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, October 26, 2006

Old Dominon Picked to Continue CAA Rule

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON _
When it comes to winning the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball championship, all Old Dominion teams are created equal.

Every Monarchs contingent over the past 15 years has captured the CAA title since ODU joined the conference. More of the same is expected of the 2006-07 contingent.

The CAA coaches and sports information directors, along with media representatives who cover the conference, have picked ODU to win again.

Some Old Dominion squads have had narrow escapes in recent seasons such as two years ago when coach Wendy Larry’s squad rallied to beat Delaware in overtime after the Blue Hens had swept the season series. That came after a last-second triumph in the semifinals when Drexel nearly pulled a stunning upset.

The ODU squad for this particular season may be a little more equal than others in that the Monarchs could be a throwback to the days when the Norfolk, Va., school ruled or contended in the national landscape.

Four starters return, highlighted by junior guard T.J. Jordan, and forwards Sherida Triggs and Tish Lyons.

Adding to the excitement are two players who missed last season with injuries: 6-4 junior center Tamara Ransburg, a transfer from Kansas, and Tiffany Green, an all-rookie pick in the conference two seasons ago.

Still, Larry was playing it a bit cautious in discussing her team on Wednesday at the CAA’s annual media day for its men’s and women’s teams to preview the season.

“When you have a team that fights and claws like this team did last year to defend the crown, and you have, technically, three kids who could have played significant minutes for us go down with season-ending injuries, now you get those kids back, and you get four kids who were staples for you in fighting and clawing, now you have to blend that stuff back together,” Larry said.

“It’s not an easy task. You have some kids who played some big minutes, 25-26 minutes a game, that might come off the bench. Obviously, the losses are the coaches, and the wins are the players, so I have to get to work.”

Larry acknowledge the CAA has come a long way on the women’s side since the days when the Monarchs would blitz through their conference rivals with perfect records.

“I’m proud of the fact that Old Dominion came into this conference and raised the bar,” she said. “I think the coaches in this conference have answered the bell. They’re scheduling better. There are athletes in our league that are competitive on the regional levels, now. We’re playing nationally ranked teams on our schedules. It’s just a matter of time before some of us start knocking those ranked teams off.”

Just as on the men’s side, the upper echelon of the conference is dominated by a slew of returning starters.

James Madison, with all five starters back, was picked second, followed by Delaware, Hofstra, William and Mary, and UNC Wilmington. The second half of the preseason picks was led by Virginia Commonwealth, followed by George Mason, Drexel, Georgia State, Towson, and Northeastern.

The top teams dominated the preseason voting on the all-conference squads with William & Mary 6-0 junior forward Kyra Kaylor named the CAA’s preseason player of the year. JMU’s 6-3 senior forward-center Alexis Meredith and 6-2 junior guard Tamara Young joined Kaylor on the first team along with 5-10 junior Tyresa Smith, and Hofstra’s 6-3 senior center Vanessa Giddons.

The Pride’s Cigi McCollin made the second team, along with ODU’s Jordan and Triggs, Va. Commonwealth’s 6-4 sophomore center Quanitra Hollingworth, and Georgia State senior 5-8 guard Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen.

“ Q. Hollingsworth might be one of the best young post players in the country,” Larry said of the VCU star who drew national attention a year ago.

“When you start looking at men’s basketball and women’s basketball, the teams that have the greatest presence in the paint at every level are successful,” she added.

JMU will get a notice or two in several ways from an addition in Jennifer Harris, who becomes eligible after transferring from Penn State.

Harris has brought legal action against Penn State coach Rene Portland for allegedly running her off the Nittany Lions two seasons ago for perceiving Harris as a lesbian.

A trial has been scheduled for next May, although Penn State, off its own internal investigation, produced findings that moved the school to put Portland on notice that she would be dimissed if she became involved in new future allegations.

Portland responded that Harris’ dismissal involved her “work ethic” and not because of any sexual proclivity.

Harris’ lawyers in December filed a discrimination suit with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Penn State held its own internal investigation of the matter and in April announced Portland had violated school policy in terms of Harris’ accusation, fined her $10,000, and threatened to fire her if any future violations occur. She was also required to participate in a program focusing on diversity and inclusiveness.

Portland argued the result in a brief press conference and has not commented since on the matter, citing the existing litigation.

The veteran coach was also fined, among other penalties, although when Penn State announced the results of the investigation last spring, Portland referred to those discoveries as “flawed.”

JMU coach Kenny Brooks said Wednesday he didn’t see Harris’ ongoing legal situations to become distractions to his team, although he acknowledged she probably faced some “difficult days ahead” in playing in public again and facing the media.

Drexel coach Denise Dillon, whose team will open at home on Nov. 10 against Penn State, had no argument against the Dragon’s pick at ninth.

“Rightfully so,” said Dillon, a former Villanova star. “Look at the what the teams at the top of the conference are returning. We lost a lot. We may have lost more than anyone.”

Catherine Scanlon, a graduating senior, had become one of Drexel’s all-time players.

“Since I started at Drexel, we’ve stressed team basketball. You can’t always count on anyone player,” Dillon said of her approach to life after Scanlon.

“It’s going to take some time to get the new kids ready, and the kids that have been on the team, I’m letting them know I have confidence in them stepping up to help us,” Dillon said and mentioned 6-1 junior forward Delise Johnson as having an increased role.

Junior forward Nicole Hester and junior guard Narissa Suber are the keys to Drexel success.

Tina Martin at Delaware will be looking at Tyresa Smith to keep the Blue Hens in the fray.

“It’s an unbelievable league right now,” Martin said of the CAA competition. “It’s just talent upon talent. It’s loaded. We have returning players that if we can just stay healthy, we’ll have a shot to throw our hat in the ring, too. The schedules have gotten better, the players have gotten better and overall the league has taken a huge step in the right direction.”

George Washington Dominates A-10 Poll

The Atlantic Ten women were not involved in a media day, but on Wednesday the conference announced its preseason choices in a vote by coaches and select media.

George Washington, the regular season co-champion, has been picked first, gaining 13 of 18 first-place votes and featuring a lineup with four veteran starters.

Temple, which has won the last three A-10 conference tournaments, slipped only to second despite the graduation of Candice Dupree, who went on to an outstanding rookie season in the WNBA after becoming an all-time player for the Owls and the conference.

Temple picked up two first-place votes and landed senior forward Kamesha Hairston on the all-conference first team, as well as the conference’s all-defensive team.

La Salle’s Crista Rickets made the preseason first team, that also had the GW backcourt combination of juniors Kimberly Beck and Sarah-Jo Lawrence, along with Xavier senior guard Sutana Granderson.

Xavier, the third pick with three first-place votes, have a freshman class ranked tenth in the country, highlighted by Amber Harris.

St. Joseph’s, which finished fourth in the voting after having the best turn-around in the country, placed senior guard Ayahna Cornish on the second team, along with Duquesne’s Loui Hall, Saint Louis’ Tyler McIlwraith, Rhode Island’s Safi Mojidi, and Dayton’s Jennifer Strong.

The third team consisted of Fordham’s Lisa Carrol, Richmond’s Christina Campion, Xavier’s Miranda Green, and Massachusetts’ Kate Mills and Pam Rosanio.

Beck and Lawrence of GW joined Temple’s Hairston on the all-defensive team along with La Salle’s Carlene Hightower, and Rhode Island’s Mojidi.

In the preseason team voting, St. Joseph’s was followed by Charlotte, Massachusetts, La Salle, Duquesne, Rhode Island, and Saint Louis.

--- Mel

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