Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tayler Hill Out to Star in the WNBA For Washington Like Her Buckeye Days at Ohio State

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
With a sparkling 24-karat smile, Tayler Hill delivered a simple message.

“I’m ready,” the third-year Washington Mystics guard succinctly said during Monday’s media day at the Verizon Center.

“I am anxious and excited to get back out on the court.

"Last year I sat out most of the season, came back at the end but I wasn’t 100 percent. I am excited to be back this year. I feel like I haven’t played since my rookie season where I was healthy.”

The 24-year old Hill missed most of last season after giving birth to her son Maurice on June 18. Five weeks later, Hill returned to the Mystics in solid playing shape.

However, the talented Hill never found her groove on the court while averaging 7.8 minutes in the Mystics’ final five games.

Now with an entire offseason to get ready, she is poised to enjoy a breakout year and treat fans to the types of performances that made the affable Ohio State product the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.

That was two seasons ago when the Mystics finished last with the worst record the previous summer but another disappointment beset the team when Washington in the lottery failed to land in the top three that would have meant getting Phoenix's Brittany Griner (1-Baylor), Chicago's Elena Delle Donne (2-Delaware) or Tulsa's Skylar Diggins (3-Notre Dame).

However, it turns out the Mystics did get value out Hill at number four.

A pleasant package of electricity, explosiveness and excitement, Hill will be a critical component to the Mystics’ championship hopes this season with her athleticism, tenacious defense and scoring ability.

“I love Tayler,” veteran guard and WNBA All-Star Ivory Latta said. “She’s a versatile guard.

"She can bring the ball up the court and she can spot up and make 3-pointers," Latta continued.

"Her first step is unbelievable. Everybody thinks because she had a baby, she’s going to be slower. Actually she slimmed down more than she was before she had the baby. They’ll see how versatile she is this season.”

While patiently answering questions for about 10 minutes, Hill was engaging, laughing and funny.

Even after a majority of the reporters departed, Hill showcased the boundless energy of a toddler while distracting and cracking jokes with Latta as she was being photographed.

Hill arrived in camp in phenomenal shape.

Though she acknowledged being a first-time mother and an elite athlete simultaneously were challenging, Hill handled the additional responsibility like a champion. She continued working out, studying film, providing the necessary attention to her son and enjoying life.

Hill balanced both because of her supportive family and friend, Nicole who also serves as her nanny.

She has been a rock for Hill. With the comfort of knowing her son was in safe and caring hands, Hill was able focus on building from the end of her rookie year when she averaged 6.5 points and finished strong.

“Being a mom is amazing,” she said. “There’s no feeling like being a mother. I still got my work done.

"You may have seen online that people said ‘I am not playing overseas and I was just sitting home with the baby.’

"That wasn’t the case. The coaches sent me a lot of film during the offseason. I definitely did the work that needed to be done in the offseason to get to where I needed to be. I lost the weight, ate right, got back in shape and now I am ready for this opportunity.”

Because Hill limited her offseason Twitter postings to occasional motivational messages, photos of her son and rare in-the-moment updates of her life gave her bleacher critics some fodder to try and criticize her. Hill blocked out the noise. She owed nobody an explanation and those that mattered knew what she was doing.

“I am not that type of person that talks about going to the gym every day or need to flaunt what’s going on behind the scenes,” Hill said. “I really don’t get into the media things. I don’t know what was said about me unless somebody else tells me. They don’t know me personally so I don’t take what they say personally.”

Not even discussing her haters could steal Hill’s joy Monday.

She is preparing to become a stronger leader and more consistent on the court. Hill has the ability to do some special things for the Mystics and emerge into a force around the league. She has put in the work and now she’s ready to showcase all of her skills.

“I don’t know that I have an expectation that’s specific right now,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of Hill. “But we need all of our guards and her particularly because of her athleticism to help us in our transition game offensively, to spread the floor with three-point shooting, and because she’s so quick, she can really help us on the defensive end.

"She’s got long arms and quick feet and she has the ability to come up with steals, so I think we’re looking for a huge improvement on both ends.”

The Mystics had two players among the top 30 in the league in 3-point shooting last season in Latta (37.7 percent) and Bria Hartley (32.7).

Hill could make it a trifecta of Mystics among the league leaders in 3-point shooting. She is happy to be one of the building blocks of the Mystics rise.

They were 16-18 last season and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Indiana Fever in a pair of tough games.

“We are working towards winning a championship and taking everything one step at a time,” Hill said. “We have to work together as a team to reach our goal. Coach’s message to us at our first team meeting was to ‘play like a champion every day.’

"I know his mindset is he wants to win a championship and that’s how he prepares us every day in practice. As a team that’s how we carry ourselves on and off the court.”

With a focused and healthy Hill making significant contributions this season, the Mystics could enjoy a memorable summer. Then she’ll have plenty more reasons to flash her beautiful smile.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Under the Radar Arrival in Washington, Herrington Could Help Make WNBA Mystics Soar

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Armintie Herrington’s presence on the Washington Mystics roster is like adding a secret ingredient to a meal that enhances the flavor from great to ‘make you slap your mama’ awesome.

In a transaction that flew under the radar this offseason, Herrington, a tough as nails veteran guard, signed as a free-agent with the Washington Mystics in February. It could end up being the move that elevates the Mystics to the WNBA mountaintop. Herrington is a critical component to the Mystics championship puzzle.

“I am excited to have another opportunity to play in the league,” Herrington said Monday afternoon during Mystics media day at the Verizon Center. “I am hungry. I am happy to be here and to have another opportunity to learn and grow. More importantly, I know I don’t have many years left in the league so I am focused on winning a championship. Everybody here has the same goals and we feel like we have all the pieces.”

Herrington’s versatility and experience makes Washington’s roster deeper and diverse. More importantly, her wisdom, toughness, defense, and quickness will be welcomed qualities in the nations’ capitol this summer.

Mystic fans will enjoy her passionate performances throughout the season. This will be Herrington’s fourth team since entering the league in 2007. She played for the Los Angeles Sparks last season.

While she will miss her buddies on the west coast, Herrington is happy not to have to deal with the occasional California traffic jam, although D.C. transportation, especially whenever the president decides he wants to take a quick cruise through the city, can be just as tough.

“I am much closer to the Verizon Center and traffic is not as bad,” Herrington said. “It took me 45 minutes to drive to the Staples Center. We were able to find different apps to help us get to the arena quicker. The transition to D.C. has been fine. I’ve been able to work out. "

A 5 foot, 9 inch guard from the University of Mississippi, Herrington was selected in the first round (third overall) of the 2007 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky.

During her first year, she started every game and went on to earn Rookie of the Year Honors. Herrington was traded during the 2009 season to the Atlanta Dream. She was instrumental to the Dream making the playoffs during her entire tenure with the team.

She joined the Sparks in 2014 as a free agent.

In addition to being named the Rookie of the Year in 2007, Herrington has been named to the All-WNBA Second Team (2011 and 2012) as well as the WNBA All-Defensive First-Team (2013).

Her regular season career averages include 6.3 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Her post season career averages include 6.5 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game.

“My mentality is thinking like a champion,” Herrington said. “The time is now for us. I am happy to be a part of an organization that wants me and a staff that believes I can help the team. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be coached by Mike (Thibault) and play with not just great players but also great people.”

While Herington should help the Mystics, she is not expected to carry the team.

The Mystics return veterans Ivory Latta, an All-Star last season, Kia Vaughn, who earned MVP honors after helping USK Praha win the FIBA EuroLeague Women championship last month, and Kara Lawson.

In addition, the Mystics’ youthful and brilliant brigade of Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Emma Meesseman, Jelena Milovanovic, Tayler Hill, Stef Dolson and Bria Hartley should continue to develop.

“We’ve had good leadership with Kara, Kia and Ivory and now you’re bringing in one more veteran in Armintie, who understands what it’s like to play at the highest level,” Thibault said. “She’s not going to be ready to play at the start of the season like she will be at later in the season. Just her voice in the locker room will help our younger players. Anytime you add somebody who has competed for a championship to your team, you’re getting better automatically.”

Herrington has been around enough to know that nothing will be handed to the Mystics no matter how good they look on paper.

She played in consecutive WNBA Final series in 2010 and 2011 with the Atlanta Dream. Last season, the Sparks were expected to challenge for the Lynx and Mercury in the west with their talented roster, but they battled inconsistency.

“I learned that if you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get anything,” Herrington said. “With this team, we feel like we’ll get the work in and we are all thinking about cutting down nets. That’s the feeling I get from being around this team.”


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guru's WNBA Report: Mystics Rookies Natasha Cloud and Blake Dietrick Relish Arriving at the Next Level

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

WASHINGTON --
After four years of being leaders of their respective teams at Saint Joseph’s and Princeton, it’s new faces for Natasha Cloud and Blake Dietrick as they attempt to make the opening day roster of the Washington Mystics.

Nevertheless both exhibited boundless energy Monday afternoon as the blend of rookies and veterans went through the interview paces of the WNBA team’s annual media at the Verizon Center.

The odds for the most part are more with Cloud, who spent her first collegiate season nearby at Maryland in College Park before the former Cardinal O’Hara star switched to the Hawks.

Cloud was viewed a ton of times by Mystics coach Mike Thibault as well as assistants Eric Thibault, his son; and Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star, last winter hoping she’d stay under the radar, which occurred as they picked her in the second round behind former Dayton star Ally Mallot.

Thibault, though, minced no words on draft night saying that had not Mallot still been on the board, he would not have hesitated to take Cloud in the first round.

Dietrick was signed as an undrafted free agent, but possessing qualities in which Thibault felt the Ivy player of the year deserved a shot from the Tigers squad that made history with a 30-0 season before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“Fit in first, learn what we’re doing,” Thibault said about the role of rookies on a squad in his third season after being let go from a decade running the Connecticut Sun.

Thibault thinks that his squad should now be thinking about winning the WNBA title.

“It’s no longer a case of trying to get a little better. We’ve had people who have played together for a while,” Thibault said.

“I told the team, though always worry about just the game in front of you, it’s like when a new college coach comes in and most of the team had existing players but now these are all our own players.”

Former Duke star Monique Currie departed over the winter ending the run of the longest surviving Washington player under Thibault.

“I think our rookies have a chance to make an impact this year. We start with Ally Mallot, she’s a true version of a stretch four. She can play around the basket and at the three-point line. She has a great, great offensive sense.

“I think her biggest adjustment will be at the defensive end. Natasha Cloud is one of those people who have played at all three wing positions, perimeter positions in college.

Initially, we’ll probably play her more as a small forward and because of her length and her size at six feet, she can handle the ball well enough to be a point guard,” Thibault continued.

“We’re going to use her as a kind of multi-dimensional offensive player and then the other part she has going for her is she’s been an all-league (Atlantic 10) defensive player in college for several years, so she can guard all three perimeter positions and that gives you the ability to do a lot of different things with the team defensively.

“I expect a lot from them right away.”

As for the motivating factor to sign Dietrick, Thibault noted, “With Blake, you saw a player who played both guard positions, you have a player who is a very capable three-point shooter. She’s a tall guard which allows her to do a lot of things.

“She knows she has a battle on her hands just to try to make a roster but it’s an opportunity for her to come in and see what she can prove. Watching her in college, I thought she made good decisions and anytime you have an offensive weapon that can stretch the floor, I think you need to give them a shot to see what they can do.”

Dietrick said she got the word of Washington’s interest as the draft got under way.

“They were in that time slot and coach Thibault made the call,” she said.

She already got a taste of WNBA action during the first night of camp, which got under way Sunday.

“We did some workouts and played some pickup, so it’s been pretty good so far. We’ll get a better sense once practice started but so far its been good.”

The only Ivy player who has made an impact was Allison Feaster of Harvard in the early part of the WNBA history that began in 1997 and she went on to be an all-league player.

While that Crimson team has been considered the league’s best, Dietrick last season was the signature star on the Tigers squad that over the last five seasons matched much and even surpassed some of that Harvard’s group accomplishments.

“I’m so happy to represent Princeton and the league and Annie (Tarakchian) was at the USA tryouts this past weekend as well. We’re all doing big things for Princeton and trying to make our mark and out our names out there.”

Cloud, meanwhile, would become the first Big Five player to make a WNBA roster since Temple’s Kristen McCarthy was drafted by Connecticut in 2007, though the last to make her mark occurred the previous year when Owls all-time great Candice Dupree was picked sixth overall by the then expansion-Chicago squad.

She was later dealt to Phoenix and was a key in the Mercury’s third league title last season and has had several All-Star accolades.

For Cloud, who played the last several summers in the Philly League, whose draft is Thursday night, landing on the Mystics is tops being on a team only a few hours from home.

And living in Washington, with the city’s role in America, is great.

“It’s really cool,” Cloud said of being in the nation’s capital.

As far as her first hand’s on action, Cloud explained, “It’s a faster pace. It’s more physical. It’s kind of similar to your transition from high school to college figuring out to fit in, how to adjust, things that worked in college won’t necessarily work here at this elite level, so it’s figuring out your fundamentals, your ball handling and all that stuff.”

Rob Knox, who will return covering the Mystics as well as providing features on the rest of the league and his WNBA notebook, was on the scene Monday and will have more stories out of here later in the week. Rutgers graduate Lamar Carter, who is the SID at Howard here in the District, will also be making some contributions.

But the Guru did ask Thibault, looking at the competition in the Eastern Conference, who made the most improvement.

“I don’t really have a feel for that because right now there’s still a lot of question marks from teams in our league. In our division, Connecticut had a big loss with (Chiney) Ogwumike being out,: he said of the reigning rookie of the year out of Stanford.

“What Sylvia Fowles does with (reigning Eastern Conference playoff champion) Chicago will have an impact. New York’s added new pieces but they haven’t played together yet. Atlanta’s going to miss Sancho Lyttle, possibly, in the early part of the season so I really feel our conference is in flux and at least early in the season,” Thibault said.

“So if somebody can get off to get a good start and get some momentum can maybe take control of it a little bit.”

In Thibault’s first season down here, the Mystics saw the Western teams early and was able to feast enough off of them to make the difference in landing a playoff spot to bring joy to the fan base and then returned again to the postseason last season.

Now, it’s about going much further.

“Right now, I’m not going to worry about what other teams are doing. I can’t control that. We’ll try to worry about what we’re doing and take control of that each day.”

On Tuesday, the Guru will be on the scene at the Mohegan Sun for the Connecticut Sun Media Day and then on to New York Thursday before seeing the Liberty the next night battle Chicago in the Sky’s return to Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center to give star Elena Delle Donne another homecoming.

Rob will also be at the game.

-- Mel



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Monday, May 18, 2015

Villanova's Caroline Coyer, UConn's Breanna Stewart and Four SEC Stars Make Pan Am Roster

By Mike Siroky and Mel Greenberg

After setting personal career and season records last season at Villanova, making the All-Big East team and being named the Philadelphia Big Five Women's Player of the Year, can it get any better for Caroline Coyer, who has one more season left with the Wildcats?

The answer is an emphatic yes.

On Sunday Coyer made good on her invite to the gathering of current women's collegiate greats in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center to try out for USA Basketball's one of two squads: The World University contingent, whose roster is listed under this post with Mike telling you all about it, or the Pan Am Games group, which will compete in Toronto, Canada in July.

Coyer's name was called as was UConn superstar Breanna Stewart, fresh off training with the USA Senior Women's National Team, and four stars of the Southeastern Conference, among others to the Pan Am squad.

While the World Games roster is very talented, more of the undergraduate cream of the crop was chosen for the Pan Am group.

"Wow. What an unbelievable honor! I am so humbled to have been selected & could not be more excited to represent @usabasketball this summer!," Coyer, whose twin sister Katherine also plays for 'Nova, tweeted before getting back to the East to catch up with her Wildcats teammates, who took off for a tour of Italy Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Stewart, the two-time consensus national player of the year and three-time Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Women's Final Four, made the squad as did four of the SEC's very best: Alaina Coates (center, 6-4, 208) South Carolina; Linnae Harper guard, 5-8 150) Kentucky; Tiffany Mitchell (guard 5-9 154) South Carolina; and Courtney B. Williams (swing, 6-1, 165) Texas A&M.

Others who made the cut besides Coyer, a 5-10 140 pound guard, and Stewart (forward/center 6-4, 175) UConn: Moriah Jefferson (guard, 5-7 122) UConn; Sophie Brunner (center, 6-1, 185) Arizona State; Stephanie Mavunga (forward, 6-3 184) North Carolina; Kelsey Plum (guard 5-8, 145) Washington; Taya Reimer (forward, 6-3, 180) Notre Dame; and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (guard, 5-11, 140) Maryland.

They were announced after the end of the three-day workouts.

Eligibility rules state all must be U.S. citizens still enrolled in college or university with eligibility remaining. No WNBAers or players from other pro teams across the world. These athletes are truly the future USA players for Olympics to come.

For example, in 2011 following an ongoing battle during the previous collegiate season with Lyme's Disease, then Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne made the World University squad and joined a similar super rich talented group as this Pan Am team and became a gold medalist, finished her career with the Blue Hens in illustrious style and quickly became WNBA rookie of the year and one of the pro league's top players.

Reimer, Harper and Mitchell are among previous Gold Medal winners for USA Basketball on various teams. So are Stewart and Jefferson, Mavunga and Reimer while this is Coyer's first USA accolade.

The Pan American Women’s Basketball Team players and coaches will return to Colorado on July 3 for the start of training camp and will depart for the competition in Toronto on July 8. The women’s basketball competition will take place July 16-20.

The USA women have been placed into Group A and will take on Brazil on July 16, Dominican Republic on July 17 and Puerto Rico on July 18 in the preliminary round. Competing in Group B will be Argentina, Canada, Cuba and Venezuela.

The top two teams from each preliminary-round group will advance to the medal-round semifinals on July 19, while the third and fourth-placed teams will for fifth-eighth places. The semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on July 20, while the semifinal losers will play for Bronze.

The Pan Ams are a multi-sport event featuring teams from North, South and Central American and the Caribbean that are organized by the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) and played every four years in the year preceding the Olympics (2015, 2019, etc.).

Since the first Pan American Games for women in 1955, the USA has compiled an overall record of 87-15 and won eight Gold medals, three Silver and two Bronze.

Most recently in 2011, a U.S. team comprised of collegians and one high school senior in Stewart that began training just one week prior to its first game, finished in seventh place with a 2-2 record.

The USA’s last Gold medal came in 2007, under the direction of 10-time USA Basketball Gold medalist and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who is currently an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma with the Olympians and will also head the U-19 squad, also picked Sunday, in the other main competition this summer.

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Tennessee Duo and Lady Vols Coach to Represent SEC on USA World University Team

By Mike Siroky

The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball will be represented by two Lady Vols on USA Basketball’s World Univesity Games roster:

Diamond DeShields (guard, 6-1, 155) and Mercedes Russell (C, 6-6, 170) join assistant coach – and their college coach – Holly Warlick in the competition.

Tennessee was the only school on the USA World roster with two players while the Pac-12 had four players: UCLA's 5-6, 132 lb, guard Jordin Canada; Stanford's 6-3, 170 lb forward Erica McCall; California's 6-3, 170 pound forward Courtney Range, and Oregon State 6-0, 150 pound guard Sydney Weise.

Others who made the cut: Nina Davis (forward, 5-11, 160) Baylor; Rebecca Greenwell (guard, 6-1, 165 ) Duke; Chanise Jenkins (guard, 5-5,145) DePaul; Brionna Jones (center, 6-3, 220) Maryland; Aerial Powers (forward, 6-0, 160) Michigan State; and Courtney M. Williams (guard, 5-8, 136) South Florida.

The USA players and coaches will return to Colorado Springs for training camp on June 18-July 2. The 2015 World University Games women’s basketball competition will be held July 4-13 in Gwangju, South Korea.

The USA women have drawn Group C and will play Italy at 10 a.m. (all times listed are local, Gwangju is +13 hours from EDT) on July 5, China at 5:30 p.m. on July 6 and Czech Republic at 8 p.m. on July 7.

Playing in Group A will be Canada, Hungary, Mozambique and South Korea; Group B includes Japan, Mexico, Russia and Sweden; and Group D features Australia, Brazil, Taipei and Uganda.

The quarterfinals are July 9, the semifinals are July 11, the Bronze medal game is July 12 and the Gold medal game is July 13.

Contested every other year, the World University Games is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU).

USA Basketball women’s teams have participated in 17 World University Games and collected a record nine Golds, six Silvers and one Bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the World University Games, USA women’s teams have compiled a 101-15 record. The USA has won Gold medals in the past five Worlds in which it has competed (2001, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013).

In 2013, led by tournament co-MVP Odyssey Sims, who went on to earn Gold as a member of the 2014 USA World Championship Team, the USA won by an average of 34.8 points per game and finished 6-0 to claim the Gold.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

NCAA Rules Shifts in Women's Basketball Changing Halves to Quarters

By Mike Siroky

For those of us who have written abut women’s college basketball for decades, we long ago learned to segment the games.

You look for the runs in any game, the moments when control of game was taken, even if it was not until the closing minute.

Long before host schools did a good job with play-by-play sheets, you kept your own.

You learned to look at the clock for the time of your notation. Like early attendance or assists sheets, your own notes did not match the official school ones.

But your name was on the story and you went with your own notes.

Having covered high school, you were also use to quarters instead of full-run halves.

The women’s game under the NCAA have slowly become more standard to the men’s game and international rules.

Next up is a change from flowing halves to four 10-minute quarters.

As a writer, I have often thought in time references to quarters and sometimes in early drafts have actually written it that way.

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee recommended the proposal following its meeting May this week in Indianapolis.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss the recommended women’s basketball rules changes via conference call June 8.

Before the vote, committee members thoroughly debated the concept of moving the game away from the 20-minute halves format that women’s basketball has always used in NCAA competition.

They also consulted coaches and got an endorsement from the Women’s National Basketball Coaches Association. The WNBA has played quarters since its inception in 1997.

There are more recommendations:

Post defense

The committee recommended defenders be allowed to place a forearm or an open hand with a bend in the elbow on an offensive post player with the ball whose back is to the basket.

Free Throws

Teams would reach the bonus to shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter.

In the current format, teams reach a one-and-one bonus on the seventh team foul of each half and reach the double bonus (two shots) on the 10th team foul.

In the proposed four-quarter format, team fouls would be reset to zero at the start of each quarter. However, if a team reaches the bonus in the fourth quarter, that team would remain in the bonus in any additional overtime periods.

In the proposed format, teams would have four timeouts (three 30-second timeouts and one 60-second timeout).

A team may use the 60-second timeout at the discretion of the coach during the first or second half of the game.

Teams would be allowed to carry over only two of those timeouts into the second half.

Each team would be awarded one 30-second timeout in each overtime period, plus any unused timeouts remaining from the second half.

Under the current format, teams have five timeouts (four 30-second stoppages and one 60-second stoppage) with only four of those carrying over to the second half.

In non-televised games, teams would have five timeouts (three 30s and two 60s). Four of the timeouts would carry over to the second half.

Advancing the ball

The committee also recommends teams be allowed to advance the ball to the front court following a timeout called after made baskets in the last 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter and any overtime periods.

Teams also would be allowed to advance the ball to the front court after securing the ball from a rebound or a change of possession and calling a timeout before any advancement of the ball (dribble or pass).

In these scenarios, the ball would be inbounded at the 28-foot mark on the side of the court where the scorer’s table is located.

Because teams would no longer be required to go the length of the court, committee members feel this change would add more excitement to offensive possessions at the end of games.

Halfcourt

For the past two seasons, NCAA women’s basketball has used the 10-second backcourt rule.

Before that, you could dribble time away in the backcourt.

For the upcoming season, the committee is proposing a team not receive a new 10-second backcourt count when a throw-in results from the following:

· The ball is deflected out of bounds by the defense.
· There is a held ball and the possession arrow favors the offensive team.
· A technical foul is called on the offensive team while the ball is in its backcourt.

The Bands Play On

In an effort to improve the overall fan experience, the committee recommended bands or amplified music may be played during any dead-ball situation. Current rules allow music to be played only during timeouts and intermission.


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Friday, May 15, 2015

WNBA Players Are Giving Thomas Move Involving the NY Liberty a Pass -- For Now

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Since MSG honcho James Dolan has made Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas presumptive president and part-owner of the New York Liberty despite Thomas being the central figure in a successful sexual harrassment suit by former NBA New York Knicks executive Anucha Browne, now vice president of Women's Basketball in the NCAA, there has been outrage.

The furor has come from the media, predominantly those who cover the NBA, especially those who cover the NBA in New York, and from women's basketball fans.

They have pointed to the tide of protest, especially from players, when former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling was caught on tape making racial remarks and was relatively quickly removed from his position by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA board of governors.

In that light, questions have been arising when is the league going to do something, though president Laurel Richie after the announcement said in a statement the league is taking the move seriously and pointed out the WNBA board of governors still must approve the move and the home office of the league in anonymity in the last several days made the Associated Press aware that New York has filed the paper work involving Thomas' application.

Meanwhile, media and fandom have questioned why in one case, namely Sterling, public comment came from all over the NBA, that unlikewise other than a statement from the management of the Seatle Storm, and an emphatic reaction deploring the move from Hall of Famer and Connecticut Suin coach Anne Donovan, who once coached the Liberty, there has been relatively silence.

Well, it looks like a sector -- the players union -- now has an official reaction and those looking for a tidal wave have instead gotten a ripple, based on a statement posted sometime Thursday on the WNPBA website.

Basically, it appears that the players are not opposed to move, per se, questioning it, noting problems of such in the workplace wouldn't be tolerated, but then gears are switch in which it is noted that things can change over time and that the union will closely monitor activity on the Liberty with several meetings with the players as the season gets under way.

Here is the specific section which the Guru cites. The entire statement is at the end of this commentary.

The verdict finding there to be a hostile work environment at MSG was issued eight years ago, however. We recognize that people can learn, grow and evolve in that time frame, and that MSG, under Mr. Dolan, may now afford a hospitable, appropriate and non-discriminatory environment for its female employees.

The Guru first saw a reference to the statement via a tweet from his ace WNBA scribe Rob Knox, who, by the way, was announced Thursday as part of the next Hall of Fame class at his alma mater Lincoln University.

It was late Thursday when the Guru was catching up with his timeline so there was no chance to be making calls for explanation or better interpretation.

Curiously, there was nothing showing anywhere at media sites or at social media locales reacting or reporting anything involving the statement, though maybe something is going up since the Guru began writing this and is posting immediate as daylight comes up on a Friday morning -- what else is new ion the Guru's world.

What the Guru finds stunning is the union posting this sort of stand BEFORE the league ownership took their own action and now have a green light to give approval without much dissent.

Why hold the owners feet to the fire when the players are not so hot and bothered -- Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer in an interview with the New York Post last week said all his players were on board with the action.

Had the owners basically already gone ahead first -- though the Guru believes the votes do exist to reject -- and given the ok, then the statement would be understandable because there isn't much more the players could do to object at that point -- the reality is it's a much smaller universe and there are not many in the league with the stature of Donovan that would be equivalent of the the protests that occurred over Sterling.

Or, maybe there are legal difficulties stopping the move and attempts are now being made behind the scenes to put on the best face in light of that possbility.

"I know that when (founding president) Val (Ackerman, now Big East commissioner) and (former NBA commissioner) David (Stern) were running the show, and issues came up, they quickly had a plan in place and began getting feedback from teams," said a former team operative in the league, requesting anonymity.

Possibly that has been going on in the Silver/Richie regimes though the Guru has not heard of discussions from some of his contacts who are top management types at team level.

So let's see what Friday begins. In the interim, here is the statement to save you searching around. Stay tune.

“The WNBPA and its members are aware of the 2007 verdict reached by a federal jury, after trial, that involved actions by Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dolan, and which found there to be a hostile work environment for women at Madison Square Garden (MSG).

WNBA players are aware that they have an impact both on and off the court. The WNBA is the premier women’s sports league in the world — its players represent the pinnacle of athletic prowess, are deeply vested in their local communities, and serve as role models for millions of boys and girls across the country. As such, we feel it is important to convey the message that WNBA players will not tolerate a hostile work environment, and that no one should have to endure unwanted sexual advances and harassment in the workplace.

The verdict finding there to be a hostile work environment at MSG was issued eight years ago, however. We recognize that people can learn, grow and evolve in that time frame, and that MSG, under Mr. Dolan, may now afford a hospitable, appropriate and non-discriminatory environment for its female employees.

As the union for all WNBPA players, we want to ensure that this remains the case and that Liberty players will not be subjected to the type of environment found to exist at MSG in the past.

Towards that end, we will have recurring meetings with the Liberty players throughout the season to provide a forum for any issues, complaints or concerns regarding the working environment at MSG. We will be hosting the first meeting prior to the start of the season.”

–Evie Goldstein, Director of Operations, WNBPA




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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guru Report: Memorializing Ginny Doyle

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was one year ago this week that a grieving period in women's basketball circles had begun following the tragic loss on the evening of Friday, May 9, of longtime Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle and operations director Natalie Lewis when the balloon they were riding at a nearby festival in Virginia struck power power lines attempting to land.

Pilot error was eventually ruled as the cause, citing Donald T. Kirk, who also died in the accident.

Lewis, of Buffalo N.Y., was known more to the immediate Richmond sports scene as a star swimmer while Doyle was more known nationally because of her travels on the recruiting circuit as well as being a star performer at Archbishop Ryan and the Philadelphia Belles AAU squad in her native city before going on to become one of the all-time players with the Spiders.

Specifically, Doyle, nicknamed "Deadeye,"was a prolific foul shooter who set an NCAA mark for men and women in making 66 consecutive free throws in 1992.

"It's been a tough year," said Doyle's brother Joe, recently, about the close family coping with the loss, still attending Richmond games at which several the two Spiders staffers were remembered as they were also at last winter's Atlantic 10 tournament in Richmond, Va.

Joe said the family planned to get together last weekend and he did tweet pictures from a family barbeque.

In the wake of their loss the Spiders was able to have a decent season finishing in the second round of the WNIT with an overall record of 19-14 under coach Michael Shafer, who is also the chair of the NCAA women's rules committee.

However, this team was not far off the mark from an NCAA tournament appearance, considering that in regular season play through the conference, there were these narrow losses, all on the road, 64-63 at Fordham, 49-47 at Penn and 61-59 at Saint Joseph's, ironically both in Philadelphia, 58-51, in overtime at Duquesne, and again to Fordham, 46-45, in the conference tournament.

In the WNIT, after a one-point win in the first round, back at Duquesne, the season ended on a 48-47 setback to the Dukes.

Vic Dorr of the Richmond Times, the dean of Virginia women's basketball writers, had a nice one-year remembrance of the team during the past week on his Facebook page.

A source who worked under Shafer on the rules committee cited him for doing an outstanding job this past year and really being focused.

One never knows how a team may be affected. There was a player death in a car crash this season at Easterrn Michigan, which continued to fare decently, and a few other tragedies elsewhere.

Several years ago after Oklahoma State coach Kurk Budke and one of his assistants were killed at the season's outset in plane crash while on a recruiting trip, the Cowgirls went on to win the WNIT.

Budke, incidentally, is one of the inductees headed for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, June 13, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Teams don't always rally, however.

Arizona was a budding powerhouse in the middle of the last decade under veteran Joan Bonvicini, now at Seattle, until it suffered the loss of star center Shawntince Polk, who died suddenly September, 26, 2005, while in the McHale Center.

Polk was a three-time Pac-10 (pre-expansion) team member who held the school career marks for with 222 blocked shots and 46 double doubles.

"After she died, the team just went with her emotionally that's how much they were effected by her loss because she was the center in everything about our squad," Bonvicini said several years later.

Besides using the blog here a year ago for people to write remembrances -- you can use the search box if you've never been to this site -- the Guru has attempted to launch two initiatives in Doyle's memory.

One would be to have one game in Philadelphia each season -- preferably when Richmond is visiting -- to be declared the Big 5 Ginny Doyle Game and the Guru will be making a presentation to the athletic directors next month at their seasonal meeting.

The second, though everyone got too busy to act on, came as the Guru was approached about coming up with some award in Doyle's name to add to the WBCA lineup.

That may take a while but until then and maybe thereafter the Guru had this idea, which the family endorsed -- because Ginny was about fun and because of her skill -- why not during the WBCA convention during the Women's Final Four, have a Ginny Doyle foul shooting tournament.

It could either be open ended or there could be categories beyond the coaches' participation for media members, maybe referees attending the finals, and collegiate players who decide to attend.

Those that the Guru approached all loved the concept.

"I know I'd sign up in a heartbeat," said Providence's Susan Robinson-Fruchtl, who is one of Penn State's all-time stars. "The year that she set the record, I was right there with her and then I missed a shot and she kept going."

So any one you who are on board, feel free to comment below in the area and we will see what the response is.

In closing out, the Guru actually bumped into a writing clip from back in his Inquirer era that was authored in 2003 in which the main focus was La Salle's Jill Morano, who was on a foul shooting tear.

But in the same article he interviewed Doyle about what it takes to be that good and he closes this post with that segment:

"I get asked a lot about technique and mechanics, but at the same time, there are people who have some really unorthodox shots but shoot free throws well," Doyle said. "I just think it's a matter of repetition. It's a lot of focus. It's very mental shooting, more so than the actual skill. It's doing the same thing over and over again."

Doyle spoke of the defining moment of being on the free-throw line when the outcome of a game is in the balance.

"It's the inner game you play within yourself that makes you successful in those situations," Doyle said. "The people who are strong and mentally tough and can handle that kind of pressure are the people you see succeed at the free-throw line."

After Doyle passed 64 straight foul shots, she topped the men's mark and found herself involved in a shooting exhibition at Richmond against TV basketball analyst Billy Packer, who had made disparaging remarks about the achievement and the women's game.

Both used the men's ball, which is slightly larger than the women's. Packer made 12 of 20; Doyle made all 20.

"There were 1,200 people there to watch," Doyle said with a grin. "It was a really neat atmosphere."


-- Mel




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