6-1: 21.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg 42.9% 3-pt (3-7). LSU overall: 8-0
Nikki Blue, UCLA. G, 5-8: 12.9 ppg, 5.9 apg, 5.5 rpg, 52.9% 3-pt (9-17). UCLA overall: 7-4
Lindsay Bowen, Michigan State, G, 5-7: 14.5 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.5 rpg, 43.1% 3-pt (25-58). Michigan State overall: 8-2
Monique Currie, Duke, G/F, 6-0: 14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 52.6% 3-pt (5-19). Duke overall: 9-0
LaToya Davis, Texas Tech, F/C, 6-1: 20.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.4 spg. Texas Tech: 4-6 overall
Megan Duffy, Notre Dame, G, 5-7: 16.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 spg, 30.0% 3-pt (15-50). Notre Dame overall: 8-1
Candice Dupree, Temple, F/C, 6-2: 16.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg. Temple overall: 8-2
Erin Grant, Texas Tech, G, 5-8: 14.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 63.6% 3-pt (7-11). Texas Tech: 4-6 overall
Tamara James, Miami (Fl.), G/F, 5-10: 20.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 45.9% 3-pt (17-37). Miami overall: 8-2
Kari Koch, SW Missouri St., G, 5-8: 24.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.5 spg, 57.1% 3-pt (32-56). SW Missouri St overall: 5-2
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers, G, 5-9: 21.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 45.9% 3-pt (17-37). Rutgers overall: 8-1
Liz Shimek, Michigan State, F, 6-1: 21.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg. Michigan State overall: 8-2
Kim Smith, Utah, F, 6-1: 20.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 34.0% 3-pt (17-50). Utah overall: 8-2
Khara Smith, DePaul, F, 6-2: 16.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.1 apg. DePaul overall: 12-1
Ann Strother, Connecticut, F, 6-2: 15.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 37.0% 3-pt (20-54). UConn overall: 9-1
Shona Thorburn, Utah, G, 5-10: 12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg. Utah overall: 8-2
Barbara Turner, Connecticut, F, 6-0: 8.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.1 spg (20-54). UConn overall: 9-1
Mistie Williams, Duke, F, 6-3: 11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg. Duke overall: 9-0
Lisa Willis, UCLA, G, 5-11: 20.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.0 spg, 3.1 apg, 40.0% 3-pt (24-60). UCLA overall: 7-4
Sophia Young, Baylor, F, 6-1: 21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg. Baylor overall: 9-0
If you're looking for good stories about Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Nykesha Sales, Sue Bird and other WNBA stars, look no further than a new book, Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection, set to be released next month, which I just spent the last few days reading.
But in his candid and frank autobiography, University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma goes much further than that. In the 321 pp book co-authored by Jackie MacMullen (Time Warner Books), Auriemma also details his ancestors' struggles in Italy, the challenges he faced as a young immigrant, the distant relationship with his father, how he got cut from his ninth grade basketball team and how he really is quite sensitive to what people say about him.
And that is all in the first chapter. Of course, in addition to the struggles, the book also recounts his many triumphs and the often-difficult road to those accomplishments. There are recruiting stories, intimate details about conversations he had with his wife, Kathy, and the decisions they made as parents as well as his relationships with his biggest rival, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, his relationshpi with Jim Calhoun, why he does not see himself ever coaching men or leaving UConn and even talks about his love for the WNBA (even though he "hasn't really been tempted to do that" and his role as a top analyst since the formation of the league in 1997.
Order Geno Now!
Some of the best stories in the book center on Taurasi. On her first visit to the school, Auriemma tells the top recruit," If you come to Connecticut and do what I tell you to do, you're going to be the best player who ever played this game." Of course, when Dee tells Coach that she wants to wear the number 1 on her jersey, he tells her, "You are not wearing number 1. nobody is wearing number 1. You haven't done anything to earn the right to wear number 1."
Of course, their relationship grew, and Taurasi even penned the foreword to this very book.
"The biggest mistake people make is thinking that we must hate Coach because he was so hard on us. They figure we couldn't possibly like someone who yells at us and screams at us as much as he did. But, very early on at Connecticut, you realize he's on you because he wants to get the most out of you."
The book is good. It is written in the same conversational tone you'd expect to get when actually talking to Coach Auriemma under the tunnel long after a game or at a charity benefit during the fall in West Hartford. That's Geno. What you see is what you get, but more often than not, you will also get a little of what you don't see... a demanding perfectionist who cares about family, his players, his God, winning, a good joke, a good bottle of wine, Italian culture, the people of Connecticut and Philadelphia and, yes, what you have to say about him.
In Other News... Speaking of coaches, Charlotte Sting coach Muggsy Bogues was named an inductee for the Greater Charlotte Sports Hall of Fame yesterday. Bogues was a stand out point guard in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets for nearly a decade and took over as head coach for the Sting near the nd of the 2005 season.
The City of New Orleans continues to recover from the devastation of the hurricanes that struck this past fall. Since the first recovery and clearn-up efforts began, the WNBA and NBA have been actively involved. And it has not stopped. This Tuesday, WNBA Stars and NBA Legends will join with Habitat for Fumanity to assist in the construction of a new home in conjunction with the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets' Hoops for Homes program.
Fever forward Tamika Catchings and Mystics guard Temeka Johnson, the WNBA Rookie of the Year and a Louisiana native, will team up with NBA Community Ambassador Bob Lanier, Basketball Hall of Famer and ABC Broadcaster Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Famer and Hornets VP of Basketball Operations Willis Reed, Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Pettit and Jackie, Jason and Joshua Maravich (family of New Orleans Jazz Legend Pete Maravich) to work on a new house for the Winston family, whose home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. This is the first home to be built by the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets Hoops for Homes program.
Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, Habitat for Humanity launched Operation Home Delivery to get the hardest-hit Habitat affiliates in the affected areas back on their feet and prepared to build houses in their communities. This served as a catalyst for other organizations, corporations, foundations, governments and individuals to come together to talk about low-income housing on a scale Habitat alone cannot accomplish and finally helped implement a house-building project.
You can be sure we'll post some photos up here as soon as we get them.
When CalHiSports.com named its top-100 Female Athletes in California State History list earlier this week, I was eager to see just who made the cut. For once, I actually was not looking for my own name of a best of list, but was curious to see if the great WNBA players who grew up in California would be recognized. In fact, all five that I looked for made the list.
Making up the list that includes great names like tennis legend Billie Jean King (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) and ice skating world champion Michelle Kwan (Rim of the World, Lake Arrowhead) were three current WNBA players, one former player and one former coach. Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks, Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets, former player and Houston Comets legend Cynthia Cooper and former Phoenix Mercury Coach Cheryl Miller are listed among the all-time greatest female athletes in the Golden State.
CalHiSports.com, the premier website for prep athletics in California, based the entrants on a 50-50 formula: what each athlete did while going to a California high school and what they did subsequent to that. Leslie and Thompson went to Inglewood High School in Morningside, Taurasi attended Don Lugo in Chino, Miller was a legend at Poly in Riverside and Cooper cut her teeth at Locke H.S. in Los Angeles.
In Other News... While we are recognizing recognition, ESPN Deportes is inviting fans to vote for the Hispanic Athletes of the Year and two prominent WNBA personalities are in the running. There are five categories and fans can cast their votes at espndeportes.com. The nominees are:
Female Athlete of the Year: open wheel driver Milka Duno, softball player Jessica Mendoza, LPGA star Lorena Ochoa and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.
Humanitarian of the Year: five-time world champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, WNBA broadcaster Rebecca Lobo, St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada.
The nominees and winners will be honored in an English edition Saturday on ABC (2 p.m., Chs. 10, 25) and a Spanish edition Dec. 20 on ESPN Deportes.
Detroit's Barbara Farris is one of the most selfless, inspiring members of the WNBA community. She spent all last offseason working to make the Detroit area a better place in a number of different ways... and has not slowed down at all. This month, Farris added four new members to her extended family as she "adopted" the Bondio family as part of the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (OLHSA) Adopt-a-Family program.
Tony and Julie Bondio are originally from Louisiana, but were forced to relocate to Chesterfield Township, Michigan with their three-year-old son Anthony, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. Julie is currently pregnant with the couples' second child who is due to be born in late January. Tony recently moved back down to New Orleans, where he and the family eventually hope to re-settle. In the meantime, Julie and Anthony remain in Michigan separated from Tony for an indefinite period of time.
"As soon as I found out about the Adopt-a-Family program I knew I wanted to be a part of it," said Farris, a WNBA Community Assist Award recipient and 2004 Palace Sports & Entertainment Detroit Shock Employee of the Year. "I've been blessed with so many things in this life including a strong and supportive family who taught me the importance of helping people in need. Being a Louisiana native, having the opportunity to assist a family impacted by Katrina is especially moving. Hopefully at this time next year the Bondios will be settled back down in Louisiana, and this holiday season will mark a happy new beginning to their lives together."
Farris and other Palace staff have been shopping for gifts on the Bondios' wish list and will deliver the presents to them this afternoon. The Detroit Shock are also flying Tony back to Michigan on Saturday, December 24 so he can spend Christmas with his family.
In Other News..., Helen Darling's latest diary entry answers many of your questions, including what it's like to take care of three toddlers. I'm getting tired just thinking about how much she runs around chasing them. Also, Comets legend Cynthia Cooper, currently the head coach at Prarie View A&M in North Texas, returns to her adopted home when her team visits the University of Houston on December 20. It should be a good one.
There was lots of great Euro League action yesterday around the map, the last series games that will be contested until 2006. In Group A, Samara crushed USO Mondeville Basket 83-49 and extended their record to 7-1. New York's Ann Wauters finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, Svetlana Abrosimova tallied 16 points and 6 boards and Maria Stepanova had 10 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. Ros Casares Valencia evened up its record at 4-4 with a 71-60 win over USK Praha. Former Sun draft pick Anna Montanana led the way with 26 points for the the Spanish team while Seattle's Janell Burse had 16 points and 3 steals in the loss. Dexia Namur and Hungarian team MiZo-Pécs play today.
In Group B, MKB Euroleasing Sopron held off Lotos Gdynia to even out at 4-4 as well. Sparks guard Nikki Teasley had 12 points and 7 assists in the 90-76 win. Polish juggernauts Gambrinus Sika Brno prevailed for the seventh time, winning 74-69 over the struggling Famila Schio despite 21 points and 13 rebounds from Mercury forward Penny Taylor. Nykesha Sales had 13 points for Brno while DeLisha Milton-Jones had 10 points.
Group C-leading US Valenciennes Olympic barely defeated Poland's Wisla Can-Pack, 57-55, to stay atop the standings with a 7-1 record. Kristi Harrower had 9 points and 4 rebounds in the win while Anna DeForge netted 15 points in the loss. However, a surging Dynamo, led by Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tammy Sutton-Brown and Kamila Vodichkova were finally all on the court together against K Cero I.C.P. and cruised to a 82-65 win. Taurasi had 15 points and 6 rebounds while Bird had 9 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, Vodichkova had 10 points and Sutton-Brown finished with 8 and 6 boards as well.
Four of the top five leading scorers in the Euro League are WNBA talents...
1. Milton, D. - 19.8 ppg
2. Douglas, K. - 18.9 ppg
3. Volnaya, S. - 18.3 ppg
4. Burse, J. - 17.9 ppg
5. De Forge, A. - 17.8 ppg
When the Seattle Post-Intelligencer put out its "sexiest" list, naturally I scrambled to see where I ranked. But I was not disappointed to learn that the list was limited only to Seattle athletes. I mean, they had to draw a line somewhere. Plus, two of my favorite Seattle athletes made the list...
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird made the list, of course, and forward Lauren Jackson was actually the top name. Of course, that's just one man's opinion, but you'll be hard-pressed to find many arguments with the selection. So congrats to L.J., Seattle's Sexiest Female Athlete.
Naturally, someone had to tell her about the prestigious honor even though she is thousands of miles away (and many degrees warmer, we assume). The 6-5 forward is still resting in Australia, but remains disappointed that she has had to sit out the WNBL season thus far, but understands that she has to let her stress fractures heal in order to help the Storm and Australian teams win in 2006.
Jackson also made headlines in Australia this week by suggesting that she might stay in Australia to train for the 2008 Olympics. She feels this could be her best chance to win Olympic gold. But when it comes to missing a WNBA season, she admits that she and fellow Aussies probably won't. So that's good news.
|Alana with at the Episcopal clinic in D.C.|
In Other News...Has everyone checked out the Snap Judgment contest currently going on here on our site? Our group literally went through thousands of photos and these were the ones we thought were the best, either artistically or because they totally capture a moment. The first round will end tonight, so make sure you get those votes in. Obviously we have our favorites, but it's not up to us. It's totally a fan vote.
The second round will begin tomorrow and you'll see which final eight advanced. Believe it or not, I'm getting calls from the NBA photographers to see how they're respective photos are doing. Apparently there is some friendly internal head-to-head competition going on here.
Also, don't miss your chance to see two of the best college players in the nation on ESPN2 this Thursday. The #3 LSU Tigers will visit the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes in one of the best early season matchups this season. Both teams are undefeated. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Every so often, a story comes along that has to be shared. It is a story that transcends a town or a school or even the arena in which it takes place. It is too meaningful to be limited to those who witnessed it and even bigger than those who lived it. This is one of those stories.
This afternoon, WNBA and NBA executives were among a limited audience at a private screening of a new basketball documentary. Call it a very small world premiere. And just as the award-winning 1990's documentary Hoops Dreams showed the very essence of men's high school basketball and impacted moviegoers everywhere, The Heart of The Game could do the same for women's basketball.
Now seven years in the making, The Heart of The Game follows a Seattle high school girl's basketball team over almost six or seven seasons. The narrative revolves around the true stories of Darnellia Russell, a high school basketball player in Seattle, and Bill Resler, a professor of tax law who becomes the coach of the woman's basketball program at Roosevelt High School. Roosevelt is one of the most successful programs in the state of Washington and Darnellia’s mother enrolls there so that she might get a quality education and a better chance of earning a college scholarship than if she went to a rival school. Throughout the film, Darnellia learns how to interact with new teammates and comes out of her shell thanks to Coach Resler. Ultimately, through hard work and quite a bit of drama, the team is successful on the court and Darnelia excels in the classroom, graduating with honors.
After a very successful screening for critics at the 30th annual Toronto International Film Festival in September, Hollywood giants Miramax purchased the rights to the film. No schedule has been set for the actual mass release, but expectations are that the film could be in theaters by early summer 2006, just in time for the start of the WNBA season.
"This is a dream come true," Director Ward Serrill said at the time. "Seven years ago when I walked into a girls' high school gym with my little video camera, there is no way I could envision anything like this. I am beyond thrilled. To think that millions of people are going to see this story."
Serrill was on hand for the screening and answered questions about the movie as well as the current status of the film's protagonists. But we won't give too much away in hopes that you will see the film next year. It really is that good.
And this isn't just fluff coming from a WNBA mouthpiece as praise is coming in from all over. Renowned film critic Roger Ebert wrote:
"The movie will inevitably be compared with “Hoop Dreams,” the great 1994 documentary about two black inner-city basketball players recruited by a suburban powerhouse. However, “Heart of the Game” is more concerned with basketball and personalities and less interested in larger social issues. The strength of the film comes not so much from Darnellia Russell’s undeniable skills on the court but by the way she overcomes a series of challenges that would have derailed a less determined young woman."
Stay tuned for more news about the film as it is sure to be a very big thing in 2006.
What would you say if you ran into a WNBA player in your every day life? Well, with Minnesota's Kristen Mann back from a stint in Spain, she showed up at Madison Square Garden last night to check out her favorite musical act, the Dave Matthews Band, in concert with a friend. Well, that happened last night when I saw the second-year forward bopping along with the crowd.
Mann returned from Spain about a week ago and returned to Santa Barbara to take final exams back at school. Even though she missed much of her class time, she is confident that she did well on her test. She will be spending the holidays back in California with her family and has two more quarters next year to graduate. She is also considering playing in the NWBL, but nothing is set yet.
In Other News... One of Mann's fellow first round draft picks last season, Detroit's Kara Braxton, was named to the WNBA All-Rookie team this past year and is currently playing for Polish Euro League team Wisla Can Pack. But she is not the only member of her family who could earn recognition in their respective field. Her fiancee, Odell Thurman, a top NFL rookie this year with the Cincinnati Bengals, is a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. You might remember their son, Jelani, who stole the show at the WNBA Draft this past April. But Thurman was also there in the studios in Secaucus, keeping Jelani quiet while his mom was drafted. But coming into today's game against the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals were 9-3 and Thurman led the team with 73 total tackles and 51 solo tackles. He also has five interceptions, one sack and a fumble recovery playing at the middle linebacker position.
Feedback has been widespread and quite favorable for the new rule changes voted on by the Board of Governors yesterday. The new :24 second shot clock, the change to four quarters and revised jump ball rule all go into effect for the 2006 season. Here are some of the many outlets who have covered and opined on the subject.
New York Times: WNBA Adopts Changes to Speed Up Game
Hartford Courant: Changes Should Add Speed
Washington Post: WNBA Adopts Changes
Detroit News: WNBA to go with quarters in '06
Arizona Central: WNBA adopts new rules
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: WNBA makes rules changes
CBS Sportsline: WNBA makes changes to speed up game
Fox Sports: WNBA revamps rules to help speed up game
Chicago Tribune: WNBA changes rules in effort to speed up game
Norwich Bulletin: WNBA tries to pump up offense with rule changes
News Tribune: Rule changes geared toward speeding up game
USA Today: Rules change for speed
In Other News... Yesterday was quite the busy day for WNBA players spreading the holiday goodwill. We already told you about the Detroit Shock (see picture below), but Silver Stars player Chantelle Anderson got into the act as well. Anderson joined Spurs players Brent Barry, Manu Ginobili and Rasho Nesterovic in delivering holiday toys to patients at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.
Children at the Hospital who may not have the opportunity to be at home for the holidays received a toy donated by the Spurs and had the opportunity to meet players from the Spurs, Silver Stars and San Antonio Rampage teams. This is the ninth year the Spurs family has donated toys to patients at the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.
This afternoon, Shock Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, Players Swin Cash and Barbara Farris will join Pistons forward Antonio McDyess and Palace President and CEO Tom Wilson to ring Salvation Army bells and collect donations for Red Kettle. Also joining the group at the newly opened Palace Locker Room Store at The Village of Rochester Hills will be the Pistons dance team Automotion, mascot Hooper, Pistons In-Arena Hostess Erin Nicole, Pistons Spare Tires dance team and Four Guys That Can Sing, a barbershop quartet made up of four senior students from Rochester Stoney Creek High School. It will kick off a weeklong collection effort by Palace Sports & Entertainment business staff.
The Detroit basketball community is volunteering
to help the Salvation Army reach its goal of raising $7 million at more than 300
Red Kettle locations throughout metro Detroit before Christmas day.
Elsewhere around the WNBA, Sting guard Helen Darling continues her barnstorming tour of Charlotte-area schools. At this pace, she will have met with every student in all of North Carolina by the end of the month. Ok, maybe not really, but if she could, you know she would...
Also, Connecticut's Jessica Brungo has been quite busy herself, working as an intern for the Golden State Warriors. Jess has spent the last month working in thee public relations and community relations department, helping to set up and organize events involving Golden State players. It certainly should give her a new perspective and appreciation for the hard work that the Sun staff do all year long...
In Other News... Fever forward Tamika
Catchings, currently playing in Russia, has been voted as one of three finalists
for the Wooden Cup by the Dooley committee.
The national electors will be voting to determine who the recipient of the Cup will be. All finalists and their families have been invited to the ceremonies in Atlanta in January. The event is sponsored by Athletes for a Better World.
The Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup is presented to two distinguished athletes from any sport – one intercollegiate and one professional – that best display character, teamwork, and citizenship, the attributes Athletes for a Better World deems central to transforming individuals, sport, and society. The award establishes the recipients as athletes of excellence both on and off the field, role models both as performers and persons, the most important and distinctive honor athletes can achieve.
The mission of Athletes for a Better World is to use sports to develop character, teamwork, and citizenship through commitment to an athletic Code for Living that applies to all of life, and to create a movement that will play a significant role in the transformation of individuals, sports, and society.
John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches and positive role models in the history of the NCAA, has given ABW permission to present an award in his name.
That's right, the timestamp up there is not wrong. It says "PT," not ET. That's because the Blog is coming to you live from Las Vegas, Nevada, home of this past weekend's Jermaine Taylor-Bernard Hopkins Middleweight Championship boxing match (as well as home to Sue Bird's dad, Herschel). In a rematch of the a bout this summer where Taylor upset Hopkins to win the title, Taylor won once again. And sitting ringside was his wife, Erica.
You may remember Erica Smith-Taylor, the second round Draft pick of the Washington Mystics this past season. After having a baby earlier in 2005, Smith-Taylor showed up at the 2005 WNBA Pre-Draft camp in shape and put on an impressive performance. However, as her husband's title reign will continue into 2006, Smith-Taylor may or may not choose to play for the Mystics this season, leaving her future as a WNBA player in doubt. In the meantime, congratulations to the Taylors on a big weekend here in Vegas.
Also while here in "Sin City," I stopped by The Palms Hotel and Casio, which is owned by Sacramento Monarchs and King owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. IN addition to the great scene, A-list celebrities and wonderful restaurants, the Palms hotel lobby gift shop has Monarchs merchandise and memorabilia prominently displayed in several locations, which only confirms that it's better to be lucky AND good...
In Other News... The WNBA Board of Governors is meeting this week in New York City, at which point several key rule changes will be voted on and key other issues will be discussed regarding the present and future of the league. Stay tuned for more info throughout the week... and get ready for our annual end-of-year photo tournament (which was won by Diana Taurasi in 2004) to begin later this week.
Heading back to the snow now...
Just as the sun began peaking its way down the cross streets and through the skyscrapers of New York City on this cold morning, there was New York favorite Becky Hammon getting into the winter spirit. In the true spirit of the holidays, Hammon started her morning off today by helping those in need. With coat in hand, she stopped by a local radio station's coat drive, the "KISS Cares Coat Drive," to donate to the cause. In addition to making her contribution, the All-WNBA honoree also got some good airtime. At 8 a.m.. Not bad for an athlete "on vacation." Last year, the drive garnered more than 13,000 coats and over $13,000 in donations.
Of course, Becky won't be off the court for much longer. She will be heading overseas to Russia beginning in January, though also has plans to return and play in the NWBL as well.
You stay classy, Becky.
In Other News... The draw for the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women will be held on Tuesday, January 31 in Brazil. The United States team has already qualified and has won the event a record seven times.
You'd think it would be hard for a two-time Olympic gold medalist to sneak up on you and take you by surprise, right? Especially with the trumpet players and flower bearers sprinkling rose petals everywhere they walk. But Shock guard Katie Smith travels without an entourage or any of the trappings that her accomplishments entitle her to. And sometimes she just shows up.
Yesterday morning, Smith was in New York City to attend the Greater New York March of Dimes/22nd Annual Sports Luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the Grand Ballroom. Smith and Silver Stars guard Marie Ferdinand were guests at the reception and luncheon along with three of my favorite people: WNBA President Donna Orender, NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA Entertainment President Adam Silver.
Prior to the event, Smith stopped by to fill everyone in on what she's been up to the past few months and what's going on in her life. It turns out that Katie is one of very few WNBA players who is not traveling overseas, not playing in the NWBL and not coaching. In fact, she's pretty much been doing a whole lotta' nothin'. She has just been enjoying her down time in Columbus, OH., where she owns a home just ten minutes from the Ohio State campus.
Okay, so she's not doing nothing. She has been working out with the Ohio State strength and conditioning staff and has been playing on her own to stay in shape and get back to the elite level where she was before a knee injury two seasons ago.
"I'm just trying to get my body together," Smith said. "You have to remember I've had two knee injuries now. I'm not going overseas because I need to regroup physically. Last year, as the season wore on, I was tired and my knee wasn't where I wanted it to be."
After knee surgery in October of 2004, she had the knee scoped again in March of this year.
"Last year, I was only able to play like five days of basketball total in the entire offseason. But I still held my own and was happy with what I did this past season.
Speaking about her 2005 campaign, Smith admits it was a tumultuous year. From the scoring her 5000th point in professional basketball to being traded to the Detroit Shock in July.
"I guess I also needed some time off after a weird summer. Things just felt different in Minnesota this year and then being traded to Detroit was really a trip. It was such a different team and we only had like two days of practice together the entire rest of the season."
Smith, who also plans on returning to Dental School when her playing days are over, took the semester off, but returns to the classroom next quarter. She will be taking an anatomy class.
"I've never cut into a cadaver before. The only thing I have ever dissected before frog."
Moving on from the somewhat gross... Smith has been a part of a few speaking engagements, talking about things like leadership to groups like the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and has been to several OSU football and women's basketball games already this season. She has also taken care of things around her house like raking leaves and putting in a new sprinkler system. However, the highlight of her time off has been her visits to brothers' families to see her nieces and nephews and an uncle in Delaware and her Thanksgiving back home in Ohio.
The two-time Olympian does not plan on playing organized basketball again until the spring, when she will compete in several small tournaments with USA Basketball in March and April. The World Championships are next September in Brazil and Smith hopes to be a part of the team. She also has her sights set on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China and has not thought about retirement at all.
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon."
In Other News... After talking with Alana Beard yesterday, it seems like everyone is jumping on board and getting an Alana interview before she leaves Australia next week. But this one is different... Check out Fever guard Tully Bevilaqua interviewing Beard. The two are teammates for the Canberra Capitals along with an injured Lauren Jackson. The three of them have shared a house, and evidently quite a few stories.
Since I spend nearly 95% of my time Instant Messaging with people, I figured I might as well be productive with it. So when Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard pinged me from Australia yesterday afternoon, I started asking some good questions to find out what she's been up to. Beard has spent the past month playing for the Canberra TransACT Capitals in the WNBL. She was brought in after franchise player Lauren Jackson went down with an injury and has averaged 29.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Also, since Beard is the person in the ghosted image up to here on this page (yup, that's Alana reading a newspaper), it makes sense to give our poster girl some pub. Once again, here is our actual conversation.
(Note that our screennames have been changed to keep us safe from adoring fans):
ABeardy20 (4:23:05 PM): Hey, suga pie honey
ABeardy20 (4:23:11 PM): It's Alana.
WurstMattWNBA (4:24:17 PM): Hey Hey
WurstMattWNBA (4:24:35 PM): How are you?
ABeardy20 (4:25:12 PM): I'm great... how are you?
WurstMattWNBA (4:25:35 PM): Can't complain, though I'm sad so many of my favorite WNBA players are so far away. But so glad we all have IM, huh? So got a few minutes to chat?
ABeardy20 (4:26:29 PM): No prob bob:-D
ABeardy20 (4:29:07 PM): But I'm about to leave in a few minutes or so. But go for it.
ABeardy20 (4:29:10 PM): I miss u buddy. So what's been up?
WurstMattWNBA (4:29:25 PM): Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now everyone's getting into the holiday spirit, it seems. How have you been?
ABeardy20 (4:29:31 PM): Life is seriously awesome.
WurstMattWNBA (4:29:31 PM): And how's The Land Down Under?
ABeardy20 (4:29:44 PM): Its great dude, i love this place!
ABeardy20 (4:29:50 PM): I totally want to come back here,, but we shall see ya know
WurstMattWNBA (4:29:57 PM): So where are you exactly?
ABeardy20 (4:30:00 PM): In Canberra.
WurstMattWNBA (4:30:06 PM): That sounds like a fruit.
ABeardy20 (4:30:08 PM): No, it's the capitol of Australia!
ABeardy20 (4:30:17 PM): Hahahhahaha.
ABeardy20 (4:30:24 PM): I don't know where it is really. I'm just here,
WurstMattWNBA (4:30:22 PM): Have you seen any kangaroos yet?
ABeardy20 (4:30:31 PM): Yep!
ABeardy20 (4:30:32 PM): A pack of them all the time?
WurstMattWNBA (4:30:38 PM): How about koalas?
WurstMattWNBA (4:30:45 PM): Aren't they so cute?
ABeardy20 (4:30:51 PM): Nah, but I'll see them Friday. Our team has this function at the zoo.
ABeardy20 (4:30:56 PM): They are cute.
ABeardy20 (4:30:59 PM): They look just like me.
ABeardy20 (4:31:02 PM): Cute cute cute.
ABeardy20 (4:31:04 PM): :-D
ABeardy20 (4:31:15 PM): As they say down here in Australia...pick a ticket:-)
ABeardy20 (4:31:28 PM): Meaning, I'm bragging on myself.
WurstMattWNBA (4:31:30 PM): Weird- you're learning a whole new language... and i thought they spoke english there.
WurstMattWNBA (4:33: PM): What goes on at a "zoo function?"
ABeardy20 (4:31:37 PM): Child, i dont know.
ABeardy20 (4:32:10 PM): Yep, exactly
WurstMattWNBA (4:32:19 PM): So how long you there for?
ABeardy20 (4:32:24 PM): I leave monday
WurstMattWNBA (4:32:30 PM): To come home?
ABeardy20 (4:32:31 PM): Yes, I've already started shedding tears.
ABeardy20 (4:32:32 PM): :-(
ABeardy20 (4:32:35 PM): Yeah, I come home for about 5 days then head to Korea.
WurstMattWNBA (4:32:47 PM): Oh no! Well you've obviously fit right in, at least as far as I can tell from reading box scores. And have you made some good friends?
ABeardy20 (4:32:52 PM): Of course!
ABeardy20 (4:32:56 PM): My teammates are awesome people
WurstMattWNBA (4:33:04 PM): Anyone i know?
ABeardy20 (4:33:08 PM): ummmmm
ABeardy20 (4:33:16 PM): Well, maybe.
WurstMattWNBA (4:33:16 PM): Are you doing any recruiting for some of the good ones to come over to the WNBA?
ABeardy20 (4:33:24 PM): Of course i am!
WurstMattWNBA (4:33:34 PM): Hahahaha. nice. We could use some more talent. So who's there?
ABeardy20 (4:33:33 PM): Well, you probaby know Tully Bevilaqua.
WurstMattWNBA (4:33:44 PM): Of course - a wnba.com blogger!
ABeardy20 (4:33:50 PM): And then this one girl, that you probably dont know.
ABeardy20 (4:33:55 PM): Lauren Jackson.
WurstMattWNBA (4:34:02 PM): Yeah, never heard of her.
ABeardy20 (4:34:09 PM): Yea, me neither.
WurstMattWNBA (4:34:13 PM): Is she feeling better? With her legs and all that?
ABeardy20 (4:34:22 PM): Yea, she's getting there.
WurstMattWNBA (4:34:32 PM): Wow, so what's it like with her around? Is she like total superstar down there?
ABeardy20 (4:34:49 PM): hahahahahaha.
ABeardy20 (4:34:55 PM): IM her and ask her.
ABeardy20 (4:35:02 PM): She's too cool for school, mate.
ABeardy20 (4:35:03 PM): :-)
ABeardy20 (4:35:20 PM): No one, I mean, no one knows, who this chick is. Right...
WurstMattWNBA (4:35:39 PM): So wait, you're coming home and then going all the way back to Korea? That's not exactly on the way home. I think Delta has that popular flight from New Zealand to Korea with a layover in Raleigh-Durham.
ABeardy20 (4:35:47 PM): Yep.
WurstMattWNBA (4:35:54 PM): That's lots of time on an airplane.
ABeardy20 (4:35:56 PM): Well, I gotta get my doggie, Chloe.
ABeardy20 (4:35:59 PM): And see the fam.
ABeardy20 (4:36:05 PM): Then I'm headed back.
ABeardy20 (4:36:09 PM): But oh well, anything for family
WurstMattWNBA (4:36:15 PM): Awww cute.what kind of dog?
ABeardy20 (4:36:20 PM): Yorkshire terrier.
ABeardy20 (4:36:25 PM): Toooo cute, too cute.
WurstMattWNBA (4:36:31 PM): You're bringing the dog to Korea?
WurstMattWNBA (4:37:00 PM): Be careful with the dog there... I hear dog might be a delicacy over there.
ABeardy20 (4:37:02 PM): Nope. Never.
ABeardy20 (4:37:04 PM): I've already checked.
WurstMattWNBA (4:37:11 PM): Oh, ok good.
WurstMattWNBA (4:37:13 PM): Weren't you there last year also?
ABeardy20 (4:37:17 PM): Yes.
ABeardy20 (4:37:23 PM): I love that place .
ABeardy20 (4:37:28 PM): So she'll be okay.
WurstMattWNBA (4:37:38 PM): So I take it you'll be there awhile, then?
ABeardy20 (4:37:53 PM): Only for 2 months.
ABeardy20 (4:37:56 PM): Hit 'em and out.
WurstMattWNBA (4:38:02 PM): I dig.
ABeardy20 (4:37:04 PM): Okay, suga plum, I gotta run.
WurstMattWNBA (4:37:50 PM): Ok... thanks for checking in!
WurstMattWNBA (4:38:06 PM): And safe travels.
ABeardy20 (4:38:11 PM): Thanks mate.
WurstMattWNBA (4:38:20 PM): Tell those folks down there I say hi!
ABeardy20 (4:38:46 PM): I sure will, darling. Have a nice evening.
ABeardy20 (4:38:37 PM): Don't be IMing me every second of the day, because i know u loooooooove me!
WurstMattWNBA (4:38:52 PM): I do. But I share the love, not to worry.
ABeardy20 (4:38:59 PM): :-)
WurstMattWNBA (4:39:07 PM): Go Capitals!
ABeardy20 (4:39:22 PM): Yep... Go Capitals!!!
ABeardy20 (4:39:29 PM): YES!!!!!!!
ABeardy20 (4:39:33 PM): (MJ fist pump)
WurstMattWNBA (4:39:35 PM): Kinda weird that you play in two capitals - Washington DC and now Canberra. But I digress... Have a good night. Or morning. Or tomorrow. Or whenever it is there...
ABeardy20 (4:39:37 PM): :-D
ABeardy20 (4:39:59 PM): Bye, homie.
In Other News... Good thing Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are on their way to help Dynamo as teammate and Storm forward Natalia Vodopyanova suffered a broken leg during practice. The 24-year-old forward will be sidelined for six weeks following the injury. However, Dynamo should also be boosted by the return of Tammy Sutton-Brown who had returned to Canada due to a family illness. With five big Euro League matches today, including Dynamo at US Valenciennes Olympic, check out FIBA.com for the latest scores and results.
Meanwhile, over in Europe Cup competition, some WNBA players are making names for themselves as well. Mystics guard Laurie Koehn, playing for the Rhondda Rebels is averaging 22.5 points per game and shooting 53.3% from 3-point range in the preliminary round. Shock forward Cheryl Ford, a member of Israel's Anda Ramat Hasharon, is doing what she does best, averaging 13.3 rebounds per contest as well. The next round of Europe Cup games will take place on December 7 and 8.
In case you haven't been following Diana Taurasi's NBA.com Fantasy Game progress this season, she did get off to a rough start in the early going, but roared back with a big win last week over ESPN.com's Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. The win is especially nice considering how critical is of the women's game. Perhaps now that he got beat by a girl, he will show them a little more respect.
In Other News... Taurasi touched down in Russia last night, where she will be joining Russian club Dynamo Moscow, where Charlotte's Tammy Sutton-Brown is currently playing and the team that Sue Bird played with last year. Bird will be joining forces with Taurasi once again in a week or so when she heads over to Moscow to play with Dynamo yet again. Stay tuned for some post cards from the Dynamo women once they get settled and start longing for home...
Dynamo is one of three teams that sit atop the Group C standings in the Euro League with a 4-1 record along with US Valenciennes Olympic and Katie Douglas' Lietuvos Telekomas Vilnius team. Gambrinus Sika Brno, led by Nykesha Sales and DeLisha Milton-Jones, are 5-0 in Group B and the Hungarian MiZo Pecs team with Vickie Johnson, Pollyanna Johns-Kimbrough and Dalma Ivanyi are 5-0 in Group A. The preliminary rounds last for another six weeks. As of today, the top four scorers oer the first five Euro League games are Agnieska Bibrzycka, Douglas, Anna DeForge and Milton. Seattle's Janell Burse and Mercury center Maria Stepanova are 1-2 in rebounding respectively. Talk about WNBA dominance overseas...
Indiana's Coretta Brown did not go overseas when the season ended a few months back. Instead, she decided to get some experience in a very different professional setting: An office.
Few players and even fewer fans know about the WNBA's job placement and internship progam's, but Brown opted to take full advantage of a great opportunity. She has spent the past month as an intern with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. She has assisted with membership renewals, ticket sales, Kodak/WBCA All-America Team updates and securing exhibitors for convention.
"I went overseas one year and traveled all over Spain, Russia and China, but it wasn't the right fit for me," Brown said on the WBCA site. "I felt that this would be a good opportunity for professional development and to interact with coaches on a day-to-day basis."
In Other News... With the holiday season now in full bloom, the Connecticut Sun will be holding a holiday toy drive to help benefit the Kids’ Christmas Party. The drive will take place on Wednesday, December 7 at the Mohegan Sun. The Sun will once again sponsor the Kids' Christmas Party this year.
Elsewhere, Charlotte Sting community heroine Helen Darling has joined the blogging world. The guard, who has stayed in Charlotte this offseason to participate in a number of local events, talks about her experiences with motherhood. And all you mothers out there, take good notes, because Helen has it all figured out despite having her hands full.
Sky coach Dave Cowens also blogged just before the Thanksgiving holiday. As did Indiana's Ebony Hoffman who wrote from Italy. Also, Mercury forward Penny Taylor is taking the plunge and getting married this offseason.
Well, it's that time of year again... Time for turkey, parades, football, holiday traffic and, of course, family. Thanksgiving is one of the only holidays that people of all religions, backgrounds and socio-economic classes celebrates at the same time, truly an American holiday. It embodies a spirit of togetherness, thankfulness and stuffing-your-face-liness, but it also often inspires generosity.
Monarchs guard Kara Lawson, who has plenty to be thankful this year after winning a WNBA title, joined Yolanda Griffith and members of the Kings and Maloof organization to cook and serve a holiday meal for Sacramento-area residents. But that's just the beginning.
"I am having my first Thanksgiving this year that I am hosting at my house," Lawson said. "My mom and my sister are coming. I am so excited. I am going to cook some and they are going to cook some as well. I am most thankful for good health and my family."
Even though she is presently in Spain, Detroit's Ruth Riley also wanted to express her gratitude.
"I'm thankful for my family, friends, memories from all my experiences on and off the court . . and on a less serious note. . . starbucks (soy carmel macchiatos), sushi, and the beach!"
Of course, it is truly hard to get into the spirit when you are thousands of miles from home. Minnesota's Kristen Mann is also in Spain and wishes she could be with her family.
"Thankful? I wish I were at home right now. But soon!"
|Detroit's Barb Farris and Rip Hamilton dish a different kind of assist this holiday season.|
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
"I am most thankful for my family and friends and the opportunities that I have to spend time with them," the two-time WNBA Finals runner-up said. "I also am thankful to be able to have done and seen what I have through the game of basketball."
The Connecticut Sun also took part in sharing Thanksgiving at the Covenant Shelter in New London on Monday. Coach Mike Thibault, his staff and many Sun executive personnel took part in the festive meal for about 60 people.
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi has different levels of things she is thankful for.
"First, I'm thankful for breathing," the two-time All-WNBA honoree joked. "I am thankful for family. And I am thankful for the Prince song Purple Rain."
But that isn't all. Not by a long shot. Shock forward Barbara Farris helped Detroit Pistons guard Rip Hamilton to make this year's Thanksgiving holiday more special for those less fortunate as well. Hamilton host a "Thanksgiving Celebration" at The Salvation Army Detroit Temple Corps Community Center in downtown Detroit yesterday. The group served turkeys, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, vegetables and pumpkin pies.
"I'm here to help the people of our community who need an extra hand in providing a meal for their families," said Hamilton, founder of the Rip City Foundation. "I feel it is important for local athletes to continue to assist in the community where there is need, especially in Detroit."
All this talk about food is starting to make me hungry. So on behalf of the the entire NBA and WNBA family, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Now will someone please pass the cranberry sauce?
Liberty Head Coach Pat Coyle, legends Kym Hampton and Sue Wicks, NBC Sportscaster Jimmy Roberts and Liberty Trainer Lisa White hosted a WNBA Basketball Clinic for local youth at the O'Hara Invitational Youth Basketball Tournament last Friday. The annual Tournament, featuring 36 youth basketball teams from the region, is the major fundraiser for the O'Hara Foundation, a not-for-profit public charity established in 1997. The O'Hara Foundation was created as a means of memorializing Jack and Janet O'Hara, and their daughter, Caitlin. They were tragically killed in the explosion of TWA 800 on July 17, 1996.
Elsewhere last week, Detroit's Andrea Stinson, who, according to reports, may be on the verge of announcing her retirement very shortly, Liberty forward Shameka Christon and NBA legend Sam Perkins are back from their goodwill trip to Algeria, and as promised, here are some of the photos from their trip...
In Other News... Now that the college season is in full swing, you may be wondering which WNBA players are spending their offseason on the sidelines as a coach. In fact, there are seven players who were on rosters at the end of the 2005 season who are coaching at the collegiate level:
- Dawn Staley (Houston) - Temple University, Head Coach
- La'Keshia Frett (New York) - University of Georgia
- Amber Jacobs (Minnesota) - University of Toledo
- Tamika Williams (Minnesota) - The Ohio State University
- Charlotte Smith-Taylor (Washington) - University of North Carolina
- Wendy Palmer-Daniel (San Antonio) - Virginia Commonwealth
- Erin Thorn (New York) - Brigham Young University
Also, stay tuned for an update from another player back on campus this fall, Seattle's Tanisha Wright. T-Lou will be updating her Blog tomorrow. In addition, check back right here for our Thanksgiving-themed Blog as well.
The annual WNBA and NBA.com Breast Health Auction is kicking off just in time for the holiday season. Starting tomorrow and lasting until December 9th, you can start bidding on some pretty awesome items... I won't give everything away now, but here are some items sure to raise some money for a good cause:
Individual autographed WNBA Basketballs signed by Lindsay Whalen, Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Alana Beard and Becky Hammon, an autographed Guitar from Melissa Etheridge, autographed authentic jerseys from Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Mike Bibby and a signed Shaquille O'Neal-Wade basketball.
All good stuff, so check back this week to start bidding.
Wow, so I actually surprised myself and was able to keep a secret and not tell anyone the results of the Expansion Draft (okay, well I did tell my girlfriend last night, but then I stole her cell phone and locked her in the bathroom a la "Desperate Housewives" so she couldn't tell anyone anything). But my lips are sealed no longer. Welcome to Chicago to the following players:
Kiesha Brown (Houston), Stacey Dales-Schuman (Washington), Deanna Jackson (Indiana), Stacey Lovelace-Tolbert (Minnesota), Laura Macchi (Los Angeles), Chelsea Newton (Sacramento), Bernadette Ngoyisa (San Antonio), Jia Perkins (Charlotte), Elaine Powell (Detroit), Ashley Robinson (Phoenix), DeTrina White (New York), Brooke Wyckoff (Connecticut) and Francesca Zara (Seattle).
There are some interesting names here. Of course, with free agency and the Draft, several of these players will not be on the final roster. However, the Sky bring in a good mix of youth and experience and some talent who could shine with more playing time. Newton and Powell obviously bring championship experience and Wyckoff has hit big shots in big games. The Dales-Schuman choice was an intersting one considering she announced her retirement a year ago. Maybe she's making a comeback... If she does not come to training camp, the Sky do not have to pay her and lose no money against the cap. Also, who knows about the status of the two Italian players selected? Deanna Jackson is a restricted free agent, which means Chicago can match any offer if another team signs her to a contract. Ashley Robinson and Jia Perkins are two players from the 2004 Draft who should benefit from increased played time. Stacey Lovelace and Elaine Powell have the most experience on the relatively young squad.
So, yet another step in the expansion process has come for the Sky, who admitted they feel like proud parents today. More to come after this morning's press conference. Now what's all that loud banging coming from the bathroom? Oh yeah...
As I said the other day, a WNBA All-Star is having a baby. And it's Monarchs forward DeMya Walker. Congratulations to DeMya and her family. With the baby due in April, we should see her back on the court in 2006.
In Other News... The Chicago Sky submitted their roster to the league office just a little while ago and are just hours away from making their announcement. Check back tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET for the official word. You're not getting any hints here... But go ahead and vote on one of the popular WNBA message boards and see who else people think might be headed to Chi-town.
Already with much to be thankful for this year, Kara Lawson and Yolanda Griffith of the WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs took part in the Maloof Sports & Entertainment Twelfth Annual Thanksgiving Dinner along with Francisco Garcia and Shareef Abdur-Rahim of the Sacramento Kings, members of the Sacramento Kings Dance Team and Maloof Sports & Entertainment Team Members.
Volunteers prepared more than 1,500 meals for men, women and children who are homeless in the Sacramento area. Individuals and families were served a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham and all the fixings. This year's Thanksgiving dinner will took place at Loaves and Fishes, a private sector, charitable organization dedicated to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.
Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
In Other News... Last week's WNBA.com cover girl, L.S.U.'s Seimone Augustus, lived up to the hype associated with all of the accompanying responsibilities as her Lady Tigers opened up their season with a 76-68 win over Texas Tech this weekend. Now that the season is underway, it's time to start tracking the potential top picks.
Also, congratulations to San Antonio Silver Stars General Manager Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the rest of the honorees who will be inducted into the Women's College Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, TN. The names were announced this weekend.
Finally this weekend... a rumor is floating around the league about an All-Star out West who may or may not be pregnant. Until this is confirmed or denied, we'll leave it up to you to guess just who we're talking about.
Former United States President Bill Clinton, who was in Israel this weekend, met with the sponsor for Ramat Hasharon, one of the top Israeli teams with two WNBA All-Stars currently playing there. But it sounds like Clinton already knew of the two Detroit Shock players. Read what President Clinton had to say about the Americans.
You couldn't tell it from the weary eyes early this morning, but there were plenty of smiles on the faces of players and fans in Connecticut last night, and those smiles will help put smiles on the faces of countless children for years to come.
Mercury guard and former University of Connecticut standout Diana Taurasi hosted a celebrity wine tasting gala last night at a restaurant in Shelton, Connecticut. "VINO!" was held to benefit the nonprofit organization KaBOOM!, with all proceeds raised going directly towards constructing a community built playground in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the name of the UCONN Women's Basketball Alumni.
Photo Credit: M. Wurst/NBAE
"I’ve known since the day I won my first championship at UConn, that I wanted to give back to the people of Connecticut; it’s just been a matter of finding the right project,” Taurasi said. “Partnering up with KaBOOM! made a lot of sense to me for many reasons. KaBOOM! is a great organization who believes that play is vital to kids’ development and their goal is to ensure that every child has a great and safe place to play within walking distance; that philosophy is something that really appealed to me.” Taurasi continued. “The event on the 10th and the playground project are amazing opportunities for people in Connecticut to come together; its community building and that’s something I take a lot of pride in being a part of.”
The fundraising event, which was attended by approximately 300 people, included a silent auction, hors devours, live music and over 75 wines from some of the best Vineyards from both coasts. In addition, Taurasi was joined by several of her familiar friends, including CO-HOSTS Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, other distinguished UCONN Alumni and a special guest appearance by UCONN Head Coach Geno Auriemma.
Taurasi thanked the guests for coming and signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans all night, as did the other standouts. Auriemma also took the microphone towards the end of the evening and was up to his old antics. He even joked that his team will have a tough challenge to re-capture the NCAA crown that eluded them last season.
"I have a better chance of driving to Boston tonight than my team has of making it there for the Final Four next April."
But no one left the party disapponted, and the long-term good that will come out of the night is clear. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct over 850 new playgrounds and skateparks and renovate 1,300 others nationwide. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including trainings, challenge grants, publications and a free Online Project Planner(TM) for communities who wish to plan a new play space on their own. The partnership with KaBOOM! is a three step process that includes VINO! on the 10th, a planning day and a build day later in November.
When Val left the WNBA to pursue other opportunities, she left the league in good hands.
Former WNBA forward Val Whiting, who was drafted 17th overall by the Detroit Shock in the 1999 WNBA Draft and last played in the 2002 season as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, emailed me recently to let us know that she has opened Delaware’s first and only performance enhancement studio for athletes, called GameShape, located on the Wilmington Riverfront. GameShape is considered a personal training studio, but also conducts pre-season performance camps as well. The 1993 Stanford grad, who started the business with husband Jay Raymond, is a certified Performance Enhancement Specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has worked to develop unique training and exercise programs for athletes of all levels.
So if you are in the Delaware area and looking to improve your athleticism, find out more by checking out www.valwhiting.com.
Mystics center and former North Carolina State women's basketball star Chasity Melvin was inducted into the Sampson County Sports Hall of Fame last night. As a senior back in 1998, Melvin led NC State to the NCAA Final Four and qualified for the NCAA Tournament in her three other seasons as well. She was a Kodak All-Americans in 1998 and is one of just two players all-time to record over 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. She still holds the record for most free throws attempted in a career with 639. She led the team in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks all four seasons.
In Other News... We have been talking about the Euro League for a few weeks now, but another level of international play that features quality WNBA talent overseas each winter is the Europe Cup. Unlike the Euro League, the Europe Cup has a large number of teams competing in a tournament style of play. 12 divisions of four teams feature teams from all over the Eastern hemisphere and competition has already gotten started as well.
After three games played each, Kelly Schumacher is the second-leading scorer with 22.7 points per game and is also averaging 10.0 rebounds per game. Her Halcon Avenida Salamanca squad is 3-0 in Group L. The teams are currently in the preliminary rounds as well.
Talk about getting to see new places and experience new cultures, Liberty forward Shameka Christon and Shock guard Andrea Stinson are headed to North Africa this week for a basketball goodwill tour and conduct clinics in Algeria through Public-Private Partnership. They will be joined by retired NBA player Sam Perkins.
Upon arriving in the capitol city of Algiers on Tuesday, the joint NBA/WNBA/U.S. State Department will spend the next several days hosting clinics at the Salle Hydra (which recently hosted the African Basketball Championships) and the Lycee Sportif (a high school). Christon, Stinson and Perkins will serve as sports envoys for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). These clinics, for boys and girls ages 7-17, will include technique drills and team building activities, as well as providing an opportunity for the youth to engage in dialogue with the athletes. The delegation will also participate in a Q&A with youth coaches and tour the city and historic sites, including the Casbah, a history 16th century cultural center. Twelve thousand youth in Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria will receive a pair of new basketball shoes through this public-private partnership thanks to NBA/WNBA corporate partner Reebok.
Algeria, with a population of 33 million, is the second largest country in Africa and is approximately 3.5 times larger than Texas. During a civil war in the late 20th century, the country was cutoff from the outside world for 15 years and its youthful population yearns for renewed contact. Especially for the young, American culture is extremely popular and desired. Jazz and hip-hop are the most popular music genres and teenage boys dressed in basketball jerseys could very easily blend in on the streets of New York.
These clinics provide an opportunity for young people to discover how success in sports can be transformed into the development of life skills and achievements in the classroom, emphasizing the values of teamwork, respect, and leadership. The first basketball clinic took place August 12-14 in Abuja, Nigeria featuring NBA player and Nigerian native Obinna Ekezie while the second clinic took place September 2-5 in Dakar, Senegal with WNBA great Cynthia Cooper and Phoenix Suns guard Jim Jackson.
In Other News... Speaking of overseas, Christon's teammate with the Liberty, guard Vickie Johnson, was named the EuroLeague Player of the Week. As a member of the Hungarian team Pecs, Johnson helped to end Samara's 19-game EuroLeague Women streak last week Wednesday in a 80-68 victory. She tallied 12 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists playing alongside Silver Stars guard and Hungarian star Dalma Ivanyi, who had 10 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in the win.
Elsewhere, despite Nikki Teasley's 24 points and 6 steals, her MKB Euroleasing team fell to the 2-0 UMMC Ekaterinburg team last week. Seattle's Suzy Batkovic led her team with 16 points and 7 rebounds in the 84-80 win. Also, in her debut with Gambrinus, Nykesha Sales scored 9 points in 21 minutes and DeLisha Milton-Jones had 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 81-62 win over Lotos Gdynia. Anna DeForge also had 24 points in the Wisla Can-Pack win over K Cero ICP to bring them even at 1-1 in the qualifying round. Stay updated with the EuroLeague standings and results on FIBA.com.
It couldn't have started any worse. In just her first professional game with the San Antonio Silver Stars this past season, Kendra Wecker, the fourth overall pick in the 2005 Draft, went down with a torn ACL and missed the entire rest of the season. She had played only 11 minutes. The Silver Stars went on to finish the 2005 season with just seven wins.
Wecker had surgery to repair the knee on June 8th and is now, back in Manhattan, Kansas, her old stomping ground on the campus of Kansas State. She is currently completing her rehabilitation and is ready to get back on the court. She has been working out with former teammate Megan Mahoney, who was drafted in the third round last season by the Connecticut Sun despite injuring her knee in March. So what is the 2004-05 Big XII Player of the Year up to? I called her last night to find out:
Matt Wurst: "So, long time now speak. How've you been?"
Kendra Wecker: "I've been really good, actually. Working hard but enjoying myself"
M.W.: "Who have you been working out with?"
Wecker: "I've actually been working out with the Kansas State team trainer."
M.W.: "And where in this oh-so-fun rehab process are you? Are you back out on the court yet?"
Wecker: "Megan and I just started playing in the last couple of weeks or so. It hasn't been anything too serious or competitive. We are doing really well, feeling good and trying to get back into shape, I guess. "
M.W.: "Well I know everyone in San Antonio and around the league missed you, but it's good that you're getting back into the swing of things."
Wecker: "I missed not being able to do anything."
M.W.: "So what have the past few months been like for you?
Wecker: "It has been a process. As soon as I got back to Kansas at the end of August, Megan had just been cleared to start doing some stuff so we started with conditioning and agility training and rehabilitation with the women's basketball trainer here. We did that five days a week in the morning. Then we would also lift weights three days a week."
M.W.: "That's great that you have someone in the same boat to do this all with."
Wecker: "We have done everything together because when I got back here, we were pretty much at the same point in our rehab. It's been nice to have someone to work out with. It's feeling really good and I couldn't be happier. I'm just focused now on getting my strength back and playing. The next step is mental, getting comfortable being back out on the court. It hasn't been an issue so far though. I have not been hesitant, but the more you play, the better it gets."
M.W.: "So are you there for the entire winter?"
Wecker: "You know, I haven't decided yet. I am here for sure until December. I am doing an internship with the campus student-run television network. The show is called 'Purple Power Hour,' a weekly 30-minute show on K-State sports. It's really fun and I like being on camera."
M.W.: "Ahhh, I see. A future career, perhaps?"
Wecker: "Hopefully. I was a communications major and we need an internship to graduate."
M.W.: "And this internship is the last step?"
Wecker: "This is it. I will graduate in December."
M.W. "Welcome to the real world!"
Wecker: "I know, right? Though I'm debating whether or not to take grad school classes because I still have another semester left on scholarship that they would pay for. Everything is kind of up in the air for me come January. I may play in the NWBL, but I'm like 98 percent sure that I'm not going overseas this year. I'll probably wait to do that next year."
M.W.: "No need to rush it."
Wecker: "I know, I'm not. I'm young still, right? I was talking to my coaches, and they said that as long as I'm playing somewhere, it's fine."
M.W.: "Why leave? College without the classes and schoolwork is like a dream come true."
Wecker: "Yeah, it's been fun to be at the University and not have as many demands where in the past I had to be somewhere every hour of the day. Get to go to the football games, hang out without too much to do in the evening as far as homework goes. It's great, I'm not complaining at all. I'm not ready to leave yet, I'll tell you that."
M.W.: So what else you got for me?
Wecker: "I've been able to go home quite a few times to see my parents and went to see my brother last weekend. I hadn't seen him since the beginning of July."
M.W.: "Is he at school as well?"
Wecker: "Yes, he is at a junior college playing baseball."
M.W.: "Wow, that's quite the athletic family. Believe it or not, I was the athlete in my family and everyone else did the music thing."
Wecker: "I envy people that can sing and play musical instruments. I played the saxophone in junior high and high school and I've recently tried to learn the guitar. I've had a guitar for like more than two years and I want to teach myself how to play, but I need to take lessons. Maybe I'm just too lazy."
M.W. "Now is the time to do it. You just said you have all this free time..."
Wecker: "I know, exactly."
M.W.: "Well, as long as you're having fun, enjoy it."
Wecker: "Of course. Like a few weeks ago, we went to a bowling alley that had karaoke in it and we went there and it was quite the night. A lot of fun."
M.W.: "Good to know. So the next time you come to New York, we might just have to go. But 'til then, be well and stay in touch. Good luck with everything and we'll see you back on the court here in a few months."
Wecker: "Thanks, buddy."
In Other News... Is anyone else really starting to miss the whole boy band era? I don't think we appreciated just how good it was while it lasted. I was quite sad to read a quote from singer JC Chasez in the latest issue of Us Weekly where he said that NSync has no plans on recording another album. I guess all I can say is thanks for the memories and Bye Bye Bye.
After taping a series of "Wheel of Fortune" shows about a month ago to raise money for victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and now Wilma, the episodes featuring NBA and WNBA stars finally air this week. Liberty guard Becky Hammon has her time in the spotlight tonight.
"I think it's important for every American to help and contribute what they can, Hammon said. "It's great that we can go out and play for a great cause, hopefully help to ease someone's pain and put a smile on someone's face down South."
However, prior to playing the game and spinning the big wheel for cash, the South Dakota native was on edge.
"I would say that solving a puzzle on 'Wheel of Fortune' is tougher than hitting a game-winning jump shot simply because this is something that we don't do everyday and we do shoot jumpers every day."
Those who know Hammon's game know how competitive she is, full of fire and the desire to win, but her competitors on the show never back down either.
"I'm playing against Mike Bibby and Ray Allen, they are both a little bit on the quiet side, but I also know they are both very competitive so it should be interesting. But we are going to go out there and have a lot of fun and play for great causes."
"Wheel of Fortune" remains one of the most popular game shows in history and continues to be one of the most successful. Check your local listings for time and network.
In Other News... We know quite well how busy everyone has been this offseason so far, but Sting guard Helen Darling, already taking care of her triplets, has been all over the Charlotte community. Last week, she participated in Teach for America Week, a nationwide event that unites hundreds of actors, executives, athletes, members of Congress, authors, musicians, activists and heads of state in teaching a classroom of students. Also, Mercury guard Shereka Wright spoke with phoenixmercury.com about what she has been up to as well.
Shhhh. Listen closely. Do you hear it?
Yes, there it is. That is the sound of WNBA General Counsel Jamin Dershowitz's email inbox filling up with messages from 13 WNBA general managers. That's right. Today begins the 2-week Expansion Draft period that the Chicago Sky has to choose players for their 2006 roster. The other 13 teams have submitted their list of six protected players, leaving a wide breadth of talent from which the Sky can choose. The Sky may only choose one player from each team for a maximum of 13 players. Players who are taken in the Draft but later waiver or released become free agent.
I would try to get ahold of the lists, but I value my job. Sorry, folks. Guess we will all just have to wait and see who the Sky select two weeks from today.
So what was Diana Taurasi doing on her Sunday night off? Drafting her NBA.com fantasy league team, of course. But Taurasi was not alone... With the NBA season starting this week, the Phoenix Mercury guard is competing in a celebrity fantasy league on NBA.com along with Star Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew Modine, Bernie Mac, Pamela Anderson, former NBA player Kenny Smith, Michael Rapaport, Cedric the Entertainer and ESPN.com writer (and renowned WNBA fantatic) Bill Simmons, also known as the the Sports Guy. The stars are all playing for NBA Cares charities.
"Do you think my team has a chance," the two-time All-WNBA honoree asked me?
"Well, you went local with Shawn Marion, another Phoenix guy, which may have clouded your thinking, but I really think Sam Jackson has the team to beat."
"We shall see starting this week, won't we," Taurasi answered, already trash-talking even though I am not even in the league.
In Other News... The NBA season tips off tonight as the defending champion San Antonio Spurs host the Denver Nuggets at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.