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More Blogging: March-April, 2006

All-Decade All The Talk
Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 28, 2006 9:27 a.m. ET

So the All-Decade Team voting is officially underway, and if you don't think people are excited about it, here is a random sampling of coverage this morning

Newsday: WNBA All-Decade Team Nominees Announced
Sun-Sentinel: WNBA All-Decade Team Nominees Announced
Express-News: Silver Stars on WNBA All-Decade ballot
Chicago Tribune: WNBA All-Decade Team Nominees Announced
Daily Herald: All-decade team announced
Indianapolis Star: Vote for WNBA All-Decade
News Tribune: Jackson, Bird in mix for all-decade honor
ESPN.com: The 10 Best Of The Past 10 Years
USA Today: All-decade nominees named
Charlotte Observer: Ex-Sting stars on WNBA ballot
UConn Athletics: Five UConn Alums Named as Finalists for WNBA All-Decade Team
Tennessee Athletics: CATCHINGS, HOLDSCLAW HIGHLIGHT LIST OF NOMINEES FOR WNBA ALL-DECADE TEAM
Temple Athletics: STALEY NOMINATED FOR WNBA'S ALL-DECADE TEAM
Georgia Athletics: Georgia's Deanna Nolan Among Nominees For WNBA All-Decade Team
UCLA Athletics: Former Bruin Natalie Williams Nominated For WNBA All-Decade Team
NC State Athletics: Wolfpack Fans - Vote Andrea Stinson to WNBA All-Decade Team
Ohio State Athletics: Former Buckeye Great Katie Smith Nominated for WNBA All-Decade Team
RebKell's Message Board: WNBA All-Decade Threads
South Carolina Sports: Shannon Johnson A Nominee For WNBA All-Decade Team
Old Dominion Sports: Ticha Penicheiro Among The Nominees For WNBA's All-Decade Team
SI.com: Lady Rebel Great Jennifer Gillom Nominated For WNBA's All-Decade Team
Texas Tech Athletics: Swoopes Named a Nominee for WNBA All-Decade Team
Kansas Athletics: Vote For Tamecka Dixon For the WNBA All-Decade Team
Louisiana Tech Sports: Two Techsters Nominated for WNBA Anniversary Team
Florida Atlantic Sports: Griffith Among Nominees Announced for All-Decade Team
Auburn Athletics: Ruthie Bolton Nominated For WNBA All-Decade Team
U.S.C. Athletics: Cooper, Leslie and Thompson Selected As WNBA All-Decade Team Nominees
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: WNBA All-Decade Team Nominees Announced
The Dispatch: Katie Smith on the ballot

There were probably more... I just got tired of clicking...

In Other News... Now, back to action on the court... Seattle's Lauren Jackson is still bothered by the stress fracture in her leg. The Seattle Times' Jayda Evans, who has recently published a book that I look forward to reading soon, reports that Jackson's playing time and productivity could be affected by the injuries this season. Meanwhile, Storm announcer David Locke has already fallen for Barbara Turner's game. In his daily blog (wow, this Blog thing is really taking off), Locke gets to know Turner a bit better since he thinks she'll be sticking around for awhile.

The Washington Mystics are already scrimmaging and it's only Day Five!. The five-on-five games are really a lot more fun for players than the running and fundamental drills.

The Charlotte Sting formally introduce their other first round pick, Tennessee alum Tye Fluker,

The first official Sky team photo from Media Day has hit the internet!

And in her training camp diary, Lynx rookie Seimone Augustus says like she already feels a part of the team.

"It definitely feels normal to me during practice now; it feels like my team. It felt normal after two days with the way that the other players made me feel. I was comfortable once I got here the first day, but as days go by your bond with your teammates and become a little bit stronger and your bond with the coaching staff becomes a little bit stronger. As long as you feel comfortable, you’re going to fit in anywhere."

Finally, a special Happy Birthday to my favorite team doctor. I'm just glad you're on my team.

Women Who Inspire
Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 27, 2006 11:25 a.m. ET

New York City has seen its fair share of power lunches, but very few like the one currently taking place at Madison Square Garden. This afternoon, New York's inspiring women are gathering for a special luncheon co-organized by the WNBA and the New York Liberty. WNBA President Donna Orender and New York Liberty Senior Vice President & General Manager Carol Blazejowski will host the WNBA Inspiring Women Luncheon, a premiere event for inspirational women in sports, business, marketing, entertainment and television who have led the way for women in their own fields and have been committed to raising the WNBA game.

CBS The Early Show’s Hannah Storm, WNBC anchor Jane Hanson and WCBS newscaster Roz Abrams among others will join the festivities. The women will also select women to be honored at the Friday, June 16 Liberty versus Houston Comets game. In Other News... The WNBA's All-Decade nominees are out and voting begins tomorrow. You will be able to select five names from the 30 regardless of team, conference or position. The top ten will be named during the season.

Tamika Williams Is a Fast Healer
Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 26, 2006 8:31 a.m. ET

Lynx forward/center Tamika Williams, who tore cartilage in her knee in the first practice of the season, underwent successful surgery yesterday. As we wrote yesterday, she could be back in four to six weeks, just when the regular season is getting started. That seems to be the big story in the WNBA so far this week as USA Today and ESPN.com have picked up the story.

Other questions this week...

Who will be the backup point guard for Sue Bird in Seattle? Perhaps it will be second-year guard Tanisha Wright, who is getting in some work at the point early on.

What can you do this weekend if you're itching for some good basketball action in the Houston area? The Comets will be holding an open scrimmage on Sunday at Toyota Center which is free to the public. Doors at Toyota Center will open at 1 p.m, the scrimmage is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.. Unfortunately Sheryl Swoopes, Dawn Staley and Janeth Arcain won't take part in Sunday's activities as they are among eight players yet to arrive to training camp.

When will Sun guard Erin Phillips get into the country? The Australian is having some minor visa issues that shouild be worked out in the next few days. Connecticut is hoping will be a solid placeholder until Lindsay Whalen is back at 100%. Those challenges should be nothing compared to her background in Aussie rules football.

Where did Mercury rookie Cappie Pondexter come of age as a player and a woman? Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had a lot to do with her development and preparation, though the program will not be the same without her. Says Stringer, "It brings tears to my eyes, and I think of her smile and I think of her willingness always to work hard. Any time these players were out there with Cappie, they knew they had a chance."

Why does Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith still feel like she has something to prove? One of the premiere players in the world over the past decade, Griffith finally got the elusive championship to cap off a brilliant resume. Yet, she still goes hard in every practice in training camp, her first in awhile.

How big of an impact has the league had in the past ten years? A pretty significant impact in many ways, writes Clay Kallam on FoxSports.com.

Media Day: What They're Writing...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 25, 2006 9:21 a.m. ET

As yesterday was Media Day across the WNBA, you'd expect a lot of press coverage in today's local and national papers, or at least those that write about the WNBA. Well you won't be disappointed. Here is a good sampling of just what you'd find in "The Day in Ink:"

Starting first in the media capital of the world, New York, New York, much is being written about the Liberty's offseason roster overhaul.
New York Daily News: Liberty gets into fast lane
New York Times: New Season and a Fresh Start
Newsday: Hammon in role of the wily veteran
Poughkeepsie Journal: WNBA life starting to suit 'Camera'
Poughkeepsie Journal: Camara thrilled with shot at WNBA

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Hall-of-Famer Dave Cowens got his WNBA coaching career underway. The A.P.'s Andrew Seligman talks about Cowens' learning curve. Yet, his players are not all newcomers to the WNBA even though they may be new in Chicago. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the players' work ethic is sky-high. More Sky coverage:
Chicago Sun Times: Media day view all about where city meets the Sky
The Courier News: Cowens ready for new team
Northwest Herald: Sky have plenty of leaders

One team that is ready to win from Day One is the Connecticut Sun, though the status of Lindsay Whalen is still up in the air. Will she be ready to go to start the season? Well, she watched practice yesterday and the Hartford Courant reports that Coach Mike Thibault would be surprised if she were ready for May 20. More Sun coverage:
Norwich Bulletin: Newcomers try to prove themselves for Sun
Hartford Courant: Going From Bitter To Better
New Haven Register: Sales’ experience overseas concludes with championship
New Haven Register: Whalen rehabbing for Sun
Republican-American: Sun's top player still injured
Bristol Press: Whalen watches Sun teammates open practice from sideline
New Britain Herald: Connecticut Sun’s Sales hopes overseas MVP experience helps...

The Detroit veterans sound poised to make another run at the Finals. Despite losing in the first round in each of the last two seasons, the Detroit News is reporting that Swin Cash is happy with where she's at after her knee injury and says basketball is fun again. Guard Katie Smith will get a chance to work out with the Shock from the beginning of the season after being traded to Detroit with only three weeks remaining in the 2005 season. Smith brought her dog, Logan, to camp this year once again, inspiring the Detroit Free Press' headline Shock won't dog it this season in today's edition.

The two big papers in Minnesota were on hand as the Lynx were hard at work:
Pioneer Press: Young Lynx expecting turnaround
Pioneer Press: Lynx's Williams to undergo surgery
Star Tribune: Lynx: Draft pick Duffy looks to be leader
Star Tribune: The Megan Duffy file

As for the other team in green, the Seattle Storm opened up camp with all but Sue Bird. Lauren Jackson is in camp, but still not 100% healthy as she is sidelined with stress fractures in her left leg. The Seattle Times' Jayda Evans reports that Jackson is listed as day-to-day. In fact, Betty Lennox was the only returning starter able to participate in practice on Monday, but that means that reserve players and those competing for backup spots will have their chance to shine early on. Yet, they are returning to the grind under the tutelage of U.S. Olympic Coach Anne Donovan.

Elsewhere, WNBA teams are getting into the act as well:
Charlotte Observer: Sting's Feaster seeks balance as mom, player
Houston Chronicle: Comets rookie Williams living childhood dream
San Antonio Express-News: Sean Elliott helps Silver Stars practice
Arizona Republic: Mercury camp opens

In Other News... You think this Blog thing is easy? Well why not join the staff? We are going to be trying out Fan Bloggers this season. So the search is officially on. We will be starting with 3-5 writers early on, we'll expand it if it seems to be working out... Click here to sign up! Good luck!

What we're looking for:

  • Good writers, witty, entertaining
  • Knowledgeable
  • Geographically diverse
  • 1-2x a week posts
  • No compensation, but we won't limit what you say (except for extenuating circumstances)
  • over 13 years of age.

    Day One: In the Books
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 24, 2006 9:19 p.m. ET

    That is the sound of whirlpools churning their rested motors tonight as there are likely many sore muscles across the WNBA tonight. Training camps are officially open for business and we finally have basketball to talk about.

    They're off and running in Phoenix as the "Paul Ball" era is underway.

    Media day in Connecticut
    J. Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
    “Get ready,” first-round draft pick Cappie Pondexter said, “It’s just go, go, go.”

    “It was very interesting because coach likes to ‘go,’” said Tamicha Jackson, signed with the Mercury today. “It was a lot of running, A LOT of running.”

    Another team that missed the playoffs last season, the Charlotte Sting, was optimistic and all smiles as they posed for pictures at their annual Media Day.

    The news wasn't all positive, though. The Minnesota Lynx today announced that forward Tamika Williams will undergo surgery tomorrow morning for a torn medial meniscus in her left knee, an injury she suffered yesterday on day one of training camp. Team Physician Dr. Joel Boyd will perform the surgery. Following the surgery, a timeline for recovery will be established.

    "You never want to see any of your players go down with an injury, especially the team captain," said Lynx Chief Operating Officer Roger Griffith. "Tamika is a competitor and a hard worker, and we expect her to make a full recovery."

    We're hearing four to six weeks, but everything should be clearer after surgery.

    The Shock were back in action as practice and Media Day went off without a hitch as well. Like she did last year in Minnesota, Katie Smith brought her dog and the Shock finished up their offseason signings by re-upping veteran All-Stars Deanna Nolan and Ruth Riley.

    In Washington, the new-look Mystics came together for the first time as well.

    “I loved it today. It was a great experience," rookie Nikki Blue said. "I’m so blessed to be amongst the best players not only in the league but in the world. This team definitely has a bright future. I just look forward to helping them win.”

    In Other News... Signings today includesnew contracts for Deanna Nolan and Ruth Riley in Detroit, a new contract for guard Tamicha Jackson, who is back with the Phoenix Mercury, new contracts for Ayana Walker and Ezria Parsons (Charlotte), Pauline Akonga Nsimbo (Houston), Latoya Davis (Phoenix) and Rita Williams. The day also saw the first camp casualties: the waivers of Gwen Jackson by Phoenix and Shaquala Williams (Washington).

    Also, effective immediately Doneeka Hodges will now go by Doneeka Hodges-Lewis.

    Going Camping
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 23, 2006 12:51 p.m. ET

    Right about now, WNBA Training Camps are opening up around the country. This is it!

    That means conditioning drills, rookie debuts and even some veterans fighting to keep their jobs. With many of the players finishing up their overseas committments, teams filled out their training camp rosters with additional players. Of course, playing overseas has many positive advantages - players come into training camp in shape and ready to roll.

    Teams may carry up to 18 players on their roster for the first 10 days of training camp before reducing their roster to 15 players for the remainder of camp. The final roster cut-down date for the regular season 11-player active roster is May 22. The team may also place two players on the Injured List. So let's go around the league and see what's going on...

    The Sacramento Monarchs open up Monarchs open up training camp as defending champions for the first time in their history. They will have the target on their backs this year as teams will be out to win it themselves. One team that knows all too well about Sacramento's championship, the Sun, have several new faces to go along with the core group of veterans that returns to the Eastern Conference Champions. One of those new players, guard Erin Phillips, is as Australian with a good deal of toughness and experience. Coach Mike Thibault has big plans on his mind.

    Speaking of veterans, the Western Conference runners-up, the Houston Comets, open camp with an experienced group looking for a return to glory. Swoopes and Thompson are back, but Dawn Staley and Tamecka Dixon are Comets camp rookies. For the Indiana Fever and the Eastern Conference finalists, Coach Brian Winter’s primary task early in camp will be to evaluate talent and mesh the new personalities with returning ones.

    With the first pick in the 2006 Draft signed and ready, the Minnesota Lynx are coming into camp in a better situation than last season. As training camp opens today, coach Suzie McConnell Serio is happy that every player but forward Svetlana Abrosimova is expected to report on time. And that, she said, will make a huge difference on a team bringing in six rookies.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Washington Mystics, who will start off short-handed, but have a roster that reflects some changes and fresh faces on it as well. Meanwhile, in Seattle, the Storm have continued their tradition of inviting fans to their first practice. Fans have the opportunity to interact with Storm coaches and players from the 2006 roster this morning and participate in fan training camp activities including learning Storm chants, face painting, Storm locker room sign-making and basketball drills. Coach Anne Donovan is seeking a gem in the rough.

    Perhaps the WNBA's most unlucky franchise the past couple of seasons, the San Antonio Silver Stars, finally have reason to be optimistic. The roster is younger, healthier, though still missing their pregnant star in Marie Ferdinand. The Los Angeles Sparks have two of the most dominant players in the game in Lisa Leslie and Chamique Holdsclaw, but made some personnel changes in the offseason and hope those changes can return the once-dominant team to championship contender status.

    But the biggest change in the WNBA offseason will benefit the entire league. The Chicago Sky are playing basketball! And their rookies are already getting accustomed to WNBA life. Media Day will take place this week for all 14 teams, so stay tuned for more coverage.

    In Other News... The Sparks have added an assistant coach to Joe Bryant's staff... Margaret Mohr is off to the WNBA.

    Orientation Weekend
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 23, 2006 9:06 a.m. ET

    2006 WNBA Player Orientation wrapped up yesterday at the Chicago O'Hare Hilton, a centrally located point in the middle of the country. 39 of the 42 players drafted (missing were Jessica Foley, Ranae Camino and Marina Kuzina) have now gone their separate ways, onto each of their new respective cities for Training Camp.

    After a nice welcome dinner on Thursday night, Donna Orender began the weekend of learning and sharing, which was followed up by WNBA 101, if you will. Thursday night also included presentations from the marketing department, the community relations team and the NBA Entertainment Interactive Services group. After those wrapped up, Pam Wheeler, the WNBPA Director, gave the new players some good information about their union.

    After an evening off where some players went out to dinner (Cappie and Seimone went out with a few other players off site, Kim Smith and former Utah teammate Shona Thorburn had dinner at the hotel restaurant) while others stayed back and chilled (Megan Duffy and Liz Shimek caught up a bit, chatting in the lobby for awhile), Friday morning started with a group breakfast at 7:30 a.m.

    Nutrition expert Victoria Johnson (not to be confused with basketball expert Vickie Johnson) talked about healthy eating, fitness and taking care of a professional body. That was followed up by a presentation by Kris Osterberg, a Senior Scientist with Gatorade Hydration Education (the folks you see in those commercials in white labcoats hooking up electrodes to Michael Jordan, Lisa Leslie and Mia Hamm).

    The players then broke up into four groups for smaller sessions. Players on the same team were grouped together to allow them to get to know each other and foster unity. In the first breakout session, the groups were split between the WNBA's Maureen Brown and Ameriprise Financial's league benefits and financial presentation discussion and Orientation favorite Jeff Janssen, who talks about peak performance. Jeff's presentation shows even these top athletes how to compete at an even higher level. Janssen challenged the players in a series of games, including the popular team minefield game, which pitted two teams against each other in a race through an obstacle course filled with cones. One player is blindfolded while her temmates try and guide her around the obstructions. It's waaaay fun.

    The next sessions after lunch were more informal and conversational, frank discussions with questions and and answers, even some laughs. The retired player panel featured Carla McGhee, Jennifer Azzi and Teresa Edwards... talk about legends to learn from. These three talked about life as players on and off the court, but also were qualified to talk about how important preparing for life after basketball is. The current player panel was just as lively, as Stacey Dales, Tamika Williams and Kristen Mann answered questions about how to prepare in training camp, what to expect as rookies and the importance of acknowledging and respecting the fans.

    Other presentations included security, media training (which included mock interviews), public relations and even an optional style consultation and roundtable. Finally, Saturday morning included a player programs presentation (did you know that there is not only tuition reimbursement, but also job placement outside the basketball world?), image building and health and medical discussions with the great Dr. Altha Stewart.

    Welcome to the Show, Kids
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 20, 2006 8:38 p.m. CT

    San Antonio's Sophia Young reads with the students
    Warren Skalski/NBAE Images

    Before WNBA Rookie Orientation tipped off in Chicago this evening many of the top picks in the 2006 WNBA Draft met some of their newest and youngest fans at the William H. Brown Elementary School. Some of the newest members of the WNBA and Chicago Sky hosted a special reading event for the students to tip off the 2006 WNBA Rookie Orientation Program taking place in Chicago. The students and Rookies participated in a Reading Rally and then spend time reading together as part of the WNBA Read to Achieve initiative.

    Among those who participated...
    Candice Dupree - Chicago Sky
    Seimone Augustus - Minnesota Lynx
    Cappie Pondexter - Phoenix Mercury
    Monique Currie - Charlotte Sting
    Sophia Young - San Antonio Silver Stars
    Lisa Willis - Los Angeles Sparks
    Jennifer Harris - Chicago Sky
    Kerri Gardin - Chicago Sky
    Carla McGhee - Retired WNBA Player
    Jennifer Azzi - Retired WNBA Player

    In celebration of the event, Toyota drove the new Rookie class to the school in 2007 Toyota Camry vehicles decorated with WNBA signage and portraits. It was hot (and I don't just mean the unseasonably warm Chicago spring morning). Upon their return to the Chicago O'Hare Hilton, they were joined by the rest of the rookie class as Orientation got underway. Donna Orender opened things up by encouraging players (and league staff) to share something about themselves. For example, Tye Fluker once worked at a Starbucks, Liz Shimek grew up raising cows on a farm, Shanna Zolman got engaged last week and WNBA.com editor Matt Wurst used to work as a stand-up comedian (wait, that's me. But true, yes).

    Orientation will continue through Saturday, at which point they will head to their new teams for training camp. We'll recap the entire event after the weekend is over.

    In Other News... Phoenix Mercury forward Shereka Wright will join the Texas Tech coaching staff in the fall as new Tech women's basketball coach Kristy Curry has finalized her coaching staff. The Lynx signed its top pick, Seimone Augustus, who will be the face of the franchise for years to come. Meanwhile, Monique Currie has plans to help the Sting turn things around and the Sky's second pick, Jennifer Harris, is trailed by a local news station as she packed her bags and got started on her professional career.

    Meanwhile, word out of Phoenix is that the Mercury is on the verge of re-signing veteran guard Bridget Pettis to re-join her old team. One of the original Mercury, Pettis started for Phoenix in the league’s inaugural game in 1997 and scored the first basket in team history.

    Can You Feeeeeeel It?
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 19, 2006 3:35 p.m. ET

    Have You Seen them? You've seen them on television and you've heard their music by now. It's impossible not to. They are Aly & AJ, the singing and acting teen sensations whose new hit song, "Rush," is being featured on the WNBA's new commercial campaign.

    The singing sisters from Calabasas, California dropped by the NBA Offices and NBA Store in New York City this afternoon and were officially welcomed to the WNBA family just as their song and the commercials are getting serious airtime. The campaign, "Have You Seen Her," features "Rush," and began running during the Draft and will have a major presence on television during the WNBA season and the NBA Playoffs on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and NBA TV.

    Becky Hammon welcomes Aly and A.J. to the WNBA family.
    Matt Wurst/NBAE Images
    Yet, the stardom has not gone to their heads. They are still ordinary teens, who when they are not touring or performing, like to chill with friends, read books, watch television and do "normal teenager things." And despite the common misconception, they are not twins. They are actually two years apart, with Aly being older. Yet, they admit to being interested in many of the same things, but are different enough to complement each other and work well together as a team (like a sports team!). Separately, they have appeared in a number of television shows and movies and love singing and acting. And they are really very authentic. They even wrote 12 of the 14 songs on their album themselves.

    "We represent real music," Aly said. "We have fun and we love what we do. We really want to do everything, like own our own clothing line, which is something we have a passion for."

    And people are taking notice. The singers and their entourage (which consisted of their mother and two managers) had just come from MTV. "Rush" is the new hit single off their debut album that is currently getting some love on MTV's "T.R.L." Once they arrived at our office, the entire place lit up. Sure, everyone's been singing and humming the tune for the past month, but just imagine these charming, bubbly girls from Southern California m in the same room as Donna Orender. Needless to say, the volume levels rose quite a bit.

    "We're so excited to be here," the girls rang out when Orender came into the conference room.

    "No, I'm the excited one!" Orender responded even lounder.

    Orender then gave the pair a brief intro to the WNBA and what the league represents. They admit that they have never been to a WNBA or any basketball game, for that matter, though they have been to Dodgers games in Los Angeles.

    "We have definitely played sports, especially with our dad," A.J. said. "Ever since we were little, we played basketball and baseball, though we were never on a real team or anything like that because we were home schooled up until the time we were in fourth and sixth grades.

    "But I really respect people who are really into sports and have a passion for it," Aly interrupted. "We can understand the committment it takes to achieve what they achieve, the hard work. You have to live a whole different lifestyle if you want to take it seriously."

    And they are really excited to learn. They stopped and checked out many of the photographs around the office featuring WNBA players and just watching the commericials that featured their song really fired them up.

    "The song really fits with the messages of the commercial and the league as a whole," A.J. said. "When Aly and I wrote 'Rush,' we wanted to write a song that was about a feeling. Rush is a feeling. It ties in so well with the WNBA and everything it is."

    WNBA President Donna Orender, her two sons and their friend joined, Aly and A.J at the NBA Store.
    Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE Images
    "Like the lyrics say, 'Be every color that you are,' Aly said. "It's not about where you come from, your race, your religion or your gender. Everyone has their own special talent, their own gift, and that's what we are striving to show in the song. It's about that adrenaline rush you get when something great happens."

    After meeting with some more league personnel, Aly and A.J.then headed across the street to the NBA Store to join Becky Hammon at Center Court. Becky was just starting the third of three clinics for kids at the Store and presented Aly and A.J. with their own Hammon 25 Liberty jerseys and orange-and-oatmeal WNBA basketballs. Then, as Becky got back to business, the singers' natural teenage girl instincts took over at the pair went into its power-shopping mode, picking up for sneakers themselves and their dad (who is a size 10-and-a-half), trying on clothes and checking with mom to see what they could get. A.J. fell in love with a cool WNBA hat with purple and gold lettering, in honor of her hometown Sparks. Of course, mom got a pair of sneaks for herself, as well.

    They also tried to match their hands with NBA and WNBA stars's handprints on basketballs before taking off and heading to a nearby studio to rehearse for the upcoming tour. Clearly they were no match for Shaq's ginormous palms, but A.J. actually had the same size as Sue Bird.

    Like Sue Bird (who likes to nap) and many other WNBA players, Aly and A.J. have their own "pre-game rituals." Before going on stage, they have their regular warm-up exercises, but also get the band to gether to pray and do a long, convoluted secret handshake full of inside jokes to help them relax. They are most looking forward to hanging out with their band as their tour kicks off. Starting next week, the sisters will hit at least 40 cities around the nation. Of course, they will definitely be checking out some WNBA games when they can, as well.

    Look for Aly & AJ on ABC's Good Morning America, Thursday, April 20. The girls will perform in New York, live for the show, which airs 6am-9am, local time.

    Calling Their Shot
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 19, 2006 6:56 a.m. ET

    They haven't played a single game yet, but the Chicago Sky are doing just fine, in case you were wondering. Having built a franchise from scratch in the past year, the Sky have just a few more tasks to knock out before tipping off next month.

    Yesterday, the Chicago Sky announced that sportscaster Eric Collins will team up with Karen Stack-Umlauf to form the Chicago Sky's inaugural broadcasting team. The duo will call at least 14 of the team's 34 regular-season games. All 17 of the Sky's home games will be televised, with eight slated for WTTW-Ch. 11 and six for WCIU-Ch. 26. That's a lot of television, and we'll be watching.

    Next up: Training Camp!

    In Other News... It's going to be a busy day here as two big events take place later in the day. First up, Aly and AJ, whose hit single "Rush" is getting some good airtime in the WNBA commercials all over the place, will be stopping by the NBA offices here in New York. I seriously can't get that song out of my head.

    "Can you feeeeel it? Can you feeeeeeeel it?"

    Ok, now neither can you.

    Then the pop superstarlets will head over to the NBA Store and join New York's Becky Hammon for a series of clinics that the Liberty guard will be giving. Becky has been all over the place this offseason, a busy, busy woman. Becky's appearance is a part of the Store's annual , which began last week and continues through this week and the start of the NBA Playoffs. Photos to come...

    Jackson Staying Put
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 17, 2006 1:30 p.m. ET

    It should come as no surprise to anyone, but the Seattle Storm have re-signed restricted free agent Lauren Jackson. With a little more than a month until the start of the regular season and about a week until training camp, there are only a few remaining free agents.

    New Mascot is All The Buzz
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 16, 2006 10:49 p.m. ET

    The Charlotte Sting ushered in the Buggsy era yesterday. Who is Buggsy, you may ask? The team's new mascot, of course. Buggsy was introdcued on Saturday and made her public debut at the Charlotte Bobcats game against the Pacers tonight. Let's just say I'm looking forward to seeing Muggsy and Buggsy on the sidelines together this season...

    In Other News... Anyone following the Russian Superleague playoffs? Pretty exciting stuff as the semifinals got underway today. The top four teams during the regular season remain to compete for the title. Defending champions Samara took a 1-0 lead over Spartak with a 68-57 win today. Edwige Lawson, Maria Stepanova and Ann Wauters led the way for Spartak while Lisa Leslie and Tamika Catchings didn't get much in the way of support.

    In the other game, Ekaterinburg defeated Dynamo (Moscow), 95-75. As Samara and Ekaterinburg hold 1-0 leads in their series, both will look to clinch a berth in the Finals on Wednesday.

    And if you absolutely can't wait for WNBA basketball to tip off, we might be able to tide you over as the NBA Playoffs start this week! Also, the D-League Championship game between the Fort Worth Flyers and Albuquerque Thunderbirds will be decided next Saturday, April 22.

    By Dawn's Early Light
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 12, 2006 8:22 a.m. ET

    Getting up extra early this week to "watch" the U.S. Women's Senior National Team play in Australia hasn't exactly been great for my Circadian rhythms, but it has been fun following some of the WNBA's best players team up with some of the best players in college to represent the United States and maintain its legacy as the best basketball team in the world (yes, despite the loss to Australia in the final game of at the Opals World Challenge, the U.S. is still the best team in the world).

    Over the course of these past six weeks, USA Basketball has auditioned more than 25 players for the World Championship roster this fall. Yet, with practices, training sessions and 11 games against some of the top club and national teams around the world, the decisions may not be any easier. And all of that does not take into account the scores of players who were unable to break free of their overseas committments to join the squad.

    Looking at it as an outsider (and I have no knowledge of USA Basketball decisions or how they are leaning, other than the fact that I know the WNBA season will be vital in the selection process), you have have to think that Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird are locks. So are Katie Smith and Yolanda Griffith. That is already eight spots. Ruth Riley, Shannon Johnson and Swin Cash were on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and could be back as well.

    The only player from that roster we know won't be on the court is Dawn Staley, as she will be on the sidelines as an assistant coach.

    But several newcomers to the National Team were definitely impressive this spring... Alana Beard, Kara Lawson, Nicole Ohlde and Kristin Haynie all played well when given the chance. Veterans Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Deanna Nolan, Chasity Melvin and Becky Hammon also have a chance. And what about the rookies. Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter played with the team in Australia, but how will their bodies hold up after a continuous year of basketball?

    We can speculate all we want, but we likely won't know the complete roster for awhile. Ultimately, the biggest factor that will determine how the roster shapes out is the WNBA season itself. The World Championships are immediately after the WNBA Finals conclude and the U.S. training camp actually begins around the same time as the Playoffs. So hypothetically speaking, if a player is still playing in the Finals, they might not get the call to join the team even if they are a superstar. Will Yolanda Griffith or Lisa Leslie or Sue Bird want to (or be able to) straight out of a long, dramatic Finals series? In what shape will the be left after a bruising series?

    So that will leave the best of whoever is available, which is why getting as many player as possible international experience these past few weeks has been so crucial. Chemistry is important, but the U.S. showed it could win with interchangeable parts. Let's not forget that this could also mean college talent. Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker showed she can ball with the big team in Australia and cannot be ignored. Regardless of who is on the team, the United States will be the heavy favorite to defend its title and come back with yet another gold medal for the trophy case.

    In Other News... In Australia's 76-65 win over the United States, Belinda Snell finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while Seattle's Lauren Jackson led the way with 23 points and 6 rebounds. For the U.S., Candace Parker had 26 points and 10 rebounds on 12-14 from the field. Get back to school, Candace, and graduate early!!!

    If You Build It...
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 12, 2006 4:15 a.m. ET

    The Draft site, that is... Not to pat ourselves on the back in any way, but this is in the Sports Business Journal today, so we figured we'd share it with you as well...

    WNBA.com set the all-time daily traffics record to the site on 2006 WNBA Draft day, April 5, with more than 1.6 million page views and 190,000 total visits. The new traffic records eclipsed the previous single-day records of 1.3 million page view and 130,000 visits each established during 2004 WNBA Draft on April 17.

    Have You Seen her? DeMya's Baby!
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 11, 2006 7:16 a.m. ET

    DeMya Walker gave birth to a girl last night! Congratulations to the entire family.

    All Day I Dream About...
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 11, 2006 9:31 a.m. ET

    The NBA and WNBA are set to announce a major deal with German-based sports apparel company Adidas to provide apparel for the NBA, WNBA and D-League for the next 11 years. Adidas will design, manufacture and market products for a wide assortment of unique WNBA apparel collections utilizing the latest fabrics and technology featured in adidas branded apparel and footwear.

    The WNBA jerseys this season will still have the Reebok logo, but this forthcoming change should come as no surprise to people who follow big business closely (green is my favorite USA Today color!) since Reebok and Adidas merged earlier this year.

    In Other News... Veteran forward La'Keshia Frett, who played seven seasons in the WNBA, will hang up her sneakers in favor of a clipboard and whistle. Even though she was a free agent, her retirement does not help her more recent team, the New York Liberty, who have seen significant roster changes since last season. Frett was a two-time All-American at Georgia from 1993-97 and just completed her first season as an assistant coach on Andy Landers' staff.

    Thompson (T)wins...
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 11, 2006 6:16 a.m. ET

    The U.S. won again over in Australia today, knocking off Taiwan 91-66. Houston's Tina Thompson was the big producer with 28 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. Candace Parker had 13 points, 12 boards and 5 assists in 18 minutes as well. The U.S. is now 10-0 in 2006 and 4-0 in the Opals World Challenge. The USA wraps up its schedule tomorrow at 6 a.m. ET against host Australia.

    40 Days and 40 Nights
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 10, 2006 9:51 a.m. ET

    Only 40 days remain until the start of the 2006 WNBA season. Doesn't it seem like yesterday that we were blogging from Sacramento about the Finals? Though its not like we haven't been treated to some great basketball recently.

    The USA Basketball's Senior Women's National Team is already 3-0 at the Opals in Australia (9-0 in 2006) and doesn't show any sign of slowing up. Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker showed she belongs with the big club in her debut with the team, scoring 26 points and pulling down 8 rebounds. In today's game, an 87-53 win over China, Parker had 17 points. Meanwhile, Mystics guard Alana Beard is making her case for a spot on the World Championship team with more strong performances. The team has two more games this week before returning to the States.

    Erin Phillips, who is planning on playing for the Connecticut Sun this year, returned to the Australian squad after an illness and scored 14 points in a win over Chinese Taipei. Seattle's Lauren Jackson had 13 points for the Opals.

    Meanwhile, Beard, who played with the WNBL's Canberra Capitals in Australia earlier in the season, may be back in uniform for the team next offseason.

    In Other News... Dawn Staley, who is serving as an assistant coach to Anne Donovan for the National Team (and filled in as head coach in the first game and got a win before Donovan arrived last week), will be honored with the University of Virgina's Distinguished Alumna Award.

    Since 1991, the Center's Distinguished Alumna Award has honored a female graduate of the University of Virginia who has demonstrated excellence, leadership, and extraordinary commitment to her field, and who has used her talents as a positive force for change. Past awardees include such accomplished UVa alumnae as Katie Couric, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, and astronaut Kathryn Thornton. An award dinner in her honor will be held on May 1 in Charlottesville.

    "Words alone do not adequately describe the unique person and player that almost single-handedly took the University of Virginia's women's basketball program to a championship level in the early 1990s," said UVa Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage. "Far more important than words, Dawn has had a dramatic and positive influence on women's sport, creating a greater awareness for the high quality of women's college sports across the nation."

    Teams Look To Training Camp
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 10, 2006 5:40 a.m. ET

    Not drafted? Not to worry. Many of the top draft prospects who were not selected last Wednesday will still be invited to training camps with a shot at making the team. Beginning last week and likely to continue this week, teams will sign more players to round out their rosters. You can also expect to see some names of players who were drafted in the past couple of years who might not have made a team last year. A camp roster is limited to 18 players, though you may see more names on the actual roster as players are still overseas when camp begins. So that really means 18 bodies in camp during the first week.

    In Other News... Someone who doesn't have to worry about making a roster is New York's Becky Hammon. The free agent who was cored by New York earlier in the offseason agreed to a new three-year deal with the Liberty.

    Draft Day Observations
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 6, 2006 6:25 a.m. ET

    With 24 hours to digest all of the happenings in Boston yesterday, here are some lingering thoughts...

    All of the draftees looked great in person, but I really loved Cappie's outfit. Not that it is at all surprising, but everyone was so articulate and poised. This was really a very polished group and I look forward to getting to spend more time with them in a few weeks at Rookie Orientation.

    The event itself was tremendous. From the stage and decor to the professionalism of everyone involved (with the possible exception of the internet going down in the BCEC for about five minutes) this was the best Draft yet. The atmosphere was further enhanced by the presence of local Jr. WNBA players in the studio, cheering on the draftees and getting autographs.

    There are so many people involved in a production of that magnitude that people at home do not get to see, from the player escorts to the production crews to the event and operations staff. Of course, after 10 years, they pretty much have it down, but here's what a typical experience for a draft pick was like yesterday.

    The 22 players assembed in the lobby of the hotel around 10 a.m. and were shuttled over to the BCEC in vans. Once they arrived, they were escorted to a green room behind the stage, in an area adjacent to the working press, the makeup room, Donna Orender's green room and the buffet spread. Between 11 and 12, players had their makeup done one at a time by professionals. Family and friends began to arrive separately around 11:30 and were escorted onto the Draft set. They then posed for a group picture on the stage and found their guests. 22 tables were set up in front of the stage, one for each player and her guests. Each WNBA table had an official game ball with the player's name and school engraved on it.

    The show began at 1 p.m., with Seimone and Cappie going first and second. So after walking on stage, greeting the President and taking pictures, many were then interviewed off to the side by Rebecca Lobo. Immediately following that interview, the players were able to relax for a second and sit down, take a deep breath and answer questions from fans online and hang out with Tamika Williams and the oh-so-fun dot.com staff. The "car wash" continues.

    From there, the players were then escorted back of house. First up, NBAE photos... pictures with jerseys, balls, each other, new teammates and guests. Next up were the media... The WNBA Draft had more credentialed reporters than in any other year. Selected draftees were then put in touch with their new teams... coaches, G.M.'s, etc. Of course, if there was a trade (and there were a few), the process then started all over again.

    Ann Strother said right before she was drafted that all she wanted was to go to a team with a UConn player. Initially taken by Houston, she got her wish when her rights were traded to Phoenix. I heard a rumor that they have a former UConn player.

    So it was a long day, indeed. Some stayed in Boston for the night, while others left immediately. Cappie and Seimone are actually on an airplane to Australia as we speak, traveling with Anne Donovan and Mike Thibault to play with USA Basketball.

    As for who had the best day... I really liked how many of the teams picked. Minnesota got its guards - two point guards and a scorer. I also liked what San Antonio and Phoenix was able to do to improve its team for the upcoming season.

    In Other News... Tamika Williams is a superstar. She was with us from 8:30 in the morning to 5:30 p.m. and kept us laughing all day. Also, a special thanks to Donna Orender for the shout out in her live press conference, which was aired on ESPN News and NBA TV. WNBA.com is famous!!

    That's all from Boston. And now, it's time to get started on our coverage for the 2006 WNBA season, just six weeks away!!!

    Have You Seen her?

    Draft Day
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 5, 2006 11:19 a.m. ET

    Well, despite the snow and some of that famous Boston traffic, we are here at the BCEC in the grand ballroom and ready to go. On my left is NBA.com's Darren Misener and on my right is the loveable Tamika Williams, who will be co-hosting our Draft chat with me. The players are all already here and getting make-up and all of them look great. And even though Shanna Zolman is wearing white, it's not holding her back in any way whatsoever. You'll see what I mean.

    Becky Hammon and Chantelle Anderson are here as well...

    And Donna Orender is about to begin a press conference announcing that the we are doing some cool things... All-Decade, Greatest Moments, WNBA Cares... And the All-Star Game will be back in my backyard once again in New York.

    Okay, well it's time to set up... that will wrap-up our Pre-Draft coverage, but we'll be back tonight to recap. Remember to send in your questions for the chat for all 20 or so of the players...

    Enjoy!

    Terp'en Time
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 5, 2006 1:03 a.m. ET

    Officially 12 hours to the Draft... but wow, what a game we had tonight.

    Congratulations to a young Maryland team that fought back from a big second half deficit to capture its first National Championship. The scary thing is that this entire team is back next year. As for Duke, what a tough way for Mistie Williams and Monique Currie to end their fine college careers, but at least they have a fresh start tomorrow at the Draft.

    A special congratulations to the NBA Basketball Ops' George Toliver, whose daughter had a great game tonight. Only a freshman, Kristi Toliver's amazing 3-pointer forced OT and propelled the Terps to the title. George is a former official who now works in NBA D-League Officiating Development. She has a real future playing this game.

    Thanks to Donna Orender for hooking me up with eighth row, center court seats tonight, one row behind Sheryl Swoopes (who was sitting with Texas Tech Draft prospect Erin Grant) and two rows behind Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his wife.

    Deal? Or No Deal?
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 4, 2006 5:06 p.m. ET

    No Deal.

    The deadline to trade draft picks prior to the draft has just passed and there were no trades.

    In Other News... Barbara Turner got her outfit for tomorrow at Lord and Taylor. Now that's what I call access...

    Tuesday Happenings
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 4, 2006 2:41 p.m. ET

    The day before The Day... A rainy Tuesday here in Boston as things are transitioning here from Pre-Draft Camp to Draft Day. There wasn't much going on this morning as many of the Camp participants began returning home, all but those who will be at the Draft tomorrow.

    USA Basketball had its final practice at Boston College before getting on a plane to go to Australia for the Opal World Challenge and the Hall-of-Fame inductees were honored at the Massachusetts State House up on the Hill (Charles Barkley told Donna Orender that he likes Monique Currie). The Heart of the Game movie screening is also just a couple of hours away and many of the Draft prospects will be attending... as will Chantelle Anderson. And, of course, there is a game tonight that some people may be interested in.

    So what else are the picks doing on this, their down day? Many are shopping, of course. Seeing as how we are connected to the Prudential Center mall... Barb Turner and Ann Strother are already on their way (I told them bright colors are the way to go and that they should avoid white because it doesn't photograph weel, but really, what do I know?). You could actually get lost for hours in that mall. I know, because I spent the entire afternoon trying to navigate the food court alone.

    All of the prospects in town are actually popping into the office today as well, really just to pick up their per diem. Welcome to the pros, ladies... Seimone and Cappie Pondexter actually just popped in (PHOTO TIME!) and are about to head out to spend it all at NikeTown.

    But all the real action is taking place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (Which will be referred to as the BCEC from here on out beacuse that's just way too many letters to keep typing). For the first time in WNBA history, a WNBA Draft will be taking place outside of the NBAE Studios in New Jersey, so the crews are working hard to set everything up. All I know is that the network connections to the internet work and the Draft Day chat with players immediately after they are picked in ON!!! So send in those questions for... Seimone Augustus, Sherill Baker, Monique Currie, Megan Duffy, Candice Dupree, Tamara James, Cappie Pondexter, Liz Shimek, Ann Strother, Barbara Turner, Lisa Willis, Mistie Williams, Sophia Young, La'Tangela Atkinson, Tye'sha Fluker, Shona Thorburn, Zane Teilane, Shanna Zolman, Kim Smith, Scholanda Hoston, Erin Grant and Brooke Queenan (of course, all of that is subject to change.

    In Other News... The WNBA does indeed have a special press announcement planned for before the Draft... the announcement will include plans for the 10th anniversary season, the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game and the unveiling of a new WNBA promotional campaign. That is taking place at 11:15 a.m. ET.

    Can I Interest You In A Nightcap?
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 3, 2006 9:37 p.m. ET

    The Night Shift... two games on the center court under the lights with the bleachers pulled all the way out. This actually had the feel of a real game prior except for the cheering fans. No, Van Chancellor and Anne Donovan did not have their faces painted for this one. Each game had four ten-minute quarters with running clock except during free throw fouls and the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters. Game one featured Team 1 (White) from the second session against Team 4 (Black).

    Team WhiteTeam Black
    Ashley Allen
    Ambrosia Anderson
    Megan Duffy
    Jennifer Harris
    Kristen Kovesdy
    Liad Suez-Karni
    Zane Teilane
    Aya Traore
    Abiola Wabara
    Lisa Willis
    Crystal Smith
    Nikki Blue
    LaToya Bond
    Tara Boothe
    Erin Grant
    Cassie Hager
    Tamara James
    Christelle N'Garsanet
    Brooke Queenan
    Tiffany Stansbury
    Barbara Turner
    Shanna Zolman

    Team White opened the scoring as Zane Teilane hit two quick field goals. Shanna Zolman answered with a quick shot from a long 16-feet, but a Lisa Willis 3-pointer and Megan Duffy hoop extended the lead to 9-2 in the early going. Jennifer Harris hit a lay-up and short jumper for White and Brooke Queenan had four first quarter points. Ambrosia Anderson's 3 at the end of the quarter gave White a 16-11 lead after the first quarter.

    White Coach Nick DiPillo was barking plays (well, one play - "Zipper" - Admittedly, it's the only play his team has) out from the sidelines, but his team could not draw much closer in the early going of the second quarter. Teilane used her size for another easy lay in and Willis hit two free throws for White, Queenan and Turner hit free throws for Black as the lead stayed at five. But Liad Suez-Karni hit a 3 and Lisa Willis made a nice move to the hoop and the lead grew to 10. Kristen Kovesdy then drew contact in the lane and got the ball to drop. Kovesdy has decent speed for a big and ran the floor well on several occasions.

    Abiola Wabara and Jennifer Harris ran the floor well to collaborate on a break and the lead score was 30-16 in favor of Sandy Brondello's White squad. Tamara James showed her scoring ability in netting eight straight points down the stretch, driving hard to the hoop and finishing, then getting two teardrop jumpers to fall as she was fouled (though she narrowly missed a 25-foot shot at the buzzer). Score at halftime: 32-24 in favor of White.

    Lisa Willis finished the fun end of a long pass to open the scoring in the second half. Teilane maneuvered in the lane after a steal to get a shot of her own to fall, then hit another lay-up a minute later as the lead was back up to 15 (Put in James, Coach D!). Black responded as Barbara Turner hit two free throws and fought hard for a field goal after two big rebounds after misses and James returned to the floor and immediately scored a lay-up. LaToya Bond and Crystal Smith scored to cut the lead back to seven points with two minutes to go. The run was on as Turner hit a 12-foot baseline jumper with a minute to go for Black and Tara Boothe hit a lay-up to cut the lead to three points at the end of the third quarter. How about a 13-1 run for Black to close the quarter...

    So it was a game. And if you think these players didn't want to win even this meaningless game, then you underestimate the competitiveness of these women. Zolman's 14-foot jumper cut the lead to one point in the first minute. Teilane (W), Zolman (B), Suez-Karni (W) and Bond exchanged buckets and the lead stayed at five with five minutes to go. Zolman's 3 briefly gave Black a brief lead, but Willis, Duffy, Kovesdy and Anderson each scored as White went back up by six points with under two minutes to go. Kovesdy hit two easy shots in the lane to put it away. Final score: White 57, Black 52.

    Your key performers' stat lines are as follows:
    Team 4:
    -Tamara James: 14 points on 5-8 from the field in 20 minutes.
    -Barbara Turner: 10 points and 8 rebounds in 26 minutes.
    -Shanna Zolman: 9 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes.

    Team 1:
    -Zane Teilane: 14 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes
    -Lisa Willis: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists in 20 minutes
    -Megan Duffy: 5 assists

    Team WhiteTeam Black

    Melanie Boeglin
    Fifi Camara
    Dalila Eshe
    Tye'sha Fluker
    Kerri Gardin
    Crystal Kemp
    Aarica Ray-Boyd
    Liz Shimek
    Kim Smith
    Tasha Williams
    Erin Grant

    Sherill Baker
    Lindsay Bowen
    LaToya Davis
    Alexis Kendrick
    Kari Koch
    Debbie Merrill
    Ann Strother
    Kasha Terry
    Brittany Wilkins

    Christelle N'Garsanet

    After a very brief intermission, the second game was underway between Team 2 and Team 3. Of course there were no big bands or cheerleaders as the tip went off, but there was some excitement off the bat. Ann Strother scored right off the tip, Alexis Kendrick hit a 14-footer and Strother hit again as Team Black went up 6-1 in the early going.

    Dalila Eshe showed her range and cut the lead to one with a 14-footer behind the free throw line and an easy lay-up in succession. Kendrick got three the old fashioned way after getting fouled and scoring on the break, then Strother hit three of her own all at once.

    Black kept the pressure on as Sherill Baker joined the party and showed her own range and Kari Koch hit a 3 as Black was out to a 19-7 lead. Tye'sha Fluker hit a 12-footer from the free throw line and Tasha Williams had two freebies as White cut the lead to 19-11 at the end of the first half.

    After a slower start to the second half than the first, Fifi Camara hit a three for white and Kerri Gardin scored four straight points for White as they closed the gap. Christelle N'Garsanet completed a three-point play for Black but Liz Shimek came right back and hit a 3 for White. Brittany Wilkins and Kasha Terry scored again for Black as three minutes remained in the half as Black's lead grew to seven. Kasha Terry, who hits her free throws, has been very solid in the post all day. Crystal Smith and Kim Smith scored for White to cut the Black's lead to six at the break: Halftime score: 32-26, Black.

    White came out fresh in the third quarter as Fifi Camara and Dalila Eshe scored to tie it at 32 apiece. Liz Shimek gave White a lead three minutes in after knocking down a 12-foot shot on the left wing. The game was tied at 36 all with five minutes to go in the quarter when Kerri Gardin hit a long two-pointer to give White the lead yet again. Erin Grant's pull-up jumper extended the lead to three with 3:30 to go. A Sherill Baker steal started a break that she finished as Black pulled back within one a minute later. Just as the buzzer was about to sound, Tasha Williams found Tye Fluker for an easy two points and White led by four after three quarters.

    Getting to see the four-quarter idea in action for the first time, it really does work. The additional end-of-quarter buzzer opportunities make things more exciting and breaks up the game nicely. I'm looking forward to seeing it more this summer.

    And onto the final ten minutes of Pre-Draft Camp basketball we went... Fifi Camara got the White Team off to another good start after completing a three-point play, but Lindsay Bowen came right back down and hit a 3 to answer. Defensive pressure intensified as the teams then held each other scoreless for nearly four minutes as the lead held steady at five, though Christelle N'Garsanet broke the drought with an easy lay-up to cut the lead to three. After a shorter scoring drought, Tasha Williams hit a 3 and a 2 to push the lead back to seven with two minutes to go.

    Certainly a more physical game than the first, Tye'sha Fluker and Kasha Terry each had six fouls in 20 minutes. Two more Erin Grant free throws and two more from Tasha Williams sealed the deal for yet another White victory despite a final 3 from Sherill Baker (who showed she is capable of scoring as well as defending). Final score: 59-54.

    Your key performers' stat lines are as follows:
    Team 3:
    -Fifi Camara: 10 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes.
    -Liz Shimek: 9 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.

    Team 2:
    -Christelle N'Garsanet: 11 points, 3 rebounds in 20 minutes.
    -Sherill Baker: 7 points, 3 steals in 20 minutes.

    Stars of the day... Kerri Gardin, Barbara Turner, Sherill Baker, Lisa Willis, Megan Duffy, Brooke Queenan, Jennifer Harris, Nikki Blue.

    Of course, the referee that just looked like WNBA Basketball Operations Senior Manager Tom Tedesco was a star, too.

    After a loooong day in which everyone worked hard, more than half of these seniors will be on their way back home tomorrow as a few will remain in Boston for the Draft. Best of luck to all of the seniors.

    In Other News... For a nice library of video highlights from the weekend so far, click here.

    Let's Play Two
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 3, 2006 3:19 p.m. ET

    As the players were shooting around before the afternoon session, Georgia coach Andy Landers and Connecticut's Barbara Turner were joking around in one corner of the court. College coaches were invited to attend the afternoon session of games and you might remember that Turner hit the crazy shot in the corner to knock out Georgia in the regional semifinals. So standing in pretty much the same spot on the court where her shot went in, Landers challenged Turner to hit the shot again. She missed. Badly. And wanted another shot. She missed again. And a third time. Maybe she just needed a hand in her face but at least Landers will have some respite during his therapy sessions this summer...

    Among the impressive performers in the afternoon were Jennifer Harris, Ambrosia Anderson and Kerri Gardin. Brooke Queenan has also played quite well and Sherill Baker is crazy fast. I actually think she just got another steal while I wrote this sentence. Tamara James has a shoot-first, shoot-second mentality and probably took more shots than anyone in camp so far today. Of course, she did make a lot of them. Lisa Willis' stock is also rising. But the buzz among the coaches and those around the gym this afternoon was still Nikki Blue, Lisa Willis and Barbara Turner. Turner has likely played her way into the first round at this point while Blue and Willis are locks.

    Of course it all depends on what you need... Washington and New York are likely looking for 3's and 5's while Minnesota, Phoenix and Detroit need point guards.

    With the short games and the afternoon sessions now wrapped, the players have some time off again before the third session tonight, which is just two full games under the lights.

    Lunch Break
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 3, 2006 12:15 p.m. ET

    Just cooling down after a shootaround session back in the gym with Donna Orender... she still has it, folks.

    Downstairs here at the Yawkey Center is a very large cafeteria where players and staff are mingling with the college community. I almost just bought a sophomore Class of 2008 t-shirt. Now that lunch is settling down, the players have another hour or so to relax... and they're doing just that. I'm actually typing softly as Jennifer Harris sleeps soundle on a couch right next to me, Tasha Williams talks to her husband on her cell phone, and there are at least four Sidekicks in plain sight.

    Pre-Draft Camp Morning Recap
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 3, 2006 11:00 a.m. ET

    A pleasant spring morning was dawning as the sun was already rising over the campus of Emmanuel College in Boston, yet the quads were empty with all but the occasional student running to the library to print out a last minute paper. Buses began arriving with players at 6:30 and the entire group of Pre-Draft players was out on the court here at the Yawkey Center by 7:45.

    The first day of their professional careers was about to begin.

    After a group stretching session that began around 8:15 led by Sun trainer Georgia Fischer, Donna Orender got things started by unofficially welcoming the group of players to the league with a rousing, enthusiastic pep talk. The players then spent the next 40 minutes or so warming up and working on individual and team drills as coaches, general managers and camp staff noshed on breakfast.

    The drills started with the classics... the three player weave, the full-court five player weave, the three-on-two backs... from there, the groups broke into smaller groups as smalls and bigs did position work under the tutelage of the on-court coaches (WNBA assistant coaches). Sacramento's Steve Schuman, New York's Nick DiPillo, San Antonio's Sandy Brondello and Connecticut's Bernadette Maddox.

    After talking with many of the head coaches, the keys that they are looking for today (and during the entire college season, really) are shooters, obviously, but also posts who can run the floor and are not afraid to take shots and roam the perimeter.

    Elsewhere... Becky Hammon was all dressed up and working the sidelines as a broadcaster for NBA TV, interviewing coaches and GMs that will be on the air (and our site) later today.

    Speaking of Becky, she has just asked to borrow my computer to check her email... and five minutes later... we're back.

    Ok, so after a water break, the real fun began. Who likes drills, anyway? We're here for the games! And that's what we got as players assembled in four pre-determined teams to play full-court games. Each team played the other in round-robbin style, 10-minute running time halves as the coaches fanned out across the gym around the adjacent courts. Of course it is interesting to see which coaches sit together on the sidelines, talking about all the happenings.

    There was Lisa Willis knocking down a shot just inside the 3-point line, then stepping back and hitting one from outside the line... There was Shanna Zolman creating her own shot and knocking down a 15-footer... There was Cassie Hager diving for a loose ball... There was Miami's Tamara James shooting... and shooting... and shooting again.

    Switch 'em up.

    As players who had never before played together were learning each other's games under the microscope. But it wasn't long before Georgia guard Alexis Kendrick was driving and finding LaToya Bond in the corner for an open 3 and Liad Suez-Karni working with Kerri Gardin to finish in traffic. And as always, it's fun to see teammates matching up against each other... just as they probably have done in practice a thousand times, Barbara Turner and Ann Strother fought for a loose ball like it was the most important thing in the world. Though not all teammates were split up. Liz Shimek was still chasing down rebounds and kicking out to Lindsay Bowen for 3's, so not everything was foreign.

    Players here know what's at stake. That's why Utah's Kim Smith was diving into the sidelines for a ball, nearly knocking over our good friend Bill Laimbeer as he was doing an interview with ESPN's Nancy Lieberman. Unfazed, Laimbeer just yelled "Good hustle," and explained to Nancy that this is what Draft camp is all about.

    But this is not just about the prospects and the Draft. Even the referees are being evaluated and trying out for the upcoming season. Dee Kanter and her staff were busy teaching and assessing the performance of these new referees. The first session just wrapped as players will relax and enjoy a lunch and mid-day siesta. Time to get some lunch and get ready for te afternoon session.

    IN Other News... A big hello to the Blog fans... Comets coach Kevin Cook, Sky owner Michael Alter and his family, the delightful Dr. Leigh Trani and Ann Meyers' daughter, Drew. Thanks for reading.

    Getting to Know You
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 2, 2006 5:43 p.m. ET

    One of the cool parts of this entire week is that it is really three major events rolled into one, and they overlap in a way that they have never done before... so as everyone is getting ready for the Final Four tonight, Pre-Draft Camp proceedings go underway here at the Sheraton. Early this morning, the first group of seniors, those who played in the WBCA game last night, shuttled over from their previous hotel and began the circuit.

    As more players arrived from all over the country, things got busier. And in addition to player physicals, EKG tests, player headshots and NBAE video interviews, each of the 40 players also got to spend several minutes talking with the WNBA.com staff. The formal interviews and less-formal conversations lasted more than 5 hours, but it was great to finally get to meet so many of the players I had been watching on television.

    Among the highlights were conversations with UCLA's Nikki Blue, Miami's Tamara James and Shonna Zolman being followed around by Nancy Lieberman and an all-access ESPN crew. Each of these players has a great story to tell and it's hard not to root for each of them to make a team. Of course, we all know the reality of the situation, but for now, all of them are excited to play tomorrow and see if and where they end up on Wednesday.

    Some highlights...

    Connecticut's Ann Strother said that the biggest adjustment for her would be just moving to a new city.

    "It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is definitely exciting." With different teammates and new people around me, it will be strange just to get out of the UConn bubble."

    When asked what she might like to do after her playing days are over, Miami's Tamara James had a unique answer.

    "I majored in theater, so I'd love to be in a sit com or a movie. I didn't get the chance to do many performances in college because I was so busy, but I've always been a dramatic person. My parents always said I’m going to Hollywood."

    Meanwhile, Arizona State's Kristen Kovesdy has other plans.

    "I want to be a personal shopper. I really love to shop. I'm such a girly girl, so I want to do something with that fashion."

    And unlike many of the standard "I'll play anywhere" answers, Tennessee's Tye'sha Fluker admiited that she does have some preferences.

    "Anywhere hot," she said. "I need warm weather. I'm a Cali girl, so it needs to be hot all the time."

    Of the projected top prospects, the only ones who will not be participating in Pre-Draft tomorrow are Seimone Augustus, La'Tangela Atkinson, Monique Currie, Scholanda Hoston and Mistie Williams, who are all playing in the Final Four, as well as Sophia Young and Candice Dupree.

    With the Final Four beginning in just a few hours, we'll leave the game coverage to ESPN.com, but will be back tomorrow with updates throughout the day live from Emmanuel College.

    In Other News... The U.S. National Team, which had its second practice today at Boston College, invited a Boston Jr. WNBA Team of girls to watch the practice. Afterwards, the players spoke, including Dawn Staley, Sue Bird, Sheryl Swoopes, about basketball, life, exercise and staying staying fit. Naturally, an autograph session and photos ensued not long thereafter...

    Also, Utah's Shona Thorburn will not be participating in tomorrow's pre-Draft camp workouts due to an injury.

    Saturday Night Fever
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 2, 2006 1:13 a.m. ET

    It wouldn't be Saturday night at the Women's Final Four and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association weekend without more than 1,000 coaches, players and staff coming together to for good food, good music and good company.

    Earlier this evening, the WNBA threw a party at the Boston Marriott at Copley Place. Now in addition to the buffet as well as the unlimited beverages supplies by sponsors Coca Cola, Dasani and Budweiser, there was a small presentation (it had to be brief since the men's Final Four games were going on).

    Rebecca Lobo first welcomed everyone to the party, then introduced WNBA President Donna Orender who acknowledged the 25th anniversary of the NCAA Women's Tournament and the WBCA. She also reminded everyone that the WNBA will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this season as well.

    Speaking on behalf of the players, Sue Bird also offered her congratulations as well as spoke about how important both the WNBA and NCAA have been in her life, joking that after being in Russia for so long, it's nice that she can come back to the U.S. to play.

    Finally, Orender honored NCAA Vice President Sue Donohoe and WBCA chairperson Beth Bass, presenting them with special commemorative WNBA balls for the occasion. In closing, she then teased the WNBA's new marketing campaign for the upcoming season and showed the crowd the new commercial that will debut during the Draft on Wednesday. Have YOU seen her?

    Tomorrow will be another busy day here in Boston as the pre-Pre-Draft camp activities take place. The 40 or so college players will be administered physicals, then get to talk and hang out with the good folks at NBAE. So I look forward to meeting these women for the first time and sharing my thoughts with you afterwards.

    Young and Dupree Dominate Senior Game
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 1, 2006 8:32 p.m. ET

    You had to know this wouldn't be a typical game with team names like Chowder and Bisque. The All-Star Challenge featured 20 of the top seniors as the showcase event for the 25th Annual WBCA National Convention. The two rosters featured 17 top NCAA Division I seniors. The other three players were the top vote getters in the Division II, Division III and NAIA Player of the Year balloting, though several were not on the court due to Final Four commitments and injuries.

    Wearing their college uniforms, the game had quite a colorful feel. Team rosters were divided up randomly, though you had to think that Bisque had an advantage down low with Candice Dupree and Sophia Young. In fact, Team Chowder was so undersized that Barbara Turner actually took the jump tip. But what is size, really? Temple's Candice Dupree got Team Bisque early lead hitting the first two jumpers of the game. Sophia Young had to nice moves inside to extend the lead to 8-0 in the first five minutes and it looked like it could be a mismatch. But Tennessee's Shanna Zolman hit a 3-pointer and Chowder was on the menu. I mean scoreboard.

    Washburn's Jennifer Harris, the Division II Player of the Year, hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 12-10 with 8 minutes and Barbara Turner then tied the game at 14-points apiece just a minute later as the offensive showcase continued. Zolman caught fire from beyond the arc as Chowder took the lead midway through the half and were up 26-22 with eight minutes to go in the half. Dupree and Young scored 26 of the first 30 points for Team Bisque and further cemented their status as the best two post seniors in the nation.

    Some other thoughts from the first half... Barbara Turner really proved she belongs in this game, hitting from the outside and with her back to the basket... hard to imagine forgetting about Cappie Pondexter, but it happened during stretches as a result of Young and Dupree... Ann Strother struggled on the offensive end at the start but came on strong with five straight points with under two minutes to go... Jennifer Harris may be DII but she should get drafted... Shanna Zolman can stroke it... Nikki Blue has crazy handle... Erin Grant is really quick and makes sharp passes.

    End of the first half, the score is 43-41 Bisque over Chowder. Dupree and Young each had 14 points going a combined 13-14 from the field. Zolman had 14 points as well, shooting 4-6 from deep.

    The second half started out a bit differently than the first. Instead of pounding down low to Young and Dupree, both teams got out and stretched their legs a bit. Sherill Baker and Liz Shimek did the scoring for Chowder while Lindsay Bowen heated up from 3 (Bowen lost to Zolman in the finals of the 3-point shootout, by the way). The game actually went back-and-forth for much of the second half, with neither team leading by more than three or four. Strother hit a lay-up with 12 minutes to go in the game to draw Bisque back to within one point, trailing 60-59. But Harris and Turner scored quickly in succession to go up five points... until Strother hit a 3 and Young hit an easy lay-in to tie in up at 64 with under 10 minutes to go.

    Dupree gave her team a lead, 68-66, with eight to go, but Turner tied it right back up on the other end. Dupree then Bisque up two again just two minutes later and Pondexter hit a 3 and the lead was up to five. But Nikki Blue showed her range and hit a 3, so Ann Strother had to do the same (the Strother-Turner match up was fun to watch... both found ways to score on the other with five minutes or less to go).

    With 3:30 in the game, I had to submit an MVP for each team... I selected Young and Turner... and it was a two-point game by the time I looked back up again. If I had to guess, I'd say Strother hit a 3 because the New England crowd was shouting her name, but in the interest of semi-journalistic integrity, I won't commit to that. Then they came by and handed out the box score update, and I noticed that Dupree and Young each had 22 points at that point, so I missed how the lead went back up to seven points with 1:30 to go (a reporter told me it was more of Dupree and Young...). The score was 89-82 with a minute to go.

    And wouldn't you know it, Shanna Zolman banked in a 3 from NBA range with a minute to go... the lead back down to four for Bisque. Didn't they know I had a party to go to? Then a Steal by Blue and a Zolman lay-up cut it to two with 48 seconds to go... (excuse me, can I change my MVP vote?). After Cappie walked with it, Turner missed a potential game-tying shot from 16-feet, Young grabbed the rebound, was fouled with 9.8 seconds to go. Not yet over the limit, they had to keep fouling, Pondexter went to the line and made one, giving Nikki Blue a shot to tie it at the buzzer. The off-balanced runner missed off the rim and Bisque spooned out a 90-87 win. Sophia Young and Barbara Turner were named the game's Most Valuable Players.

    The game has been played every year since 1998, though in two of the games, the College All-Stars have played the U.S. National Team. Previous M.V.P.'s have included Kendra Wecker, Sandora Irvin, Lisa Leslie, Betty Lennox, Marie Ferdinand and Shameka Christon.

    In Other News... Faces in the crowd included Dave Cowens, Mike Thibault, Pat Summitt, Sheryl Swoopes, Alana Beard, Pokey Chapman, Nancy Lieberman, Donna Orender, Carol Blazejowski, Dan Hughes, Ann Meyers, Anne Donovan, Ruth Riley, Jessica Davenport, Van Chancellor, Tasha Humphrey, Morgan Valley, Kara Lawson, Kristin Haynie, Bill Laimbeer, Brian Winters and the biggest star on the scene, Candace Parker. Everywhere Candace went, the crowds followed her. And there were probably a lot more that I didn't see. I bet they will all be at the party. Speaking of which, I have to go get into my suit...

    All-Star Challenge Roster

    Team Chowder Team Bisque
    Shanna Zolman, guard, Tennessee
    Sherill Baker, guard, Georgia
    Megan Duffy. guard, Notre Dame
    Nikki Blue, guard, UCLA
    Jennifer Harris, guard, Washburn
    Monique Currie, guard, Duke*
    Mariam Sy, center, Oklahoma City University**
    Alexis Kendrick, guard, Georgia
    Barbara Turner, forward, Connecticut
    Liz Shimek, forward, Michigan State
    Mistie Williams, center, Duke*
    Candice Dupree, center, Temple
    Megan Silva, guard, Randolph-Macon
    Erin Grant, guard, Texas Tech
    Lindsay Bowen, guard, Michigan State
    La'Tangela Atkinson, forward, North Carolina*
    Cappie Pondexter, guard, Rutgers
    Sophia Young, center, Baylor
    Seimone Augustus, guard, Louisiana State*
    Ann Strother, forward Connecticut

    *Did not play because team is still playing in the Final Four
    **Did not play due to injury.

    High Schooled
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 1, 2006 6:17 p.m. ET

    Coming to you live from Matthews Arena on the Campus of Northeastern, the 2006 WBCA High School All-America Game presented by Nike is just finishing up. The top high school talent on the nation is on display as All-Americans from across the nation are showcasing their stuff. But the game did have a unique WNBA flavor to it as Detroit's Swin Cash was the honorary co-captain of the Red Team and Connecticut's Lindsay Whalen pulled those duties for the White Team. Both sat with the team coaches, though Cash could be heard loudly throughout the game lobbying the referees for calls, pleading for foul and three-second calls. Some things don't change...

    In Other News... American Idol finalist Ayla Brown performed the National Anthem. She has also signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball right nearby at Boston College for Coach Cathy Inglese.

    What Happens When Coaches Convene?
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 1, 2006 2:26 p.m. ET

    The day started out with a basic question. What happens when high school, A.A.U., college and professional basketball coaches hold a convention? I was interested in learning who exhibits, who attends and why?

    After an amazing breakfast at Charlie's Sandwich Shop in Back Bay, just a short walk from the Prudential Center (our weekend headquarters), I walked back to the Hynes Convention Center to see what was happening. Running from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow, it is the centerpiece for many of the activities taking place in Boston this weekend. I've been to trade shows before - consumer electronics shows, sales conventions, baseball card shows, but never a basketball coach convention. But, as it turns out, the space was laid out like many other conventions and exhibitions, with booths, demonstrations and an exchange of information. It was literally a trade show.

    The first floor of the convention space has exhibitors from sports apparrell companies like Reebok, Nike, Wilson and New Balance showing sneakers and gear to uniform companies, legal representation firms, recruiting aids software and tracking companies and various technology enhancement companies. As expected, there were also troph and plaque design companies, training aids, nutritional supplements and even companied that help coaches market and promote their camps. College conferences also have their own coach meetings at the convention. There are even meetings for assistant coaches to discuss career paths and useful development skills.

    Another highlight of the morning was the plethora of well-known coaches working the circuit of booths. From Georgia coach Andy Landers to Rutgers assistant and former WNBA Michelle Edwards, the atmosphere was quite casual and even jovial. Carla McGhee, an assistant at Auburn this year, could even be heard talking up 6-6 Auburn senior center Marita Payne, an Australian who could get chosen in the Draft.

    The WNBA also had its own booth at the center of it all. Coaches and visitors were invited to stop by and check out various WNBA memorabilia, pick up free shirts, bags and mini balls as well as pick up their tickets for the big party tonight. They also were invited to enter a raffle to win HANNspree flatscreen televisions. The booth is also a staging point where current players will be signing autographs, like Lindsay Whalen is currently doing as I write this update. Coaches are also invited to R.S.V.P. to an invite to a private screening of "The Heart of the Game" on Tuesday.

    The WNBA booth at the WBCA.
    The Reebok booth shows its colors.

    All booths and demo spaces were arranged around a full-size basketball court at the center of the room. The court is being used throughout both days as a demonstration space for coaches and others to teach and share different techniques, technologies and tips. Hundreds of coaches lined the sides and ends of each court, sitting attentively and taking notes.

    One of the highlights of the on-court programming demonstrations just finished up, as Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes talked about practice planning. One of the more underappreciated skills a coach can have is good practice planning. Coach Hughes admits that he is always looking to improve his practices. Using current and former WNBA players like Becky Hammon, Debbie Black (now an assistant at Ohio State), McGhee, Sandy Brondello (Silver Stars assistant) and Charmin Smith (Stanford assistant) to articulate his points, Hughes discussed key points such as stressing individual development, time management and organization of practices and making practices competitive to keep his players motivated. Hughes said he wanted to increase the competitive nature of his own practices this season, saying he would be "keeping score." Coach Hughes, who also coached the Cleveland Rockers, also said that he never liked to end practice on a negative note.

    "It's very important that the last thing we do in a practice is accomplish something together that is positive. We'll always end on a positive."

    But it's not all business. Just upstairs from the WBCA Convention is the NCAA's Hoop City. Hoop City is an interactive zone for fans to participate, play and compete. Much like the NBA All-Star's Jam Session, there are courts, hoops and even other sponsor games for fans of all ages to get involved with. The video game booths are always popular as well. There are even ten small courts set up for 3-on-3 tournament that will run throughout the week. Sue Bird was already by to sign autographs at the Cingular booth and host a shooting contest for Nike. Swin Cash will be by later today.

    At noon today, Hoop City officially opened its doors to the public. On hand was Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as well as the lesser-known Mayor of Hoop City. NCAA Vice President Sue Donohoe and NCAA selection committee chair Joni Comstock were also there to welcome and greet fans.

    Mayor Menino and the NCAA VIPs.
    Lots of information to be shared.

    So when coaches convene, exciting things happen. However, and I'm sure they would agree, much more exciting things happen when All-Americans and All-Stars get together to play some hoops and have some fun. I'm about to head over to Northeastern college for the WBCA Night of All-Stars, feature the top high school seniors going at it first, followed by some of the top college seniors showcasing their stuff. I'll be packing up the computer and reporting on the college game, then getting ready for the big party tonight.

    In Other News... Seimone Augustus was named the Wade Trophy winner as the top college player earlier today. She, Cappie Pondexter, Sophia Young and Monique Currie headline the Kodak All-America team as well.

    Arrivals
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, April 1, 2006 8:06 a.m. ET, Boston, MA.

    So the only thing on the schedule for Friday was "Arrivals"... the arrivals of staff, coaches and even players. And while the official fun begins today, the real fun go started last night as old friends found each other around town.

    One of the best parts of Women's Final Four Weekend and the Coach's Convention is the gathering of all people involved in the sport of women's basketball. Friday night was just the beginning as groups invariably overlap and enlarge throughout the night and ultimately the entire week. For some, it is a reunion. For others, it is just an annual rite of passage.

    In one corner of a busy Boston restaurant, Sue Bird, in from Russia with Diana Taurasi just for the weekend, could be seen reminiscing with her old A.A.U. teammate Marie Fusci, a standout at Marist, and their former A.A.U coaches while Mike Thibault and his staff were having dinner with Alana Beard at the next table over. Then you might see former Stanford players like Heather Owen and Vanessa Nygaard catching up on old times. Nygaard, who officially retired from the WNBA last season after five seasons with the Cleveland Rockers, Portland Fire, Miami Sol and Los Angeles Sparks, has embarked on a coaching career at Pepperdine University and was the first assistant coach for the women’s basketball team under Coach Julie Rousseau.

    The WBCA Convention is about to open it's doors, followed later today by the WBCA doubleheader and the WNBA and NCAA party tonight.

    Kicking Off Draft Week in Boston
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 31, 2006 10:29 a.m. ET, Boston, MA.

    Ahhh, Boston. Home of the American Independence Movement and Paul Revere, the Big Dig, traffic nightmares, the Celtics, the Red Sox, the U.S.S. Constitution and "More Than A Feeling."

    But more than just the birthplace of the Revolutionary War, Aerosmith, Cheers and clam chowder, the great City on a Hill will be our home for the next week or so as the world of women's basketball converges on it. For the first time ever, the WNBA will be conducting it's pre-Draft camp and annual college Draft in the same city and in the same week as the annual WBCA Convention and NCAA Women's Final Four. Not to mention that the U.S. Women's National Team will be training here this weekend as well.

    What that means is that nearly every college coach, top college senior, high school senior, top WNBA player, women's basketball writer, reporter, analyst and expert and fan will be here taking up hotel rooms, clogging up traffic and doing fun, women's basketball-related things. And this Blog will be your guide to it all. From practices to the convention floor to the pre-Draft gym to backstage on Draft-Day, the WNBA.com Blog will be on the scene to report it, write about it and, if we're lucky, possibly even poke fun at it.

    So here's what you can expect over the course of the next six days...

    Tomorrow, the annual WBCA Concention opens bright and early at the Hynes Convention Center. College coaches and WNBA players in town will be conduction clinics and signing autographs. I'm not really sure what else goes on there, but you can be sure we'll find out for you. Then later in the afternoon, the WBCA Night of All-Stars doubleheader will first feature a game between the high school All-Americans, followed by the game between the top college seniors. The top college All-Americans will also be announced.

    On Sunday, the 40 players participating in pre-Draft camp get their physicals, fill out questionnaires and are then interviewed by the loveable staff at WNBA.com for future features. From there, we'll jet to the other side of town for the Final Four games. Now one caveat... the NCAA does not credential WNBA staff, meaning we had to buy tickets and will be sitting in the regular seats with the rest of the commoners. But I hope to sneak my laptop in and Blog from the rafters on just how Seimone, Monique, La'Tangela and the rest of the prospects are faring.

    While we're on that subject... I know I blew my Oklahoma pick... so I'm taking a mulligan and saying that L.S.U. and U.N.C. will win their games on Sunday (I can't wait for the Seimone-Monique matchup in that semifinal game). Then on Tuesday, I think L.S.U. will pull it out (note that I just backspaced and re-wrote U.N.C. and L.S.U. there about 15 times before settling on L.S.U.). My credibility is already shot, so who cares...

    Pre-Draft camp hits the gym on Monday for a long, full day of workouts, drills and games. With WNBA coaches and GMs on the sidelines watching all day, this will be the last chance for prospects to impress their future bosses. And while media access is limited for only an hour or so, we'll be reporting for you throughout the day. Tuesday is yet another busy day as final Draft preparations are taking place, the "Heart of the Game" screening is going on and then the National Championship Game will take place.

    Sound like a lot? Not much time for eating and sleeping... so pack light, eat early and sleep on the plane. See you when you get here.

    Finally, A Fearsome Foursome
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 28, 2006 11:39 p.m. ET

    Picture this. I'm sitting with laptop on the table and a half-packed suitcase sitting on the floor in front of me. I am looking at a nearly-completed bracket, just two more names to add on the blank lines in the middle of the page. But from the start, North Carolina, the top seed in the Cleveland region, was just too much for Tennessee. Quick and aggressive from the start, the Tar Heels opened up a sizeable lead, on that they would never relinquish.

    Midway through the game, I switched to "American Idol," but it was a down night for the show as the contestants are all underperforming modern hits. So I returned to a couple of other modern hits back on ESPN and watched as two elite programs resumed their battle.

    I found myself waiting for a Tennessee run in the second half. After all, seniors Shanna Zolman and Tye'sha Fluker went to three Final Fours in their first three seasons, but North Carolina held the Lady Vols at bay and the Tennessee seniors fell just short of another National Semifinals appearance in their final season. Yet, something tells me that star freshman Candace Parker will get her chance.

    So three teams in and one more game to be played... Duke "hosting" Connecticut in Bridgeport, Ct. Even though they were the two-seed, UConn found itself playing what amounted to a home game in the arena right by the ferry to Long Island. Bridgeport is just one hour from the UConn campus (and also on the way from New York to Boston).

    Connecticut also had history in its favor. The Huskies were an astounding 33-2 in the NCAA Tournament since 2000 prior to the game, losing only in 2001 and again last season. Coach Geno Auriemma's team had also won 29 games in a row in the NCAA Tournament in the state of Connecticut. And this turned out to be every bit the game it was billed to be. UConn got out to an early lead as Barbara Turner continued to hit big shots and was everything for Connecticut in the first half. She knocked them down from the perimeter and had her hands on the ball on seemingle every possession. Duke had no field goals in the first five-plus minutes... not a good way to silence an enemy crowd. But they picked up their defense and became more patient on the offensive end. Duke took better shots in the first half, moved the ball, attacked the boards and went into halftime with a five-point lead.

    The second half saw even more back-and-forth action. No team led by more than three or four points at any point. Turner was the difference. Cramping in her legs with five minutes to go, Turner willed her team through its possessions, along with Mel Thomas and Wilnett Crockett. Prior to the start of the season, Ann Meyers said that Connecticut's Crockett could be a senior to watch. While she did not have the outstanding season she may have hoped for, her contribution in this game was immeasurable. Crockett was a force inside and scored in double digits for the first time all season. Ultimately, the game went to overtime.

    Back in October, at Diana Taurasi's charity event, Vino, in Waterbury, Coach Auriemma joked with the very pro-Connecticut crowd that it would take a miracle for his team to make it to Boston for the Final Four. Down by two points with 13 seconds to go in overtime and Turner on the bench with cramps, Connecticut had no more miracles in it bag and fell to the Dukies.

    So the Final Four is set... L.S.U., North Carolina, Duke and Maryland. Three one-seeds, three ACC teams and a handful of WNBA prospects in the bunch. Three of the four teams have legitimate first round Draft picks in next week's Draft. L.S.U.'s Seimone Augustus is pretty much everyone's consensus top pick. North Carolina has a very strong, solid player in La'Tangela Atkinson, though she is more defensive-minded. Duke's Monique Currie is a fifth-year senior who will likely go in the top five and her teammate, Mistie Williams, will likely go in the second round. Maryland is a newcomer to the Final Four, not having been since 1989, but has a star in the making in Crystal Langhorne, a 6-2 sophomore. A young team with only two seniors.

    In Other News... Nice work out of Detroit in their new history section. And in case you were curious, that was Ludacris on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" this morning plugging Ward Serrill's documentary, The Heart of the Game, on a Seattle-area girls' high school basketball. The movie will be screened for a large basketball audience next week in Boston prior to the National Championship game and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. The film is slated for mass market release later this spring. See it when it comes out. I'm telling you. I told you a few months ago that it's going to be big. Nothing has changed.

    Albuquerque is the Pits
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 27, 2006 11:31 p.m. ET

    "This is the craziest ride of my life," a Maryland player said tonight after advancing to the Final Four for the first time in her career. Sheer jubilation on the faces of players whose hard work is rewarded. But there is a flip side to that high on the emotional scale of the trial-by-fire that is the NCAA Tournament. And like fire, it can bend you, it can burn, but it can also make you stronger.

    In tonight's loss to Maryland, Utah senior guard Shona Thorburn, a highly coveted prospect in the WNBA Draft next week, was bent by the fire, but ultimately toughened in its flame. In her team's great run to the regional championship game as a 5 seed, Thorburn averaged nearly 15 points, 5.2 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game.

    But as all good things ultimately meet their end, Thorburn struggled tonight, shooting 2-for-15 with three turnovers against the Terrapins in a 10 point loss. Not her best game, for sure, but she was able to play through an injury suffered in the first half all while keeping her team in the game through the end of the second half.

    Down one point with seven seconds to go and a trip to Boston on the line, Thorburn missed the first free throw and made the second. Tie game, overtime. For a team that had trailed for most of the second half, Utah had to be excited. Until the bottom dropped in the extra period.

    And that's when the "what if's" begin to creep into your mind, right? The emotions swirl as you walk off the court for the last time as a college player, cycling endlessly between regret, sadness, uncertainty, disbelief and nostalgia. This is nothing new. Teams lose, players graduate and move on. Nor are the tears that flow in that walk off the court, in those private moments in the lockerroom or even during a televised post-game news conference.

    Thorburn tried to hold back the tears as long as she could, but ultimately lost that battle during the press conference. She was asked about her missed free throw, naturally, the one that could have given Utah the lead and a trip to the Final Four. Yet, she held it together and finished as best she could. It was a struggle, much like her game tonight, but she finished, and that is what makes her and others like her in this great game so special.

    Toughness doesn't mean not showing emotions in public. Toughness is the ability to manage those emotions and persevere. In the men's tournament, George Mason players cried on television ths weekend... those sweet tears of joy over making an impossible run to the Final Four. Then there were Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick, the two best players in the game this season, weeping as they played their final collegiate games.

    And in a few months, no one will remember the score or how Utah lost the game (except maybe Thorburn), but we will remember a tough kid from Utah by way of Canada who brought tears to all of our eyes by playing with emotion, losing with dignity and sharing her passion for the game with us.

    In Other News... The next step for Thorburn and senior teammate Kim Smith will take place in Boston as a part of Final Four and WNBA Draft week. Both will be participating in the pre-Draft camp next Monday. WNBA coaches have liked Smith for years, but Thorburn may have also played her way into the first round with her great Tournament performance.

    And all you American Idol fans out there, Boston-native and budding women's hoops player Ayla Brown will perform during the WBCA's Night of All-Stars. Brown was a finalist on the hit musical performance show a few weeks ago.

    Widdling Down the Contenders
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 27, 2006 9:01 a.m. ET

    With the NCAA Tournament down to 8 elite teams at this point, let us congratulate those who have made it this far and bask in the glory of the games yet to come. Unfortunately, my Oklahoma pick didn't pan out, but many of the elite programs in women's college hoops remain... Tennessee and Connecticut, Duke and North Carolina, Stanford and L.S.U... and two relative newcomers to women's college hoops prominence in Utah and Maryland.

    My ticket to Boston was reserved months ago, but four more tickets will be punched tonight and tomorrow and each of the regional championship games features top prospects to watch for next week's Draft. That's right... NEXT WEEK! Keep an eye on Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn, two Utah seniors whose stock has risen enormously in this NCAA Tournament. Tennessee's Shana Zollman and Connecticut's Barbara Turner and Ann Strother are also on the rise.

    As Sacramento's Kara Lawson just said on Sports Center, this is a diffferent year. Parity has truly filtered down to the regional final level. "These one and two seeds make up eight teams with a tremendous shot of holding the trophy."

    As for the Draft, things are far from settled... even as prospects vie to be top picks, teams are talking behind the scenes about trading picks. Nothing is set, but the conversations are definitely taking place. So stay tuned.

    Catching Up With Europe: Spartak Wins
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 22, 2006 1:40 p.m. ET

    Chalk up another title for Lisa Leslie and Ticha Penicheiro. Their Russian team, Spartak Moscow, won the 2005-2006 EuroCup Women's title after a 72-66 win on Monday over Pays D'Aix. Spartak won the two-game series by a combined score of 152-131. In the unique two-game series, the combined score determines the outcome, so Spartak entered the game knowing they needed only a victory or a loss of 14 points or less to claim the crown. Also playing for Spartak is Linda Frolich.

    Leslie had yet another dominant performance for Spartak with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Fröhlich tallied 16 points and nine rebounds, while Penicheiro came up with 11 assists.

    But Leslie and Penicheiro's obligations are not up quite yet. Spartak still has the remainder of it's Russian league playoffs to go. The team is currently 12-10, good for fourth place overall behind Dynamo, Ekaterinburg and undefeated Samara.

    The Euro League Final Four resumes on Friday, March 31.

    In Other News... The U.S. National Team is playing against a team of Hungary's All-Stars today in Hungary. At this very second, the Americans are up, 63-39. The score was 41-27 at the half. Swoopes had nine while Katie Smith tallied eight points.

    Random Thoughts While Watching the First Round
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 19, 2006 11:44 p.m. ET

    Hey Seimone Augustus, come find me in Boston in two weeks. We totally gotta talk.

    I wish Candace Parker was a senior. Congratulations on becoming the first woman to dunk (twice!) in the NCAA Tournament.

    While we're at it, I also with Courtney Paris, Ivory Latta, Jessica Davenport and Candice Wiggins were seniors, too... The future of women's basketball is indeed bright.

    Anyone who says that this year's WNBA Draft is short on centers, meet Arizona State's Kristen Kovesdy.

    People think Jen Rizzotti retired from the WNBA too early. I say she just got an early start on a promising coaching career. Great work out of her this weekend as her Hartford squad upset 6-seed Temple, coached by Dawn Staley.

    I was utterly impressed when I saw that Old Dominion has been in 18 of the last 19 NCAA Tournament. Then I read that Tennessee and Louisiana Tech have been in 25 straight NCAA Tournaments, all 25 in NCAA history.

    If I could pick one coach whose hair I'd most want, I'm going with Georgia's Andy Landers.

    Michigan State's Liz Shimek, a potential first rounder, is moving up the board after 27 and 8 in her team's opening round win over UW-Milwaukee.

    I picked Oklahoma to win it all in ESPN.com's "experts" bracket challenge group, and nothing has made me want to regret that decision after two days.

    This one goes to 11. Remarkably, three out of the four 11 seeds advanced to the second round.

    Other than the 11 seeds, only two other higher seeds won first round games. With 32 first round games in the NCAA Tournament, only three lower seeds won on Saturday: Washington (9) New Mexico (11) and Tulsa (12). On Sunday, Hartford (11) and Texas A&M pulled off upsets. Meanwhile, nine lower seeds scored upsets in first round men's action on Thursday and Friday.

    If I had a late first round or early second round pick in the WNBA Draft, I would take a good, hard look at Purdue's Aya Traore.

    Favorite unknown player (to me) before today: Fifi Camara, Marist. With 20 points and 8 rebounds against Georgia, she opened some eyes. Yet, despite the great effort from the Guinea, West Africa native, Marist fell to Georgia, meaning teams from the MAAC are now 0-21 in NCAA Tournament history.

    I may not have seen many Mountain West games on television this season, but after watching Utah, New Mexico and BYU on Saturday, I'm now a believer in that rarified mountain air.

    DePaul's Khara Smith recorded a double-double in a first round win over Liberty, yet there are rumors that this senior may not choose to enter her name into the WNBA Draft pool of candidates. Hopefully she makes the right decision for her, but there is no doubt she could help a team in our league this summer.

    Georgia's Sherill Baker averaged five steals per game during the season to lead the nation. This afternoon, she had five steals in the first half against Marist.

    If the men's NCAA CBS analysts played 2-on-2 against ESPN's analysts for the women's games in a game to 11, I think Stacey Dales and Kara Lawson would be favored over Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis by 2 to 3 points. However, I hear that Seth Davis was a star at Camp Equinok in the Blue Ridge Mountains back in the day.

    Random first round stat: Schools named after real people in history went 9-2 this weekend. BYU, (Brigham Young), Washington (George Washington), Vanderbilt (Cornelius Vanderbilt), St. John's (St. John), George Washington (George Washington), DePaul (St. Vincent de Paul), Duke (Washington Duke), Stanford (Leland Stanford) and Rutgers (Colonel Henry Rutgers) all won first round games.Only Pepperdine (George Pepperdine) and Stephen F. Austin (Stephen F. Austin) lost on Saturday and Sunday.

    No 14 seed has ever won an NCAA Tournament game.

    Second round games begin tomorrow evening.

    Orender Recognized By UJA
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 16, 2006 10:13 p.m. ET

    Earlier this afternoon, Donna Orender was honored at the Sports for Youth Luncheon for the UJA-Federation of New York’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Division. The WNBA President was recognized for her loyal and longstanding dedication to community. It marked the first time that a woman was in this spotlight.

    "It is an honor to be recognized by an organization that enhances the lives of millions of people worldwide," says Orender. "It has always been important for me to give back to the community, and I am proud to be associated with the WNBA, which is committed to addressing important social issues and supporting education, youth and family development, and health-related causes. UJA-Federation is an extraordinary example for us to follow with its unmatched passion and dedication to community service."

    Orender’s philanthropic reach is also extensive, having served on the boards of Beth El-The Beaches Synagogue; the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc.; the Jacksonville Film & Television Advisory Council; the University of North Florida College of Arts and Science Advisory Council; and Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel. She also served as co-chair for the USA Women’s Basketball team for the 16th World Maccabiah Games in Israel and participates in the National Minority Golf Foundation Mentor Program.

    Now in its fifth year, UJA-Federation’s Sports for Youth Luncheon celebrates sports leaders who demonstrate a strong commitment to caring for the community. Through direct grants to local agencies, UJA-Federation’s Sports for Youth initiative affirms the healing effect of sports on children by enabling children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, and of all ages and athletic abilities, to enjoy competitive sports.

    Kara Lawson's NCAA Tournament and WNBA Thoughts
    Posted: By Kara Lawson, Guest Blogger, March 16, 2006 7:12 a.m. CT

    Greetings from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where I am currently laid over on my way back to Sacramento from Bristol. I am actually flying with the Blue Angels later today, which should be awesome. I have no idea what to expect, but my saving grace in all of this is the fact that I've been so busy and have not had time to think about it. I'm excited, and I think I even get to keep a jacket, like my own Top Gun jacket. Then I come back Friday to tip off our NCAA Tournament coverage and will be a Bristol resident for the rest of the month of March.

    So some thoughts on the NCAA Tournament...

    It's only natural that the top eight seeds, the four 1 seeds and the four 2 seeds, are the teams to beat. It would be a surprise for me if any team below a 2 seed went to the Final Four. I'm not saying it can't happen, I'm just saying I'd be surprised. The team with the best chance of deviating from that form would be Rutgers, the best 3 seed, but when you look at what they would have to go through to get there in the Cleveland draw, it handicaps them back to the rest of the 3 seeds in terms of probability of them making it. So I expect to see 1's and 2's in Boston in some combination.

    Even though Liberty proved this wrong last year, I'm not ready to pick double-digit seeds making the Sweet 16 in the Women's Tournament. I'm not sure we're there yet. Winning a first round game is a different matter. Could a Hartford (11) beat Temple (6)? Yes, but I don't see them beating Georgia (3). If you are looking for some surprise participants in the Sweet 16, I'd look at some of the 5 or 6 seeds. A 5 could beat a 1 or a 6 could beat a 3. I like Texas A&M, Florida and UCLA (though they'd have to beat North Carolina). Those are teams that i think have upset potential over higher seeds.

    If you are looking for a few WNBA Draft prospects to keep an eye on who could improve their standing in April, I think Georgia's Sherill Baker could have a good Tournament. I think the two players at UCLA, Lisa Willis and Nikki Blue, will get increased exposure and people want to see them play against really good competition, which they would get playing Purdue or North Carolina. It's hard because the players that are in the top four aren't going to change, but everyone else is jockeying for position.

    Check back next week for a lot more information as I break down my top prospects heading into the WNBA Draft.

    NCAA Predictions
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 14, 2006 10:15 a.m. ET

    So the brackets are out and we finally know where and who each team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament beginning this weekend. As has happened in previous years, the women's and men's brackets have many similarities, yet some fundamental differences as well.

    Unlike the men's brackets, location is taken into much greater consideration with the women's matchups and the selection committee does its best to keep teams close to home. Most, if not all, first and second round women's games are played in college arenas. But like the men, there is always room for discussion once the brackets are revealed. For example, after the men's draw was released on Sunday night, many were surprised the the Tennessee men were given a 2-seed. Experts believed they deserved a 4 or 5 seed. On the women's side, Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales were shocked that the Tennessee women got a 2-seed when they likely deserved a 1 seed. Maybe the two committees got together and reached a compromise?

    The UConn men and women were the first teams to sweep the NCAA Tournament, but it could happen again this year as well. Duke is a 1 seed in both brackets. Ohio State is a 1 in the women's and a 2 in the men's. North Carolina is a 1 in women's and a 3 in the men's. LSU is also 1 in women's and a 4 in the men's draw. Connecticut is a favorite in the men's bracket as a top seed and always dangerous on the women's side as they drew a 2-seed and will play the regional finals in their backyard if they are to advance that far

    However, if I'm going to go out on a limb and make my predictions, I'm saying that won't happen this year. On the women's side, I like Oklahoma over North Carolina as a Big XII team wins it for the second straight year. Stacey Dales led Oklahoma to the championship game in 2002, but this is the year that they get over the hump. As for sleepers, with two legit WNBA prospects, I think Utah and UCLA could make great runs as 5 seeds. I cannot wait to watch as nearly 50 seniors that the WNBA has been scouting will get their chance to showcase their talents on the biggest stage in women's college hoops. On the men's side, Villanova and UConn are my two teams to beat, so whoever comes out of that half of the draw will be tough to beat.

    Games tip off for the men on Thursday and for the women on Saturday.

    Understanding the Madness
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 13, 2006 10:01 a.m. ET

    After months of build-up and excitement, it all comes down to this if you are a college hoops fan. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is tonight. 7 p.m. ET on ESPN with college analysts and WNBA stars Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales.

    Now while we've been watching and scouting prospects all season, we'll leave any "Bracketology" to the experts. On today's "Sportscenter" on ESPN, Kara Lawson predicted that the four No. 1 seeds will be North Carolina, Duke, L.S.U. and Tennessee.

    Once the draws are out, we'll weigh in with some thoughts and opinions and highlight what to watch for as a WNBA fans. Then throughout the NCAA Tournament, we'll be blogging about games, individuals and stories... leading up to our splashdown in Boston for the Women's Final Four and the 2006 WNBA Draft.

    In Other News... If you are a WNBA fan, it pays to go all out. Back in November, Sports Illustrated for Kids ran a contest looking for "The Best Sports Room" and received entries from children all over the country as fans of all different athletes and sports. Yet, a young WNBA fan was singled out for her dedication to the W. Connecticut's Danielle Siegel finished in the top four and is featured in the April issue of the magazine. Of the more than 800 entries, Danielle is the only girl to be recognized.


    Courtesy: Sports Illustrated for Kids

    Becky Hammon Reads to Achieve
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 10, 2006 9:14 p.m. ET

    Returning to the United States after her first experience with the U.S. National Team, Liberty guard Becky Hammon is undertaking a project of a different kind.

    Hammon is taking part in a NBA Cares and WNBA Cares “Read to Achieve” Literacy Initiative that teams up with Penguin Classics to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Penguin Classics. The new campaign entitled “Aim High, Live Classic.”

    In their ongoing effort to support education, youth, and family development, the NBA and WNBA will expand their Read to Achieve program from younger readers to young adults, aged 16 to 25. Other basketball stars will also participate in this striking visual campaign and in events that will reinforce the idea “Aim High, Live Classic.”

    Posters and various visual imagery will depict these players not on the court, but actually reading a Penguin Classic that they personally chose. Hammon chose THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller. Some of the other book and basketball pairings include Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice," Seattle's Ray Allen reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and NBA legend Magic Johnson reading Narrative of My Life As a Slave, by Frederick Douglass.

    Hey Becky, when you get back and settled, give me a shout. I'd love to discuss the book with you and compare notes, thoughts and reactions. To quote my own ninth grade book report on "The Crucible" for Miss Desmond's seventh period Honors English:

      "Miller's masterpiece is more than just a look at the tenuous social environment of 17th century Massachusetts, but also a modern-day allegory for his contempt and outrage over Conservative censorship of literature and the ostracism of entertainment, social and political figures of the 1950's. That frenetic period of American history would ultimately become known as 'McCarthyism' because of the influence of Wisconsin senator Joesph McCarthy, the unabashed hearings he conducted and the nefarious investigations he led into the private lives of these innocuous figures."

    WBCA Picks It's College All-Stars
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 10, 2006 3:56 a.m. ET

    As you probably already know, the WNBA Draft is coinciding with the Women's Final Four, becoming one big week of women's basketball craziness. It will star with the WBCA Convention in Boston on Saturday, followed by the WBCA College All-Star Game at Northeastern College (which I will secretly be blogging live from in the stands...),

    All of the players named have been on our radar for the past couple of years, and this will be one of their last chances to prove their WNBA worth in a fun, All-Star atmosphere.

    The list:

    La’Tangela Atkinson North Carolina Guard/Forward
    Seimone Augustus LSU Guard/Forward
    Sherill Baker Georgia Guard/Forward
    Nikki Blue UCLA Guard
    Lindsay Bowen Michigan State Guard
    Monique Currie Duke Guard/Forward
    Megan Duffy Notre Dame Guard
    Candice Dupree Temple Forward
    Erin Grant Texas Tech Guard
    Alexis Kendrick Georgia Guard
    Cappie Pondexter Rutgers Guard
    Liz Shimek Michigan State Forward
    Ann Strother Connecticut Guard/Forward
    Barbara Turner Connecticut Forward
    Mistie Williams Duke Forward
    Sophia Young Baylor Forward
    Shanna Zolman Tennessee Guard/Forward

    The NCAA Division II Player of the Year, Division III Player of the Year and the NAIA Player of the Year will also be invited.

    If any of these players are involved in the Final Four, they will obviously not be playing in this game.

    Completing the Sweep
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 9, 2006 1:46 p.m. ET

    The U.S. squad has its third win in three games this week, winning for a second straight day over Lotos Gdynia. Unlike yesterday's contest, the game today was not as close, with the Americans winning, 69-54. Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who missed yesterday's game to play in the Euro League All-Star Game, led the way with 15 points and 6 rebounds. Shock center Kara Braxton had 10 rebounds in 12 minutes.

    Bird, Taurasi, Smith, Cash, Braxton started for the U.S. Team and Smith led in total minutes played with 26:19. Powell, Beard and Kristen Mann were the only players to be held scoreless. Sky guard Chelsea Newton had 3 points for Lotos.

    The team now heads its separate ways for 10 days, but will re-convene for the second leg of their spring training tour on March 20 in France.

    Eeking Out a Close One
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 8, 2006 2:13 p.m. ET

    Game Two for the U.S. National Team is a wrap and the American squad could not have been tested any better, knocking off Lotos Gdynia, 66-61. Down 55-51 in 6 minutes to go in the game, Katie Smith took over. She hit a big three-pointer and drained free throws to give the U.S. a lead it would not relinquish again. She finished with a game-high 19 points and went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

    Swin Cash tallied 13 points, going 7-for-8 from the free throw line. The starters for Anne Donovan's squad on Wednesday were Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Katie Smith, Swin Cash and Nicole Ohlde.

    Bird, Kara Lawson and Nicole Powell were the only two players not to score for the Americans. Kara Braxton and Swin Cash combined to grab 11 rebounds. The Polish club team did feature two talented WNBA second-year players in Sparks guard Temeka Johnson and Sky guard Chelsea Newton. That pair combined for 22 points.

    NCRW Recognizes WNBA in NYC
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 8, 2006 9:36 a.m. ET

    Last night, at an awards dinner at Cipriani in New York City, the National Council for Research on Women honored the WNBA and several other individual women. The group's Women Who Make a Difference: “MAKING PROGRESS ON ALL FRONTS” Awards dinner showcased the value of research and the power of knowledge, and celebrates unique accomplishments of women who are paving the way for a more just and equitable world for women and girls.

    WNBA president Donna Orender's speech was one of the highlights of the evening, which also took place on the eve of International Women's Day (today!) and during the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meetings. Also honored were Joanna Barsh, Director, McKinsey & Company; Susan Kropf, President and Chief Operating Officer, Avon Products, Inc.; Judge Navanethem Pillay, International Criminal Court and the first black woman judge in South Africa, who went on to become a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

    "Playing sports encourages young girls to value their self-worth," Orender said in her speech. "It teachers them to become strong, goal-oriented and passionate and it helps them become leaders. The Oppenheimer Funds study found that “4 OUT OF 5 EXECUTIVE BUSINESSWOMEN PLAYED SPORTS GROWING UP AND BASKETBALL WAS THEIR MOST POPULAR TEAM SPORT.”

    The National Council for Research on Women is a network of more than 100 leading U.S. research, policy and advocacy centers with a growing global reach. As a preeminent source of information for top decision makers, academics, corporate executives, and elected officials, the Council harnesses the resources of its network to ensure fully informed debate, policies, and practices and promotes activism and social change.

    In Other News... Stay tuned later today for an update on the U.S. National Team's game against Lotos in Poland.

    History in the Making
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 7, 2006 9:22 a.m. ET

    Hopefully by now, you've all had a chance to peruse the new WNBA History section launched today on WNBA.com. Unlike some preachy, didactic history lessons, it is meant to be more of a resource, a one-stop shop for all WNBA information gathered over the past nine years. The History section began to take shape earlier this offseason as a way of documenting and celebrating five WNBA champions, organizing statistical leaders, award winners, Draft recaps, All-Star Games, regular season and playoff recaps, recognizing outstanding achievements and honoring pioneers.

    This season, we will celebrate our tenth anniversary by both looking back over the past nine years and looking ahead to a bright future. The WNBA began as an idea and through the hard work of many, many people from Val Ackerman, David Stern, Russ Granik, Renee Brown, Adam Silver and many more who continue to work on building the league today. It is built upon a solid cornerstone of experienced veterans like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Tamecka Dixon, Mwadi Mabika, Vickie Johnson, Tina Thompson, Wendy Palmer, the remaining members of that inaugural class of 1997. Expansion, the infusion of ABL talent and free agency have only strengthened the league, whose legacy is maintained by additional current stars like Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Alana Beard and Becky Hammon who inspire fans with their play and their committment to the sport, the fans and the community as a whole. Of course, we cannot help but be excited about the stars of the future, names you will certainly be hearing more about in the weeks and years to come... Seimone Augustus, Cappie Pondexter, Candace Parker and Courtney Paris.

    March is Women's History Month and today is National Sportsmanship Day. Quite fitting as women's basketball continues to grow. The 25th anniversary of the Women's NCAA Tournament will take place this month, the 2006 WNBA Draft is a few weeks away and the WNBA season is not far behind. All the while, history continues to be made every time these women take the court and compete.

    And that is something we can all be excited and optimistic about.

    U.S. Wins Its Opener
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 6, 2006 3:22 p.m. ET

    The U.S. Women's National Team, which opened up Leg One of its European Training Tour this afternoon, has its first win since the Gold Medal game in the 2004 Olympics. Starting for the U.S. squad in the 95-78 victory over MKB Euroleasing Sopron took place were Sacramento's Kara kawson, Detroit's Swin Cash and Katie Smith, Washington's DeLisha Milton-Jones and Lynx center Nicole Ohlde.

    But in addition to maintaining its dominance for a global audience, the primary goal of the spring training sessions is to evaluate players and prepare for the 2006 FIBA World Championship. Coach Anne Donovan and her staff will make a decision based on these games as well as the WNBA season. But it was a great look at the present and future of USA Basketball. Previous Olympic gold medalists Smith and Milton-Jones powered the key run in the second half that put the European squad away, but Alana Beard, Nicole Ohlde and Kristen Mann were also keys to the U.S. victory.

    The team's next game is on Wednesday against the Polis team Lotos VBW.

    Looking Across the Pond
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 2, 2006 10:22 p.m. ET

    With the first training session set to begin this weekend for the U.S. Senior Women's National Team, the roster of players combines a unique group of women, which is both the result of USA Basketball wanting to audition as many players as possible as well as the fact that so many U.S. stars are playing abroad. So what better way for the U.S. to train than to play some of these top European clubs?

    Speaking of these European teams, the Euro League Final Four is now set after two decisive games yesterday. In the first game, Lietuvos Telekomas knocked out MiZo-Pécs, 63-59, to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Once again, Katie Douglas led the way with 16 points and 10 rebounds. In the other game, Gambrinus Sika Brno squeaked by Bourges Basket, 70-69 in one of the best three-game series in recent memory. The road team won all three games. DeLisha Milton-Jones, who will join up with the U.S. Squad tomorrow, had 11 points and 8 rebounds in the win.

    The next round tips off on March 31 with Valenciennes and Gambrinus going at it in one bracket as well as Samara and Lietuvos Telekomas on the other side.

    In Other News... The EuroLeague Women's All-Star Game will take place on March 8 with loads of WNBA talent.

    Teasley Traded for Johnson
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 1, 2006 4:56 p.m. ET

    Los Angeles just signed and then traded Nikki Teasley and the 8th pick in the 2006 Draft to Washington for Temeka Johnson, Murriel Page and the 5th pick in the 2006 draft. The teams will be announcing the trade at 5:00 (et) today, which is just about five minutes from now....

    Trade Winds...
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 1, 2006 2:06 p.m. ET

    According to a source close with the Los Angeles Sparks will be involved in a significant trade with an Eastern Conference team involving starters and Draft picks. The deal could be announced later today...

    All the Women... Independent...
    Posted: By Matt Wurst, March 1, 2006 1:38 a.m. ET

    As was announced last week, the Chicago Sky officially announced that Michelle Williams is part of its group of minority owners. Williams, of Destiny’s Child and Chicago-area native, was in Chicago February 27-28 to participate in special events for the Chicago Sky. Specifically, Williams made an appearance at a local Boys & Girls Club yesterday.

    The Chicago Sky is the second WNBA team owned and run by an entity outside of the NBA.

    In Other News... The Europe Cup semifinals are underway and some familiar WNBA faces are making a big impact. Led by Sparks center Lisa Leslie, Spartak Moscow took a significant step to advancing to the EuroCup finals by defeating Halcon Avenida 71-55 in Game One of their best-of-two semi-finals series. Leslie had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Monarchs guard Ticha Penicheiro had 6 assists. Kelly Schumacher had 14 points in the loss.

    Pays D'Aix also posted an important opening victory in the other semifinals match-up by defeating Coconuda 79-65. Cathy Joens had 19 points and 6 boards in the win while Plenette Pierson had 8 points and 7 rebounds in the loss. Game Two in each series is will take place on Thursday.

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